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Indifference to God is more deadly than hatred for Him

The hatred that atheists feel for the Almighty can suppress a belief in Him

By on Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A little newspaper called “Restoration”, sent to me monthly, has just landed on the mat. It is published by Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario. For those who have not heard of Madonna House, it is one of the new movements or communities in the Church, composed of lay people and priests, founded by Catherine de Hueck Doherty in Toronto in the early 1930s. She opened what she called “Friendship Houses” as centres of love for people in need. There are now Friendship Houses around the world – including, rather surprisingly, in Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire. Anyone who would like to visit will receive a warm welcome, as I did when I knocked on the door without advance warning last year. The address is: Madonna House, St Bede’s Pastoral Centre, Thorpe Lane, Robin Hood’s Bay, YO22 4TQ.

In this latest issue of “Restoration”, Catherine Doherty writes about the Resurrection: “…Jesus Christ rose from the dead and the whole world was changed. History changed; everything changed. In our hearts we hear a radiant love song. All nature sings it, if we have ears to hear. The more I meet people who deny Christ’s Resurrection, the more I sense that, strangely, they deny because they believe. For instance, in Harlem, the Communists came to me every day trying to tell me that God does not exist. At the end of three months I said, ‘Look, day after day you come and drink my coffee and tell me that God does not exist. You must be very worried about God, for if you really believed He doesn’t exist you would not want to talk about Him.’”

From my own experience, I am certain she is right. Whenever I encounter hostility towards God, it is from people who have a strong need to argue with me that He doesn’t exist and that I am deluding myself to believe that He does. Intuitively I sense that they have a large emotional investment in “proving” they are right and that I am wrong. If they really didn’t believe in God, why on earth would this matter? We are told that hatred is always close to love – because it is a strong passion and the human heart that has room for passion has room for love. Indifference towards God – spiritual torpor – is much more deadly.

That’s why I watch Richard Dawkins’s passionate attacks on Christianity with interest. A man so committed to atheism with the zeal of a religious crusade, seems to me “to deny because he believes” as Catherine Doherty puts it. Irina Ratushinskaya, the dissident Russian poet, raised by strict Communist standards in the old Soviet Union, writes that she began to believe in God, paradoxically, because of her schoolteachers’ daily denunciations of Him. She reasoned, with the instinctive perception of a child, that their hostility argued the opposite.

A friend once said to me, “When in discussion with an atheist, the best thing to do is to substitute the word ‘Love’ for the word ‘God’. Get them to agree that they believe in ‘Love’ and then you have some common ground.” This sounds a neat solution – but we humans being all too human, I fear it quickly breaks down. For Christians, “love” implies rules, boundaries and reflects on the whole community – indeed it means the Church, founded to protect and preserve “Love”. For atheists, “love” is essentially a private emotion without reference to anyone else.

The discussion continues.

  • Jonathan West

    Whenever I encounter hostility towards God, it is from people who have a strong need to argue with me that He doesn’t exist and that I am deluding myself to believe that He does. Intuitively I sense that they have a large emotional investment in “proving” they are right and that I am wrong. If they really didn’t believe in God, why on earth would this matter?

    This is very simple, and you could have found out if you had just asked instead of intuitively sensing.

    The problem is not the existence or nonexistence of God, it is the harm done by the religious from following absolutist moral systems based on a claimed divine mandate, and from their attempt to impose those absolutist morals on the rest of us who do not share their beliefs.

  • JabbaPapa

     Thank you for your absolutist statement.

    Can you please provide one single verifiable instance where a) anyone in here has tried to impose one single moral requirement upon you personally ; and b) if so, that this requirement could **objectively** be described as “absolutist” ?

    Because as far as I can tell, you are one of the very few people posting in here these days and also attempting to impose their own moral rules upon anybody else… and the others look to me like being atheists as well.

  • theroadmaster

    One of the best arguments in favor of a Divine Creator that one can formulate, is based on the very essence of existence and our actions in this world.  If one questions the necessity of human existence  and the reasons why one should extend unselfish concern towards fellow people, we arrive at a conundrum, if we do not believe in a spiritual existence beyond this realm.  Life takes on the appearance of a sick joke without consequence,if we can consider that there are no consequences for  anyone who commits grave evil in our material domain.   Atheists have to deal with this situation in the event of there being a dark void into which everyone ends up without hope of survival beyond our present dimension.

  • JByrne24

    I am a Catholic and believe in God, in the sense of a Being who is concerned in the affairs of Man and who is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. I must also say that, for many years, my faith has been sorely tested by my amateur interest in history and my professional knowledge of science.

    But the history and science are trivial, in testing my faith, when weighed against the superstition and detritus which the Church has (unsurprisingly) collected around itself over about 2,000 years, and the autocratic, politically motivated pedlars of this nonsense and the low-grade parrots who, unwittingly, repeat it with little understanding.
    There is no real opportunity here to make the case that Catholicism itself has no need of the autocratic” teachings” (and of its pedlars).

    As you say, the problem has little, if anything, to do with the existence or otherwise of God. In my experience (I’m in my 70s) it is the theists who seem to have an inbuilt stake in their expectation of an afterlife. The atheists have long accepted, as they see it, the reality of the extinction which will follow their deaths.

  • JByrne24

    theroadmaster wrote: ” If one questions …………….the reasons why one should extend unselfish concern towards fellow people, we arrive at a conundrum, if we do not believe in a spiritual existence beyond this realm.”

    I know many atheists who know perfectly well that they should do this (and indeed do it) and who do not, of course, believe in the supernatural. They do not think that life is a sick joke either.

  • theroadmaster

    One must question the reason behind our existence, if life is not a sick joke.  Why should we pursue a life dedicated to unselfish concern for our fellow men and women, if all there is to life is death and then nothing?  What are the consequences for those who commit terrible crimes against humanity, if there is no final judgement?  These are questions worth pondering.   
    I do not doubt that atheists can perform great acts towards the relief of suffering etc.  But this still begs the question-why do people perform such acts if we are all turned to dust and nothing else at the end of life?   People endowed with an intellectual curiosity should think deeply on this and not come up with pat answers.

  • theroadmaster

    So what disturbs you in the core, essential teachings of the Church, handed on by Christ since apostolic times to successive popes?  You claim to be a Catholic and yet seem to be at odds with various teachings and doctrines.

  • Parasum

    They perform them, because doing good is a good. The idea that people need to be theists to do good makes no sense at all.  One can perfectly well do good in the certainty that the universe is ultimately pointless, because even if the universe is pointless, that need not be a reason to stop  one doing good in the here and now.

    To do good only because one has faith there is a God, is immoral – it implies the horrible position that if one believed there were not, one would feel free to do any wrong one wished. I’ve seen that argument made, and it is a very bad one. Apart from anything else, it suggests that Christians/theists do good, not because they love what is good because it is good, but, because they will be punished if they do the not-good. This implies Christian ethics is nothing but a slave-morality. It is a truly bad argument. 

    It is perfectly imaginable that someone who is sure that meaning is ultimately meaningless, & that the universe is futile, might nevertheless decide to construct meaning for his own life, so as to give his own life a purpose.

    No revelation is needed for courage, self-sacrifice, perseverance, helpfulness, compassion, love of truth, hatred of deceit, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, patience, mercy & other such excellent things to be desirable and practicable. It is religion that has persuaded men to be cruel in the service of God.

    Not everyone needs an answer to ultimate questions – to take the view that certain questions are of their nature not soluble, is perfectly reasonable. Knowing whether there be God, gods, or nothing, is – in some ways – less important than behaving well to others.   

  • LocutusOP

    We all have a stake in finding out whether God exists or not. The answer to this question affects every choice we make in our lives.

    I agree with you, however, that atheists pursue their position with a religious zeal which puts many believers to shame.

  • Jonathan West

    Why should we pursue a life dedicated to unselfish concern for our fellow men and women, if all there is to life is death and then nothing?

    I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it. I have only one lifetime in which to do that.

     What are the consequences for those who commit terrible crimes against humanity, if there is no final judgement?

    If there is no final judgement, then there is all the more reason to try and ensure that earthly justice is as good as can be achieved. Could it possibly be that the Catholic Church has been relying on an assumption of God’s final judgement and so has not bothered to do much to bring justice in this world for the benefit of victims of clerical child sex abuse?

  • JByrne24

    theroadmaster writes:
    ” Why should we pursue a life dedicated to unselfish concern for our fellow men and women, if all there is to life is death and then nothing?  What are the consequences for those who commit terrible crimes against humanity, if there is no final judgement?  These are questions worth pondering. ”

    They have been much pondered.
    The statements above also amuse some non-theists. They often regard these statements as asking why we should be good if there is no reward for being so, and no punishment for not being so.
    The second sentence is often viewed as expressing regret for the lack of divine revenge (which some might think is a jolly good thing).

    But we do not have answers to all questions, and it is always intellectually respectable to say “I don’t know”.

  • karlf

    Francis! The reason people get a little worked up about god believers is frustration. We justifiably get frustrated by the way that irrational superstitious belief has such a strong grip on so many people. It could drive any rational thinker to dispair!

  • dfwfire127

    ah, a lawrence krauss link.  watch his YouTube video and you will see he a bone to pick with Christianity.  his “something out of nothing” concept is truly more accurately described as “something out of something”.   these guys still cannot shows us true NOTHINGNESS and the creation that was struck by something or someONE.  but yeah, lawrence krauss is one of the usual subjects, so nothing too fresh there.

  • karlf

     How could one not be passionate about the way in which children are indoctinated to live the rest of their lives believing that Allah was monitoring their every thought or deed??

  • Jacobrichardord

    For me the proof is in the pudding. People who regularly attend any religious organization are much healthier by every measure than those who don’t. (Ythe rich leftists who taught you to hate religion…are probably religious! Rich people are far more likely to go to church and have a traditional marriage, not live single and raise their children alone.)

    Islam is benighted precisely because its theology teaches that God is pure will (as you hint this logically entails pure control of adherents ). Christianity gave us modern medicine, modern science and modern governance. That’s not a belief; I don’t need to have faith in that because it’s historical fact.

  • JByrne24

    Many of us are not so much disturbed, as saddened, that some of what you might call the “essential teachings” of the Church are nothing of the sort.
    They are merely add-ons, or the evolved relatives or remains of these things, which the Church has collected and retained throughout its long history. They have almost invariably been adopted to suit some political or socio-economic purpose or agenda. 
    This has happened on a more-or-less continuous basis over the ages, and is happening today. 
    Sadly too, Baby and Bathwater Syndrome is sometimes at play.

  • karlf

    I went to a Catholic school, but came to the conclusion that the likelihood of such a God existing is extremely unlikley by my observations through life.
    Of all the religions that have existed throughout the entire history of mankind, you reject all but one.
    Christianity didn’t give us modern science – how ridiculous! Science is about discovery through reasoned inquiry and evidence – the antithesis of religion.

  • Laurence

    Love? But Francis, remember atheists need empirical evidence. Above all they are rational empiricists.

    Love doesn’t really fit into the neat definition game. It isn’t rational. Few who are head over heels in love behave rationally.

  • alana

    More and more I’m struck by the tragic inability of atheists to perceive irony. Gotta tell ya – I’m not on any pagan websites arguing against their superstitious belief in man-made gods, cause it just doesn’t matter!

  • theroadmaster

    You are more or less saying that doing good is really for goodness’ sake. Goodness and evil are intangible qualities and material explanations can never do them justice. Spontaneous acts of kindness by people not looking for reciprocation encapsulates Christianity at it’s best.   People of Faith look beyond our limited horizons in terms of the final destiny of mankind and intuitively see the illogicality of humans going through through the facade of living lives with no purpose or meaning.  Certainly there are a lot of unanswered questions as you so rightly point out, but Faith may just be the discipline to guide us through to an understanding of our spiritual selves which goes beyond our corporeal bodies.

  • theroadmaster

    You state…”The idea that people need to be theists to do good makes no sense at all”.  I accept that atheists or non-theists can carry out commendable moral acts and yet not believe in a Divine Creator.  But in my comments, I was not stating that atheists or even agnostics had a lesser capacity for doing good than people of Faith,  Rather I was setting the context for the belief system which motivates Christians and other religious believers to go beyond a selfish interest in carrying out moral acts and viewing them as gratuitous gestures of love towards their fellow man, based on a spiritual awakening which takes them beyond the purely material. In other words they can see beyond the bleak notion that this plane is all there is to our existence.

    You rather  incongruously and illogically describe any argument in favour of someone believing in a God to do good as “immoral” and ” a bad argument” Let us examine the direction that societies took when tyrannical regimes which led them, tried to erase the notion of God from the historical memory and instead promoted neo-pagan, atheistic, state-led ideologies to replace our Creator.  Countless millions perished in Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany or Mao-Tse Tung’s China during the twentieth centuries because they were surplus to requirements in relation to the fulfillment of the warped ambitions of these Godless tyrannies.   
    You also fallaciously state that Christian believers who believe in a God do good out of a fear of final damnation if they do not.  Have you talked personally to any of the millions of religious or lay missionaries who have left home and country to care for the most destitute citizens in the world?   It just might be that their hearts are infused with the love of Christ for their fellow men and women.  They leave the final word to God in terms of judgement on others.  Christian charity makes no difference between believers and non-believers and this was beautifully typified by such as the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

    You seem to be approaching Gnosticism when you state that men can contently do good in a meaningless universe as exemplified by the “feel good” message purveyed by such science fiction series as “Star Trek”. In other words, we do not require the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ as we can do it on our own. You cite “The Lord Of The Rings” as a literary example of a positive, moral story without an overt reference to a Creator.  But this J.R.R Tolkein Classic was very much effected by the Catholic Faith of it’s author and he wrote, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”
    You further state:..”No revelation is needed for courage, self-sacrifice, perseverance, helpfulness, compassion, love of truth, hatred of deceit, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, patience, mercy & other such excellent things to be desirable and practicable”.   Certainly one can exhibit these qualities in the heat of battle and other similar demanding situations but Christian Revelation has been at the root of so such examples throughout history that it is really inseparable from it.  Just examine the lives of some of the countless millions of of the Church’s Saints and Martyrs throughout history and you will appreciate that truism.  You blame religion for inculcating values of cruelty into believers as regards treatment of fellow men.  Your rather ludicrous and distorted generalization has to be juxtaposed with the historical realities of horrible regimes who became bywords for unbelievable cruelty and barbarity  and which in the process  tried to consign God to the wastepaper basket of history.  They patently failed to do this as evidenced by the survival of the Russian Orthodox Church despite the depredations of Lenin and Stalin.
    You think that society can get develop morally without a Creator God, but historical examples of this type of mentality has led man inexorably to construct ideological systems which quickly became dystopias.

  • theroadmaster

    Core teachings like e.g The Triune Godhead, Christ became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man, died for Our Salvation and rose again on the third day?  Could it involve other teachings that life is sacred from conception to natural death and any meditated attempt to destroy it at any of these stage concerns a very grave sin? Other examples e.g the consistent 2000 year old Christian tenet that marriage is reserved only for for one man and one woman and open to procreation?

  • oyecomova

    Correct… i frequently notice how virulently the atheist bloggers attack/scoff when a newspaper article
    brings up the subject of belief. I commented in different main stream broadsheets that if the contributors really,really didn’t think God/afterlife/angels etc existed why on earth did they get so sweaty and aggressive about something which ‘doesn’t exist’. That makes them madder still! I do feel sorry for them honestly.

  • oyecomova

    …is it rational to ‘despair’ because someone will not give up their belief system which you
    cannot accept?  if somone tells me Accrington Stanley is the best football club in the world…
    i would simply be amused or find it interesting…but i would not waste my time trying to unconvince them or despairing…unless… i have a need at some level to remove even the faintest possibility that they might just be on to something, but i can’t face that possibility, so i have to keep trying to knock down the edifice of that ‘remote possibility’.

  • theroadmaster

    You laudably state that you would like to leave this earth a better place than you found it.  But do such fundamental questions of why are we here? and what is the source of such concepts of good and evil which have instilled themselves in the human psyche since time began, not cross your mind from time to time?.   It seems reasonable to speculate that doing good has implications way beyond this mortal life, as it really does not make much sense in an ontological sense for humanity to experience a bleak “lights out” and then nothing after death.  
    I think that there will be a final judgement as revealed in the gospel narratives but I cannot see any direct link between it and the terrible revelations concerning the cover-ups by bishops of clerical child-abusers.  The latter seems to be down to a corporate-like response to hide the sordid activities of some of in the ranks, which would damage the reputation of the human organization, as distinct from the gospel reaction which would be to shine the truth into those dark corners so that all may be made free.

  • JByrne24

    Jacobrichardord wrote:”People who regularly attend any religious organization are much healthier by every measure than those who don’t.” 
    Is this really true? Do these people have less illness and greater life expectancy?

  • JByrne24

    Some at least of the “core teachings” have indeed been around for a very long time..
    Some of the rest were almost certainly derived from earlier and non-Christian thinking.
    Others have evolved. St. Thomas Aquinas (around mid 13th C, I think) certainly did not believe that the human embryo possessed a soul, at least in its early stages of development.  [I don't know whether of not he accepted Aristotle's figures of around 1 month for a male and about 3 months for a female embryo].

  • Parasum

    Thanks for suggestion – I shall. Even so, that does not in itself invalidate an argument; what matters is whether an argument is valid – not the motives for advancing it. Illogic from a Saint would still be illogic, regardless of the holiness of the thinker.

    I was disappointed by his readiness in rejecting the possibility of design. There are arguments against it, but he ignored them. It’s as though there are details about existence on earth – he mentioned some – that are for some unstated reason not worthy of discussion. But if the world has certain features that make it adapted for life – surely the scientific approach is to ask why it has them ?  Or are some questions not open to being answered by the sciences ? If they are not – does that invalidate them; or not ?

    “The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a
    warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps
    100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water,
    carbon and hydrogen, it isn’t surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere.”## So what account is to be given of them ? Why are they thus, & not otherwise ? STM he is being wretchedly incurious. The Royal Society did not grow out of incuriosity about thr world. As a non-scientist I find his refusal to investigate further very disappointing, even frustrating. I thought it was Christianity/the Church/religion that was supposed to be against scientific knowledge – so why is he not providing scientific knowledge ? One wants to know about the universe – it is after God’s creature – so why his silence ?

    “And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.”

    ## Theology is not a department of biology. Whether there is a plan that governs evolution is a theological question, not one of biology. Since God – so Christians & Jews & Muslims believe – is not part of nature, it is silly to expect the data proper to the natural sciences to show that Divine Providence is a reality. It is – but not “within” nature: “beyond” it. 

    I didn’t post the link because of his abilty to think theologically – but as evidence that people can get on perfectly well without God. They do so from their POV, unaware that without God they would be nothing. Reality is not what we think it is, but what God creates it to be.

  • Parasum

    “You think that society can get develop morally without a Creator God”

    ## I think I’m on solid ground: from the POV of Catholic theology; & of historical fact. The mention of unlovely regimes of recent decades is not a fatal objection, since many societies have got by without belief in a Creator God & without “[becoming] bywords for unbelievable cruelty and barbarity”. Athens is one example, Egypt another, the Hittites of Anatolia another. Hittite law is very humane, & bears comparison in that respect with the laws in the Torah. Yet the Hittites were polytheists. Epicureanism was for all practical purposes free of gods, as they were thought to be aloof from the world, enjoying themselves without bothering about man; &, as made of atoms, like everything else. Yet Epicureanism lasted 600 years – it was not the belief of a few.

    If Epicurus & his disciples did not need gods, why must  anyone else ?  Monotheism – if by that one means, “belief inthe existence & activity of a single Deity”, was not the rule in antiquity. Though one could argue that polytheism is a form of monotheism, in some cultures anyway.     

    That societies with a way of life – morality included – predicated on belief in a Creator God, have often behaved with great “cruelty and barbarity”, is a fact. Or does the massacre of the Rhineland Jews during the first Crusade not count as “cruelty and barbarity” ? My point was that religion is a dangerous cause in which to do wrong, because crimes in its name can be excused or justified or required as being the Will of God. For a monotheist, there is no higher plea than that. Crimes in the name of the Party or the Cause, however monstrous, do at least not degrade belief in God by making His Will a reason for doing what it is cruel. The barbarities of atheist tyrants are not done in the Name of a God of Love. The tyrants of our times do not believe in a God of Love – Christians (including us) claim to.

    Since Christians have often behaved as though there were no God, it can be argued that to that extent, they, we, do not really believe in God at all. I think that is so. If that is indeed so, then to that extent we are atheists: in practice, though not in name. And a lot of atheists put us to shame by their virtues. Defining atheism is much more difficult, if those who live as Christians are meant to live, are less atheistic in their ways  than some of those those who are in name Christian.

    Sorry not to deal with your other points – I chose what I thought was most important

  • Oconnord

    It’s okay to say “we don’t know”, the atheist view is more like “we don’t know yet”. It’s pretty silly to think that we can figure out the basis of the universe, when we’ve only learned to fly within a century. 

    Neuroscience has already started to answer some of your questions, when mixed with simple social science, but why look to an unobtainable answer when the obvious is within grasp?  

  • Oconnord

    That is an outright falsehood. It is so close to false as to be a lie.

  • JabbaPapa

    You are confusing Aquinas’ theory of the soul with his theory of the intellect.

    Aquinas considers every human existence as being consequential to the creation of the individual human soul ; but he considers that intellect per se, considered on its own, is necessarily formed by interaction with matter, including the physical matter of body and brain.

    This is a particular variation of emanatist theory, which posits that access to truth occurs via matter, which reflects into our perception and intellect thence into our souls the “light” of truth that is shining out of God upon material reality in its very nature.

  • JabbaPapa

    Since God – so Christians & Jews & Muslims believe – is not part of nature

    The question as to whether God is inside reality, outside reality, the same thing as reality, or encompasses reality inside Himself, or any Trinitarian combination of two or more of the above, remains unresolved.

  • karlf

     So, you are comparing organised religion to an individual’s belief that Accrington Stanley is the best football club in the world. I think we could all find some very convincing arguments to show this individual why the rest of the world does not agree with them.
    I dispair at the self inflicted ignorance of so many, apparently quite intelligent people, and the control that irrational fantasy has on their lives.

  • Daniel_Borsell

     This article just shows how out of touch Francis Phillips is
    with the majority of the British people, and is a good example of the lack of
    understanding we can expect from a prominent  Catholic voice.

    People like me do not believe in God in the same way, and
    for the same reasons that Francis does not believe in Vishnu, Allah or Leprechauns.
    And in the same way, we cannot hate God, just Francis would find it difficult
    to hate the little green men.

    Richard Dawkins is committed to science, and to the quashing
    the primitive ,supernatural beliefs that hinder the progress of our
    understanding of life and the universe.

  • karlf

    Can you understand that science is a system which works because it has been developed to filter out the natural irrational thinking of the human mind?

  • Jonathan West

    But do such fundamental questions of why are we here? and what is the source of such concepts of good and evil which have instilled themselves in the human psyche since time began, not cross your mind from time to time?

    The short answer is that the scientific approach to this is to say” we don’t know” with the additional point that “we hope to find out some day”. The religious approach is to manufacture an answer which do not and cannot know is the truth, and proclaim it as if it is the truth.

    To address an aspect of this in more detail, I would like to take issue with your use of the word “why” in the question.

    “Why” questions are in two general forms. In one form, for instance “why is the sky blue?” The question can be reformulated as a “how” or “what” question: “What makes the sky blue?” And we can answer it in terms of the different degrees of atmospheric scattering of light of different wavelengths.

    The other form of “why” question assumes that a conscious agency is at work. “Why did you buy that shirt?”

    To ask “why are we here?” is implicitly assuming the existence of an agency which decided that we should be here, and whose intentions on the subject can be queried. I don’t think that we can work on the basis that there is evidence of such an agency, and therefore as an agency-why question, what you are asking is meaningless. It commits the logical fallacy of “begging the question”.

  • Daniel_Borsell

     If people following a religion indoctrinate children to grow up with the belief that their every thought and deed is being monitored by an imaginary being, then this is a huge curtailment of their mental freedom – surely a major human rights issue? Doesn’t this matter?

  • JByrne24

    Your remarks are very close to the current official position of the Church, which is truly a masterful construct, but flawed as it is one designed, at the outset, to arrive at a pre-determined end point.
    However defined, however, Aquinas was very obviously talking of the humanity of the embryo when he formed his clearly stated view that abortion was not murder – although his disdain for it is very clear.

  • JabbaPapa

    oh deary me — describing the position of Aquinas is non identical to describing the position of the Church — that you so love to preach against, don’t you … :-(

  • JByrne24

    I argue always for the Church.
    I argue always against those who attach their own political colours (never pink!) to it for their own ends or/and self-aggrandisement.

    I note you have not responded to St. Thomas Aquinas’ view that abortion is not murder.


  • JabbaPapa

    I note you have not responded to St. Thomas Aquinas’ view that abortion is not murder.

    If you really want to insist — though at first glance it looks like it’s probably inaccurate ; it does not seem to be consistent with his philosophical system. (I have already addressed the question of the soul, and it is quite clear that Thomism defines the human soul as existing from the moment of conception — contrary to your claim that it didn’t)

    OK A quick look at a couple of websites and forum discussions concerning this specific question appears to show that, in fact, Aquinas provided no specific teaching of his own on this particular question — and that his views on the matter were formed by the prevailing scientific opinion of the 13th century.

    So that it would seem that 13th century science, on the basis of Aristotle, rather than Aquinas himself, considered that the soul entered the fetus when it was said to “quicken” — and taught that abortion prior to that point could not be considered as murder.

    In other words, this is not a particular teaching by Aquinas, but a teaching by 13th century scientific consensus — although it is interesting to see that modern laws about how old a fetus can be to be killed according to the law continue to follow Aristotle’s 2600 year old “science”.

    Aquinas condemned abortion of any fetuses having souls, but he declined to express any teaching of his own as to which fetuses are or are not availed of souls. His position is therefore a conservative one in this respect.

    I myself would view this notion of the “quickening” as being incompatible with Aquinas’ deeper philosophical principles — though it is possible that he very simply did not take much time to consider the nature of this particular question, possibly as being outside of his main focus of interest.

    And — obviously — 13th century science is not representative of 21st Catholic thinking or teaching on this question.

  • JByrne24

    The use of the word “science” in the above is misleading. Aristotelian “science” bears no resemblance to the empirical science that we, in more recent times, accept as a valid means of gaining knowledge about the world.
    However science of any kind (seeking knowledge of the world) would not offer any assistance in matters concerning a supernatural soul – by definition not part of the world of Nature.
    It does seem clear that Aquinas was prepared to accept the Aristotelian view that the soul “appeared” in the foetus after a month or two of gestation, for the male, and after two to three months or so for a female foetus. This (non-scientific) view seems to have been accepted by the Church at the time.                                                                             As you rightly point out, the modern Church has changed its teaching on this question.

  • JabbaPapa

    Not “science” in quotation marks — that is a very common error of post-Enlightenment thinking.

    Science, but with less data than we have now, and so science having come to some conclusions that we would no longer accept.

  • Pranay911ghosh

    It is actually always the other way around for me. Whenever a god-believer comes to know about my free thinking and that i am an atheist they feel a strong urge to scare me with god’s wrath or try to convince me that I owe my existence to god. I find it funny. Its like they wanna look up into the sky and believe that there’s something up there and want me to participate so that they don’t look like fools doing it.