Oh, Ye of Little Faith

The Abrahamic religions all have in common that they claim that god actually intervened in human affairs, sometimes in direct historical ways such as winning battles and sometimes fulfilling a theological role such as Jesus dying to forgive sins.  All of which makes the notion of “faith” in these religions somewhat unique.  I think we all have heard of what Paul said about faith:

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.

Which actually happens to be the first reading in the Catholic Lectionary® for today.  But it was on my mind already before I saw that.

Sometimes Christians will posit that the events of the gospels must be true because if they were not people would have refuted the gospels at the time.  Or at least that people were close enough to the events in history that new converts could have been urged to “check it out” and when the evidence was convincing they converted.  Richard Carrier, in Not the Impossible Faith argues that everyone who wrote of conversion accounts never did try to check the facts out, they just believed on faith.  At this moment it is not my intention to agree or disagree with Dr. Carrier, but rather use that as a jumping off point for faith today among religionists.

I can identify four different faith types, plus a non-faith type.  The four faith types are, true believer, semi-empiricist, simpleton and fundamentalist.  Of course the non-believer is the full empiricist, often called atheist.

Now, I will take it on faith that there really is such a thing as a true believer.  I have not actually met someone like this.  Someone who believes every tenet of their faith, see no contradictions, problems and if there are some, they chalk up to god being mysterious and so beyond human consciousness that such things are inevitable.  They seem to never, ever look for any kind of evidence other than the feeling in their heart that god has acted in the world in just the way that the scriptures say.  God said it (sometimes to them personally) and they believe it.  Their faith is just as pure as Paul said above. I have never met such a person, but power to them if they exist.

Some people would say that fundamentalists are true believers, but I would totally disagree.  The weakness of fundies is that as soon as one word in the bible is disproved, then their faith falls.  It is all the words or nothing.  This is why they defend creationism so virulently.  I once heard a preacher from Answers in Genesis on the radio say that if the biblical creation account was not true, then none of the bible is true.  And then he really astonished me by saying, “And if it is not all true, then it is rather silly, isn’t it?”  Indeed.  So, if even one small crack appears in the dam, the entire structure falls.   But they are not content to take this on faith.  They have to find proof in this world.  They write long books that “explain’ every apparent contradiction in the bible.  The practice “science” that starts at a conclusion and works backward from there.  You can almost smell the desperation of someone like Ken Ham.  It always feels to me that he feels like that if he can convince even one real scientist, that finally he himself will be convinced.

This is why you often see the flip from fundamentalist to atheist.  Their search for evidence eventually fails so they go over to the other side.  What is to be made of this kind of faith?  It looks strong like cast iron or ceramic, but breaks and shatters easily under the right kind of stress.  Ultimately this is not “faith” at all.  Hope maybe, but not faith.

The next group is the semi-empiricists.  Many catholics fall into this category.  Their thinking is more flexible than the fundies, but they really would like to believe it all.  They are willing to see Adam and Eve as allegorical, but really deep down inside they would like some evidence.  Just to be sure, you know?  They don’t stake everything on finding Noah’s ark, but wow, if it were to turn up, that sure would seal the deal.  Or maybe a letter from Pilate describing the empty tomb.  Something, anything, that will turn the corner from the natural to the supernatural.   If we can prove the bible to be reliable history, then the rest must be true, even the really hard to believe parts, right?

They are only semi-empiricists because of course, the evidence doesn’t go both ways.  Not finding Noah’s ark is no big deal.  Maybe it wasn’t a worldwide flood, just one valley.  The point of the story is still the same.  Drew Hystriani on his show mentioned that someone found ancient bricks that were so strong that the could have been stacked 2 miles high!  Which to him opened the possibility that the Tower of Babel was real.  Never mind that the tallest modern building is 2,700 feet tall, the ancients might have build a brick building 11,000 feet high!  (Just for grins, a two mile high pyramid, if it could be built with the same dimensions of Giza, would have a base of 10 square miles, now back to the blog post in progress)  If we could just find that, it would show the atheists!  The bible is true!  All of it!  I believe — sort of.

There is no word in the English language for someone who really wants to believe, but deep down inside needs some actual evidence.  Semi-empiricist is as close as I can come.  These people may never leave the faith because while not a true believer they are able to fend off the disconfirmatory evidence for a long time in what they consider to be a “search for the truth.”  But really deep down inside, they are “still looking for a reason to believe.”

Finally, we come to the simpletons.  There are two species of this group, for lack of betters names, let’s just say liberal and conservative.  What the simpletons have done is whittled down the faith through various rationalizations, sometimes with scalpel and sometimes a cleaver, until they are left with just a few core ideas that they “believe.”  Liberals of this variety are often, rightly,  derided as “Cafeteria Christians.”  They have whittled things down to Jesus, who they love, that God is love, heaven is for pretty much everyone, praise and halleluiah.   Don’t get me wrong, fundies pick and choose what to believe as well, they just don’t even see themselves that way.  The liberal simpletons are completely open and honest about it.

The liberal type might believe Jesus lived and died to open the gates of heaven, but they do not believe in a literal devil.  Or Adam and Eve or the battle of Jericho.  Nice stories, but most of the bible they see as allegorical and maybe some history encrusted in legend.  They no more expect to find Noah’s ark than the expect to find the belt of Hippolyte that Hercules retrieved.  Any parts of the bible that seem too contradictory or silly they feel free to ignore.  Their faith is the most flexible, but obviously shallow.

The conservative simpletons are similar, just with a different menu in the cafeteria.  Jesus they love, heaven is for them, angels surround them, hell is for those who commit the two deadly sins, the bible (which they don’t really read) is the greatest book ever written and Christianity is the basis of all civilization and laws.  Hooray for Jesus for creating such a great country where anyone can get rich!  Most of that has no biblical backing whatsoever, but they believe it.

Simpletons may look like true believers, but again they are not.  They are not true believers because, basically they believe that god said what they already think.  When god’s actual words disagree with their thoughts, they simply ignore god’s words.  Again in a more open and honest fashion than the fundies, but they pick and choose just the same.  Can anyone be said to “believe” in a god that is truly created in their own image?

My journey was from semi-empiricist to liberal simpleton to full empiricist.  But then I did not even stay as a full empiricist when it comes to religion.

I have heard many of the famous lights of the New Atheism say that they don’t believe because there is just not enough evidence to do so.  Which for the most part I agree with, but I have moved beyond that position.

I find it comforting that there no evidence that the bible is true because I am very glad there is no such god as the one depicted there.  Heaven sounds completely boring, which actually makes it a kind of hell.  A place of eternal torment and punishment for “sins” (of ever shifting definition)?  No chance for parole?  That is just immoral and unjust.  What kind of god kills himself to forgive us for our sins?  Why not just say, “Say three Hail Marys and your sins are forgiven.”  And purgatory?  Please.  Who would want to spend eternity with this guy?  Not me.

I couldn’t put it any better than this:

Maps and Territories

In going through my reading list I came across The Book of Woe, which for the moment I am not going to reveal the subtitle.  Reading about the subject matter of the book, I was reminded of a phrase that I thought originated with Noam Chomsky in relation to linguistics, but turns out to come from someone who greatly influenced him,  Alfred Korzybski.

Korzybski came up with a system he call General Semantics which sought to show how human know things and what the limitations of our knowledge are.  His famous dictum that Chomsky also used was, “The map is not the territory.”  Or to put it more directly, any expression of reality is going to fall short of that reality.

Now, back to The Book of Woe, which is not a collection of bible or q’ran critiques.  The full title is:  The Book of Woe, The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry.  

The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.  It is essentially the dictionary of psychiatry in that it seeks to describe every mental disorder, naming them and giving their diagnostic criteria or symptoms.  As you can imagine this is a very controversial work, even naming something as a psychiatric disorder has a profound effect.

For example, homosexuality was listed in the first edition of the DSM, published in 1952.   Surely labeling homosexuality as a mental disorder had it effects and I’ll let each reader decide what those effects might have been.  Perhaps even more controversial than including homosexuality was the removal of same from the 1973 edition and moving forward.  You might be surprised to learn that Asperger’s syndrome is no longer a valid diagnosis according to the DSM-V, it is not in there.  Those symptoms may qualify for some other diagnosis, but for now Asperger’s is history.

We know that when we name or describe things that it shapes our thought about those things.  We also know that most definitions and descriptions are somehow incomplete.  I feel very sorry not only for the people who compile the DSM, but those who compile dictionaries as well.

Here is one, what is the definition of obscenity?  Well here is the definition you get if you Google it: “the state or quality of being obscene; obscene behavior, language, or images.”  Right.  That was helpful.  OK, how about “obscene.”

(of the portrayal or description of sexual matters) offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency.

Oh, but wait aren’t certain words about excretory functions also considered “obscene?”  And let’s look at the example sentence for the second definition (offensive to moral principles; repugnant): “using animals’ skins for fur coats is obscene.”  I know lots and lots of people who would not agree with that sentence!

And herein lies my problem with any kind of fundamentalist, be it biblical or constitutional, how can we possibly know exactly what was meant by the words when words cannot capture all of reality.  Even when it comes to the Constitution where the framers kept some kind notes and publications that explained what the intent behind the words really were, even with that we argue all the time over what phrases mean.

Here are the words that make this blog possible:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first sentence is one of the most contentious in our history with some saying that government can’t say anything about god.  Others say it can say all it wants about “god” as long as it is non-denominational.  Even with all those notes, it is hard to get inside the heads of our 18th century forebears to see what they actually meant.  This is why we have a Supreme Court to try and decide what the words and ideas of the founders mean in today’s society.

With the bible it is even worse.  We don’t even know who wrote most of it.  Trying to get inside the heads of bronze age nomads or first century Hellenized Jews to really find what they meant by the words they left is near impossible.  In some ways I have to give credit to the Catholic Church™, Inc. in that built into their system is sort of a Supreme Court that tells us what the words mean for them.  Now of course, they use more words, which are subject to interpretation.  And there are certainly more than a few people (most of the Protestant world for example) that feel the Catholics got those updates and interpretations wrong, wrong, wrong.

Another sad example of this is Thomas Aquinas who as he was finishing work on his magnum opus, the Summa Theologiae was suddenly struck with a vision and he stopped writing, completely and forever.  All he said was the after the vision (which he never described) was that his words seemed “like straw.”  The apologist explanation is that Thomas glimpsed heaven or perhaps god himself which made mere words seem like nothing.  Even if that is true, if Thomas Aquinas can’t describe the reality of god, what theologian can?  Even the best interpretation of the event makes theology a pretty much useless enterprise.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not making a post modern argument that words have no meaning whatsoever, that is going too far.  The Wikipedia summarizes Korzybski’s ideas this way: “His system included modifying the way we consider the world, e.g., with an attitude of “I don’t know; let’s see,” to better discover or reflect its realities as revealed by modern science.”

Admitting that you don’t have all the answers was also Socrate’s prescription.  In admitting our ignorance we can learn and grow.  Thinking we know all the answers is the way to stagnation.  Merely accepting answers because someone else said so is the way to be an intellectual fossil.

Life — Don’t Talk to me About Life

While writing the post on contraception and such my computer hiccupped and I lost half of what I had written and I had to go back and recreate it and in doing so, forgot a thoughts.  Which is fine, always need another reason to write again.

It seems to me that the Catholic Church™, Inc. and many Christians lose the distinction between “Life” and specific lives.  I’ll try to explain what I mean by this, but bear with me until I get through the entire explanation before you decide whether or not you agree with me or what the weaknesses of my argument might be.

Let’s start with a garden.  Anyone who has ever gardened knows that “life” does not need any help.  Just rake up some soil and it will be covered with green stuff pretty quickly.   Life is profligate, the problem in gardening, most times, is not getting things to grow, but rather getting rid of the “life” you don’t want.

Now, seeds are definitely important to your garden, but they also represent an unknown.  You never know which ones will sprout.  Some of them might actually be weed seeds.  They might not grow true to type.  This does not mean you don’t care about your seeds,  but you realize that a seed is not worth as much as fully grown plant.  OK, you can clearly see what I am getting at here.

Potential life is not fully equivalent to developed life.  You see this throughout nature.  Oak trees drop thousands maybe millions of acorns for every oak tree that grows.  The examples in nature are just too numerous to mention.  Even in humans, studies show that somewhere between a quarter and a third of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortions.  “Life” may start at conception, but frankly, and keep in mind it is not me saying it, it is nature, life is cheap.

Nature really does say (and that must be god’s voice if you are a creationist) that life is cheap.  DNA combines all the time, you pretty much can’t stop it.  So, “life” is almost nothing.  Meaningful life on the other hand is a completely different matter.  Would you really cut down a healthy mature oak to save an acorn?

My problem with the “pro-life” movement is two fold.  First they confuse potential with actuality, which weakens their so called moral argument.  And secondly they seem to feel that more “life” wherever and whenever and however is a moral good in and of itself.  Whether we are speaking of humans or all other life, I think it can be safely said that life doesn’t need any help.  We don’t “need” any more people.

Being a parent myself I understand the drive to bring children into the world and I would not deny anyone the right to do that.  But I also support the right of people not to bring more children into this world.  And to nurture the ones we already have.

Keeping the Bible Open — Say the Secret Word

Once again, following the Catholic Lectionary®, we find two interesting readings, both dealing with who is saved.  In the first reading we hear “Paul” speaking to the Hebrews.  Once again, we don’t know who wrote this, but modern scholarship generally does not think it was Paul.  Here is what whoever has to say:

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices
that can never take away sins.
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
For by one offering he has made perfect forever
those who are being consecrated.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:

This is the covenant I will establish with them
after those days, says the Lord:
“I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them upon their minds,”

he also says:
Their sins and their evildoing
I will remember no more.

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.

The italics are in the original, so it is “Paul’s” emphasis.  I find this reading totally fascinating and would love to hear the epicycles of a priest who is about to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, just like he does every day.  Which is apparently completely unnecessary.  This is perhaps the clearest statement of universalist theology I have seen.  Jesus died for all of our sins, period, end of story, nothing else need be done.  Religiously, the job is finished.  No baptism, no confession, no communion.  Nothing.  Just “Thank you, Jesus!”  Of course, pretty much any church doesn’t really want to preach universalism.  If ALL of our sins are forgiven, nothing we do matters.  In some ways, it is worse than “Darwinism” to a fundamentalist.  “Darwinism” to a fundamentalist means we can do whatever we want because when we die nothing happens.  in Universalism, you die and go to heaven.  No matter what!  Hard to control a congregation like that.  So much for the Inquisition.

The gospel reading starts with Jesus telling the crowd a parable, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But when he gets alone with his disciples, things get interesting:

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that

they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Wait….WHAT???  There it is, plain as day, Jesus is telling things to the crowd that are intentionally so obscure and obtuse that they cannot possibly understand them.  And if you don’t understand the parable, BUZZZZZZZZZ, heaven is not for you.  Your sins are not forgiven.  Have to know the secret password!  And once again, the italics are in the original.

What are we to make of a preacher who intentionally preaches so no one understands him?  A teacher who makes things more complicated — not less?  And this is our moral leader for all time?  And before you say, “Well, yes, but now the secret is published for all to see.”  The people who wrote that had no idea that everyone would be able to read that.  Remember everything is handwritten at the time, these would have been intended to be passed around to the elect, people like me weren’t supposed to see this stuff.

So, is everyone in?  Or only those who know the password and secret handshake?  Priests all over the country must have been tap dancing today.

An Earlier Gospel?

Monday on Irrelevant Radio they reported on a piece of actual religious news that was making the rounds of mainstream media, the discovery of a scrap of a gospel possibly dated inside the first century.  If true (and we will get to that in a moment) a date of 90 CE (which is the one being put out there) would have a moderate impact, if it was dated earlier than say, 70 CE it might have some actual significance.  Let’s look at why this is so.

While Christians are always saying that things just have to be taken on faith, at the same time they also want empirical validation for their beliefs.  You can hardly blame them really.  It would be nice to have it both ways.  The things that could be empirically validated could in some sense be used to then validate the parts that need faith.  It goes something like this:  “Jesus was a real person, who really preached, really appeared before Pontius Pilate and there really was an empty tomb.  Since all that is true, the resurrection must true and all his teachings, heaven and all the rest,  must be true.”

Unfortunately they don’t seem to see that the second part does not logically follow from the first.  Just because Jesus was real and killed by the Romans doesn’t make him the son of god.  There are many other reasons for an empty tomb and so on.  But even more unfortunately, they have a bigger problem and they know it.

Scholarship has known for many years now (in fact I was taught this in Catholic school) that the epistles of Paul were apparently written well before the gospels.  And unfortunately for the church, Paul does not talk about a historical Jesus much, if at all.  Paul saw a vision of Jesus and he says in many places that is where he got all of his information.  Directly from god, not from man.  Unfortunately again for the church, he is writing while the apostles are still alive and even hangs out with them in Acts.  But Paul never tells any of the gospel stories, he never says, “Peter said Jesus did this, that or the other.”

Some years later (apparently) the gospels were written down.  The dating of the writing of the gospels varies, with earlier dates being argued for by church types (and to be fair, others as well)  but most evidence seems to point at the later end of the scale.  Those dates seem to range from 50 CE to 90 CE and sometimes later, especially for the gospel of John which is often dated in the second century CE.  Currently the oldest scrap of a gospel dates to 125 CE, which actually corresponds to about the time that other writers begin to refer to the gospels.

Why does this matter?

Well, it wouldn’t matter at all if Jesus is to be accepted on faith.  But many people want the gospels to be a real history of a real person that has been verified non faith-based sources.  It is widely held that the gospels are not written by the guys whose names are in the bold print.  But the general apologist line goes something like, “these are eyewitness accounts that were collected and written down and so therefore are reliable.”

Obviously such a claim strains credulity if the gospels were written down after 70 CE.  First of all, this is some 40 years after the death of Jesus.  Stories floating around for 40 years are still accurate?  Eyewitness accounts?  How would you like to have to try a 40 year old court case?  Rounding up the witnesses could be fun.  Especially since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE.

But this does not deter Dr. John Bergsma who appeared on Irrelevant Radio on Monday.   He said that he was hoping that the scrap would be dated 50 CE or earlier, because that would make it extremely significant.  And he is right about that.  But he also covered his bases saying that even if it is not. people could still be confident that the gospels are eyewitness histories of Jesus’ life.  One reason he gave for this confidence was absolutely laughable.

He said that since the gospels were written while eyewitnesses were alive, if they were not true we would be, essentially, awash with refutations of them.  Absolutely hilarious.

Even if the gospels were written in say, 40 CE (which as far as I know no one actually argues they were that early) it is not exactly like they were peer reviewed before being “published.”  Josephus did not put his stamp of approval on the gospels.  Nor did any other historian of the time.  And then, it was not exactly like they were published on Amazon so that people could review them.  At that time they would  not have been “books” like we think of them, they were manuscripts (even if copies) and as such were probably only seen by insiders to the movement.  People who would have disagreed with the gospel accounts most likely (almost certainly) could not have seen them in the first century CE.  So, of course there is no record of anyone writing, “Jesus never did that!”

And even if there was such a writing, the Christians did a pretty good job of destroying “heretical” writings in the second through fourth centuries.  So even accounts of Jesus that said he was a pretty good guy, but not exactly what the church thought he was have vanished.  Dr. Bergsma knows that full well.

But the gospels were not written just a few years after Jesus’ death, there were no remaining “eyewitnesses” to contradict them by the time they began to be circulated.  Besides there is little or no chance that this discovery is any kind of game changer in this area.  The people involved are all sworn to secrecy, the publication of the actual data has been pushed back several times and is now not expected to be published until 2017.  According to this article, the people involved are not the top experts in this kind of thing and this is how they dismiss it: “Essentially, this papyrus is the scholarly equivalent of ‘my girlfriend who lives in Canada.'”

So, sorry, Christians you are just going to have to still take it on faith.  No writings of actual eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life are going to surface.  Second, third, fifth or twelfth hand stories from 40 or more years later are the best you can do.

Let’s Breed Like Rabbits!

You gotta love Pope Francis. First, he does seem like a decent guy. Apparently he’s got quite the background, including being a bouncer at a tango bar. And he does seem to genuinely care about the poor and downtrodden, which is more than can be said for many of his predecessors. He can certainly say grand things like this: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets,” the Pope said, “rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”  Very nice.

But mostly you have to like how his honest pronouncements underscore the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church™, Inc.

First he explained the rationale of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists perfectly (If you say a bad word against my mother you have to expect a punch.)  Then he exposed the notion of Catholic exceptionalism in his “ideological colonization” comment (We can convert at the point of a sword, but if you contradict our ideas, that is wrong.)  And finally his bit about that family planning must be sensible and Catholics don’t have to wear their insanely large families as some sort of badge of honor.  Let’s look at the hypocrisy behind that one, shall we?

The situation among Catholics has always been like this, you can certainly limit the number of children you have, but the only way to accomplish this is, essentially, “don’t have sex.”  This situation has come about by a combination of anti-sexual feelings and  misogyny.  There are lots of theological “proofs” of why artificial birth control is bad, but basically it boils down to the syllogism: God made us the way he wants us, sex makes babies, therefore god only wants us to have sex to make babies.  They then add to that the slippery slope argument that if it were not for the punishment, um excuse me, the possibility, of having children people would be screwing, like, well, rabbits.  And of course we can’t have that, cause sex is icky, or however you say that in Latin. I’m sure Aquinas must have used the phrase.

One of the ways the Church gets to its ideas of what is moral is the argument from “natural law” that is to say, looking around at nature and seeing if we can discern the mind of god there and deducing his laws.  So, let’s look at nature and leave aside the presupposition that sex is “icky” and see what happens.

First, we know now that during orgasm humans release oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” that helps create social bonding.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that sex is bonding experience between human beings.  When we look at our closest relative in nature, bonobos, we find a creature that explicitly uses sex for social bonding.   In Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan claims that humans have about 1000 sex acts for every birth, the same ratio as chimps and bonobos.  Even if you complain that is AFTER birth control and therefore not “natural” cutting the number in half or even reducing by three quarters still makes point, sex is not just about making babies.  Sex is about social bonding.  Therefore sex strengthens marriages.  Therefore more sex is better than less.  In addition to be be 100% fertile during our “breeding years” god gives a complete pass after menopause.  Years and years of sex without “consequences.”  Thank you god!

If more sex is better than less in a marriage and we have the responsibility to only bring children into the world that we can care for, artificial birth control is a no brainer moral good.  It strengthens relationships and prevents the moral evil of children who can’t be properly cared for.  Hard to make that any clearer.  In the United States, the people in the pews (or who should be in the pews) agree with this kind of logic: 82% of Catholics say that birth control is morally acceptable in a 2012 Gallup poll.  A 2002 position paper by Catholics for Choice indicates that Catholics in many countries around the world use “modern” birth control at about the same rates as their non-Catholic neighbors.

And as the for the argument that it is “unnatural,” I say, meh.  Using modern medical technology is perfectly OK in other areas.  You don’t usually hear the church arguing that cancer is part of god’s plan and you have to be open to whatever god gives you, so therefore chemotherapy is “unnatural” and shouldn’t be used.  Catholic hospitals dispense barrels of chemotherapy and not a drop of birth control.   I don’t know why it is acceptable to interfere with “god’s plan” in one way but not the other.

Now it is true that birth control does introduce a possible moral hazard.  It is not immoral by itself, it might induce people to engage in “immoral” behavior because of the protection offered.  This is the same kind of moral hazard that can be created if you over insure your property.  If your insurance was going to provide you with a brand new car, you might not be so careful about locking it up when you park.  Or even actually leave the keys in it.  In the same way birth control might induce people to engage in sexual activity knowing they won’t be “punished” with children.

First of all, the idea of children as punishment is abhorrent, but it is the logical end point of the church’s position.  Children are the “consequence” of sex that has to always be “accepted.”  Which is OK if you really want a child.  Otherwise it sounds like “punishment.”  Second we know that people are going to engage in sex outside of marriage no matter what we do.  And pregnancy is not the only consequence of such activity.  There are plenty of other social and natural consequences  for out of bounds sexual activity.  Adding an unintended and possibly uncared for child adds a moral evil to the situation, literally punishing the son for the sins of the father.   While god himself says this kind of “justice” is OK, if the courts started handing out sentences like this there would rightly be outrage.  Besides, god himself created a similar moral hazard in all women.  What is stopping them from getting it on with everything that moves after menopause?  Sorry, the moral hazard argument is not compelling.

Like any other human activity, there certainly is a time and a place for sex.  And it is right to have moral and societal controls on that activity.  But in general, if we don’t start with the proposition that sex is “dirty” then it is clearly a good thing for humans to engage in in those times and places.  Modern birth control allows couples to have more, worry free sex.  Therefore it is a moral good.  And the good that it does outweighs the moral hazard that it sometimes presents.

So, get with it Franky, birth control is pro-life because it allows responsible family planning as you said we are allowed to do, preventing uncared for children,  while allowing couples to lead a better life, reaping the benefits of their active romantic partnership.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some things to attend to for the next couple of hours.

“Ideological Colonization”

While everyone else is going gaga over the “breeding like rabbits” thing that Pope Francis actually did not say (relax, I will get to birth control in another post) I want to ask another really important question.  Is Pope Francis actually, literally insane?  Or maybe the Pope’s plane is not properly pressurized and his brain suffers from lack of oxygen while he is flying.

On the way to the Philippines, he seemed to take the side of the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo.  While the “punch in the nose” remarks which specifically would OK violence against those who “cause offense” were later “clarified” by the Vatican, we were still left with his insane proclamation that one should not offend the religious beliefs of another.  Not only is this contrary to the modern concept of free speech, it is also in direct contradiction to the actions of the religious themselves who feel free to say that some, most or all of some other religions ideas are complete bullshit, although they put it in more theological language.

I called out Francis for hypocrisy in an earlier post, and many, many others did as well, this being perhaps the best of the genre:

Now, on the way back from the Philippines he shot his mouth off again, aiming once again for his foot, to completely mix up several metaphors.

This time he as bemoaning “ideological colonization” the forcing of beliefs on other people through coercion and bribery.  Here is the National Catholic Reporter quoting Francis:

“This is the ideological colonization,” said the pope. “It colonizes the people with an idea that changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure.”

And of course only horrible people would do such a thing:

“It is not new, this,” he continued. “The same was done by the dictators of the last century. They came with their own doctrine — think of the Balilla [youth groups of Fascist Italy], think of the Hitler Youth.”

“They colonized the people,” he continued. “How much suffering — peoples must not lose liberty.”

“Every people has its own culture,” said Francis. “But when imposed conditions come from the imperial colonizers, they seek to make [peoples] lose their own identity and make an homogeny.”

Yes, that was terrible when Nazi Germany colonized the New World, killing the natives and the ones that somehow survived were “converted” sometimes at the point of a sword.  Oh wait, that wasn’t Nazi Germany.  That was Catholic Spain, with the blessing of the Pope.  Surely the Pope has read a history book? Any other book than the bible? Maybe even gone through his own archives?

And before they took their show on the road, the Spaniards first worked out the kinks at home by way of the Inquisition.  Nothing like removing the “heretics” from your society to help make a “homogeny.”

Or maybe you remember the Crusades for “homogeny.”

Even as far back as the Roman Empire, when Christianity was proclaimed the state religion, the church basically went on a rampage, burning books of “heresies” and many times the heretics themselves.  “How much suffering?”  It is absolutely insane to say or think the church never caused people to “Lose liberty.”

If I wasn’t an atheist, I would say “Thank god, the Renaissance and Enlightenment came along and ended the idea that the church had some god given right to enforce ‘ideological colonization’ and each person should be free to believe according to the dictates of their own conscience.”

But since I am, I will say “Thank goodness for all that and the principles of free speech, free thought and separation of church and state.”