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So I am new at all this. I am going through a phase where I am unsure if I am still a Christian or not. I don't believe in the bible but I believe in a higher power... I just so happen to stumble across this and was curios. I always thought that atheist were the ones who worships the devil and wore black and danced around at night casting spells on people. That is what I was taught. Boy was I wrong. I have been friends with an atheist for like 10 years and just found out LOL.

Anyways, I have 3 amazing children. They are not baptized because I want them to make that decision for themselves. Yes, it did throw a big rock in the water when I put my foot down on that. But they believe in God and Jesus. When asked how babies are made I told them God took a little of mommies heart and a little of daddies heart and made a baby and put it in my belly. When my nephew died 1 day shy of being 3 months I was asked, mommy why did he die? As hurt as I was I said well sometimes God needs baby angels. So every year we write messages Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, etc. on balloons and let them go in the sky so he can see them in Heaven.

Now that I am on the fence on if I am still a Christian or not, I have no idea what to do about my children. Do I pull them away from it all? We don't go to church because I don't believe I HAVE to go to a church to praise God. But how do I interfere with what my children believe? Should I just keep doing what i'm doing and let them decided when they get a little older or what? My whole family are Christians and God comes up a lot. My family stays out of religious discussions with me because I always have something to say to contradict what they are talking about.


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 If you're open to it, though, let me offer some comments on places where your data is incorrect, and perhaps some comments from the other side.

As usual, some of Bob's assertions are a departure from reality and need a reality check.

Neither I nor any Catholic worship the pope.  Respect him?  Sometimes.   Sometimes not.  Recognize him as a leader?  Sure. 

The Vatican just released official prayers to Pope John Paul II and Pope John XIII after Pope Francis fast-tracked them to sainthood.

Note that becoming a saint requires a "miracle" credited to the supernatural being in question. In this case, Floribeth Mora Diaz says John Paul II used his magical powers to appear (apparently on a magazine cover) and cure her brain aneurysm.

Worship means either reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power (in a religious ritual or not), or excessive respect and admiration. By either or both meanings of the word, Catholics do worship their popes, living and dead.

Official Prayer of the Catholic Church to John Paul II

"Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up high again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.

May you bless families, bless each family! You warned of Satan’s assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.

Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You tackled war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.

Oh St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where we see you next to Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all. Amen."

Have some popes and many bishops been corrupt?  Sure.  So have some presidents and many congressmen. 

That other powerful men commit crimes (and help each other get away with it) does not excuse the crimes of powerful men.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church claims that the Pope, as the supreme head of the Church, gets his authority directly from Jesus (God) himself starting with Simon Peter. The same doctrine applies to bishops as well: God's chosen.

It's incongruous to cite the divine authority of God as the basis of one's position, then cite the corruption of others who make no claim of supernatural backing. Holding the Pope and the bishops of the church to the same standards as the CEO of General Motors is a tacit admission that church doctrine on their divine appointment is false and the Church is as man-made as GM (which of course it is).

It is wrong to take money for "forgiveness", absolutely.   At the same time, it would also be wrong not to forgive a criminal or a "mobster" who was truly penitent, just because we wanted revenge or otherwise wanted to hold on to our hate when we should be helping someone change their life.

Even if that's true, how do we know the "truly penitent" from the psychopath or other liars who are expert in manipulating others?

Mobster: Gosh, your honor. I'm truly sorry my drug cartel murdered all those people. Judge: Aw, heck. I was gonna give you 40 years. But fuck it, you can go. It would be wrong not to forgive you.

Please, Bob.

If you want to forgive people their criminal actions, fine. They can be forgiven and still serve out their prison sentences. But of course, some never go to prison at all, do they Bob?

A pope knowing about and moving an individual priest would be like the CEO of General Motors making a personnel decision about a line worker at a supplier's plant in Brazil.  

Sure, Bob. It would be like that if the CEO of General Motors was informed about the transferred line worker's crime and did nothing until getting caught (and then still did nothing but say he was sorry).

Our church is caring for about a quarter of the AIDS victims in Africa. 

Your church falsely condemns condoms-- the most effective way of controlling the spread of HIV in some of the worst-effected areas in the world-- and spreads misinformation that condoms only make the problem worse.

Do you think the Church is responsible for misery and death as a result of spreading anti-scientific ignorance among the growing millions who are prepared to believe it?

You act as though things have changed or that the Church deserves credit rather than condemnation for its appalling policy on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

We've also founded more schools and colleges than any other secular or religious entity.  

A claim. Source?

Note that even if this is true, insofar as they are Catholic, the schools and colleges are part of the general proselytizing mission of the Church, as with any other Church: motivated by self-interest.

Unless the educational institution is entirely secular, the religious aspect is parasitic: furthering the bogus claims of the religion by associating them with genuine subjects of inquiry and scholarship.

If the institution is mostly or entirely religious or supernatural in its purpose, as with a theological seminary or school of astrology, it deserves even less credit or even condemnation for promoting ignorance and superstition.

Most of the charity hospitals in the US are Catholic, and while they've become increasingly secular and corporate in recent years, many still try to adhere to their original mission in small to mid-sized ways.  So there's good with the bad.

I sincerely hope you're not crediting Catholicism with the charity or with the good they do as hospitals, Bob.

The medical expertise is provided by doctors who learned their skills in medical schools, not in churches or seminaries. It matters not one bit even if 100% of the doctors and nurses and staff at those hospitals are practicing Catholics. Take away the Catholicism and the patients suffer not in the slightest. Take away modern medicine and all success they ever had as a hospital is eradicated.

Church-operated hospitals accept private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid like any other hospital does, so virtually all the cost of the care comes from outside sources, not the Church.

For example, in Washington state the total charity funding to all hospitals is 2.6% (with the Catholic portion coming out of that). A study by the IRS of 487 hospitals found the average uncompensated care (in all of them, Catholic or otherwise) was approximately 5%. For added perspective, consider funding relative to profit.

Of hospitals in the US, 18% are for-profit, 20% are government-run, and 62% are non-profit (which include religious). Care to guess which ones are the most profitable? The non-profits, partly through pocketing $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, are the most profitable, with the top 50 alone making over $4.27 billion in 2006.

Gosh. How charitable of the Church to operate those hospitals.

The churches deserve a relatively small credit for operating these places, but they get no credit for their success as hospitals. Calling it a "Catholic" hospital no more makes it actually Catholic than a congregation calling themselves "Christian scientists" means they're actually scientists.

The credit for the hospital is stolen, not earned. It's a Catholic hospital in name only.

Some Catholics are judgmental, I will agree. Many of us will be among the first to "go to Hell" if you believe in that sort of thing in a literal sense, absolutely.
For added perspective: 21% of U.S. Catholics are Biblical Literalists and 18% believe in religious exclusivity: believe in my faith or you "go to hell". Both views are against Catholic teaching, but as you say, Bob: you're not fundamentalists.

Bob, from your friendly spelling checker:

Re your Many [bishops] are simply venial CEO-types.

Were you intending venal, or is there a use of venial I haven't seen?


Hi @Tom,

Venial is a term of art within Christendom that roughly corresponds to misdemeanor in law.  Petty sinfulness.  

It's contrasted with "mortal" as in mortal sinfulness, which would roughly correspond to felonious in secular law.

So not "venal" in this case,  though many are certainly that as well!

Venial is a term of art within Christendom that roughly corresponds to misdemeanor in law.  Petty sinfulness.  It's contrasted with "mortal" as in mortal sinfulness, which would roughly correspond to felonious in secular law.

That's a very rough correspondence indeed, Bob.

Most convicted felons serve no time and those who do serve an average of 3 years state and 5 years and 6 months federal. (Source)  The average sentence of the "convicted" mortal sinner, which is eternity in hell.

Would you say an infinite punishment of torture in hell "corresponds" with 5 years behind bars? Sure you would. You did. But of course it doesn't.


"Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God". - The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, #1861

Of course it's a rough correspondence.  The two notions are different.

As you note in the quote, I was also using more common colloquial terms.  In actuality, we call seriously sinful actions (like murder, etc.) "grave offenses".  That's the English translation your catechism uses.

Mortal sin requires the action to be grave,  but it also requires intention with full knowledge.  There's no good equivalent in human law.  Perhaps Treason is closest - grave action taken with intent and full knowledge of the permanence of the separation.

Hm-mm, language is almost infinitely flexible.

Its flexibility serves well those who want to rule.

Language is limited, I'll admit.  We all know that.

I don't get the "want to rule" part.  This language arises mostly from a lot of folks philosophizing.  Philosophers love trying to make precise language about abstract things.  Unless you're Plato, you probably don't want them to rule.

Of course it's a rough correspondence.  The two notions are different.

The "correspondence" doesn't get any rougher. The notions of finite and infinite punishment cannot be more different.

In actuality, we call seriously sinful actions (like murder, etc.) "grave offenses".  That's the English translation your catechism uses.

The first two words of the English translation (the Vatican's not mine) are 'Mortal sin'.

Mortal sin requires the action to be grave,  but it also requires intention with full knowledge.  There's no good equivalent in human law.  Perhaps Treason is closest - grave action taken with intent and full knowledge of the permanence of the separation.

That's first degree murder: full knowledge and intent.

Treason has a much higher hurdle and a far greater rate of pardon: only 15 people in US history were convicted and 6 of them were pardoned, paroled, released or deported.

Note that even a sentence of life in prison for first degree murder is infinitely different (literally) than a sentence of eternity in hell.

Wow, way to go Savannah! It's obvious you've done plenty of thinking on the Pope/certain aspects of that religion, and you're not willing to just sit back and let someone tell you what you should believe. I think that right there tells you something about your religious belief.

As I see it: you're not sure what you are, but you ARE sure what you're not. That's a good step. :)

I haven't read the whole thread, so I apologize if I double up, but I think religious beliefs are a journey, and also a spectrum. You can fall anywhere along the line, and you are always changing and learning. I stopped believing in god about 4 years ago, but I'm very slowly coming to terms with the word "atheist".

Personally, I've been very happy visiting a Unitarian Universalist church. They focus on peace, love, understanding, etc., instead of superstition. There are some Christians there, and some pagans, and some atheists, as well as a whole lot of agnostics who say they don't know if there's a god, and they don't think it's all that important, but they do believe in some 'higher power'.

If you want my advice--although I'm not a parents--is to teach your kids to be good, and to think. Your parents have taught you that "believing in God" is the default, and to NOT teach your kids to believe is somehow "interfering" with them, right? But kids don't just naturally believe in a god. They believe whatever they're taught. So don't make them believe in god, but don't ridicule them if they do...if you're on the fence about it. Train them when they are old enough to think about how they know what they know. Teach them to ask questions, and investigate, and how to seek the truth. Teach them empathy and kindness, because it's right, not for any religious reason.

I don't believe in the bible but I believe in a higher power.

We're against religion here (including belief in a higher power), not Christianity specifically.

U have so much more tact than I do.

Mostly true. I believe in a higher power in a metaphorical sense, because I believe in behaving for the good of other people, animals, the planet, and so on. It's not a supernatural higher power, but nonetheless, it's bigger than myself. Might be more accurate to say "higher powers", depending on the context. I mean, even lightening in a thunderstorm seems like a higher power to me, sometimes, in the sense that I'm not gonna argue with it when it's coming my way.

Being tactful (as suggested by Tom) is a part of that protocol, too.

That's my pet theory. It's those over-intellectualizing, often power-hungry, patriarchal humans that extended the higher power concept to supernatural levels, and forced their version of it on the masses.


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