One question for Leah Libresco

(Skip to here for the question.)

My initial reaction to former atheist Leah Libresco (Unequally Yoked) converting to Roman Catholicism was one of anger and hurt. I was confused and dismayed that an atheist could in good conscience choose to join an institution with such deeply disrespectful views on women’s rights and LGBT equality, especially while offering little explanation of why they would select that religion in particular.

While that was all I wished to express at the time, I recognize that this does not necessarily constitute an argument against Catholicism’s basic tenets. If the existence of a god, the divinity and resurrection of the historical Jesus, and the Catholic Church’s unique status as the one legitimate earthly representative of Christ were actually true, then any institutional misconduct or moral error on the part of the Church would not negate these facts. The question of whether it’s ethical to affiliate oneself with the Church in its present form, which I chose to focus on, is largely separate from the question of whether these fundamental beliefs are accurate. It does not necessarily follow that believing these things are true means that one must therefore participate in the Catholic Church. It should be entirely possible to hold these tenets to be true, while finding the Church in practice to be undeserving of one’s membership.

Conversely, being an adherent of Catholicism does not require that one must agree with every detail of the various Catholic doctrines, and many Catholics don’t. A significant portion of the Church’s lay members support marriage equality, abortion rights, the use of birth control, and hold other views that are contrary to the Church’s official stances. In practice, it is wholly possible to be a part of the Catholic Church while dissenting from its more retrograde positions (though some atheists and devout Catholics often contend that one’s Catholic faith must be all-or-nothing). Libresco herself seems to acknowledge this to some extent, saying:

I think the Catholic Church has, at it’s heart, the right axioms, but that its small-c conservative structure means it takes a really long time to update the applications of those principles as new data emerges.

Of course, the tendency toward selectivity once again raises the question of why someone would join the Church, and how much they would have to agree or disagree with it before joining or leaving. The answer most likely depends on the individual (former) Catholic, and their reasons may not even be rooted in any (dis)agreement with its doctrines. As Chris Hallquist points out, conversion tends to be highly influenced by personal relationships, and not necessarily an explicit reasoning process. Consequently, any justifications offered by converts may simply be after-the-fact rationalizations, which would help explain why their stated reasons for converting often seem so flimsy.

But regardless of whether this is the case, such Bulverizing doesn’t address a position itself, only the possible reasons why someone may hold that position. Many people’s beliefs, both religious and secular, may be motivated by non-rational considerations, but we subject them to critical scrutiny anyway. As Libresco has often said, more or less, challenging someone’s views is actually quite respectful toward them and shows that you believe they care about the truth. Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism has already posed most of the questions I would have asked, chiefly pertaining to how the vague articulation of morality as a personified being leads to accepting the specific tenets of Catholicism, so I won’t repeat those here. I really only have one question.  

Leah, in your recent interview with The Blaze, you addressed any potential conflict between your bisexuality and the Church’s teachings by stating that despite your uncertainty about its stance on homosexuality, you were “willing to not date women in the meantime”. To what extent are you willing to abide by the doctrines of the church even when you disagree or don’t fully understand their rationale?

You described bisexuality, for you personally, as “gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates”, concluding that “I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads”. While I’m not privy to your inner thoughts and inclinations, and other bisexuals may define their sexuality differently, I believe your depiction of bisexuality minimizes and disguises the actual significance of the restriction you’ve accepted for yourself here.

While you acknowledge that other gay and bisexual people may “care more about gender” than you do and you don’t intend to advise them on how they live their lives, the constraint that you’ve placed upon yourself could be much more substantial than you make it out to be, even under your personal model of what bisexuality means for you. If you regard gender as almost completely irrelevant when considering potential partners, then it’s entirely possible that you’ll find someone who you have an intense personal connection with, someone who seems to be a nearly perfect fit for you and is also interested in being your partner. But if that person is of the same sex, then the moral code you’ve provisionally accepted will prohibit you from pursuing a relationship with them, for no reason other than because they are of the same sex as you. This makes their sex relevant, just as hair color would become relevant if you were interested in a redhead but your religion forbade you from dating them. The only way that this would not constitute a privation is if you actually consider individuals to be completely fungible, and the exclusion of one person who might otherwise make an excellent partner means nothing to you. I suspect most people do not approach personal relationships in such a way.

You explained that “I’m keeping my behavior inside Church teaching, but my voice and arguments are unrestrained.” In this area, you’ve shown that you’re prepared to live in accordance with dictates that you don’t actually agree with – even when they may impose a significant hardship upon you – simply because the Church says so. Again, how far are you prepared to go? If you are willing to place your own moral judgment above that of the Church in some cases, such as your support for civil marriage equality, then why would you agree to refrain from same-sex relationships unless you personally believe that there may be a valid moral argument against them? And if you are not willing to place your own moral judgment above that of the Church, as demonstrated by your choice to forgo same-sex relationships, then why wouldn’t you join in on a campaign against civil gay marriage in spite of your personal disagreement if your local diocese deems it necessary?

It seems that no matter how vocal your arguments may be, you’ve ultimately chosen to subjugate your actions to Church teaching. Where does your obedience to the Church end, if anywhere?

One question for Leah Libresco
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68 thoughts on “One question for Leah Libresco

  1. Leo

    If…the Catholic Church’s unique status as the one legitimate earthly representative of Christ were actually true, then any institutional misconduct or moral error on the part of the Church would not negate these facts.

    So, you don’t think this would negate the Church’s legitimacy?

    legitimate: Adjective:
    Conforming to the law or to rules.

    I am of the opinion that it kinda does.

  2. 2

    If the existence of a god, the divinity and resurrection of the historical Jesus, and the Catholic Church’s unique status as the one legitimate earthly representative of Christ were actually true, then any institutional misconduct or moral error on the part of the Church would not negate these facts.

    I know a great deal of my disgust stems from the moral outrage of anyone, especially an atheist, choosing to join the RCC, however I’ve also thought about her conversion from a perspective similar to the above. At this point I wonder if she’s considered the more fundamental question of whether or not a god exists. By converting to catholicism, it would seem to indicate that she hasn’t applied the tools of inquiry and skepticism to the question of god’s existence.

  3. 3

    Hey Zinnia, welcome to FtB!

    As a lifelong atheist, I can’t really grasp any conversion to religious faith. But it makes even less sense to go from claimed atheism to a rather complex theology that contains a plethora of ethical dilemmas, as an answer to confusion about the source of ethics… especially for someone who doesn’t naturally conform to that ethical framework and didn’t previously see an issue with it.

    1. 5.1

      The most bizarrely promiscuous people I know are Catholic. By bizarre – I mean, doing things like stop using birth control to “give it up to God” while having sex with her boyfriend in order to trap him into a relationship if she got pregnant. As in – my friend with hundreds of partners is more ethical.

      I don’t get it either.

      It reminds me of Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica – doesn’t believe in divorce but cheating is awesome.

      Will she never use birth control? Will she refuse Plan B if she needs it? What about abortion?

      1. I have had a similar experience. While it is by no means all of the Catholics I have known many of them have the attitude of I can do anything I want I just need to go to confession and it’s all better. Come to think of it most of the Christians I know seem to work on this principle (I’m saved so I can do what I want). And they call this morality.

    2. 5.2

      Oh – and please do not read my post as implying that Catholics are ALL or even mostly or even a great deal “bizarrely promiscuous” – it is just an example of how individuals can bend their brains in weird ways when specific prohibitions are placed on them.

  4. 6

    How could anybody possibly give up redheads?!?

    I’ve given up redheads, and all the other varieties, because I’m married and monogamous and that works best for me. I don’t understand how you hand that choice over to another person, because they claim they speak for an invisible man in the sky?

  5. 7

    The analogy to being forbidden to date redheads is… not nearly as palatable as she thinks it is. If the Church actually had such a prohibition, it would be morally reprehensible as well. It would be a kind of racism.

    Libresco’s logic is worrisomely backward. In the linked interview, she quotes C.S. Lewis: “I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed. No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by lacking some good impulse of which it is the excess or perversion. I therefore did not feel myself qualified to give advice about permissable and impermissable gambling.” Likewise, Libresco says that “[b]ecause I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads, […] I’m not in much of a position to give advice.”

    But the problem is that she’s not being asked to “give advice” in the fashion Lewis was talking about. Lewis’s statement takes it as a given that gambling is sinful, a “perversion” of some other “good impulse”, and he refrained only from giving specific rules or instructions to those who are “tempted” by it. His general, vague condemnation remained. Had he been asked why he subscribed to a religion that vilified gambling at all, his answer would’ve been something more like this other quote from him on the subject: “Gambling ought never to be an important part of a man’s life. If it is a way in which large sums of money are transferred from person to person without doing any good (e.g., producing employment, goodwill, etc.) then it is a bad thing.”

    In Libresco’s case, she’s being asked to respond in the manner of the latter quote. Using the logic of the former quote instead creates an unsettling backwards effect, where a walk-a-mile-in-their-moccasins philosophy is used to defend condemnation instead of resist it.

  6. 9

    You described bisexuality, for you personally, as “gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates”, concluding that “I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads”.

    This just boggles my mind. I’ve known bisexuals who decided to only seek out straight partnerships (I’ve even been dumped by one when she decided to get serious about her religion again), but to suggest that because gender isn’t salient to her means that this is no hardship is disturbingly cold-hearted.

    If she finds herself becoming infatuated with a woman who returns her feelings, will she stop being that woman’s friend because the Catholic Church says so? Does she think she can just turn off her same sex feelings? If someone told her she couldn’t date redheads and then she found herself falling in love with a redhead, that wouldn’t be a hardship? That wouldn’t hurt?

    I know a few queer Christians who are either in same sex relationships or at least open to them. In some cases they’ve been driven to different churches seeking tolerance. While I can’t fathom their faith, I can at least understand their actions within that faith. To convert to an intolerant religion and disagree with the official stance while also abiding by it just sounds miserable to me.

  7. 10

    The worst part is how she tries to sound all progressive while tacitly approving of the Catholic church’s bigotry.

    Like Other people have asked, would she be the same if the Catholic church forbid interracial relationships? Would she be saying “race feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates, I don’t find it much more of a privation to not people of color than to not date redheads.”

    From the way she talks it seems like she’s internalized the idea that says discrimination against homosexuals is acceptable where racial discrimination would be beyond the pale.

  8. 11

    I used to think this way (kind of) when I was religious. I realize now I’m pansexual. At the time I thought I was like everyone else. I thought sexuality was a choice, that since I was capable of being attracted to all genders it must be true for everyone.

    I deluded myself into thinking everyone else was deluded.

    I married my ex husband because I believed I could choose to fall in love with him (crazy? It was a common belief in my church. If you both had a good relationship with God, you would grow together as a couple.)

    Two months after the wedding I met the girl of my dreams and fell in love so hard it hurt. She and I are still together. We both identify outside the binary, and we are both much happier..

    I feel a kind of horrid fascination now when I see other people fall for the same line of thinking. But when I see someone who was raised in a free thought environment succumb to this kind of bull shit I find myself just plain angry that anyone would give up their freedom to please their partner.

  9. 12

    “gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates”, concluding that “I don’t find it much more of a privation to not date women than to not date redheads”

    It’s so not-salient that you are willing to completely ban people based on it? Madame, do you know what you are actually saying?

  10. 13

    I am not a part of the Catholic Church, so I can’t push this forward as their view, but I think that the response would be that their sacramental view of sex and marriage necessarily precludes their members from marrying people of the same sex (and therefore dating them to assess their compatibility for marriage). The reason is because procreation (or the potential for such) must be a part of marriage, and engaging in the act of sex to realize this procreative potential is required to complete the sacrament, unless the couple chooses celibacy (they have to be physically able to potentially procreate to do this in the first place, though).

    As such, the RCC won’t recognize homosexual marriages, and, shockingly, marriages where one or both of the couple are unable to have sex at the time of the marriage and are unable to recover that ability (genital damage, etc.). It does, however, recognize marriages between old or barren people, if they still are able to do the deed.

    On the next level are marriages the church does not recognize but has the potential to recognize, like marriage between two Muslims or a Christian and an atheist. As long as they have the ability to join the RCC, get remarried, and consummate, though, the RCC will recognize the marriage in a *legal* sense.

    To the point, if I’ve represented the RCC position correctly, there’s nothing that necessarily requires a Catholic to oppose gay marriages *politically,* as long as no party is violating the rights of another (child marriage, etc.). Certainly, most Catholics in fact do this, but I don’t think holding the validity of gay marriage in a broadly political sense excludes you from the Church like, say, becoming a Hindu or something. All you are required to believe are the details of the Sacrament *given* that you’re a Catholic.

    1. 13.1

      Did you know that Catholic Catechism is online in an easily searchable format?

      Here’s the Church’s official stance on homosexuals and homosexuality:

      Chastity and homosexuality

      2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

      2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

      2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

      I want you to note how it calls homosexuality “intrinsically disordered”, contrary to the natural law, “objectively disordered”…

      Despite the fact that it does call for “love” of homosexuals, it smacks of “hate the sin, love the sinner”, which is, of course, total bullshit, and merely apologia for homophobia. On top of that, it says homosexual acts close off child-bearing, which is, of course, not completely true (sperm banks, as one example). The whole thing is bigoted, and it is the official position of the Church.

      1. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

        And this line in the catechism is the one that really sends a shiver up my spine. The statements about homosexual “acts,” after all, are so clinically and definitively described as “disordered” and may not be “approved.” But on a casual reading, saying that discrimination should be avoided sounds tolerant, practically progressive. But then it hits you that this can be (and seemingly often is) interpreted to mean that while “unjust” discrimination should be avoided (and even that is qualified with a “should” not a “must”), “just” discrimination likely is perfectly fine, and they’re not going to tell you precisely what forms of discrimination against those with “homosexual tendencies” are unjust and which are just. We do know from recent experience that denying adoption and marriage are forms of discrimination the Catholic church pretty much always considers “just”; denying employment sometimes is considered “just” discrimination; and even kicking kids out of a school because their parents are gay can be “just” discrimination, depending on the diocese.

  11. 14

    Honestly, I don’t even fully believe she’s converted. That’s a strange direction to go, atheism to Catholicism. Not to seem conspiratorial (I’m not) but I’ve been wondering if this was a publicity stunt to show how atheists don’t send murder threats or something. She made it onto CNN converting(?), after all.

  12. 15

    As a redhead, I am irked by the implication (or outright statement) that it would be perfectly fine for a religion to declare that people morally cannot date redheads. It is not acceptable for any organization to push for people to discriminate against me based on my hair color.

    If the any church declared that dating redheads was immoral, I would hope that you would have the common decency to oppose such a mandate. And if you did not have such decency, if you ran around saying, “Oh, well, I will limit myself to non-red heads because the Catholic church says to, but I won’t judge people who take part in that behavior!” then I would be deeply offended and very angry.

    I don’t care if you want to date me, but to say, “Oh, well, I won’t date you because dating someone with your hair color is deemed immoral by my religion,” is to grant credibility to that bigoted statement. And that I do not appreciate.

    Furthermore, this situation is less hypothetical than you might think; there really are places in the world where redheads really are discriminated against and otherwise treated poorly. Here is an article about it:

    So, Leah, do you really understand what you are saying? Are you really willing to go over to redhead who face bullying, taunts, ridicule, and discrimination that it wouldn’t a big deal if the view of them as shameful and bad was codified into religion?

    I hope not. I hope that if any religion REALLY did that, then you would oppose it. I hope that you would choose to throw your weight and money behind such a religion. But if you are willing to treat homosexuals like that, then I am not very hopeful.

    1. 15.1

      I just need to point out that the family in question (whose situation provoked the article) were not discriminated againstt because of their hair colour.

      Neighbours petitioned the local council. to move them, not because they were gingers, but because they were criminals

      . They made the entire estate into a no-go area, vandalised cars, set fires, stole from people, stoned minority ethnic residents and women, while their mother looked on, laughing “Boys’ll be boys”

      They made up a story about discrimination, sold it to a tacky, gutter-press tabloid, and revelled in the attention. Then were moved to another estate, and started the same violent and anti-social behavior again.

      I still live in the area, with my ginger mother, and ginger girlfriend. As a gay person I find it appropriative and frankly insulting for anyone to claim that hair colour and sexuality are comparable.

      The Equality Act covers discriminatory behaviour against POC, PWD, people with mental illness, and minority religious groups. It also forbids discrimination based on sexuality and gender expression. Things that could otherwise get you fired (or never hired),, denied housing, or access to certain services. Things that can still get you abused, assaulted, raped, or killed.

      Being called ‘copper-top’ =/= corrective rape. Jokes about carpets and curtains =/= being blown apart by a nail bomb.

      There’s a reason the Equality Act does not cover redheads, and that’s because taunts about hair colour should never be conflated with institutionalised racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and xenophobia. It’s because nobody wants to deny you marriage, children, an income, housing, or the right to live as you choose, based purely on hair colour.

      So just don’t go there.

      1. Two things. First, you’re right that discrimination against people with a certain hair color is not the same as racism. Why is this? Because people don’t believe redheads are inferior the way people believe certain races are inferior. If the badness of a certain hair color was codified into a major religion, then it almost certainly would become as bad. The argument that redheads treated as badly as racial minorities because people actually believe being a racial minority is wrong whereas people don’t actually believe that being a redhead is wrong wouldn’t hold if people decided that being a redhead was actually wrong (which is the analogy Leah is putting forth). In essence, what you are saying is, in fact, part of my point. It’s only even superficially okay to say, “Well, I would stop dating redheads if my religion declared that dating redheads was a terrible sin” because no one actually says that. People who say that kind of stuff about groups that actually face the real situation (“Well, I won’t date black people because I think interracial marriage is a sin”) get labeled as bigoted and immoral.

        Secondly, I’m not sure who you are referring to in the article because I don’t even see anything about this family you are talking about. Sharon Jaffa? Michele Eliot? Charlotte Rushton? Cary Cooper? Maybe I just missed it.

        1. The family mentioned in the very first line of the article, who were the whole reason the article was even written. Inflated claims of prejudice against redheads filled pages in papers and magazines, and on their related websites, for six months or so. All because a family of sociopathic criminals cried “ginger prejudice”, and nobody checked their facts.

          Meanwhile, LGBT people, POC, immigrants, and abused women and children were really maimed and really killed, without a word of protest.

          If you’re going to link to an article, a bloody opinion piece at that, then surely you should look into the actual context it was posted. in? That’s especially true if you intend to use it to make a point.

          Are you British btw?

        2. Oh, I see. I thought you meant there was a named family in the piece who actually said something in the piece. Because what I was focusing on were the people with actual names who actually said stuff in the article. “An unnamed group of people claim something bad happened to them,” isn’t something that I put much weight to, precisely because I don’t know who they are, what they are saying, or anything else about them.

          And I’m not sure what you object to in my point. I’m not arguing that redheads face anywhere near the discrimination as immigrants, POC, etc. In fact, my point is based on the foundation that they don’t, and that acting like saying “I won’t date redheads because it’s a sin” is a reasonable equivalent to “I won’t date someone of my same sex because it’s a sin” is disingenuous because people don’t say the first but they do say the second. Furthermore, if people actually said the first, we would consider it to be bigoted and wrong. There’s a reason that Leah compared abstaining from same-sex relationships to something that isn’t an actual problem, and that’s because even she couldn’t let herself off the hook for saying, “I would abstain from interracial relationships if the Catholic Church told me to.” If she said that, people would flip out, so, in order to make her decision seem innocuous, she picks a group that doesn’t face that kind of issue.

          So, perhaps you could clear up for me what part of that is not appropriate given the context.

  13. 17

    “Conversely, being an adherent of Catholicism does not require that one must agree with every detail of the various Catholic doctrines, and many Catholics don’t.”

    To be an orthodox adherent of Catholicism, one must certainly agree with everything that the Catholic Church proposes as revealed.

    I find it ironic that, as opposed as we are in our views, “Zinnia,” we are asking the same questions about Leah’s conversion: Will Leah be orthodox or will she be heterodox? And if she will be heterodox, why bother at all with the whole thing? The incompatibility of heterodoxy with Christian faith is explained by the old adage: if I submit only so long as I agree, then the one to whom I submit is me.

    Anyone can pick and choose from the Catholic “buffet.” Merely agreeing with the Catholic Church on some things does not make one in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. Otherwise, non-Catholic Christians, who agree with Catholics on much, would be considered Catholics. No, communion with the Bishop of Rome – that is, being a Catholic in good standing – requires much more.

    Zinnia, if you really interested in Why Catholicism?, I recommend the following links. It would be great if you could interact with Catholicism on a more serious basis. I would be very interested in the conversation.

    Faith and Revealed Truth by Rev. George D. Smith

    The above is an essay on the theology of divine faith. It is very useful for the skeptic as a map for what the Church herself teaches on what can be achieved through the natural light of reason alone. It will, hopefully, dispel the notion that Christianity must necessarily be credulous and fideistic. The arguments will have to be evaluated, of course, but I think skeptics will appreciate that the Church respects their reason very seriously. Here are some other links on the topic which every intellectual involved in this topic should read:

    Wilson vs. Hitchens: A Catholic Perspective

    Podcast Episode 4 – Faith & Reason

    You will not find a better blog on the internet, trust me. Read the comments.

    Edward Feser

    If you are a “new” atheist, and you have not seriously contended with Feser and classical philosophy, then your atheism is not very serious and likely very immature. That is a claim I hope you take seriously. Follow his blog, and ask around for the relevant blog posts. Here is one of Feser’s books:

    The Last Superstition:

    Now here is a link that you could perhaps engage with on the issue of same-sex “marriage”:

    Two Questions on Marriage and the Civil Law

    I hope that gets things started.

      1. My position entails that the words “same-sex” and “marriage” cannot be used together since they have no referent. They are a contradiction in terms, similar to a “married bachelor.” Just being consistent.

        1. Hint: the rumors are true. We really are trying to change the definition of marriage. On account of how we like human rights better than orthography.

          Oh, and buttsex. We also like buttsex better than orthography.

          1. okay, Mr. Offensively Inappropriate Metaphor, now you have two choices. You can present, right now, your mathematically rigorous proof of why my boyfriend loves me less than your girlfriend/wife loves you, or you can shut the FUCK up.


          2. If your friend truly loves you, good for both of you. That is a good thing. But I think you might be laboring under the impression that my argument for marriage entails a denial of love between two individuals of the same sex. Well, no.

            I do recognize that our difference of views is very personal, but it is still a matter of disagreement over ethics. Specifically, sexual ethics. Being mindful of how personal a difference this is but also that it is still a rational difference might help dialogue. I do not intend to launch into a full on polemic here, though.

        2. Great! Now I know exactly where you stand and I don’t have to read through dozens of offensive links before coming to the conclusion that I don’t like you and should ignore your presence.


        3. My position entails that the words “same-sex” and “marriage” cannot be used together since they have no referent.

          Actually, according to Catholicism, they do have a referent. “Marriage” is used, among other things, to refer to the relationship between God and Church — which is to say, between one (to three) putatively-existing putatively male invisible person(s) with magical superpowers, and an institution (which does exist) composed of many male persons.

          It’s also used to refer to the relationship between a priest and the Church: a male person, and an instition composed of many male persons.

          It’s also used to refer to a relationship between a female person and one (to three) putatively-existing putatively male invisible person(s) with magical superpowers; and between a female person, a male person, and one (to three) putatively-existing putatively male invisible person(s) with magical superpowers; and between a female person and an institution composed of many male persons.

          Once you’ve used a term in your superstitious fairy-tales as a metaphor, you certainly have no basis to claim that the term cannot be freely redefined in legal terms to refer to a real-world consensual relationship.

          They are a contradiction in terms

          Not really.

          Now, “rational Catholic”, that’s a contradiction it terms — no matter how much Catholics pretend to praise rationality.

          similar to a “married bachelor.”

          Or in other words, a priest.

          Just being consistent.

          Since Catholicism is not consistent, Catholics cannot be consistent.

    1. 17.2

      Wow, I’m so glad you have such stunning insight into how both atheists and other Catholics are doing it wrong. Obviously both groups would be much better off if they agreed more with you, or at least if they read all your favorite books and stuff.

      What exactly was your thought process as you wrote this comment? “I know, I’ll insult the sincerity and intellect of both everyone reading and every nice Catholic they’ve ever met. Then they’ll have to agree with me!”

      (By the way, Zinnia, since it may be relevant soon – how do you run your comment threads? Any prohibitions/guidelines on direct insults, swearing, anything like that?)

        1. Oh yeah, who wouldn’t want a world where women are chattel, children live in fear of their rapist priests, and STIs run rampant in a grossly overpopulated world. Whoopee, what fun!

          The Church of Rome is evil and corrupt. It’s fuelled by greed, hypocrisy, and megalomania.

          Women are tainted and dirty, gay and trans people are subhuman, but thousands of sick bastard “Men of God” have carte blanche to rape and torture children, to give nuns AIDS (under Vatican orders, because the priests were wasting parish money on prostitutes), and to steal, then sell, newborn babies.

          Never an ounce of recriminations against these “holy men”, no whiff of an apology from the Pervert in Chief himself, just. victim-blaming, lies, and smug self-interest.

          But then, you’re a man, almost certainly a white man. What do you have to. fear from your corrupt, corrupting masters? Not rape, slavery, unwanted pregnancy, death or disease. It’s the perfect system for a bigoted man to embrace, to revel in.

    2. 17.3

      I love the title of Feser’s book, a man who believes that a cracker will turn into human flesh if a man in a silly outfit says some words over it criticizing atheists for being superstitious? Sweet Jesus, the irony is off the scale!

    3. 17.4

      Whenever I post that link to Smith’s essay, I cannot help but re-read it. I must have read it at least a dozen times. I remember encountering passages like this one:

      “It is imprudent, and even foolish, to believe a statement purporting to be made by one whose existence is unknown, or at the best doubtful, or of whose knowledge and veracity, even if he exists, one has little or no guarantee. St Thomas Aquinas has been accused of being a Rationalist, but indeed he only vindicates the just rights of a reasonable being when he says: ” Man would not believe (revealed truth) unless he saw that he must believe it.”1 Hence, before a man can reasonably and prudently believe a statement, that statement must be credible to him; he must have ” evidence of credibility.””

      You can imagine how a young “new” atheist would be taken aback by that harsh condemnation of credulity, and from a CATHOLIC text. It could have just as easily been found in a “new” atheist text, and that thought blew my mind. I was actually quite impressed by the exaltation of reason found in Catholic thought. It was the beginning of a kickass journey towards Rome.

    4. 17.5

      Assuming you are not just trolling and are looking for an actual response:

      First off, you don’t have to put Zinnia’s name in quotes. That is very insulting, “Brian.”

      Secondly, just because someone hasn’t read a specific author that is a commentary on your faith, doesn’t make your beliefs true. I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school for 14 long years. I was a true believer. My family is still Catholic. They thought I might become a priest. I have a pretty good handle on Catholicism. You have yet to make a decent case for the existence of God, much less the evil doctrines of that particular church. Telling me that your faith is grounded in reason, does not make it so. I resent that you are telling her, and by your statement, me, that our “atheism is not very serious and likely immature.” When your basic premise is flawed, all the commentary in the world will not make it true. What you have done is given us a textbook example of something called the Courtier’s Reply.

      Thirdly, as regards to St. Thomas Aquinas’s statement, “‘Man would not believe (revealed truth) unless he saw that he must believe it.’ Hence, before a man can reasonably and prudently believe a statement, that statement must be credible to him; he must have ‘evidence of credibility.'” You do realize that this same line of reasoning can be applied to anything. If someone believes that God is an evil entity that wants everyone to be tortured in hell and make our lives on earth as horrible as possible, it would be credible, just because that person believed it. I know people that legitimately believe this. Does that make them right. No. They have no credible evidence for God either. To give a plain explanation for Aquinas’s statement. I believe it is true, I think I am a reasonable man, therefore my beliefs are reasonable. All this is proof of is confirmation bias.

      Fourth. Your link to Marriage and the Civil Law does not work. So I will ask you, how do you justify denying hospital visitation rights, child custody rights, and power of attorney in life threatening conditions, to people who are in a relationship every bit as committed as a heterosexual marriage?

      1. I may respond to your comment later today, I have work. But I thought I would just let you know that you should read that passage again. Read it over and over. And then read your “analysis” of it in the above post.

        1. If you do respond, please respond to my comments one by one in a clear format and address all my points. If there is something you dissagree with, give me a good clear argument against it.

      2. As I’ve read Brian’s responses, I’ve been giggling at how his answers are perfect examples of the Courtier’s Reply. I didn’t think people would make arguments that are so textbook. He even does the “if you haven’t contended with philosopher x’s work…” thing.

          1. I never thought I would see such a textbook example of the Courtier’s Reply. I mean, usually you would expect to see some variation. I only put Brian’s name in quotes as a one off to show them how insulting it actually is, and maybe inspire a bit of empathy. I know that this tactic is risky, and probably won’t work, but I had to try. I don’t see the point in carrying it over into pure mockery. That being said, if ze shows hirself to be a troll, I will mock them mercilessly myself.

          2. Er. How much evidence do you need, Mike? Putting a trans person’s name in scare quotes is staggeringly rude and belittling, as it strongly implies a challenge to their gender. And with me, well, saying that a marriage between two people of the same sex is mathematically impossible might possibly be epistemological bankruptcy, but demoting my boyfriend to a “friend” is just being an asshole. (There was also a really insulting “if” in there.)

            I made him as a troll from the first post, and have been mocking him ever since, except once when I lost my temper and flamed him.

          3. Robert, I agree that putting a trans persons name in scare quotes is extremely rude and belittling. That is why I did it to Brian and was pointing out that very fact. I misread hir calling your boyfriend your friend. That was my reading error. Mock away. I don’t think belligerant assholes like that deserve to be taken seriously, but instead of just mocking hir, my personal approach is to demolish every single thing ze says, and expose hir arguements so that the bigotry shows through. I have this irrational hope that I might be able to get someone like that to at least question hir assumptions. In my original post I thought I made it quite clear that hir arguements lack any substance, and that ze was being an ass. Marriage equality effects me too.

          4. Oh, if it’s just a difference in strategy, then don’t let me stop you. A diversity of methods is a good thing, and yours is one I’ve used myself in other threads. I thought we had a disagreement on a point of fact, namely whether Brian is, as you aptly put it, a belligerent asshole.

      3. The link for “Two Questions on Marriage and the Civil Law” is back up.

        It doesn’t really have much to do with why gay marriage is wrong it just argues that Christians have a right and need to challenge it.

        Which kind of misses ZJ’s point about Leah Libresco possibly having to join in on a campaign against civil gay marriage in spite of her personal disagreement.

        Other then that it’s mostly the same old trashy arguments whose reasoning can best be equated to

        “I’m going to ignore all gay couples who raises kids and straight ones who don’t so I can make my point about how marriage is about children.”


        “If everyone was an artist we’d have no doctors, which is bad, so artists are immoral.”

        That about sums it up.

    5. 17.6

      I find it ironic that, as opposed as we are in our views, “Zinnia,”

      That’s her name, you smug, self-righteous, verbose asshole. Don’t put it in scare quotes. And don’t put “marriage” in sneer quotes, either, you homophobic fuckwad.

      Love your assumption, too, that “‘new’ atheists” haven’t “seriously contended” with what you deem important. I have better things to do, like masturbate or bang my fuckbuddy or volunteer for Planned Parenthood.

      Shove your christer propaganda up your ass, douchebag. Fuck you and fuck your kiddie-raping, science-denying, misogynist, and homophobic church.

  14. 20

    In practice, it is wholly possible to be a part of the Catholic Church while dissenting from its more retrograde positions (though some atheists and devout Catholics often contend that one’s Catholic faith must be all-or-nothing).

    I dunno, for my money, there are two problems with this: a) The Catholic church has a centralized hierarchy, which means you are not just supporting a general movement with which you agree with some aims and not with others, but rather you are supporting a specific organization with highly objectionable policies; and b) it’s not just a little niggle here or there, the Vatican is really really really wrong on a tremendous number of crucially important issues. Countless thousands of Africans have died as a direct result of their anti-condom policy there. That’s messed up.

    I can be a Democrat without agreeing with everything the Democratic party does. But if there were some issue on which the Democratic party was not just wrong, but deadly wrong — for instance, if they opposed abortion in all circumstances — then I might still vote Democrat in most elections given that it is the better alternative, but I would not consider myself a Democrat, or at least not a member of the DNC, because I do not feel like I could align myself with a centralized authority that held such deeply repugnant views.

    If Catholicism were a movement rather than an organization, then okay. If Catholicism were a monolithic organization, but their immoral views were relatively few and relatively unserious, then okay. But a monolothic hierarchical authority with multiple views that destroy lives and directly result in deaths? Yeah, fuck that noise.

    1. 20.1

      Just to play devil’s advocate (haha), imagine a counterfactual:

      Suppose that Catholicism, as a belief system, is right in all the major details – the trinity, sin and redemption, the afterlife, the necessity and efficacy of the rituals, even the obligation of submission to a central religious authority. It might not be perfect, but it’s close enough that other religious beliefs are accurate only to the extent that they resemble Catholic beliefs. However, Catholicism the institution has been completely corrupted, and if you give the church money, you are basically paying to promote AIDS and child rape. [Okay, so it’s not entirely counterfactual.] God does not approve of Pope Snidely Whiplash and his ridiculously evil minions, so they are not the legitimate church, but they still live in Rome and claim authority and respect as though they were.

      In this situation, I hold that good people who knew all the relevant facts could still call themselves Catholic. They wouldn’t be attending or giving money to the illegitimate-but-dominant church organization, they’d probably be trying to restore or establish a true church, but corruption in Rome does not make Catholicism false. Indeed, since our hypothetical good Catholics are, after all, Catholics, they would probably have to be part of a counter-church with a counter-pope, and call themselves “part of the [true] Catholic church.” (I guess, practically speaking, outsiders would quickly give them a different name.)

      1. This is essentially what I was getting at when I said it should be *possible* for someone to agree with the starting points of Catholicism while electing not to participate in it as a church given how it’s played out in practice. Where someone might draw the line between Catholicism’s axioms, and where they believe the interpretation of those axioms in terms of current doctrine has gone astray, is probably an individual matter. But I also agree with James that there are serious ethical issues about participating in the church itself in its present form, as this involves affiliating oneself with the real institution, horrific warts and all, not merely some idealized notion of what it should be.

        1. But I also agree with James that there are serious ethical issues about participating in the church itself in its present form

          Oh, yes, agreed. I never meant to dispute that. The part about Pope Snidely and AIDS and so on was less “counterfactual” and more “actual factual.”

          Though interestingly, if you look at the history, modern popes are quite well-behaved, relatively speaking. IIRC, Dante (a Catholic himself) had a whole section of hell reserved for evil popes.

      2. There are such people; they are called sedevacantists and they believe that the Pope is not the heir of St Peter. OTOH the reason they claim this is that ever since Vatican II, the RCC has just been too liberal for them.

        1. Yes, exactly. I have mentioned in other posts on the topic that there exist liberal congregations “in the Catholic tradition” which are not affiliated with the Vatican. To borrow a metaphor from Libby Anne, this rather seems to me like retaining a very small amount of the dirty bathwater in the hopes of finding a nonexistent baby in it — but it’s far less objectionable than actually affiliating oneself with the RCC.

          My first introduction to the existence of these places is that one around here marches every year in the local Pride parade. Philosophical and epistemological problems aside, bully for them I say.

  15. 22

    I think the problem here is that Leah says she converted because she couldn’t find any non-religious moral justification for moral judgment. She already believed that Morality was Personified. So if this is true, she would therefore place her own moral judgment below the Church’s, because somehow she got from “Morality is a Person” to “Morality is the Roman Catholic Church.”

    Argument from ignorance aside, one wonders where her personal moral choice to convert came from. She would have to accept that it was God inside of her interfering with her “free will.” Oops. I guess she already had to have believed in free will, which is pretty rare in an atheist. I’d argue that she must not have believed in evolution either, if she had no justification for morality.

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