Hurray for Atheism!

Here, a letter in the Third of March’s issue of the Univeristy of Maryland’s Diamondback. “Come OUT, reach OUT, speak OUT, and stand OUT!” How precious.

The reply that I submitted to the staff of the paper follows beneath. As is customary, my verbosity had the better of me. I can only hope that, perhaps edited for length, it still runs:

In his letter encouraging fellow non-believers to enlist the OUT Campaign’s assistance in the inchoate stages of their journeys, a letter hardly as novel or brave as he might hope to think, Dan Conway exhibits many of the signs of fundamentalism that ostensibly erudite, enlightened individuals of the atheist world so frequently espouse, their persistent contrasting of themselves with allegedly dim-witted fundamentalists of theistic persuasions notwithstanding.

Conway remarks that he “at last came to [his] senses”; wishing to display a fair degree of Christian charitableness, I grant that he may simply here refer to his realizing that fighting against what he truly believes in his internal South Pacific theatre is nonsensical. However, given the remaining content of his noxious letter, more likely is that he seeks here to deny any sort of theism a place within the realms of sensibility. Just as John Hagee rejects Catholicism and Judaism as well as atheism, with foolish insularity, so, too, the fundamentalist atheist remains cock-sure and close-minded in his disbelief.

“If you are an atheist”, Conway haughtily proclaims, “then you already have embraced reason and science as enlightened manners of thinking.” Ought the reader to infer that one clinging to the silly notion of the supernatural eschews reason and science? Quite contrarily, the Catholic Church that Conway has repudiated has done more in Her existence than any other institution to promote reason, rationality, and scientific advancement. Refer to the works Aquinas and the Scholastics, a history of the European universities, or any worth-the-while history text for confirmation here. (Please, potential respondent, spare us all from enduring your claptrap and refrain from suggesting that you possess sufficient understanding of the Galileo Affair to cite it as refutation of my claims here.)

“You have broken the mold of your parents, family and ancestors. . . . [D]elight in the dissection and destruction of any religious ‘argument’ thrown your way.” Whilst doing so, consider enduring Five Republics, multiple Restorations, and empire; perhaps the gulags and concentration camps, too. The recently late Bill Buckley seemingly had good reason for standing athwart history, yelling “Stop!” Men more sophisticated than he, such as Mr Conway, must, nevertheless, know better. They would do well, if so, to associate with groups other than The OUT Campaign, the website of which links to the homepage of Richard Dawkin’s, author of The God Delusion and driving force, it seems, behind the Campaign. Atheists of the Dawkins mold are hacks, preaching bland, soft-core rejection. Wish you truly to embrace the void of atheism, be man enough to accept the necessary conclusions of the death of God whereof Nietzsche and others wrote, specifically the end of culture as we know it. Whatever they say, this is not the goal of the Hitchens-esque atheists.

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10 Responses

  1. The Catholic Church promoted reason? Didn’t the church declare modernism a heresy? Didn’t the church set up universities that tought using the scholastic method (summarized as read and copy)?

    Yes we all know about Galileo, how he got in trouble when he made a promise to the pope and broke it by making a book mocking him. The man also happended to be right though- charging him on a technicality, putting him under house arrest and refusing to ever admit your mistake… not good (they said they were wrong to do it- wasn’t prudent. They didn’t admit they were wrong).

    Don’t even get me started on your linking of communism, nazism and the French Revolution with atheism (seriously how the heck are the five republics at all related to atheism? Only the first is remotely related and Robspierre was a diest and a determined ideologe for his Republic of Virtue).

    There are more things wrong, but I think people should concentrate on your complete and other distortion of history first. For the record they are asserting atheists are, by default close minded, “soft” and not “real atheists” and of course the “they think there so smart”. Atheists don’t think they are smart (well not all of them), they think they are right. More assetive ones will insist they are saner.

  2. Samuel,

    Thank you for engaging in dialogue here with me. I shall do my best to respond to your concerns.

    Regarding your first concern: At no point do you offer evidence to the contrary. Simply noting that the Church condemned as heresy an ideology that glorifies (Glorifying is, most ostensible, not the same as promoting.) reason hardly suffices to prove that She did — or does — not promote reason. Moreover, your insular understanding of the methods of Scholasticism does little to aid your case. Consult Edward Grant’s God and Reason in the Middle Ages, or, for a more recent sample, Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio.

    Thank you for correcting my clearly implied belief that Galileo was wrong! Neither my observations nor my rigorous course of undergraduate study had hitherto guided me from my errors.

    The salient point is that the Church acted not out of close-mindedness. Though sometimes warily so, She welcomed the discoveries of Copernicus, whose work was recited in Rome by the pope’s request. The Church had concerns beyond scientific Truth, which obviously mattered to her, wherewith to contend. You may offer more cynical responses, but I refer namely to spiritual concerns and the common good. Without proper time first allowed for synthesizing Galileo’s discoveries with a clearer understanding of the Word, the risk of Scripture’s becoming irrelevant, something that Galileo wanted just as little as did the leaders of the Church or Copernicus. Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method, Mario Biagioli’s Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Abolutism, Pierre Duhem’s To Save the Phenomena: . . . , and Ernan McMullen’s “Galileo on Science and Scripture” in The Cambridge Companion to Galileo offer more in-depth, open-minded discussions of the Galileo Affair than seem to do the source to which you turn.

    If you actually read what I say, you see that at no point do I connect atheism with the French Revolution. Rather, I connect breaking “the mold of your parents, family and ancestors” therewith. I’m quite familiar with the deism of Robespierre, et alia, but I thank you for the history lesson.

    The point about Nazism and communism carries along the same vein: the modern rejection of religion in favor of the idea of the perfectibility of mankind is quite the product of the Enlightenment’s break from the mold, again to cite the original letter to which I responded. Communism, founded by atheist Marx, was a reaction to the capitalism of the new liberalism. Had it not been for this break from the mold, Marx and Engels may never had needed to pen the Manifesto. Both communism and Naziism, rejecting the past, were little more than two wings of the same beast, to wit, violent, atheistic totalitarianism.

    Best,
    NPO

  3. Galileo was only technically wrong (both factually and legally- the Earth doesn’t follow uniform circular motion). However galileo’s method was correct and the church disregarded it. And, no the Church didn’t welcome Copernicus- he published after his death to avoid charges of heresy.

    All the matters the church involves itself in are scientific truth. Wheter something exists or not IS a scientific question. You are quoting the seperate spheres zanniness.

    Glorifies reason? That sentance is… incoherent. What do you mean? What ideology? How do they glorify it? Why is it wrong?

    You mention Five Republics, multiple Restorations, and empire; perhaps the gulags and concentration camps. Then you claim it is due to the belief in the perfectability of mankind, which is a product of the Enlightenment. There are a couple p[roblems with this.
    1) Inherent sinfulness of man is a Christian idea- other faiths may not have it.
    2) These other faith did not have episodes like the ones you are describing
    3) COmmunism wasn’t founded by Marx (If you read the Republic you will realize it is communist. In fact Marx didn’t declare he was the first communist- simply the first “Scientific Socialist”)
    4) Nazism did not reject the past- it offered a return to a glorious past. Hitler and his Reichs (if we weren’t backstabbed by the Jews…), Mossulini and his new Roman Empire- these men where looking backward.
    5) Nazism wasn’t atheist. It was profoundly Christian Nationalist.
    6) Technically not all communism focused on the perfectability of man- that was one particular varient (the new soviet man ideal). For example Allende, Tito, Vietnam, North Korea and several others (about half) of the communist states don’t appear to adopted it.
    7) Communism wasn’t based on the rejection of religion- there were many varients of communism that were religious. Stalinism and other varients embraced by the USSR were definately atheistic, but the version in North Korea and China are not.
    8) Revolutions by definiton are breaks with the past. So the American revolution would as fall into your category of “Bad things from the Enlightenment”. So would ending the slave trade (reforming people through for of law- aka improving mankind).
    9) Lets not forget the prison reform movement. It turns out it is possible to reform some criminals.

    There are possibly more errors in your responce. I don’t have an exhastive backround so I’m afraid I haven’t spotted them all.

  4. Ah, Samuel, you return, and for this I thank you.

    Actually, the Church did not disregard Galileo’s method. The prohibitions placed on him notwithstanding, research in his vein continued, including by Catholic priests, amongst them the Jesuit Boscovich, without papal condemnation. (See, amongst others, Zdenek Kopal’s contribution to Roger Joseph Boscovich, S.J., F.R.S..

    Beyond the technical issues plaguing Galileo’s hypothesis, the very fact that it was, at the time, a hypothesis explains why he was threatened with condemnation as heretic and was censored. The Church did not deny the plausibility of what he contended; Jesuit astronomers had confirmed many of discoveries. However, without definitive proof, such worldview-altering theories could not be so easily accepted. Particularly in post-Reformation Europe, such action on the part of the Church would have been wholly imprudent.

    Vis-à-vis Copernicus: The Church, via the Fifth Lateran Council consulted him, a canon if not an ordained priest, on calendar reform. More relevant, Pope Clement VII called for a lecture to be given in the Vatican on Copernican astronomy; the pope approved of what he heard. (I erred in stating that Copernicus himself delivered it.) His Six Books . . ., published at the urging of friends, amongst them Churchmen, he dedicated to Pope Paul III. Not until the Galileo Affair did the Church in anyway censure the Copernican System.

    You’ll have to clarify something for me I have no idea what you mean to say with the following:

    “All the matters the church involves itself in are scientific truth. Wheter something exists or not IS a scientific question. You are quoting the seperate spheres zanniness [sic].”

    I would contend that the fundamental principles underlying Enlightenment liberalism are the perfectibility of man and the glorification of reason. I doubt that I am the only one who makes such an assertion. By the glorification of reason, I mean the belief that it alone suffices to aid in said perfectibility, that rationality itself suffices to guide man throughout life without any reliance on what I’ll here vaguely call an external higher power. It’s wrong, I reply, because of the very nature of man’s imperfect, un-perfectible nature; reason has its limits.

    The relevance of your first two numerated points remains quite unclear to me. Please do clarify, and I will gladly attempt to reply.

    Your point on the origins of Communism is well-taken, and I apologize for how I worded that. I recall reading Plato’s Republic for the first time some years ago, astounded by how communistic that work is. (It’s why I prefer Aristotle.) Early Christian sects practiced it, too, of course. Though I like Marx’s self-description, what I ought to have noted is that he founded “modern communism”.

    W/r/t your remarks on Nazism. Indeed, in a certain aspect, it was all about the past, but in a post-modern sense. It was a break with the past in the Middle Ages/Renaissance Catholic sense thereof, and was decidedly un-Christian in nature, regardless of whatever manipulative uses Hitler made when, say, writing about religion in Mein Kampf. Nationalistic, yes, but not the only god in Nazism was Hitler. The Nazis’ “Positive Christianity” was not Christian, misleading name notwithstanding. They Nazis tried to manipulate parts of the New Testament, claiming that Christ preached against the Jews collectively; this is not a Christian teaching. Moreover, Martin Bormann, head of the Party Chancellery and private secretary to Hitler publicly remarked, “National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable”, and later declared in a memo the need for the Christian churches to be broken.

    I’ll concede points six and seven, suggesting that the truth, as revealed by your points here, lies betwixt what I argued and what I inferred your initial point to be.

    I have to disagree considerably with your blanket statement “Revolutions by definition are breaks with the past.” Often, this is the case. You chose, however, of all examples, the one Revolution least appropriately described as such. Though the ultimate result was, of course, independence, the American Revolution was an attempt to regain rights held in the past; the Crown (or, more appropriately stated, Parliament) had restricted rights unduly, and leaders could not be persuaded (Edmund Burke attempted valiantly, eloquently, and unsuccessfully to sway them otherwise in hopes of preserving the Anglo-American union) to relent. American conservatives often like to note this. Whereas they are correct in doing so, they, of course, err in asserting that the conservative nature (essentially conserving English republicanism) of the Revolution was the same as modern American conservatism (although, of course, undeniable similarities exist).

    I’m not wholly sure what relevance point nine has.

    Perhaps a more exhaustive backround [sic] would benefit you. Your present background seems in some cases to be distressingly inaccurate, particularly vis-à-vis its anti-Catholic bias.

    Cheers,
    NPO

    P.s. It would behoove you, and relieve me, more thoroughly to check your spelling before posting.

    P.p.s. I do enjoy this debate, and am glad that someone finally has commented on my blog in a way that incites discussion. I hope that others — on both sides — might join in.

  5. So it was all politics? Galieleo did have definitive proof though (see telescopes- the imperfection of the moon, phases of Venus, moons of Jupiter). In short the church didn’t deal with this in a scientific manner. Nor the next theory or the next.
    I don’t get your point- the church has never adopted the scientific method. There are parts that must be accepted on authority and faith. They still do that. See modernism heresy. The point is that the church and science have had an uneasy relation. The exception would be evolution, which they managed to completely misunderstand (a random process- guided by god). Not to mention that there collaberation with facism is disturbing.

    Reason has its limits. That is fascinating. Of course we have known that for centuries- that is why scientists use evidence. Unless you are offering an alternative method- and I know of none.

    Christianity is defined as believing Christ was the Son of God and the last prophet. In that case Positive Christianity was Christian. As for manipuling scripture… that has a long and honored tradition. Remember, it is only manipulation because other interpretations say it is.

    The American Revolution was revolutionary- it declared that we had a right to overthrow a soverign ruler and declare independence. The closest England got was the glorious revolution which was approved by parliment. It is worth noting that the US had its share of counter revolutionaries and purges (we didn’t do so much killing as much as driving out). So yes, it was a revolution. It moderated… but only compared to other revolutions.

    Modern American conservativism is completely different from past conservativism. Modern Conservatism dates from the 1960s as a reaction to the excesses of liberalism. Past conservativism is… insane. For all the mosern conservatives faults, it isn’t inherently racist or anti-democratic or… you get the idea.

    Prison reform is perfectibility of mankind. Previous to that time people didn’t try to rehabilitate prisoners. Which technically falls under “perfectability of mankind”.

    I’m excedding accurate. I’d like examples. And I don’t have an anti-Catholic bias- I think they are all nuts- all theists.

    I try my best for grammer. But I am rushed and feel it is my duty to respond to all theists. So I may have incomplete reponces (if so I apologize).
    http://xkcd.com/386/

  6. For the moment, if you’ll so permit, I’m going to hold off on replying to the first part of your reply, continuing our dialogue on the Church and Science.

    I’m not at all sure how your comment “there [sic] collaberation [sic] with facism [sic] is disturbing” is relevant to the discussion. It appears more to be an oversimplified attempt further to smear the Church for no good reason; the relationships between the Church and fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain are far more complex than you seem to indicate; the alternative, at least in Spain, was no more pleasant: The “Republicans” had no qualms with destroying Church property and murdering members of the clergy, and on the whole, were aS culpable for the violence that ravage Iberia as were Franco’s Nationalists. In Italy, though through the Lateran Treaties the Church and the State established a level of agreement, they quarreled, particularly when Mussolini instituted virulent anti-Jewish laws.

    It is important to note that, for all the intrinsically errant aspects of fascism and those aspects corrupted in practice, the economic theories of fascism comported with Catholic Social Teaching in many ways better than does (neo-)liberal economics.

    I don’t believe that at any point I’ve challenged the importance of the use of evidence. In fact, the point that I’ve tried to make is that the Church demanded an exceeding supply of evidence before it would accept the Copernican model as anything but hypothesis.

    You wholly ignored the statements that I offer from Bormann. Try responding to all points offered, rather than misguiding any potential reader with incomplete arguments that fail to address such important matters. Moreover, the fact is that Hitler was often revered as having been sent as a new Savior by God. That stands completely contrary to Christian teaching. Your puerile retort w/r/t manipulation and interpretation fails to address the reality of the case at point. Hitler manipulated religion, as, e.g., Koresh did, essentially to proclaim himself as the new Christ. Again, that’s not Christian.

    “The American Revolution was revolutionary”? I never challenged that. This doesn’t negate its conservative nature. Your attempting to educate me about things that I know (to wit, the Glorious Revolution) only misdirects the heart of the argument. The ultimate goal, I contend, of the American Revolution, was not to overthrow the king (which technically they did not do; the throne remains) for the sake of overthrowing the king, but to regain liberties once held by them that had been rescinded. “Liberal” rights, perhaps, but conserved nonetheless. They were not, as the French did ten-to-fifteen years later, attempting to repudiate an entire tradition, but to regain one.

    Again, thanks for telling me things that I already know, namely, modern conservatism’s origins. (They’re actually more complex than you note, but that’s a matter of another post, rather than of necessary oversimplification on your part.)

    Your blanket implication that conservatism prior to the 1960s was racist and anti-democratic is both misleading and intellectually dishonest. It was the Right that stood against the anti-democratic policies of FDR. It was Edmund Burke, father of Anglo-American conservatism, who spoke in defense of sub-continental Indians in Parliament. Yes, some conservatives were racists; certainly not all were, and by no means is it accurate to suggest that those who were part of, or who later offer(ed) sympathies to, the antebellum South are/were racists. Furthermore, I’m not sure that possessing anti-democratic tendencies is necessarily all bad. The Founders of this nation, quite undeniable, opposed it; even the more liberal Jefferson was more of a republican than a democrat, calling for the “natural aristocracy”.

    Suggesting that “[p]rison reform is perfectibility of mankind” is akin to claiming that curing cancer perfects a hitherto ill person. Reforming someone in the penal system may turn him into a model human being; it will not prevent him from ever slipping up, either on a minor or possibly major scale, just as freeing someone from cancer will not prevent migraines, a heart attack, or a new type of cancer.

    “I’m excedding [sic] accurate [sic]. I’d like examples.” In which ways have you been exceedingly accurate? What sort of examples would you like? Regarding what? I’ve offered examples of continued Copernican/Galilean research by Catholic priests after the Church censored Galileo.

    Cute cartoon. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if I’d posted it in reply to you, but I prefer not to deign to such a level.

  7. Well, the referance to facism is the fact the Catholic church has been both exceedingly political and on the wrong side. Although I won’t claim the communists where better, the fact the church didn’t speak out and occasionally collaberate sort of tarnishes their moral mandate. You are right though- it doesn’t have to do with rationality.

    However the Modernism heresy does. You haven’t responded to it and it is a biggie. It was when the church decided to apply modern scholarly methods to the bible.

    Actually facism and neo-liberal economic policies are very similar (the government runs and guides certain sectors of the economy). The differance is liberal economic policy usually doesn’t depend on killing union activists.

    The church doesn’t accept the supremacy of evidence and reason (see their insistance on faith). That is what I am driving at. They still don’t. They refuse to go anywhere near the scientific method, aiming for more irrational or more air theology (depending on liberal or conservative).

    Wiki- A Christian (listen) is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament[2] and interpreted by Christians to have been prophesied in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament[3].

    They may be wrong, but that fits Hitler. Or are you going to say that
    theology comes with a required moral standard too? No true scotsman.

    You are partially right about the American Revolution- it was one of the more moderate revolutions (mostly a war of succession). So it technically doesn’t count- all the “counter revolutionary activity” was just purging loyalists…. so what was this about? Oh yeah- the point was breaking with the past. That was the reason I brought up racism and tyranny with the conservatives. The fact is there are somethings we need to break with the past on. Unless you are going to make a blanket statement on extreme conservativism, you will recognize that some change is both good and unavoidable. In which case revolutions aren’t wrong because they change, but because they caused violence while changing. What did you expect?

    (Yes I skipped around your argument- I was going for the point, not the details. The details take forever. See “Broken Government” by John W Dean for why I hate conservatives. And yes, I have read other books.)

    Prison reform picked up around the time of the Enlightenment and the idea of the perfectability of mankind. The idea is based on the premise that you can make people better. In fact both ideas are. It is only a matter of degree. Note, that I don’t think that people are perfectable, nor do I care.

    Well, you seem to have gotten caught up in the thril of the argument and forget what you said in the beginning: atheist fundamentalism, atheists think theists are idiots, atheism is “too far”, you can be a consistant theist, atheism leads to revolution, atheists have no morals and of course atheism is soft core.

    Now, I know you aren’t an idiot, because you are probably right on several backround points and I have just argued with a theist who is an idiot.
    http://mattwiebe.com/2008/03/new-atheism-inadequate-theodicy/
    Unfortunately while arguing we have gone of topic. So I will recap my position (because it may have changed, or I was unclear).

    The Catholic Church has not been a consistant force for scientific and moral progress. It has repeatedly attempted to stop things that conflicted with its ideology and insists that it is the one true faith.

    Everyone who claims to be a Christian, prays to god and recognizes Jesus Christ as the son/ last prophet is a Christian. Anyone who doesn’t believe in any dieties is an atheist.

    American Revolution was more of a seccession movement (so I was wrong about that- stupid nationalist fervor). It lacked any change in the old order- those in charge and where loyal (to the US) stayed in charge.

    I don’t like conservativism and I think it it flawed. Unfortunately no one has been able to give me a decent description of conservativism. It appears to be “change is bad”… well okay. Maybe you can give me a better definition than the one I have. Fiscal conservativism and mild libertarians I can understand, but they don’t seem to be a major here.

  8. Samuel,

    It seems that much of what you say betrays a substantial misunderstanding of Catholicism. There are a lot of unwarranted presuppositions guiding your reasoning that result in misrepresentations.

    For instance you claim that “the church has never adopted the scientific method. [because?] There are parts that must be accepted on authority and faith. They still do that. See modernism heresy.”

    By “adopt the scientific method,” do you mean with regard to the discipline of science? In which case Jesuits would simply be bad biologists, physicists, chemists, etc. and would be positing rather silly and invalid conclusions about natural phenomena. Or do you mean with regard to all truths as such? In other words “the church has never adopted the scientific method as the sole means of acquiring all truth?” If all truths about reality were exhausted by the scientific method and subject to empirical investigation, then the enduring presence of such things as “faith” and “authority” would indeed be an outright offense to the purity of “science.”

    If you mean the former, you’re quite simply incorrect. Catholicism affirms the scientific method. If you mean the latter, you are presuming a philosophical interpretation of the value of science and the scientific method. I.e. the hidden premise is that “reason” can only be the “reason” espoused by Positivism, Scientism, Evidentialism, Empiricism, et al. But the truth of Positivism is by no means obvious, and is in my opinion open for philosophical debate. These accounts of reason have their own histories of criticism (such as those of Bergson and Husserl to name a few) that require honest engagement and not preemptive dismissal. What you really mean is that Catholicism has never adopted Scientism, not science. And that is a very different claim, and requires different arguments.

    What precisely is wrong with the notion of the Modernist heresy? It is not that Catholicism rejects reason; it simply takes issue with certain accounts of what reason is. To make science a heresy is one thing; but to make philosophical judgments about science heresy is not inherently problematic. Again, the heresy of Modernism is not a rejection of reason per se.

    Catholicism has always professed reason (an instantiation of which is the scientific method) with its own autonomous standards and principles. It is a rationality that is perfectly compatible with the claims of faith and authority, because these claims never conflict. To act as if the adoption of science requires the dissolution of faith and authority is to misunderstand the value of the scientific method. Take for instance, evolution. You’ll have to do more than that to demonstrate how Catholics have misunderstood evolution. Read up on the Church’s position. I get the impression that you don’t understand the relations of the terms employed. Again, scientifically speaking, there is nothing about the theory of evolution that conflicts with Catholic doctrine. It may, however, conflict with non-scientific philosophical claims about the value of evolution.

    “Remember, it is only manipulation because other interpretations say it is.” Not so. The texts of the Bible, like any other text, are not simply free-floating relativistic “choose your own adventure” novels. Much involves theological interpretation, but much criticism is based simply on the standards of the internal consistency of the text. Hitler adhered to a “Christianity” that was Neo-Marcionite, whose hermeneutical lens owed much to Gnosticism and essentially believed the God of the NT (aka. The God of the Germanic people) was substantially different and higher than the evil God of the OT (the God of the Jews). See where this goes? Thing is, anyone who’s read the New Testament knows its internal consistency depends upon the identification of its God with YHWH: its coherence rests entirely on the OT. In other words, there are interpretations and there are, well, interpretations that don’t even get off the ground.

    Not to mention the influence of Neo-Paganism on Hitler’s “religious vision.” Are we really taking our standards for true Christian identity from Wikipedia? Your knowledge of the other side is just blowing my mind. Do you think it is at all possible to judge whether one’s profession of Christianity is at all consistent, or even intelligible as what is commonly referred to as Christianity? I would simply say that, no, that bill does not fit Hitler, because whatever words he’s using, he is not actually referring to Christ, the New Testament, the Jewish Prophets, etc. If I referred to myself as an atheist because I deny the existence of the Greek deities, but went to Mass and worshiped the Christian God every morning, would you be willing to grant that my profession is legitimate? Or is “atheist” just as relativistic a term as “Christian?”

    “The fact is there are somethings we need to break with the past on. Unless you are going to make a blanket statement on extreme conservativism, you will recognize that some change is both good and unavoidable.”
    -Whose contesting this? I don’t get it: do you honestly believe that conservatives are committed to denying ALL change BECAUSE it’s change? Really?

    “In which case revolutions aren’t wrong because they change, but because they caused violence while changing. What did you expect?”
    -Sure, revolutions are not wrong because they change. But are they inherently right because they change? That doesn’t make sense either. You simply can’t talk so categorically about this. If something should not have been changed or abandoned, there’s grounds for saying a revolution (as a revolution) was a bad idea; if things needed change, and the change occurred, great. If all we mean by “liberal” is “pro-change” and by “conservative” “anti-change,” then we are simply rambling, because those are entirely untenable positions without reference to context.

    Regarding your last three points:
    1) I would deny this, both because Catholicism affirms the autonomy and rationality of the scientific method but denies the tenets of Positivism or Scientism. There is nothing incompatible with claiming to be the one true faith, nor with stopping things that conflict with its “ideology” if it is not committed to contradiction in doing so and is not committed to violating truths we know by reason.

    2) I would accept this with the caveat that one can reasonably make a distinction between consistent positions about professing creedal Christianity or atheism.

    3) Do you honestly think the word “conservative” simply means “change is bad?” That’s it? Where do you get this from?

    Pax Christi,

  9. […] debate with Samuel Skinner over the Church, history, science, and atheism continuing here, I believe my discovering this interview to be undeniably […]

  10. […] who, by-and-large, in my humblest of opinions, impressively armed as they be, nonetheless, are hacks: Modern-day apologists, if they wish to be convincing, are advised to bone up on their philosophy […]

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