Essay Review


#1

Hi All,

I am requesting comments on my essay, Why I Am No Longer A Catholic, which I published on my website earlier this week. It’s approximately 6,500 words in length, too long to post directly into a thread. I realize almost no one would have time to respond to all or most of the points, but I would appreciate responses to individual issues if anyone is willing.

Please note that I am not attempting to lead anyone away from the Faith. I am only here to determine whether anyone can resolve some of the issues that led me away from the Church. If you have doubts about the Faith, then it may be best that you avoid the article. As a scrupulant, I would have felt guilty about reading such an essay before my deconversion, so this is my warning. I am not actively looking to revert, but intellectual honesty demands that I at least find out if anyone besides all of the priests and lay Catholics that I have spoken to and the books and essays I have read have any satisfactory answers I have not encountered.

It is important that I receive feedback about Section II (Reasons to Believe), because without a solid positive reason, resolving the issues in Section III (Reasons to Disbelieve) leaves me in the same position. Even if I grant a thousand points before this point, I see no resolution to my objection that miraculous power does not confer infallible trustworthiness to anyone whatsoever.

Here is the link: davidmann.us/essays/whynolonger.htm

David

**NOTE: **The note at the top of the page only applies to e-mails I receive about the essay. I have no right to reproduce anything written here.


#2

Hello, David. I’m not sure I’ll have time to read it all, so I’ll just make short comments as I go, starting with the fourth paragraph under section II.A:

Beyond the difficulties of confirming miracles at all, there is also a major problem in that each person in the world would himself need to become an expert in logic, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, history, and several other academic fields in order to be as certain as possible that no errors have occurred in the long line of research and reasoning. For while one may trust scientists and historians to establish the likelihood of natural events, one cannot confirm a supernatural occurrence and logically conclude that a certain institution is absolutely infallible on the fallible word of other persons.

I don’t get it. People rely on experts all the time.

I have been privileged to work with some very advanced designers when I worked at Bell Labs, and I have a lot of respect for what so-called “experts” can do. I also know these are normal, fallible people like us.

Personally, I like to understand things as completely as possible, which is part of the reason I became an engineer. Starting with three simple axioms of electromagnetics, I can explain a good deal of how a computer works from the subatomic level clear up to the software. Believe it or not, many people have no desire whatsoever to know what’s inside a computer at all, just so that it works. They totally leave the technical details to others (such as me).

I don’t understand at all how “every person” has to become an expert for miracles to be convincing. Convincing to whom? Many people buy into things rather easily without much scrutiny.

Alan


#3

Peace to you.

Here are some things that you might consider changing the wording on just a bit: “It is not necessary that I establish the instability…” and “…stability is not nearly strong enough to establish the divine origins…” In these sentences, I am not sure you are using “establish” correctly. I would suggest, in the first case, the use of “demonstrate” or something similar, which shows you showing us something rather than causing it. In the second case, I would recommend use of the word “support” instead.


#4

Thanks for your response, Alan. :slight_smile:

[quote=AlanFromWichita]I don’t understand at all how “every person” has to become an expert for miracles to be convincing. Convincing to whom? Many people buy into things rather easily without much scrutiny.
[/quote]

The issue is the absolute strength of the conclusion, not trust in experts in general.

We are supposed to reason that papal ex cathedra statements are absolutely infallible because of a long line of reasoning eventually based on the occurrence of miracles. But we could be wrong about whether the miracles really happened, among other things.

It’s like saying:

I am absolutely certain that the Immaculate Conception happened because the INFALLIBLE pope said so. And I believe the pope is infallible because FALLIBLE experts said a miracle happened, and FALLIBLE scholars say the NT text is historical, and FALLIBLE theologians say Matthew 16:18 means Peter is the first infallible pope, etc.

If I, as a human, am fallible, I cannot infallibly determine whether any authority is infallible. It’s that simple.


#5

Thanks for the comments, Cherub. :slight_smile: I will review the section and decide whether it should be re-worded.


#6

Dear David,

It’s hard for me to buy the last paragraph under II.B, quoted in part here:

It is not necessary that I establish the instability of the Catholic Church. It is not even necessary that I demonstrate that her stability is debatable. It is only necessary that I provide natural reasons for the stability she has displayed, and I believe I have done that. The Church’s stability is not nearly strong enough to establish the divine origins it claims.

I disagree with your apparent assertion that it is sufficient that you come up with a natural explanation for the Church’s stability, to discount its being of divine origin. Maybe you could get some mileage out of trying to demonstrate that her stability is debatable, as you have made some attempt to do. That doesn’t necessarily refute her divine origins, though; for example it may simply refute claims by some of her fallible members – including popes. Keep in mind that everything we are told about the Church is through fallible teachers.

Likewise, in the rest of the paragraph you have pointed to numerous failings of the Church suggesting it is other than divine. That is an interesting hypothesis, but not conclusive. The Church herself may, in fact, be divinely protected, without necessarily conferring perfect behavior on the part of her leaders and members.

You have posed it as a quantitative thing, where the number and scale of “failures” are evidence as opposed to “minimal” worldly failures. Why that may cause one to raise one’s eyebrows, it does not prove anything. I would think that if the Church were divinely led she would either be absolutely perfect, as her leaders would all be forced into perfect behavior, or that her leaders would be allowed to be human and fallible. Obviously the first case doesn’t apply, and if the second place applies I would hardly place any limits on how badly huge groups of human beings can screw up something that started out perfect.

The fact that the Church still stands after two millenia, and is relatively stable in her teachings and beliefs, means she can weather the storms. Can that be a possible indicator of divine protection? It doesn’t prove anything, but it is at least as good of an argument as your paragraph in question.

Alan


#7

[quote=AlanFromWichita]It doesn’t prove anything
[/quote]

That is my point in toto. The stability of the Church, as it is, is not a strong enough argument to prove the divine origins of the Church. I’m not necessarily showing that any instability is proof against the Church, but that the stability is not proof for the Church.

NOTE: Small correction to essay text, changing “it” to “she” with reference to the Church. I want to be consistent.


#8

When you put it like that, I can hardly disagree with you. I am Catholic but I have problems with the “infallibility” beliefs, which I think are presumptuous. Some would say (and have said) that if I don’t believe in papal infallibility then I’m not a true Catholic. In fact, I am truly Catholic because I was baptized into the faith and according to an apologist here on this forum, I am still Catholic even if I renounce my faith.

I’m not claiming papal infallibility is false, just that I have no way to establish it – much like your own claim if I understand you right. In fact, for some of the same reasons you have cited I tend to believe it is not true. As much as many Catholics would like to ride me out on a rail for my heresy, I am just as much a member of the Body of Christ as they are. I invite you to stay with the church (technically you still are Catholic even if you renounce your faith :wink: ) and do like me – simply don’t worry about papal infallibility. Many Catholics believe that for Catholicism to be the true church, papal infallibility must be established. I don’t. I listen to fallible experts on many subjects and derive lots of good from them, and believe I can do so with the Church.

Alan


#9

Dear Alan,

I was always someone who took papal infallibility very seriously. It was the only reason I could take the Church seriously because without it, everything was just someone’s fallible opinion. I have no way of determining the veracity of the Gospel stories or even which Gospels are considered canonical. I certainly can’t understand them well enough to interpret them, especially when they contradict each other. I have no more reason to believe in Allah or Krishna or Zeus without an infallible authority. But I don’t think one can be established at all.

I am much happier without any faith. It’s not because I can sin or I don’t have to attend Mass. I can think for myself, form my opinions with reason, and be honest to myself and sometimes say, “I don’t know.” I’m an all-or-nothing person when it comes to religion. Thanks for the encouragement though.:slight_smile:

David


#10

Your treatment on Original Sin could be further addressed. You’ve presented it too much as a penalty that’s extrinsically imposed without any reference to human nature. It’s no wonder why you see it as an injustice.

Try evaluating Original Sin as the self-inflicted wound it really is. Our first parents dis-ordered human nature, and every generation inherits it.


#11

Vincent,

If God wants everyone to be saved, as is taught by the Church, then why would He let someone else, namely Adam and Eve, hurt our chances of obtaining salvation by giving us the universal tendency to sin?

[quote=Vincent]Try evaluating Original Sin as the self-inflicted wound it really is.
[/quote]

The point is that it’s not self-inflicted. It was inflicted by someone who lived at least 5,000 years ago.

[quote=Vincent]Our first parents dis-ordered human nature, and every generation inherits it.
[/quote]

Everyone except Mary. Why is she treated special before she was even born? Why can’t we all have immaculate conceptions?

Also, if I commit many sins, then would my children be more likely to sin? How did Adam and Eve alter human nature? And why didn’t the Redemption fix it? Is it because we’re not descended from Jesus?

David


#12

I think this is best answered by Aquinas; from the newadvent article on Original Sin:

"An individual can be considered either as an individual or as part of a whole, a member of a society…Considered in the second way an act can be his although he has not done it himself, nor has it been done by his free will but by the rest of the society or by its head, the nation being considered as doing what the prince does. For a society is considered as a single man of whom the individuals are the different members (St. Paul, I Cor., xii). Thus the multitude of men who receive their human nature from Adam is to be considered as a single community or rather as a single body…If the man, whose privation of original justice is due to Adam, is considered as a private person, this privation is not his `fault’, for a fault is essentially voluntary. If, however, we consider him as a member of the family of Adam, as if all men were only one man, then his privation partakes of the nature of sin on account of its voluntary origin, which is the actual sin of Adam"

Original Sin


#13

Thanks for the quote, Grolsch. It’s an explanation, but I cannot recognize it as valid. It relies on logic that no one besides a dyed-in-the-wool Scholastic would consider legitimate.

We all suffer because there was only one person in society? What happened to Eve? Didn’t she eat the fruit first? Did Original Sin not begin then, or was it because she’s “just a woman” and Adam was the “master” of society?

“[T]he nation being considered as doing what the prince does…”

So if our president, no, divinely-ordained king, sins, it will affect us all and we will all be punished? That is absurd. But if we accept that, why didn’t Jesus’ sacrifical death cancel the effects since He surely was the leader of humanity far more so than Adam?

Good thing Clinton was only a president and not a king!:rotfl:


#14

…Certainly, Christ did die on the cross once for all and has entered into the holy place in heaven to appear before God on our behalf. Christ has abundantly provided for our salvation, but that does not mean that there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals. Obviously, there is, or we would have been saved and justified from all eternity, with no need to repent or have faith or anything else. We would have been born “saved,” with no need to be born again. Since we were not, since it is necessary for those who hear the gospel to repent and embrace it, there is a time at which we come to be reconciled to God. And if so, then we, like Adam and Eve, can become unreconciled with God and, like the prodigal son, need to come back and be reconciled again with God, after having left his family…

catholic.com/library/Assurance_of_Salvation.asp


#15

Dear David,

Oh, gosh. I have so much to talk about with you I don’t know where to start. First, I believe that the Jesus of the Bible, whether you accept Him as God, as man, or as legend, is one heck of a cool dude. If He wasn’t divine, then at least He was the most open-minded person in history that I know of, and His wisdom transcended that of the scholars because it was borne of true Love. I am not particularly concerned about what appear to be literal contradictions because I believe the Bible calls us to a deeper relationship with the Divine, brought about by our own personal transformation.

One problem that I think many intelligent people have had with the Church is that her “apophatic” tradition is largely ignored and largely relegated to contemplative monastic circles while only the “kataphatic” tradition seems to be on the front life. I suspect there are many reasons, not the least of which is that most people are not, in fact, comfortable with their experts saying “I don’t know.” (After all, the apophatic tradition focuses on the mystery of God, not what we think we know about God.) This is rather puzzling because the Catechism talks about three forms of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative, and clearly states that the contemplative is the type of prayer that brings us to true union with God. Funny thing is most Catholics have never even heard of contemplative prayer. Many saints followed in the apophatic tradition, but it just never became mainstream for diocesan priests or the laity. A classic text in that tradition is the Cloud of the Unknowing, written by an anonymous 14th century author.

At the risk of blowing any credibility I might have with other Catholics, I think you would thoroughly enjoy some of the lectures of Alan Watts, a philosopher who once was an Anglican priest, then a Buddhist guru, then became kind of a multi-religios speaker who specialized in lecturing westerners about eastern thought. He talks about a “religion of no religion” among other things. He also paints a dreadful charicature of Jesus – as promoted by many Christian religions – and one that is incredibly better. He also speaks a great deal about how the language one speaks shapes the way we think, clear back from the days of Adam. He used to have a regular radio program, of which a number of MP3 files are around.

Also I highly recommend you read the book “My Search for Absolutes” by (non-Catholic) theologian Paul Tillich; the first chapter is optional. He starts by examining whether there is any such of a thing as an absolute in human thought, and concludes there must be in order to have bases for conversations. Then he examines absolutes in morality, finding “don’t use me as a means” as the overall principle. In religion, he finds the absolute concept of “love one another.” This description doesn’t do the book justice, but he does a great job of discussing how a religion must not point to itself but to the Absolute. Sometimes I think that some Catholics, fueled in part by the “infallibility” claim, tend to regard the Church as the Absolute itself, forgetting that the Church is but a pointer to the Absolute. The Church is there to bring God to us; she is not God herself.

By now all the good Catholics are screaming, “NO! Don’t go telling this guy to read non-Catholic philosophy!” To them, I say what have we lost? David doesn’t believe in Christianity now anyway, so why not give him some good comparative religion information? Besides, if one is always inside the Catholic box, how does one really know what that box looks like? Like a fish contemplating its own water, I never really saw the beauty of Catholicism until I stepped away from it and looked at it from other perspectives. I see the ugliness of it, too, but that’s the way it goes when you have an institution run by human beings. If it had not been for non-Catholics, I would have been driven away from the Catholic church long ago and never come back, so back off.

Alan


#16

[quote=JMJ_Pinoy]Christ has abundantly provided for our salvation, but that does not mean that there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals.
[/quote]

Why was Adam’s sin applied to everyone, but salvation only to those who believe in Christ? That seems unfair.


#17

[quote=AlanFromWichita]If He wasn’t divine, then at least He was the most open-minded person in history that I know of…
[/quote]

:rotfl:

You mean when He condemned everyone who didn’t like His preaching to eternal fire? Or maybe when He called the Pharisees vipers? Or fools? Or when He threw people out of the Temple for doing something that was perfectly legal? Or cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season?

Thanks for the book suggestions though. :slight_smile:


#18

David,

One more point before I hang it up for the moment…

I think you could do well to lose the your reliance on the “Skeptics Annotated Bible.” Cosmetically, I thought it was pretty clever the way they did it, but as I scanned through a couple chapters in a two of the gospels I thought a good number of the “issues” were superficial and petty. Even with the occasional “good stuff” markers it was clearly looking more for problems than “unbiased” truth. It may be convincing to some, but even with my limited knowledge of the Bible I could see that it was contrived.

You might get some good ideas out of it but I wouldn’t stake my credibility on using it as a wholesale disclaimer of the Bible if I were in your position.

Alan


#19

[quote=Idisto]Thanks for the quote, Grolsch. It’s an explanation, but I cannot recognize it as valid. It relies on logic that no one besides a dyed-in-the-wool Scholastic would consider legitimate.
[/quote]

No offense, but I find your logic more perplexing than Aquinas. :slight_smile:

We all suffer because there was only one person in society? What happened to Eve? Didn’t she eat the fruit first? Did Original Sin not begin then, or was it because she’s “just a woman” and Adam was the “master” of society?

No, its just that throughout history decendants were known through their fathers, not their mothers.

“[T]he nation being considered as doing what the prince does…”

So if our president, no, divinely-ordained king, sins, it will affect us all and we will all be punished? That is absurd.

No it isn’t. You are conflating personal sins commited by the president which affects only himself with actions which drag the whole country into sin such as unjust wars.

But if we accept that, why didn’t Jesus’ sacrifical death cancel the effects since He surely was the leader of humanity far more so than Adam?

Jesus is our spiritual father while Adam was our earthly father. The effects are cancelled when we are baptized in Jesus.

Good thing Clinton was only a president and not a king!:rotfl:

Thank God! Though I personally liked Slick Willy, but then I’m Canadian, what do I know? :slight_smile:

I think your problems with Original Sin may be stemming from a mistaken notion of just was Original Sin is. This is what the USCCB says:

*Although it is proper to each individual (Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513), original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin—an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.”. . .

Para. 404: How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man” (St. Thomas Aquinas, **De Malo 4, 1). By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam has received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a **personal sin, but this sin affected **the human nature that they would then transmit *in a fallen state (Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1511-1512). It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed”—a state and not an act.

USCCB


#20

You mean when He condemned everyone who didn’t like His preaching to eternal fire? Or maybe when He called the Pharisees vipers? Or fools? Or when He threw people out of the Temple for doing something that was perfectly legal? Or cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season?

[/quote]

Maybe “open-minded” wasn’t completely descriptive, but I didn’t mean that He was never cross with anyone.

I was thinking more of His ability to see through the rigid rules of behavior to the essence of right and wrong. He applied scriptures in a way that had apparently never been done before. Clearly he was anything but a lemming.

As far as the “seven woes,” if you think about it, there are many teachers and even priests to whom those admonitions still apply even to this day! How many Christians do you know that seem to take delight in telling everyone else they are wrong for highly technical reasons, while at the same time have not love?

In fact, I’d be interested in hearing more of your philosophy as it stands now, in terms of what is right or wrong in your mind, what sort of things make sense, etc. I’ve known people who look for their own philosophies of life and end up with an ideal that matches Jesus fairly closely.

Even if you don’t believe Jesus was God, He is someone from whom we can learn a great deal – at least as much as the objects of other religions. Maybe if I grew up in Japan I’d feel differently.

Alan


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