It seemed these things were popping up in multiple discussions as people like @Suzanne chased me about, so rather than continue the multiple hijacks, maybe putting them here will be more entertaining for everybody.  All I ask is that people be kind, and perhaps answer questions in turn.  These questions come from http://www.thinkatheist.com/forum/topics/mad-at-the-outcome-thought...

1. Why did you choose catholicism over all other religions?

Because it made the most sense to me on several levels.  I of course can't rule out cultural bias, since obviously I'm a westerner and Roman Christianity is culturally pervasive.  For me it was a conscious choice at some point, though I am not a convert.   Interestingly, if I were not Catholic I'd be more inclined to Judaism than the Protestant faiths.  Perhaps the shared intellectual depth of Judaism and Catholicism is a contributing factor.

2. Do you follow the decrees made by the Vatican?

The Vatican does not make "decrees".  The Holy See serves as the administrative center of the worldwide Catholic community, and we do have some administrative rules like any community (our technical term for these is "merely ecclesiastical laws").  For the rest, all we do is teach.

3. Do you agree or disagree with contraception being available to those who would choose to use contraception, if they had access?

I'm not sure why I should care.  Now sometimes when people say "being available" they mean that I should pay for it.  I think that's a different sort of question that belongs more in the realm of public policy.

4. How do you choose which parts of the bible to follow, and not follow.

We don't "follow" the Bible, we read it and refer to it, the way anyone does with a favorite book or reference text.  We try to "follow" God, perhaps, or the example of Jesus or other holy men or women, but not the Bible.  In teaching things or exploring religious ideas, we refer to a wide range of writings and experiences, including long oral tradition, writings of various scholars, journal articles, encyclicals, consensus documents, conciliar writings, etc., much like any intellectual community.

5. Is purgatory in or out, these days.

It's a theory that had moderate but not universal acceptance some centuries ago.  It's still referred to, but not anywhere near as widely as in its heyday.  So it never quite rose to the level of Newtonian Mechanics in physics in terms of acceptance as a theory, and it's perhaps fading faster, but like Newtonian Mechanics it's still referred to in some contexts. 

Tags: Bob, Catholic, Dr., Professor, Robert, Vatican, bible, purgatory, questions

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I'm not sure it's the empowerment of women, so much as the dis-empowerment of men. I personally believe that both a man and a woman are only half a species, specifically, men are one half, and women are the other. To elevate one over the other pointless and only leads to misery. I am pro women's rights to the extent that those rights are equal to everyone else's.

Interestingly enough, I also believe that the makeup that so many women wear is in effect the exact same thing as a burka is to the Muslims. We are taught that a woman isn't beautiful unless she covers her face in a mask of paint, and this teaching is reinforced when a woman removes her mask, and her face is pale, sunken, and featureless because it has been hidden too long from the sun and the rest of the world. We see the same thing in hermits who stay entrenched in their homes so long that they turn pale and the sun seems to hurt them.

I personally believe that both a man and a woman are only half a species, specifically, men are one half, and women are the other. To elevate one over the other pointless and only leads to misery.

I like that, H3xx, and would agree.

I'm not sure it's the empowerment of women, so much as the dis-empowerment of men.

That's a reasonable statement, assuming that men have always, and still are over-empowered. Religionists still revere scriptures that assign less-empowerment to women than men. Not to mention the laughs or blank stares you'll get if you ask one why they're so sure God is a "He".

I would think men should care about contraception if they care about abortion. It's a complex issue that I haven't totally worked through apart from my former Christian pro-life faith, but I know, I KNOW I've always been opposed to killing babies. If contraception is available, even easy to get, that should make it less likely for women to have an unwanted pregnancy. Instead of killing a little baby/clump of cells before it's big enough to be called a person, isn't it better to just keep the baby from forming in the first place?

Telling people not to have sex has never helped. Spreading misinformation also doesn't help, and from what I've read a lack of education on birth control is a huge cause for unwanted pregnancies in this country. I would think if anybody wants to cut back on abortions they should be handing out condoms and pills to anyone who will take them.

RE: "Telling people not to have sex has never helped." - absolutely, Physeter - telling any animal to go against its biological nature never works, but when you view sex as a "sin," prohibited by your "creator," even masturbation, then those urges, which are perfectly normal, have to go somewhere, and they all too often manifest themselves as aberrant behavior.

Earlier, Suzanne spoke of "women-hating men," and I think we'd have to look at the mothers of a lot of those men, for the source of that. And those mothers, of course, are again, the products of their own childhood, "and so" - as Vonnegut was fond of saying - "it goes" --

In Australia, where sitting under trees is a normal social habit for people, Free clinics have been hanging condoms on strings from the branches of the trees to allow amorous teens to be safe without the embarrassment of going to the store. They order condoms with specially made packages that have a loop on them, so none of this nonsense.

@Belle, the Bible is a compilation of stories from oral tradition, poems, histories, scrolls on philosophy or theology.   It's a book.  Teaching is done by people.

Yes. But have you considered the content of what they teach and why? It all derives from the Bible.

That would be incorrect.  In a lot of ways, the books that we chose to include in the Bible were derived from the teaching, not vice-versa.  The practices and beliefs of the early Church predated the compilation of the bible by hundreds of years.   If you're Catholic, the Bible offers a touch-stone, a shared reference to that teaching, but it is not the teaching itself.

Many of our Protestant brethren during the Reformation rejected the teachings of Church as community when they left the community.  In their place they adopted various levels of sola scriptura - only the Bible.  From one thread of that tradition come our modern fundamentalist traditions in the U.S.  That has always been odd to us, particularly with respect to scientific issues like evolution.  After all, Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian friar.

So to take your real-world example of "keeping the sabbath holy", the Bible has a number of different things to say.  There is the Commandment in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, there are tales of prophets and heroes upholding the Commandment and tales of others making exceptions to the Commandment in the subsequent books.  There is Jesus both saying that all of the law is valid, and then making the entirety of the Mosaic Law subservient to love of God and service to neighbor.  And there are commentaries in Acts and the various letters if I recall correctly.   How could one "follow" that?   It's not a set of directions, it's a discipline established to help humans, and a set of examples and commentaries and qualifications to that discipline, all embedded in stories from different time periods.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Sabbath is now on Sunday instead of Saturday, and yet here we Christians are observing it differently and on a different day.

You make a great deal of sense to me, @Belle, and I would agree with almost all of what you say.

I think it's very important to understand the Hebrew Scriptures in order to frame and inform one's understanding of the Gospels and New Testament.  Jesus was a practicing Jew, as were his disciples.  I think to do that well, one must do it in some ways informed by the intellectual tradition of rabbinic Judaism (itself nascent at the time).  I don't think many of our Protestant brethren who read the Torah and Old Testament books superficially do that well.

As to telling people what they want to hear, I really have a great deal of skepticism about the modern mega-churches.  That's probably not fair of me given that Catholicism is quite a mega-church in many ways.  They just have an odd commercial "feel" to them, and certainly their staff are making lots of dough while ours are among the working poor for the most part.  At the extreme end, of course, is the crass commercialism of some of the televangelists.

How then do you, (or does anyone) find a real "Truth" in a teaching that conforms to a selfish end? Can it? Does it?

I think it's hard.   That's one of the reasons why in our tradition so many religious take vows of poverty, or why we and other faiths incorporate various periods of fasting / self-denial.   To help ensure that what is done and taught is less likely to be for a selfish end. 

"I don't think many of our Protestant brethren who read the Torah and Old Testament books superficially do that well."

It sounds as though you're saying that Catholics and/or the original Mega-Church excel at it.

Incorporate the tradition of rabbinic or at least proto-rabbinic Judaism?  I'm not sure I'd say "excel", but we're certainly much closer to it than the Baptist Mega-Churches. 

"In a lot of ways, the books that we chose to include in the Bible were derived from the teaching, not vice-versa.  The practices and beliefs of the early Church predated the compilation of the bible by hundreds of years."

The compilation of the Bible did not come hundreds of years after the teachings. The first canon that was put together was by Marcion of Sinope at about 140CE which is only about ten years after the Gospel of John was thought to be written. Marcion did not include the Old Testament and there was opposition to his work. By 200 CE all the Gospels are included in what was held by the churches at the time to be canon as well as many of the letters of Paul and other works. The New Testament Bible was formed very early in the Church's history. The first recorded instance where the New Testament of the past matches that of today was 367, but many of the New Testament books were established as Canon well before 200 CE. Those teachings and beliefs of the early church were based on the Bible and not the other way around.

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