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

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. 

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Never saw Talladega Nights I'm afraid, so I miss the allusion.

It's interesting that both your and @Strega's ideas are related to my sense that it arises from some insecurity on the part of the poster.  I still find them somewhat unsatisfying, because they fail to address context well.   There's clearly a contextual element and pattern to frequency of appearance as well as to poster.  Your idea fails to address context at all, since my forum name has been the same since the beginning.  @Strega suggests a context, but it doesn't seem correlated.

In any event, since you seem to be hung up on my forum name, I'll see if I can find a way to change it.

If anyone knows anything about changing names, it would be your friend, Belle Rose/Sarah/Jessica - possibly you should consult with her.

It no longer bothers me, because I no longer think of you as "Professor Robert," but then, there are the children, and you know how impressionable they can be --

You mean "burning"? 

Well at least it's not premonitions of hellfire.

Hahaha...I don't mean to laugh but that is he changed his name. :)

Dear Bobbie,

Respect is earned not demanded.

Some of the posters on this site have garnered my respect and admiration, you sir are not one of them.  Bobbie you pale in comparison to some of the intellectually honest individuals that post here.

As you were Ricky...I'm enjoying watching the show from the cheap seats.

That was @Kris talking about respect, not me.   I really don't have any interest in or need for your respect.   I just think that the playground name-calling is really interesting from a psychological perspective.  It seems so remarkably out of place for a group that claims to be rationalists and free-thinkers.

The Continental congress, one of the most famous collection of free thinkers, rationalists and brilliant men in the world, devolved into drunken fist fights and name calling nearly every day it was in session.

It's what tends to happen when you focus on the truth rather than other people's feelings.

Ah, "drunken fist fights" - my favorite kind! I once saw a guy put another one through a beer joint plate glass window - my friend and I, playing pool, drinking, and being under-age, suddenly remembered somewhere else we urgently needed to be.

I thought I did reply to that.  Yes, it looks like I did.  You'll have to forgive me, while summer affords a bit more time here or there, my time is still limited, and it takes quite a while to read through the stuff from @Sagacious.  ;-)  The software here also makes it quite difficult to figure out what's new in these long threaded discussions.

You did.... but as I write this your response is 11 hours old and my repeat is 14 hours old, so at the time I posted my 'crickets' comment, you hadn't responded and it was justified. 

Meanwhile my response to your response is over there.

For convenience of anyone looking, the Professor's response is here:  My reply to his response is presently about half a page down below it, since a chain of responses formed before I wrote it.

Hi Bob, The use of the Newtonian Physics analogy seems to find its way into many of your replies.  While I understand what you mean by it, I do not agree with it. Yes, Newtonian Physics may now live mainly on the dusty back shelves of academia because it has been overtaken by Quantum Physics. I am sure that Einstein, Bohr, Feynman et al would agree that they too could only see further because they also stood on the shoulders of giants. They could carry on their predecessors work and develop it further which is of course the nature of scientific discovery. Quantum Physics has not so much replaced Newtonian Physics as it has evolved from it.

However purgatory is (and always was) just an idea. There was never any proof for it just as there is no evidence for the god that managed it. Without even having to use Bayesian probability to measure the likelihood of this subjective belief being true it was discarded because nobody would believe it any more. If I was cynical (ahem) I would say it was a good idea in its day because it made Rome so much money from selling indulgences to get dead peoples souls out of there by giving them preferential treatment. If they could not scapegoat their sins while alive then someone with money could sort it out.  As Tetzel said “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”.  At least Pope Paul V1 addressed it with the “Indulgentiarum Doctrina” which is of course a decree that the Vatican did make. I prefer the term “Papal Bull” myself.

So while Physics is empowered to wrestle with the mysterious quantum world it does so because of the solid shoulders modern physicists can stand on. Purgatory on the other hand is a quirk of Theology that should never have happened. To think about what it actually means is an embarrassment to the intellect. I would agree with Thomas Paine (once again) that Theology “as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion”.

Your various references to Bayes Theory are good.  I don’t suppose you would use it to deduce the probability of your God existing though? Modern Quantum Physics may have left Sir Isaac behind. To me it would seem that you might consider the idea that God exists to be analogous to Schrödinger’s Cat? If not, then many Theists’ would. We just don’t know until we open the box to see if he is alive or dead. We just don’t know if God exists. There is no proof either way but some believe the vial did not break and that the cat is alive and well. No observation or measurement is required by them.

However new ideas about “QBism” or Quantum Bayesianism may be about to alter our current understanding of Quantum Theory and some of it may soon be gathering that book shelf dust too. The traditional Copenhagen Interpretation of the possible states of the cat expressed as a wave function describes the superposition of the cat being both alive and dead at the same time. This is considered a “Quantum Absurdity”. Really what is happening is that the wave function is now seen to only describe the observer’s belief or current state of mind. This wave function or superposition only applies to the observer and not to the condition of the cat. So the cat is neither both alive and dead in the box at the same time. It is only alive or it is only dead.

So Bayesian Probability has assigned (or soon will) the famous Cat story to the side-lines of modern physics. Soon, just like early Theories of Gravity, it may no longer be taught except as “notes for the margin, not the exam” (me). However it will hopefully boost an interest in Bayes Theory. If the wave function of our belief in god is to be subjected to the rules of Bayesian modelling and updated to consider objective evidence rather than subjective claim then this particular wave function will be caused to collapse. One’s statement of belief is only a statement of the subjective wave function in their mind. Like God it only exists in the mind. Thanks Bayes.

Suzanne - that's easy for YOU to say!



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