If gravity of sin depends on degree of knowledge, is it better for us not to know?? Would that make atheists at an advantage?
Voluntary ignorance would be a sin in itself.
I agree. We need to learn about the gravity of sin so that we can make a proper confession.
No. It is better for us to have the full path to heaven and all the available means of holiness such as: the sacraments, sacramentals, the Mass, and the communion of Saints.
The bar isn’t that high. God has written his law in the hearts of mankind. Does the atheist **not **know that murder is wrong? That lying, stealing, and cheating are wrong? Of course they do. This is the law written on our hearts.
Ignorance can be an excuse if it is invincible, i.e., if it cannot be overcome.
Let’s offer an extreme analogy. We’ll assume all of the below is actually possible in the real world.
Suppose the mayor and city council of your town decide to change the speed limit. Every area that used to be 45 MPH has now been reduced to a 25 MPH zone. Moreover, everyone who is caught exceeding the new speed limit must be either fined 45,000 dollars, or else put in jail for six months.
But the catch is that the mayor and city council communicate this new regulation to absolutely no one outside of law enforcement. They don’t change the speed limit signs, they don’t contact the press, they even force police officers to keep mum.
Someone who lives in your town, of course, has no way of knowing about the new speed laws, unless they happen to be a cop, or someone has spilled the beans to them.
Such a person can be said to have invincible ignorance. They have no reason to think there’s been a change, and they could not, under normal circumstances, have actually been aware of it, despite their best efforts.
But if a person can and should know about certain laws, then they are without an excuse. They may be ignorant of something, but if they are in a state of ignorance through their own fault, then their culpability remains.
So let’s say that someone is driving through a residential zone at 85 MPH. The whole time, they’re going out of their way to avoid spotting speed limit signs. They get pulled over.
This person can’t just say, *but I didn’t see any signs! * Not only did they avoid taking steps to know the speed limit on the stretch of road they’re driving on, they frankly should have known better based on their experience of other residential areas. We all have an obligation to look before we leap.
Now, these analogies are extreme. Invincible vs. vincible ignorance is a bit more nuanced than all of this. But the basic fact is that if we have the sort of ignorance that a bit of due diligence could have overcome, then we can’t hide behind it. Moreover, we have a positive obligation to attempt to form our consciences as Catholics.
In terms of the atheist: what sort of diligence have they taken to come to their conclusions about God? Many atheists, IMHO, are sincere. They’ve done their best, and just have way too many problems believing in God. Many others *want *for atheism to be true, and they basically stack the deck to come to that conclusion. Many are in between those two extremes.
This sort of spectrum means it’s hard for us to truly know where someone stands in their heart of hearts. It may be hard even for *them *to know. But, as 1ke has alluded to, we absolutely know that it is best for them to be serious Catholics living a sacramental life than it is for them to be lost in the wolf-prowled woods at midnight.
Here is St. Paul. This is from I Timothy, chapter 1:
I thank him who has given me strength for [being entrusted with the Gospel], Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Note that ignorance can lead to mercy, but we must accept this mercy, and cooperate with the graces God gives us.
No, that’s for someone who does his best to follow God’s laws to the best of his knowledge. Like a God fearing Native American who lived during the 1300s. He would have had no knowledge of Christianity nor Jewish law. God would not have held someone like this accountable if they were following Him as best as they knew.
This seems to describe half the people in my city.
I’m thinking you meant to say decision instead of confession:blush:
What of sexual sins? Pretty much no atheist will voluntarily wait for marriage.
This is a complex area.
John 15:22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”
I think the answer lies in a different perspective of the question. Life is not per se about merely avoiding sin (as the Pharisees liked to do), but about loving God and loving our neighbour. God’s laws (natural law, ten commandments, teachings of Jesus, Church teachings, etc) are fundamentally about how to love God and neighbour better. The better we know these laws, the better we are able (hypothetically) to love God and neighbour as we should.
Here’s a little analogy. It’s my wife’s birthday and I know she likes wine. So I buy her a lovely bottle of chardonnay and she appreciates the gift. The next year I have gotten to know her better and understand now that she really doesn’t like chardonnay, but loves a good cabernet. So this year I buy her cabernet and again she is happy, but I bit more happy than last year. But what if I decided to buy her a chardonnay instead - even though I know she doesn’t like it? The first year I bought the chardonnay, I did nothing wrong (how was I to know?). The second year, having gotten to know her better, I would err (“sin”) if I bought a chardonnay. It is, I hope, plainly clear that it is better that I know she likes cabernet and not chardonnay, even if the thoughtfulness of the gift in each year is essentially equivalent.
I do not mean voluntary ignorance. I mean just ignorance through no fault of the person.
Not the obvious. I meant issues we normally disagree on with some atheists such as chastity, contraception, cursing, etc. I know practicing Catholics avoid these but many also fail from time to time. And even with the obvious things, to some it isnt that obvious. Like someone lied to me and when i pointed that out to him, he just brushed it off telling me it’s not like it is something big and that it does not ruin our relationship. But to me, even if it was a small white lie, it does slightly ruin my trust in the person. But to him it was no big deal. So if i were in his shoes, my sin would be graver.
Exactly. Many Catholics fail in this area. Their sins would be graver than those of atheists and agnostics who do not see anything wrong with this.
Thank you. I like your response regarding knowing these laws would allow us to better love God and neighbour.