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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It was remarkably quick to read too.

Less filling!

Tastes Great!

@Suzanne Olson-Hyde

I readya man I readya. :)

Silence is Golden. :)

Hi Dr. Bob,
Quick question – If you were a god and you happen to create billions of living/ conscious beings in some type of vast reality – would you demand they worship and accept you?

If you are a parent and you happen to create a few living/conscious beings that you care about deeply, what would you want from or for them?

I expect you'd want to teach them, to help them grow.  You would, I expect, give them "rules" to abide by, and you will probably discipline them.  You'd also try to convey good principles to live by, give them freedom to make choices and make mistakes and even get hurt.   As their experience grew, they would remember and perhaps even right down stories about you that they found important in their life, and I expect in those stories you would play a larger-than-life role.   Most kids do "worship" their parents in some ways, and that is a sign of a healthy relationship at certain stages.

Of course, when you read the Bible carefully or participate in Christendom, you come to understand that is not the goal.  The goal of a parent is to create a healthy adult, one that pursues his/her own interests and talents and becomes a friend, a colleague, a partner.  Moses talked to God "face to face", like a friend.  Abraham argued with him, Jesus prayed that we may be One with God.  Independent, yet united in love and purpose.

It's kind of you Bob, to want to take me by the hand and guide me through your garden of analogy and metaphor (though I thought I spied a spot of heliotrope, over in one corner), but I never found more than one rule to be necessary - certainly 10 would have WAY overdone it: "You're free to do anything you like, as long as you don't hurt yourself or anyone else." Otherwise, I led by example, which they were free to follow or not. I guess the primary difference between my parenting skills and those of your god, was that I never saw a need to instill fear in my children, which goes a long way toward explaining why my children grew up mentally healthy, while your god felt he had to drown his. But in old Yahweh's defense (hey, dirty job, but somebody's gotta...), they can sure get on your last nerve sometimes, can't they?

High on my list of things I would never be inclined to do, immediately following skydiving and re-marrying my ex-wife, are these three:

1) Never take advice on how to raise children from someone who felt he had to drown his own.
2) Never take relationship advice from a bunch of old virgins.
3) Never hire a priest as a baby-sitter.

I never found more than one rule to be necessary..."You're free to do anything you like, as long as you don't hurt yourself or anyone else."

Is that really all we want or hope for from our children, our fellow citizens?  Do whatever you want but cause no harm?

I want to see my children and others learn to not just do no harm, but to help others.  Not just do what they want but to at times sacrifice what they want for the sake of others.  To give their time to an important cause, to give some of their pizza money to help a friend, to donate their bone marrow to a stranger dying of leukemia.  To make society and the world a bit better, rather than just being a parasite.

In addition, the two lemmas of your "rule"  are probably incompatible unless you limit your definition to _direct_ harm.  There are just too many ways for "do anything you like" to cause indirect harm to the environment and to others.   And to ourselves.  I really like chocolate, after all... could eat it all day.

Ay, yi, yi, Roberto, you, as usual, left out an important component of my comment: "Otherwise, I led by example, which they were free to follow or not."

I was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and made the march, with Dr. King, from Selma to Montgomery, which resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1965. I demonstrated to my children the need to help others - as a family, we volunteered to help with San Diego Special Olympics; we invited homeless people with children to share Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner with us - the list is too long and my modesty to great, to enumerate. Most of my children have gone into teaching, medicine, or assessing and addressing the issues of special needs children - all without the benefit of religion. I have nothing for which to apologize, to your god, or to my Humanity.

I see. What you're saying is you never made them feel afraid that they weren't doing enough to help others. You never chased after them with guilt--Why weren't you there at the march???--to convince them to do something else you wanted. You never fed them a hundred different, conflicting guidelines on whether being a good person is optional, being a good person will send you to heaven, being a good person is not important at all only faith, you're going to be punished for not being a good enough person...

No, never. When they hurt someone or themselves, yes, I pointed that out to them, but they saw me doing good, and were free to emulate, or not. I never took them to church a day in their lives, no mention of heaven, hell, or eternal punishment or reward. If it's going to happen, it happens here, and now.

The only one who didn't turn out well, was the only one raised by her theist mother.


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