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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Besides, I owe a great deal of gratitude to promiscuous undergrads.

How does one do smillies here?

I agree it's an interesting question of public policy. 

If you mean "emoticons," I bring mine in from the outside*:-$ don't tell anyone shh!

If we taxed the richest people in the world, i.e. the people who could lose 90% of their total net worth and experience a 0% decrease in their lifestyle (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Karl Rove, David and Charles Koch, The Waldens) and decreased our defense spending to a level on par with the next highest spender in the list of industrialized nations, and pulled out of all of the pointless, bloody wars we are fighting, we would have more than enough money to eliminate homelessness, hunger, and deaths by preventable diseases in the US without raising the taxes on the bottom 99% of citizens.

If we applied average property tax to religious buildings, we could fund the public school system entirely off that. There is a minimum of one church in every single town, city, village, and sometimes out in the middle of nowhere.

If we stop giving subsidies to food giants, oil and coal corporations, and instead invest in green energy and safe, organic foods, then the cost of healthcare would drop dramatically as well. But the problem is that there is too much money involved in all of this.

Religious arguments when it comes to taxes are, I believe a shallow cover for not wanting to pay for another person's benefit. Which isn't exactly the christian thing to do, seeing as how Jesus said to the rich man, "Take all your goods, and give them to the poor."

Was there a question in there, H3xx?

Unintended consequences can undermine the best of well-intended public policy.  Most churches run hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck.  So to tax church property what you're really doing is putting a tax on congregants, who are already paying taxes of various sorts.  Churches that serve the poor would not be able to sustain that tax, and so would lose the property, costing both the decline of tax revenues and church-operated social service support in those areas, as well as the social decay of another abandoned building, leading to declining property values, move-outs and more decline, etc.

In the U.S. it also probably can't pass constitutional muster.  Can we tax other first amendment rights like free speech?  Freedom of the press?

I'll agree with you with respect to subsidies to oil/gas/agro.  Organic foods, though, if you mean no fertilizer, are a recipe for mass starvation.  We have been feeding the world by essentially transferring energy into fertilizer and to a lesser extent protecting yields through pesticides and genetically modified crops.  Absent those things, hundreds of millions starve, with all the attendant social upheaval and warfare.  Is your organic food fetish worth it?

Was there a question in there, H3xx?

Merely a suggestion.

to tax church property what you're really doing is putting a tax on congregants, who are already paying taxes of various sorts.  Churches that serve the poor would not be able to sustain that tax, and so would lose the property, costing both the decline of tax revenues and church-operated social service support in those areas, as well as the social decay of another abandoned building, leading to declining property values, move-outs and more decline, etc.

You're speaking as if nobody would swoop in and pick up many of these prime pieces of real estate. All regulations must be regulated too. Not all Americans are forced to pay taxes. If you make below a certain number, you get your money back, so that you're not buried by taxes. These giant mega churches that have thousands of congregants, and have to put the preacher up onto a projected screen, as well as many of the more successful Catholic institutions, seeing as Catholicism does seem to be the most profitable religion outside of Scientology, would be the prime movers in this equation.

if you mean no fertilizer, are a recipe for mass starvation.

Obviously. You can't grow anything without fertilizer. No, When I say organic, I mean no Pesticides or artificial ingredients. High Fructose Corn Syrup has been linked to decreased neural activity in adults and children, along with a decreased ability to retain information. It can also cause autism in unborn children. It is one of the chemicals that most contributes to America's poor infant mortality rate, and it's in damn near everything you buy.

Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs have very unpredictable affects on human beings. Most of the GMO products that come onto the market negatively effect human health, and in some cases are carcinogenic. Monsanto recently tried to release a variant of corn that was designed to resist the Agent Orange herbicide that was used to such ill effect in Viet Nam. An elderly gentleman who shops at the store I work at has completely lost the use of his legs, and has very poor control on his arms due to Agent Orange poisoning he sustained while on a tour of duty in Nam. It absolutely churns my stomach to think that Monsanto wants to spray the food we eat with the same chemical poison that did such harm to that poor old man.

Organic food isn't a fetish, it's a vision for a healthy and long lived generation after mine.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation actually funded the research of a device that could protect crops from insect infestation. It's called a Laser Fence. And it's exactly what it sounds like. An invisible laser fence that burns insects out of midair. Initially designed for mosquitoes, to restrict the spread of Malaria without harmful chemicals, it would not be difficult to adjust it to be powerful enough to zap large beetles out of the sky. 

I know what you'll say, new technology is expensive. I say, Do we really need a nuke that can circle the world twice before going through the front door of the sole target and leveling an entire city? Why not stop building all of these new death toys, and live for a while with the ones we have. We can put that 1.1trillion dollars a year we spend on defense to something productive like laser fences, geothermal plants, solar panels, and all of these cheap new technologies that guarantee safe, reliable energy, food and protection from stuff that can kill many more people than any bomb.

@H3xx - The use of hydroponics might also assist in growing food without over-stressing the environment.

Also, that corn fructose stuff, which they cover bread and other edibles with, has the catastrophic side effect of suppressing the "I'm full up" message in the body, so you continue to feel hungry after you have eaten.  It could well be a contributor to obesity, particularly in cheap food that is the staple supply for poorer families.

That was actually the primary reason they began using it. If you think you're still hungry, you'll buy more food. But to me the more terrifying thing is that it makes you dumber as well. It disrupts your ability to think and to learn. Imagine all of the sugar laden children at school who've been diagnosed with learning disorders that would clear up over a month if they quit ingesting HFCS?

I think I must eat loads of it. 

@Simon Paynton

Try a month on organics, doing crosswords or whatever kind of puzzle or mind play that you like. See how much easier it gets. Better yet, record your time if you can, and try to make a little experiment out of it. Keep in mind that it doesn't effect some people as much as it does others, as every body has different body chemistry. But I would be willing to bet that there can be at least a noticeable improvement in most people.

I'll certainly try to avoid the evil stuff.  I'm always looking for ways to keep my mind in good order.  At the moment, I have an abusive controlling stalker of a neighbour, that doesn't help.  I find a good regime of exercise, a good simple diet, putting in the hours, and *variety*, pay good results. 

RE: "I think I must eat loads of it." - that would certainly explain why there are those who say you're full of it.

RE: "At the moment, I have an abusive controlling stalker of a neighbour, that doesn't help." - why shouldn't we believe you brought it on yourself?

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