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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But...But...But...I read it in a book. LOL

You mean falsifiability.  You must be able to design an experiment, or imagine a circumstance, that would prove the theory wrong.  You don't have to actually do so, after all we are tryng to find correct theories, ones that would not be falsified.

What would prove, just for instance, the theory of gravity wrong?  What would prove evolution wrong?  (Rabbits in the precambrian, is one famous answer).  Those are falsifiable theories.

"God answers all prayers" is not.  Because when you say "I prayed for X and god didn't answer my prayer" the response is simply "yes he did, it just wasn't the answer you wanted."

You must be able to design an experiment, or imagine a circumstance, that would prove the theory wrong.

Sure, within the epistemology or norms of the discipline.   If it's law or legal theory, you must imagine an argument that would render the approach unconstitutional, or otherwise contrary to basis or defined purpose of law within society.   If it's mathematics, you must demonstrate computational error, failure of logic or internal inconsistency.

A discipline does need mechanisms to falsify or in some way render judgments on ideas, but it's a function of the discipline.  Applying the expectations for laboratory falsification common in physics or chemistry to largely observational sciences like geology or astronomy doesn't work.  Applying experimentalist notions of falsification to mathematics is just absurd.

You're obviously not a scientist of any kind, because it actually does work. new ideas in any field must be supported by evidence, and the falsification test in what you call "Observational" sciences is basically checking to see if the model matches the real world. Neptune was discovered with mathematics, because someone noticed that Uranus was moving funny. Neptune's gravitational field affects the orbit of Uranus.

If Religion wants to explain something about the world, then it must run the falsification gauntlet just like all the other sciences. It doesn't get special treatment because it's old.

Nice try at your usual weasel redirect, but we were talking here about the existence of a miracle, not a legal case or a mathematical proof.

A Federal Judge has just ruled that the Catholic Church has a constitutional right not to compensate victims of sex abuse, according to this article

My question is how you feel you should react to this ruling as a modern Catholic.  Do you feel glad on behalf of the Church you support, or concerned at the outcome of this case and its reflection on the Church's moral values as illustrated in this instance?

The wealth of these Irish nuns is staggering. They are refusing to pay compensation to the women they mistreated for years in their laundries. They made their fortune through slavery and now refuse any financial recompense for their victims, the majority of whom are in their final years. They are barbaric humans though not quite as vile as many of their fellow Catholic male counterparts. Here is another new case.

My reaction is mostly as an American.  I think the ruling is poor jurisprudence, and likely to be reversed on appeal. 

From a public policy perspective here in the hyper-litigious U.S., we do have a real public policy question with respect to all civil tort actions, but particularly those against charities.  Should the cost of health care for everyone go up (and some people be excluded from health care) because of the need to defend against high-cost malpractice suits?  Should a shelter be forced into bankruptcy because of a lawsuit, putting all those it houses onto the street?   In my city right now, I think our school district has 17 active lawsuits pending.  Should the taxpayers' money given to support education be diverted in this way?

I think the Church should care for and do everything it can to support the victims.  At the same time, I don't think the victims should expect that we shutter and sell off the schools or shelters or churches that are supporting other people in need, or that others who were never involved in any abuse should lose their jobs as a result.

Most of the rest of the world has a more balanced and sane legal system, so it can be hard to convey how ours behaves to others.

Perhaps a system could be devised where a doctor's malpractice premiums could be lowered if the doctor provides preventative care, instead of trying to treat already formed diseases. We spend thousands of dollars per person on healthcare, when some barely second world countries who have poorer standards of life, actually have longer life expectancies at less than half of what we spend. Cuba comes to mind here.

The question isn't "should taxpayers pay for lawsuits," It's "Should we be doing things smarter so that these lawsuits can't arise." For instance, I think it would be perfectly viable for a law to be passed stating that Canon Law does not override American law on American soil. So whenever a pedophile priest is found, he can be arrested and some solace given to the family of the poor child. A catholic church is not an embassy, it should not be a hiding place for predators.

As for your school district, what are those 17 pending law suits about? Stupid handling of a child dispute? or something more sinister?

Perhaps a system could be devised where a doctor's malpractice premiums could be lowered if the doctor provides preventative care, instead of trying to treat already formed diseases.

I think there are a lot of ways the U.S. health care system could be altered productively.  I agree with you.

The question isn't "should taxpayers pay for lawsuits," It's "Should we be doing things smarter so that these lawsuits can't arise."

Lawsuits arise because people have disputes.  It's preferable for people to have disputes in court than to have them take their disputes into their own hands.  The problem is perhaps a culture which is a bit too disputatious.

For instance, I think it would be perfectly viable for a law to be passed stating that Canon Law does not override American law on American soil.

Ummm...  You do know that Canon Law already does not override American law on American soil, right?  In fact, Canon Law isn't really law on any sovereign soil anywhere.  It's a name we use for church rules.  Sort of like bylaws and regulations for a corporation. 

Not a bad reply there, Dr.Bob.  I do think that the victims should be compensated, but I have a hard time getting to grips with multi-million dollar settlements, as I come from the UK where our legal system works in a different way.  Having said that, the way this church went about stashing money to literally avoid payments to victims, reeks of trickery.

I am sure every potential solution has a down side, but it seems to me that a trust fund could be set up by the church to perhaps fund potential counseling and treatment, and whatever else might be deemed to be an open way of stating some kind of regret or remorse over the assaults.

Nobody today, Strega - outside of Appalachia - lives in a vacuum, I find it difficult, if not impossible to believe that if a priest, or Cardinal, or Bishop (or Rook or Pawn) is molesting a child, that there's not at least SOMEone who knows about it, and could have and should have reported it. And if Mama Church doesn't insist on that from their clergy, then they ARE liable.

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