A Philosopher's Blog

Are Christian’s Persecuted in America?

Posted in Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on February 11, 2013
English: Persecution of the Christians

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m currently reading Candida Moss’ The Myth of Persecution, which will be available March 5th. I’ll be posting a review of the book on March 6th. This book has, not surprisingly, got me thinking once more about the idea that Christians are persecuted in America.

I invite the readers of this blog to present their answers to the following questions:

  1.  What is persecution (in this context)?
  2.  Are Christians persecuted in America?
  3.  What evidence is there for your view?

Naturally, I’ll present my views on this matter.

Persecution, in this context, would involve the widespread, active, systematic and persistent mistreat of Christians merely because they are Christians. Persecution, by its very nature, seems to require that the persecuted be victims of a more powerful group or groups.

Given this general definition, it would seem clear that Christians are not persecuted in the United States. While Christian groups might not always get what they want (such as a ban on same-sex marriages), this hardly counts as persecution.

In terms of the alleged evidence for persecution, proponents of this view claim that Christians are denied the right to pray, that states forbid the display of Christian symbols on state property (like the nativity scene), that there is a war on Christmas and so on. However, these claims are often unfounded (such as is the case with the alleged war on Christmas) or exaggerated. In any case, this is a factual matter and can be settled by empirical research.

In terms of the evidence against persecution, the majority of Americans claim to be Christians and the nation that is awash in churches. If Christians were persecuted it would seem odd that so many people would profess to a persecuted faith. Even more strange would be the claim that  a minority of non-Christians would be able to persecute all the Christians. Of course, it is not impossible. After all, South Africa’s majority black population was cruelly oppressed by the minority white population. However, we do not see a powerless Christian majority in America that is being subdued by a powerful minority of non-Christians. Powerful and influential leaders, from the President on down, claim to be Christians. Churches with great wealth and influence abound. Christian business people, academics, scientists, lawyers, police, soldiers and other professionals abound. It is especially odd to see powerful Republican politicians and pundits speak of being persecuted for being Christians, given the fact that they are powerful and influential and thus exactly the sort of people who are not being persecuted.  If all these Christians are being persecuted, they do not seem to show signs of this persecution and to allow it to happen in the face of their power, influence and wealth would show an amazing ineptitude on their part. There is also the obvious question of the identity of the persecutors. That is, who has the power to persecute the Christian majority of the United States? No one, it surely seems.

As such, there seems to be no evidence of widespread, active, systematic and persistent mistreatment of Christians in the United States. The fact is that Christianity is the dominant faith. There is also no war on Christmas.

This is not to say that some Christians do not feel persecuted. However, this often seems to be caused by a distorted perception of reality (like the war on Christmas) or by the belief that a failure to get what they want (such as prayer in schools) is a form of persecution. That is, they are mistaking frustration for persecution.

There are, of course, places in the world were Christians really are persecuted. However these places do not include the United States.

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Athletes & God

Posted in Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on January 9, 2012
English: This cross-country race course in Sea...

Did God knock those guys down?

While professional athletes get the most attention when they thank God for their successes and victories, athletes thanking God is not that uncommon. It is also not uncommon for this sort of thing to attract both negative and positive attention. As should come as no surprise, there are some matters of philosophical interest here.

I will begin in a somewhat non-philosophical vein by noting that I have no problems with people expressing their faith in the context of sports. When I ran in college,I  noticed that quite a few of my fellow runners were religious-I distinctly remember seeing people praying before the start of a cross country race (on some courses, divine protection was something well worth having and flipping their crosses from the front to the back (also a good idea-racing downhill can result in a cross to the face). I was, at that time, an atheist. But, as a runner, I have a respect for devotion and faith. Plus, most of these people proved to be decent human beings and I certainly respect that.

When I race now, some races I compete in are put on my churches or have religious race directors. As such, I participate in races that often have a prayer before the start. While I am not known for my faith, I am generally fine with the prayers-they tend to be ones that express gratitude for the opportunity to be healthy and express the hope that the runners will be watched over and come to no harm. I agree with both sentiments. What I find to be a matter of potential concern is, of course, when athletes credit God with their successes and wins.

On the one hand, if someone does believe in God it does make sense to give God a general thanks. After all, if God did create the world and all that, then we would all owe him thanks for existing and having a universe in which we can compete in sports. There is also the fact that such thanks can be seen as being the sort of thing one does-just as one thanks the little people for one’s success in the movies or politics one should thank the Big Guy for His role in literally making it all possible.

On the other hand, an athlete thanking God for his or her specific success over others does raise some matters of philosophical interest that I will now explore.

One point of concern that is commonly raised is that it seems rather odd that God would intervene to, for example, help a pro-football player score a touchdown while He is allowing untold amounts of suffering to occur. If He can help push a ball into the hands of a quarterback why could he not deflect, just a bit, a bullet fired by a murderer? Why could He not just tweak a virus a bit so that it does not cause AIDS? The idea that God is so active in sports and so inactive in things that really matter would certainly raise questions about God’s benevolence and priorities.

Another point of concern is that to thank God for a victory is to indicate that God  wanted the other side or other athletes to be defeated. While this would make sense if one was, for example, doing a marathon against demons or on the field against a team of devils, it seems less reasonable when one is just playing a game or running a race. When I beat people in a race, there seems to generally be no evidence that they are more wicked than I or any less morally or theologically deserving in the eyes of God (with some notable exceptions-you know who you are).  It seems odd to think that God regards some teams or some athletes as His foes that must be defeated by His champions (I will, of course, make the obvious exception for the damn Yankees).  So, if I beat you and I thank God for the victory, I would seem to be saying that God wanted you to lose. That would, of course, raise questions about why that would be the case. It seems to make more sense to say that I won because I ran faster rather than because God did something to bless me on the course or smite you.

The notion that God did something also raises an important moral point. A key part of athletic ethics is competing fairly without things like illegal performance enhancing drugs or outside intervention. If I win a race because I was blood doping and had people tackling other runners in the woods, then I would be a cheater and not a winner. If God steps into athletic events and starts intervening for one side or person, then God is cheating. Given that God is supposed to be God, surely He surely would not cheat and would thus allow the better team or athlete to win. He might, of course, act to offset or prevent cheating and be morally just. However, while  Jesus turned water to wine,God generally does not seem to turn steroids into saline.

As a final point, there is also the rather broad matter of freedom. If our athletic victories are due to God (and also our losses-but no one praises God for those on TV), then it would seem that our agency is lacking in these contests. God would be like a child playing with action figures (“zoom, Mike surges ahead or the win!” or “zap, Jeremy blasts past the Kenyans to win the NYC marathon!”) and the athletes would no more deserve the credit or the blame than the action figures. After all, the agency of both is simply lacking and all agency lies with the one moving the figures about. As would be imagined, this lack of agency would seem to extend throughout life-if God is responsible for my 5K time, then He would also seem responsible for my publications and whether I stab someone in the face or not. This is, of course, a classic problem-only now in the context of sports. Naturally (or supernaturally), the universe could in fact work this way. Of course, this would also mean that the athletes who praise God would be like sock puppets worn by a puppeteer who is praising himself or herself.

Now, if God does actually intervene in sports, I would like to make a modest request: God, could you see fit to shave two minutes off my 5K time this coming year? Oh, and as always, smite the Yankees. The Gators, too.

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Is America a Christian Nation?

Posted in Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on May 17, 2011
Thomas Jefferson

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One point being pushed by some folks on the right is the notion that America is a Christian nation. Whether this claim is true or not depends what is meant by the ambiguous term.

If the term means that Christianity plays an important role in American history, values, and that many Americans profess to be members of this faith, then the answer is an obvious “yes.” Many of the founders were Christian deists and showed a clear belief in God. Also, the political philosophy that America is based upon includes strong Lockean elements and Locke’s theory is based quite strongly on God. So far, so good and easy.

However, the folks that claim that America is a Christian nation seem to mean more than this. In general their view seems to involve claims that the founders held the same views that they themselves hold. This does not seem to be supported by the historical evidence. To check on this, do as David Barton advocates: go read all of the original writings of Jefferson, Adams, Paine, Franklin and so on.  But, do what Barton does not seem to do: be sure to consider the full text of the documents rather than merely focusing on a specific quote or two.  You will find reference to God, but you will not find  the sort of Christianity being endorsed by the likes of Palin, Bachmann and Barton. I do not expect you to take my word on this-get the texts and read them thoroughly and completely with an objective mind.

The folks that claim America is a Christian nation also tend to hold this as more than a description but also as a prescription. To be specific, they contend that since America is a Christian nation, then we should change our laws to reflect this. Abortion should be outlawed, same sex marriage should be banned and usury should not be allowed. I am, of course, kidding about the last one. Usury is just fine-these folks are not going to shut down the banking industry (which is but one sign of how consistently Christian many of the folks are).

Even if it is assumed that these views are truly Christian, there is an obvious problem. America is a democracy. Now, if it is assumed that America is a Christian nation and it is assumed that America is a democracy, it would seem to follow that this Christian nation accepts things that certain Christians claim go against Christianity. If people continue to democratically support views that certain Christians oppose, should we abandon democracy in favor of imposing a certain set of religious views? I, of course, think we should not.

That is one rather serious problem with having an official state religion (or something close to it)-it tends to be rather inimical to democracy-something the founders were well aware of. So, insofar as we favor democracy over theocracy, we are not a Christian nation. Rather, we are a democratic nation with the notion of religious freedom (and freedom from religion) as  a fundamental principle.

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End of Days in May?

Posted in Epistemology, Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on March 9, 2011
Armageddon looming

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The end of the world has been predicted numerous times and has yet to come to pass. However, the past failures of the world to end as predicted has not deterred new predictions. The latest prediction is based on an interpretation of the bible and the date set is May 21, 2011. If this is correct, then we do not have that much time left.

Interestingly enough, the bible (Mark & Matthew) seems to clearly state that no one (other than God) can know the hour or the day when the end will come. As such, to use the bible to predict the day of the end would seem to be somewhat problematic. After all, if the bible is accurate, then it would be accurate in regards to the claim that the day cannot be known. If that part is not accurate, then this would cast doubt on the parts that are used to make predictions about the end. Naturally enough, folks who calculate the end of days always have a response to the claim that this day cannot be known and perhaps they are right.

Not surprisingly, I am rather skeptical about May 21 being the end. After all, there have been numerous other attempts to calculate the end from the bible and these have all failed. As such, there seems little reason to believe that this new calculation is correct. Unless, of course, the new calculation is such that its methodology and content are both reliable. I am inclined to suspect that this is not the case. However, we do not have long to wait for an answer.

If the end does not arrive on May 21, the result will probably be the same as what occurred with other failed predictions: a new prediction will be offered based on the claim that the original calculation was off to do some (until then) unknown error in the calculations or in the interpretation of the textual evidence. The group that accepts the prediction will lose some members due to the failure, but others will accept the changed prediction. However, if the new prediction does not come to pass (or is set too far in the future) then the group will gradually lose membership and fade away.

In any case, it is not clear how useful a correct prediction would be. Given that we have no real way to confirm the predictions until the day arrives to confirm or disprove it, it makes little sense to change one’s life on the basis of such predictions. Unless, of course, the change is one that would be a good idea anyway. However, to quit one’s job or abandon one’s family on the basis of such a prediction would seem to be a bad idea. After all, such things would seem to have no impact on what is supposed to occur in the end and would have a negative impact should the prediction turn out to be wrong.

In any case, we’ll have the answer soon enough.

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Faith & Ignorance

Posted in Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on October 8, 2010
Cults and new religious movements in literatur...
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A recent Pew survey revealed that Americans are rather ignorant in regards to religion. Interestingly, Catholics did the worst while atheists and agnostics did best in terms of what they knew.

The finding about ignorance  matches my own experience. When people find out that I am a philosophy professor, the talk often turns to the matter of religion. When I was younger, I was rather surprised at how little people knew about even their own professed faiths, but I soon came to expect this as the norm. While I do expect this, it does bother me that so many people do not seem to know what it is they strongly profess to believe. What dismays me even more is the fact that people are generally not inclined to correct this ignorance nor often interested in subjecting their beliefs to some critical thought.

I am not surprised that atheists and agnostics know the most about religion. One reason is that atheists and agnostics are often (but obviously not always) reasonably well educated. As such, they would tend to know more about religion. Another contributing factor is that some people end up as atheists or agnostics after trying out various faiths-hence they will often have a broader base of experience to drawn upon. A third factor is that people who are more critical and inquisitive will often tend towards atheism and agnosticism and such people are more likely to know more about various faiths. A fourth possible factor is that a broader knowledge base actually tends to lead people towards atheism and agnosticism. That is, perhaps atheists and agnostics believe what they do because they know more about religion. After all, seeing so many people sincerely devoted to beliefs that are at least inconsistent with each other would incline a person towards skepticism about religion.

Of course, I have (anecdotally) found that it is not uncommon for atheists and agnostics to be ignorant of the philosophical arguments for God’s existence. However, most folks are ignorant of these arguments.

In terms of what religious people would tend to know less about other faiths, one obvious reason is that if someone thinks they have the correct answer, there is little reason to learn about other faiths. Some might be inclined to say that people of faith are more likely to be ignorant and lacking in intellectual curiosity   (or vice versa). This is, perhaps, a possibility.

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The Belief Obama is a Muslim

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on August 26, 2010

Belief is an interesting thing. When people are being rational, they believe in proportion to the evidence and in accord with its strength. When people are being irrational, they believe whatever they happen to feel strongly about. Good reasons and bad reasons matter not, all one needs is to feel it strongly enough.

One excellent example of this is shown by a recent Pew Research center poll. While there has been no new evidence for the claim that Obama is a Muslin, there has been a significant change in the percentage of people who believe that he is a Muslim and not a Christian. As shown in the Pew results (above) only 34% of those polled think he is Christian while 18% think he is Muslim. 43% now claim to not know his religion.

Another interesting bit of information is the fact that 31% of Republicans apparently believe that Obama is a Muslim.

As far as his faith goes, only he truly knows what he believes. However, as far as external evidence, there seems to be about as much evidence to believe that he is a Christian as there is for most people who claim to be Christians. After all, he goes to church occasionally, he claims to be a Christian, and he mentions God from time to time. He is clearly not, as some might say, a “Super Jesus” Christian.

As far as his being a Muslim, there seems to be no real evidence for this claim. No evidence of his being a member of a mosque, no profession of belief, no following of specific Muslim doctrines, and so on. While he has said nice things about Islam and has acted in ways to improve relations between the United States and Muslim countries, this hardly counts as evidence that he is a Muslim. After all, many Christians have said nice things about Islam and have worked to improve relations between the faiths. So, if he is a Muslim, then he is certainly a very secret Muslim.

Of course, that might be exactly what some people believe-that Obama is concealing his true faith under the guise of Christianity. The obvious concern is, of course, how did such people pierce his disguise and what evidence do they have of his true faith?

What I suspect is that they have nothing that would pass muster as evidence. Instead, the change in what people think is based on how they feel about Obama rather than any plausible evidence that supports the claim that he is a Muslim. As noted above, 31% of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim. This seems to indicate that the belief is not based on evidence but on the political views of the believers. Of course, it could be countered that the Democrats fail to see evidence because of their own bias. But, then how does one explain that fact that most Republicans do not believe that he is Muslim? The best explanation, I think, is that he is not a Muslim.

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Defining Islam

Posted in Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on August 24, 2010
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One rather interesting problem is determining who or what determines the true tenets of a belief system. While this is an important matter in many fields, it seems especially important in regards to religion. To use a current situation, there is considerable debate over the true nature of Islam.

When Muslims commit acts of terror, moderate Muslims and others often argue that these acts of terror do not represent the true tenets of Islam. However, there are those who refuse to accept this defense and instead claim that such acts are perfectly in accord with the true tenets of Islam.

While some people make this claim without grounding it in reasons, noted atheist Sam Harris makes a case for his view.  As he sees it:

The first thing that all honest students of Islam must admit is that it is not absolutely clear where members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabab, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, and other Muslim terrorist groups have misconstrued their religious obligations. If they are “extremists” who have deformed an ancient faith into a death cult, they haven’t deformed it by much. When one reads the Koran and the hadith, and consults the opinions of Muslim jurists over the centuries, one discovers that killing apostates, treating women like livestock, and waging jihad—not merely as an inner, spiritual struggle but as holy war against infidels—are practices that are central to the faith. Granted, one path out of this madness might be for mainstream Muslims to simply pretend that this isn’t so—and by this pretense persuade the next generation that the “true” Islam is peaceful, tolerant of difference, egalitarian, and fully compatible with a global civil society. But the holy books remain forever to be consulted, and no one will dare to edit them. Consequently, the most barbarous and divisive passages in these texts will remain forever open to being given their most plausible interpretations.

While Harris makes a clear case, some analysis of his argument is well worth the effort.  His view is quite clear: the alleged extremists are, in fact, acting in accord with the tenets of Islam. As evidence, Harris notes that the Koran, hadith and Muslim jurists clearly support the “extremist” views.

This seems to be quite correct. However, it is hardly unique to Islam to have wicked tenets. For example, most modern liberal democracies have had rather horrible laws on their books in the past. To use an obvious example, slavery was once legal in the United States and the United Kingdom. Even today there are laws that seem to be morally incorrect.

He does concede that mainstream Muslims could solve this problem by ignoring these true tenets of Islam and then deceiving the next generation into accepting mainstream Islam as the true version.

This certainly seems appealing. After all, one might argue, a system of beliefs need not be eternally fixed in place, unchanging and never evolving. Just as , for example, the United States abandoned its acceptance of slavery and racism, Islam can also change.

Harris, however, sees this as an impossibility. He claims that the holy books will remain forever and forever unedited. Thus, he contends, the passages in question will always be available and the opportunity will always be present to give them “their most plausible interpretations.”

This, then, is presumably the critical distinction between other belief systems (like the legal system of the United States) and Islam. That is, Islam can never change its tenets and the worst practices in these tenets define the faith. To use an analogy, this would be as if a country could never removes evil laws from its books and no matter what was done, those laws could always be interpreted and acted on. Further, those acting on the most plausible interpretations of those laws would be acting in accord with the true tenets of the law.

In regards to the first part of the claim, it is not clear that Islam cannot change. One avenue for change is that, as Harris himself concedes, the passages are interpreted. While he regards the most plausible interpretations to be the ones that are the worst, these are not the only interpretations. In principle, there seems to be no reason why the more moderate interpretations cannot be regarded as the correct ones. Of course, that is a rather critical matter: what is the correct interpretation (and who decides)? In the case of law, the correct interpretation is set by the relevant authorities. If religion functions the same way, then the religious authorities could thus legitimately rule in favor of the more moderate interpretations and could even rule that certain tenets no longer apply. But perhaps religion is more of a democratic system in that its tenets are set by the majority of believers. If so, if the majority of Muslims are moderate and interpret their faith moderately, then this would be the correct interpretation. In any case, one might wonder why an atheist who is clearly hostile to religion has the authority to rule on the true tenets of a faith.

In regards to the second part of the claim, it is an interesting matter as to whether the worst tenets of a belief system define that belief system or not.  It is also interesting to consider whether or not a member of a belief system must accept all the beliefs of that system.

Suppose that the worst beliefs define  belief system, that believers must accept all the tenets of their belief system and the the laws (and interpretations of them) of a nation define the belief system of the citizens (just as the religious tenets are supposed to define the belief system of a religion). This would seem to entail that the belief system of Americans is a rather evil one. After all, there are laws on the books that seem to be rather immoral and there are many that seem unjust and unfair. No matter that some people oppose these laws and associated practices-by being Americans they must accept that they are defined by the very worst aspects of their system of belief. Even if an American claims to oppose a specific law she regards as wicked, by Harris’ logic  it would seem that she cannot. As an American, she must accept it as correct. This seems rather absurd. The same seems true of the claims that a member of a religious faith must accept all the tenets of the faith and that the faith is defined by its worst elements.

Naturally, this does not just apply to Islam, but other belief systems as well.

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South Park vs. Radical Islam

Posted in Politics, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on April 20, 2010
The main characters (in order from left to rig...

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South Park’s 200th episode featured Muhammad. He was not, of course, actually drawn as Muhammad but rather presented wearing a mascot’s bear costume. This, not surprisingly, has led revolutionmuslim.com to post a warning to South Park creators: they will end up like van Gogh. No, not the painter who allegedly sliced off his own ear. Rather, this is Theo van Gogh who was murdered after making a film about violence against women in certain Islamic cultures.

One reason for this response is that it is supposed to be forbidden to create images of Muhammad. The idea that certain images should not be displayed is not unique to Islam. There have been times when the displaying of certain religious images was forbidden in Christianity (and not just graven images, etc.). While the idea that such images should not be displayed seems like mere irrational superstition, it can be argued that people’s religious  beliefs should be respected. So, for example, if Islam forbids the portrayal of Muhammad, then this should be honored. Then again, the idea that the free expression of ideas and views can be held hostage by theological views might strike some as rather medieval.

Another reason for this response is that the episode can be seen as mocking Islam-or at least making a veiled (sorry) attack on the followers who tend to be rather obsessed about Muhammad being portrayed. While people obviously do not like having their beliefs mocked, how people respond to such mocking shows a great deal about the people in question. South Park routinely makes fun of Christianity (Jesus is a recurring character on the show and his epic battle with Santa is a thing of legends), yet Christians generally do not make death threats over such mockery. In contrast, Islam’s defenders might be seen as operating like the Spanish Inquisition-quick to use violence to “defend” the faith. To be fair, people claiming to be Christians do still use violence and justify it on the basis of their faith. Perhaps the best known examples are the murders of doctors who perform abortions.

It might be the case, as some have argued, that a significant number of Muslims are still operating in the mindset of the dark ages (that is, how religion often operated in Europe prior to the Enlightenment…and beyond). After all, a mature and rational human being can, as the saying goes, take a joke. Also, an ethical person proportions her response to the severity of the offense. Having Muhammad in a bear suit might seem a bit silly, but it hardly seems something worth killing over.  As such, the folks at Revolutionmuslim.com might be regarded as rather immature and unethical. Some might go so far as to make the same claim about many followers of Islam or perhaps even the entire faith.

Islam might, as some see it, be lagging behind because it is a younger religion and also because it has been far less influenced by Modern and contemporary ideas and influences (like democracy, women’s rights, scientific advances, and liberal political theory). Perhaps, as some have argued, Islam will eventually emerge from the dark ages after a long and prolonged struggle, much like Christianity.

Then again, as some argue, perhaps Islam is not lagging behind. After all, this presumes that religions progress towards some sort of “better” state. It might well be the case that Islam is up to date with the 21st century, just not the Western and liberal 21st century.

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God & Sexual Abuse

Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy, Religion by Michael LaBossiere on April 7, 2010
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Once more the Catholic Church is mired in scandal. While the sale of indulgences does not seem to have returned, the church apparently has had serious problems with sexual abuse. These problems include the abuse itself as well as what the church has done (or not done) about it.

While I was horrified and sickened by what I learned about these evil deeds, I also wondered what these incidents tell us about God.

While the misdeeds were done by human beings, those in the church hierarchy claim a special relationship with God. Apparently God did not use this special relationship to guide them away from their crimes. Also, obviously enough, God did nothing to stop these misdeeds. While it is well established that God does not act to help people in general, it might be thought that He would at least take some action when His agents on earth are sexually assaulting children. But, once again, He did nothing.  The hierarchy of the church also did little or nothing. The Pope also has really done nothing either. Since he is supposed to be infallible in matters of faith, perhaps it must be inferred that God is fine with what has been done.

Then again, perhaps it makes more sense to infer that there is no one watching over the Catholic Church or the world. No one, that is, other than us.

Of course, the latest sexual abuse horror stories are just more examples in the age old problem of evil. They are, however, more vivid because the misdeeds were perpetrated by priests and then covered up by a church.

Although I have had moments of faith, it is rather hard to believe people who claim that God is a good and cares about us as individuals. I have never seen any evidence of this and, in fact, see a relentless onslaught of evidence to the contrary. If God does exist, He clearly is unwilling or unable to help us, thus making claims about his love seem to be little more than wishful thinking and empty lies.

Naturally, I am open to evidence to the contrary and would love to see clear and verifiable evidence of God acting in a way consistent with His alleged attributes of love, goodness, and so on. Any takers? Oh, no bible stories-unless you can provide objective evidence backing up such tales.

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The Catholic Church

Posted in Religion by Michael LaBossiere on March 19, 2010
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Those familiar with history know that the Catholic Church is no stranger to scandals. The latest scandals involve sexual abuse and other sexual scandals with the church.

While some might be inclined to argue that this tendency towards abuse results from the religion itself, this does not seem to be the case. The actual doctrines of the church seem to be rather against this sort of behavior (after all, the Catholic Church relentlessly condemns homosexuality). Also, there seems to be no causal connection between the religious impulse and the tendency to engage is such evil behavior. After all, most people are (or claim to be) religious and most people do not engage in such behavior. While this does not conclusively show that there is not a causal connection, it does indicate that if there is any connection, then it is a rather weak one.

Given that the Catholic Church demands abstinence on the part of the priests, it might be argued that this has a role in these scandals. This does have some plausibility. However, this does not seem to be a complete explanation. After all, other groups practice abstinence and yet do not suffer the same sort of scandals.

It might be the case that it is not something about the church that causes the behavior, but rather that the church attracts people with those tendencies. It has been suggested that since the church provides excellent cover for such behavior, it tends to attract people who will engage in such abuse. The church has been rather slow to deal with the problem and its actions have been rather limited. As such, people who are inclined to inflict such abuse might be drawn to the church because of the cover and protection it provides.

Also, the fact that the church provides such cover and protection might serve to encourage people with such tendencies to act upon them. After all, if a person knows that he will be able to act on his impulses with impunity, then this removes a major reason not to act upon these impulses.

The church clearly needs to remove the cover and protection it provides for such abuse and abusers. However, there seems to be little will on the part of the top hierarchy to do so and this raises serious questions about their moral integrity and values.

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