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REPLY #61b TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the last of a two-part reply.

(R) The sanctity of life is a moral Truth (and truth stands on its own) that I discovered by learning all the facts.
(MB) Then, it's obvious that you haven't studied much at all. First, how is *any* form of morality the "truth"? Second, what is the "sanctity of life" other than a meaningless phrase? Finally, what about systems of morality and belief that do not hold that life is sacred in any way? Why are they wrong and upon what do you base such a conclusion?


(R) I have also had to come to the conclusion that moral Truth is not up to the popular vote of the people. How can Truth really be Truth if it can be changed?
(MB) The answer here is simple if you realize that "morality" and "truth" are two different things. Simply agreeing with something does not make it "truth". Different societies have only one version of "truth" while they may well have widely-differing moral codes.


Do you have an example or three of these Truths that you could share along with an explanation of how they made everything else fall into place?
(R) Once the "life" issue was solved at one end, I also had to deal with the other end of it - death penalty, and now in these last years, assisted suicide.
(MB) It seems like you're falling down the slippery slope of allowing an incorrect or unsupportable premise lead you to further conclusions. If that's the case, those conclusions are also suspect.


(R) I also used to be in favor of the death penalty, but the right to life is just that - the right to life. Does a serial murderer deserve to live? Probably not - but he still has the "right" to live.
(MB) Why? From where does the "right" proceed? I also doubt that you want to use the word "life" in its complete sense. Consider, all animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria have "life". Do you consider all forms and manifestations of "life" to be equal?


(R) I also believe in the afterlife of heaven or hell. Since God does not wish anyone to spend eternity in hell, then we must give that person every opportunity for repentance.
(MB) On what basis do you believe this? Certainly, there is no evidence to support such a belief. Also, if God is all-powerful and truly does not wish to see anybody spend eternity in hell, then he will absolutely ensure that this doesn't happen -- repentance or not. This also brings up the issue of what happens to people who are not Yahvists and to whom the ideas of God, Jesus, repentance, heaven, and hell are unknown. What happens to them and why?


(R) If that opportunity is cut short by unnatural terms it would be a grave error. (I know you do not believe in an afterlife, I'm simply explaining why it is such a grave matter to someone who does.)
(MB) Why should that matter? Any given proposition is either true or false based solely upon the evidence which supports it. What somebody "believes" is inconsequential and cannot have any effect in reality if it is not in accordance with that reality.


(R) The same theory holds true for assisted suicide, or death with dignity as proponents like to label it. You can call a pig a rose, but it doesn't change the smell. Assisted suicide is nothing more than a fancy label for murder, even if it is with the person's consent.
(MB) Why? If the person gives his consent, how can it possibly be "murder"? That is a contradiction in terms. Furthermore, if heaven is such a worthy goal, why should we attempt to preserve and prolong our mortal lives on Earth when something so much better is waiting for us? To continue your analogy, you can call it "the sanctity of life" if you want, but without evidential support, it's just another bogus idea that's no better than any other bogus idea.


(R) I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, even for those that are considered (on a humanistic scale) to be of no value.
(MB) OK, fine. But, you must realize that such a belief also drags along a lot of theological complications that must, in themselves, be supported before the "sanctity of life" belief can have any real force.


(R) The other Truths I have found have to do with choosing Christianity over other religions, and specifically Catholicism over Protestantism. These subjects come with the assumption that one believes in God, which you don't yet *wink*, so to discuss them at this point would be like putting the cart before the horse. I truly hope and pray that the time will come when we can discuss them!
(MB) We can and we can do it now! If you truly believe, you should be able to discuss it regardless of my opinion. For example, I can freely discuss non-belief even though you haven't accepted it...yet *wink*


Is "God" a requirement for Truth to exist?
(R) Doesn't something have to set the standard?
(MB) I think you're confusing Truth with morality again. For example, the basic precepts of mathematics are Truths whether or not one believes in God. The value of Pi was not set by God, nor was the Pythagorean relationship of the three sides of a right triangle.
    Also, if "God" is a requirement for Truth to exist, why should it be *your* God and not any of the deities worshipped by other religions?



(R) How can Truth be determined if it's not held up against something that is perfect?
(MB) How does one determine that "perfect" measuring stick? Wouldn't you also have to hold it up to something even more perfect? Or, are you just blindly accepting the Christian doctrine that God is "perfect"? Why is God "perfect", anyway? Just because the Bible says so?


(R) If God exists as the creator of everything that we know, then He and Truth would have to be the same.
(MB) Why? If God created the Universe, he would be independent and separate from it and everything in it -- including any "truths" within it. If this was not the case, then the Universe and everything in it -- to include sinners, atheists, and your big brother -- are all co-equal with God. If that is the case, God can certainly not be perfect if there can be any fault found with any of his creations.


(R) All the truths in the created world would logically have to point back to the Creator.
(MB) How? The existence and value of Pi is no indication that it had a creator or that it would (or could) be any different if it had not been the product of that creator.


(R) If a truth is being interpreted incorrectly by a created being, that does not negate the truth of the Creator.
(MB) Correct. Nor does correct interpretation of any given truth indicate in any way, shape, or form that such a truth had a creator.


(R) I had a hard time reconciling this fact in view of all the different Christian denominations.
(MB) Why? Or, is this merely due to your misunderstanding of the nature of Truth?


(R) When I studied Catholicism, I was struck with the "completeness" of it.
(MB) In what sense is Catholicism "complete"? Any system that sees major portions of its doctrines as "mysteries" cannot be called "complete" in any sense of the term -- except, of course, if it was to be referred to as complete nonsense.


(R) I realized then that the other denominations are not entirely wrong, they are just not complete.
(MB) How does "not entirely wrong" differ from just plain "wrong"? Why are the other denominations not complete? Please give specific examples. Also, what about non-Christian religions? Are they "not entirely wrong", as well? If so, what reason is there not to consider them equal to Christian denominations?


That means there are certainly a lot of BS stories about "God" floating around.
(R) I agree with you on that one!!! :)
(MB) Now that we've cleared that up, which one is right and why are all of the others wrong? They can't all be right. Indeed, why should *any* of them be right?


Which one should we believe and why? Why, in fact, should we believe that *any* of them are correct?
(R) We have to hold them up to the standard of what we already know to be true.
(MB) And, how do we "know" what is true other than to gather the evidence of reality instead of gathering the unsupportable stories of religious dogma?


(R) In the case of abortion, since I know it goes against the spiritual law as well as the natural law (it goes against the instinct to protect one's young) that's my starting point.
(MB) How do you "know" this? Don't you mean that this is the way you feel instead of what you "know"? After all, if it was Truth, there would be no arguments about it. Why does "spiritual law" have any force? Also, your "natural law" is not an absolute, either. Parents of many animal species (including many mammals) will cannibalize their young in times of crisis. It would seem that your "starting point" is rather nebulous.


(R) My choices are narrowed to only those religions that find abortion to be morally wrong. That one point alone narrows the choices considerably.
(MB) Sure, but why make that arbitrary decision? If you claim to study all the facts, why do you cut out a significant portion of potential input? Once again, your "study" is based upon what you already believe rather than any objective attempts to find real answers.


You use evidence, observation, experiment, and logic. You do not use emotion, fear, ignorance, dogma, peer pressure, or blind faith.
(R) Again, I agree. Let's use this in my abortion observations. I had let emotion (no baby should be abused), fear (I don't know if I can take care of a baby right now), ignorance ( not knowing how the procedures were performed), dogma (it's a personal choice), peer pressure (from the media saying anyone who's not pro-choice is selfish and old-fashioned), and blind faith (believing what Dad told me) to form my opinion.
(MB) ...and you just substituted the emotion, fear, ignorance, dogma, peer pressure and blind faith of religious belief in their places. This leads to a rational conclusion?


(R) Once I used evidence (fetal development stages, video of actual abortion),
(MB) This is ignorance, fear, and emotion -- not evidence...


(R) observation (those in the abortion industry turning away from it and why),
(MB) Emotion based upon empathic reactions...


(R) experiment (having my own children),
(MB) When did you ever abort a child as a control for your experiment? If you haven't done so, you can't say that you've conducted a complete experiment in order to make the best possible decision or in order to claim that abortion would be bad for you personally. And, certainly such a personal decision has no bearing on the larger morality of abortion for society.


(R) and logic (it goes against the natural and spiritual laws)
(MB) I've already addressed this...


(R) the only conclusion that could possibly be Truth is that it's morally wrong.
(MB) That conclusion is not "Truth", nor is it defensible as being either morally "right" or "wrong" for anybody other than you. At best, it is a purely personal decision that should have no effect on anybody or anything else.


Good for you! That's more than many people can say for themselves. Now, why can't you accept Truth as it concerns *all* matters -- both secular *and* religious?
(R) I can and will as soon as Truth is found.
(MB) At least, so long as that Truth does not violate or contravene your religious beliefs.


(R) For example, when you brought up the Shroud of Turin in my other posting and stated that there is absolutely no blood on the cloth, I needed to check it out. I had always heard that there was blood on the cloth.
(MB) So have most believers -- because that's what their religion and their religious leaders tell them to believe.


(R) You got my curiosity up, so I looked up the internet sites. I looked at the Shroud of Turin Research site by Bruce Schwortz which says there is blood on the cloth and I looked up the skeptical site by Walter McCrone that states there is absolutely no blood on the cloth.
(MB) Good for you! Now, did you notice that Schwortz is a photographer while McCrone is the leader of the first complete and objective study that has ever been done on the Shroud? Did you notice that the STURP group (for which Schwortz was the documenting photographer) did their study in 1978 McCrone's study was done 10 years later? Did you notice that, in McCrone's study, several tests (including C-14 dating) were performed independently by at least three different labs and all returned the same results -- which allows for cross-checking and verification of the data -- while STURP operated alone with no independent verification? Now, if one looks objectively at the facts, which group is more likely to have produced accurate results?


(R) Obviously, only one of these answers can be accurate, so I wrote to both of the men asking to help clarify the dilemma. I received answers back from them both. I sent a second letter to both men to help clarify some more questions and I got a response from Mr. Schwortz, but have not heard back from Mr. McCrone the second time yet. I will forward both mine and their letters to you separately just in case you're interested.
(MB) Thanks for forwarding the letters. I'm not sure how this will resolve the problem, however. Neither man is likely to reveal anything new and different that is not already posted on their respective web sites. Have you examined the sum total of the evidence presented on both sites on the related sites for which they provide links? If so, do you still believe that the Shroud is authentic. If so, why?


I think you need to go back and research the history of Henry VIII and the reasons for the formation of the Church of England.
(R) I have read the history. It seems old Henry couldn't control himself in certain matters concerning women.
(MB) Neither, it seems, can a certain American President.


(R) I don't find the fact that just because a man wanted to divorce his wife as the basis for starting a new church to be a very proud heritage.
(MB) That wasn't the point. You said that the Catholic Church had never excommunicated anyone for divorce and this is clearly wrong. This was the major incentive for Henry VIII to break from the Catholic Church and found the Church of England. Without the threat of excommunication, he would have had no reason for doing this.


(R) A formal excommunication is handed down by official document by the Church in matters of very serious offense.
(MB) Or, at least, what the Church *considers* to be a Very Serious Offense.


(R) The excommunication I am referring to is when a person puts himself out of the 'communion' of the teachings of the Church and therefore is no longer in good standing to receive the sacraments.
(MB) What sort of nonsense is that? There's only one type of official Catholic excommunication and it is handed down as an ecclesiastical sentence of punishment by the Church hierarchy. Yes, the terms of the excommunication also involve exclusion from receipt of the sacraments, but the person involved certainly does not "put himself out". He is judged and sentenced by the Church.


Jesus says that those who remarry after divorce commit adultery, but these statements say nothing which prohibits the divorce itself nor do they suggest that any sins are committed if neither person remarries.
(R) Civil divorce is not prohibited by the Catholic Church! A divorced person may still receive the sacraments because a sin has not been committed. It's only when a person remarries that the problem occurs.
(MB) This is not in accordance with the teachings of Jesus. His words make no distinction between civil and sacramental marriage. I thought the Catholics followed Jesus' teachings -- or do they just pick and choose?


(RE: "The expectations of marriage are beautifully laid out in the New Testament".)
Where is this to be found?

(R) It is found in Ephesians 6: 21-32.
(MB) I think you mean Ephesians 5:22-33, since the sixth chapter contains only 24 verses. OK, let's take a look:
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.
Good grief! Isn't this a rather male chauvinist pig attitude towards women? Do you worship your husband as you do Jesus and consider them to be virtual equals? Are you (and should you be) inferior to him?
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
So, husbands are supposed to be narcissistic about their own bodies and are supposed to treat their wives the same way? No wonder so many men want their wives to get dressed up and made up -- they are actually expressing love for themselves! And, what's all that incoherent babbling about Christ and the church have to do with marriage?
Ephesians 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
How does keeping physically fit and healthy equate to the establishment of the church?
Ephesians 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Oh? In what respects?
Ephesians 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
That sounds reasonable enough, but the act of sex between male and female doesn't require the intervention of Christian belief. It certainly happens even in societies which have no notion of who Jesus is. It also happens all throughout the animal kingdom.
Ephesians 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
I thought Paul was talking about marriage? Some might agree that it's a "mystery", indeed, but that's beside the point.
Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife [see] that she reverence [her] husband.
So, this is the recap of how "beautifully" the requirements of marriage are laid out in the New Testament? Men are to be narcissistic while women are supposed to worship their husbands and be subservient to them? That may have worked for simple shepherds and nomads 2,000 years ago, but I fail to see how it has any relevance today.



That "personal excommunication" nonsense makes about as much sense as saying that a convicted murderer executes himself instead of receiving the judgment handed down by the court in accordance with the laws.
(R) You're right about the convicted murdered having to receive the judgment handed down by the court of law. If someone is breaking a rule of the Church they wish to belong to, they have to accept the judgment of that law too.
(MB) So, why are you saying that people "excommunicate themselves" instead of being the recipients of Church justice? You're not being consistent.


(R) I know that you can show me no correlating evidence that the Jewish people were commanded to kill their first-born sons or that they did it except in the case where they fell into pagan practices.
(MB) They wrote it in their very own Bible as a self-description of their own laws and customs!!!!!!! If something that basic can be off-handedly dismissed and ignored, then there is no way you can use the Bible to uphold any other belief. Or, do you just pick and choose the parts of the Bible that you will believe while discarding the uncomfortable parts?


You forget that the Old Law was handed down well over a thousand years before Jesus was born.
(R) How about the first-born sons in the next few years after the law was given? They are alive and counted in the book of Numbers.
(MB) The Book of Numbers does not count nor differentiate "first-born" sons any differently from any other members of the population. It merely enumerates the warrior population (twenty years of age and older) of each tribe. There is no separate accounting of how many dead first-born sons there may have been.



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