The Right to be Wrong

My recent post questioning unwavering support for the State of Israel generated a lot of discussion, much of which was off topic, involving religious tolerance, confessional governments, and whether or not anyone has a natural right to be wrong. Being off topic doesn’t make the discussion irrelevant or uninteresting, though. So, in order to “purify” the original comment thread and continue the other conversations, I’ve moved the distracting comments here.

The tangential conversation began when the Waffling Anglican said,

“Christianity demands, IMHO, religious tolerance, respect for justice, liberty, and human dignity. Modern or not, I think a very strong case can be made that those values are products of Christianity, and intrinsic to the practice of true religion.”

Comments 68

  1. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Christianity demands, IMHO, religious tolerance, respect for justice, liberty, and human dignity. Modern or not, I think a very strong case can be made that those values are products of Christianity…”

    Justice, dignity, and a measure of liberty I can agree with. But religious tolerance? I must admit that I’m confused by this one. Once upon a pre-conciliar time, it was considered absolutely axiomatic that “error has no rights.” Since II Vatican, however, theologians have tended to minimize this traditional Christian principle in favor of wishy-washy religious liberality; sadly, Catholics today think that the Church has always been a-okay with the current religious indifferentism.

    Before I continue babbling about how much religion today sucks, I’ll get down to the point.

    “…and intrinsic to the practice of true religion.”

    While I cannot speak, with any measure of authority, to the Church of England, the Catholic Church has traditionally taught that, while error has no rights, erroneous people do. While it is the typically considered the duty of the state to root out error, and so be intolerant, religious tolerance is permissible under exceptional circumstances. The reason this is relevant to our discussion is that, by calling religious tolerance a mark of true religion, you’ve effectively excluded Catholicism (and, I daresay, the Church of England, throughout most of its history) from this big tent of “true religion;” this is quite a commitment.

    Posted 24 Jul 2006 at 7:02 pm
  2. Anthrakeus wrote:

    Tom, on occasion you make me seem like the rational one.

    This is perhaps to be avoided.

    Posted 25 Jul 2006 at 12:09 am
  3. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “While it is the typically considered the duty of the state to root out error,”

    I’m not sure that it has normally been considered the duty (or even a fitting role) for the state to root out error. While I usually put almost anything in the hands of the state (I do have fascist leanings now and again), I’m not sure that the state should greatly concern itself with the privite beliefs of its citizens. However, even if it does concern itself, I don’t think the state should openly proselytize (even for Catholicism). If for no other reason than I put the state in charge of roads and they come up the Cranberry Connector.

    Oh, what jokes would Pennsylvanias tell if it weren’t for PennDOT?

    I suppose we’d have to go back to making fun of West Virginians and New Jerseyites.

    Posted 25 Jul 2006 at 12:29 am
  4. Tom Smith wrote:

    The traditional teaching of the popes has been that confessional states have a duty to root out error, though they are exempted from this duty when the common good would be detrimentally affected.

    “I’m not sure that the state should greatly concern itself with the privite beliefs of its citizens.”

    States have no obligation to legislate against heretical private beliefs; rather, it is the public expression of error, to the detriment of Catholic piety, to which the obligation applies.

    One more thing that I’d like to bring up is the confusion of toleration and right. Traditionally, the Church teaches that there exists no right to belong to a faith other than the true one, and therefore, there is no right to religious freedom. However, religious *tolerance* is permissible in certain states due to necessity.

    Posted 25 Jul 2006 at 6:03 am
  5. Paul Prezzia wrote:

    Tom, I don’t understand what you are trying to say about the State’s duty regarding the private practice of a false faith.
    On one hand,
    “States have no obligation to legislate against heretical private beliefs.”
    On the other,
    “Traditionally, the Church teaches that there exists no right to belong to a faith other than the true one, and therefore, there is no right to religious freedom.”
    Perhaps people do not have a strict “right” to believe a false faith, but their freedom of conscience does forbid the use of force, even by the State, in attempting to convert them. However, maybe you were only speaking about the public propagation of error in that latter quote? Here, “religious *tolerance* is permissible in certain states due to necessity.”

    Posted 25 Jul 2006 at 7:35 am
  6. Bryan Davis wrote:

    Wow. That’s the Church that scares the hell into me.

    Posted 25 Jul 2006 at 8:49 pm
  7. edey wrote:

    tom
    “States have no obligation to legislate against heretical private beliefs; rather, it is the public expression of error, to the detriment of Catholic piety, to which the obligation applies.

    One more thing that I’d like to bring up is the confusion of toleration and right. Traditionally, the Church teaches that there exists no right to belong to a faith other than the true one, and therefore, there is no right to religious freedom. However, religious *tolerance* is permissible in certain states due to necessity.”

    i don’t doubt you, but can you cite documents that state these points?

    Posted 25 Jul 2006 at 10:46 pm
  8. Peter Kirk wrote:

    the Church teaches that … there is no right to religious freedom. However, religious *tolerance* is permissible in certain states due to necessity.

    Wow! In that case I would rather live in an Islamic fundamentalist state than a Catholic one. While Islam agrees that there is no right to religious freedom, it does at least teach that tolerance, at least of Christians and Jews (People of the Book) (as long as they are not considered former Muslims), is required and not just a concession to necessity. It is a good thing that there aren’t actually any Catholic states left, except presumably the Vatican City, where this intolerance might be enforced.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 5:30 am
  9. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Tom, I don’t understand what you are trying to say about the State’s duty regarding the private practice of a false faith.”

    I am saying nothing about the private practice of minority faiths in a confessional state.

    “On one hand,
    ‘States have no obligation to legislate against heretical private beliefs.’
    On the other,
    ‘Traditionally, the Church teaches that there exists no right to belong to a faith other than the true one, and therefore, there is no right to religious freedom.'”

    Is there a contradiction there?

    “Perhaps people do not have a strict ‘right’ to believe a false faith, but their freedom of conscience does forbid the use of force, even by the State, in attempting to convert them.”

    Of course.

    “However, maybe you were only speaking about the public propagation of error in that latter quote? Here, ‘religious *tolerance* is permissible in certain states due to necessity.'”

    Indeed.

    I’m not talking about conversion to the faith of the state; rather, merely the state’s obligation to prohibit the public expression of non-state religions in a confessional state.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 1:04 pm
  10. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Wow. That’s the Church that scares the hell into me.”

    Why?

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 1:16 pm
  11. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Wow. That’s the Church that scares the hell into me.”

    Why? I suspect that you assume that the Church’s stance against the existence of a natural right to religious freedom is somehow violently oppressive. The Church does not teach that violence is an acceptable measure for the eradication of the public expression of non-state religions, merely that the proper course in a confessional state is the outlawing of the public expression of non-state religions. In private, one would be completely free to practice whichever religion suits him.

    Is that really that scary? I wouldn’t call that scary. Intolerant, defitinitely, but scary?

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 1:32 pm
  12. Peter Kirk wrote:

    I would consider very scary any state which attempts to legislate (presumably with the threat of enforcement action which may have to be violent) against other Christians and other faiths meeting together for public religious worship. Fortunately there is little chance that any state in the modern world will act in this way because of Roman Catholic principles – for I have not noticed an upsurge of popular Roman Catholic fundamentalism of this kind.

    I note the following from today’s random endorsement of this blog:

    I have found that his blog is a useful antidote to the lingering bigotry amongst some Evangelicals (as opposed to constructive debate) against the RCC…

    Indeed. But, Tom, your position is unfortunately fuelling that bigotry by suggesting a return to the old days when Protestants were systematically persecuted in Europe and Latin America.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 2:46 pm
  13. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Coming late to the argument… sorry…

    Tom may not be stating it in the most cohesive way, but he’s absolutely right: Error has no rights. Erroneous persons do, viz., to not be compelled to belief… and mostly because this is a near impossibility, i.e., to compel the act of belief. But it is perfectly licit and possibly advantageous to limit the spread, say, of an heresy. It thus comes down to prudential judgement of civil authorities about how best to promote the general good. In short, Hans Kung ought not be burnt at the stake for believing what he believes. But he could licitly be so dispensed if he persisted in spreading his errors.

    I personally think societies would be much more healthy if “heretics” were burnt at the stake: 1) It would provide the masses with entertainment far more visceral and of profound, life-altering value than piss-poor substitutes such as Fear Factor; and 2) most critically, it would increase the quality of heresies, since only the best, brightest, and boldest heretics would be willing to go to the flames… this would in turn bring out the best and brightest apologists for the true faith.

    Ooooh… that’s scary. Scary is always a good argument.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 5:59 pm
  14. Jerry wrote:

    “…merely that the proper course in a confessional state is the outlawing of the public expression of non-state religions. In private, one would be completely free to practice whichever religion suits him.

    Is that really that scary? I wouldn’t call that scary. Intolerant, defitinitely, but scary?”

    Odd, I think you just described Saudi Arabia, Tom.

    What ever happened to rendering unto Caesar’s what was Caesar’s? It’s healthier for the Church that way as well–witness the thriving Christian cultures in the former domains of the Romanovs, the Bourbons, and the Tudors.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 9:09 pm
  15. Tom Smith wrote:

    Seeing as how I have a passel of comments to respond to, and can’t knock them out all right away, I’ll start with a quick one.

    “‘…merely that the proper course in a confessional state is the outlawing of the public expression of non-state religions. In private, one would be completely free to practice whichever religion suits him.

    Is that really that scary? I wouldn’t call that scary. Intolerant, defitinitely, but scary?’

    Odd, I think you just described Saudi Arabia, Tom.”

    I’m not arguing about Saudi Arabia, or any other nation that exists today, for that matter. It seems to me, from reading a few of the comments, that people aren’t really arguing against my statements, but rather, against their own preconceived notions of what the denial of a natural right to religious freedom entails. Although this isn’t necessarily

    “What ever happened to rendering unto Caesar’s what was Caesar’s?”

    I must be being very thick here — I don’t understand the relevance of this quotation. Remember, Jerry, to use small words.

    “It’s healthier for the Church that way as well—witness the thriving Christian cultures in the former domains of the Romanovs, the Bourbons, and the Tudors.”

    I can’t say that either the Tudor or Romanov cases are relevant here, seeing as neither were Catholic, and so would not be bound by the rules discussed here.

    As to the Bourbons, however, I would argue that, during the eighteenth century anyway, exactly what I’ve been describing has been what was in force throughout most states at the time! What did the Bourbons do (or not do) that violates what I have outlined above?

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 9:35 pm
  16. John wrote:

    The Bourbons did exactly what you outlined above. And it is good right and just that they were put to death for it.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 10:13 pm
  17. Tom Smith wrote:

    Oops. Please disregard “Although this isn’t necessarily” above. I forgot to delete that.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 11:12 pm
  18. Tom Smith wrote:

    “The Bourbons did exactly what you outlined above.”

    My point exactly.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 11:27 pm
  19. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Wow! In that case I would rather live in an Islamic fundamentalist state than a Catholic one. While Islam agrees that there is no right to religious freedom, it does at least teach that tolerance. . . is required and not just a concession to necessity.”

    Why do you feel that there exists a natural right to religious freedom? Can you demonstrate the existence of this right, either rationally, empirically, or from some tradition?

    “It is a good thing that there aren’t actually any Catholic states left, except presumably the Vatican City, where this intolerance might be enforced.”

    It has no need to be enforced at the Holy See, as there’s no one attempting non-Catholic public worship in, say, the Sistine Chapel.

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 11:39 pm
  20. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I would consider very scary any state which attempts to legislate (presumably with the threat of enforcement action which may have to be violent) against other Christians and other faiths meeting together for public religious worship.”

    I would consider that scary as well. However, as I have outlined above, violent means are verboten in the enforcement of these laws.

    “Fortunately there is little chance that any state in the modern world will act in this way because of Roman Catholic principles – for I have not noticed an upsurge of popular Roman Catholic fundamentalism of this kind.”

    While I agree that situations like I have outlined above will probably not come to fruition any time soon, I cannot agree to your use of the term “Roman Catholic fundamentalism.” “Fundamentalism” is, when not used in its proper historical context (namely, early twentieth-century Evangelical Protestantism of a particular bent), a smear word. First of all, Catholicism has *nothing* to do with the Protestant movement known as Fundamentalism. Secondly, there’s nothing particularly “fundamental” about the teachings I have discussed above. They are not underlying, formative doctrines of the faith, and so cannot be called “fundamental.” Why do you use such an ugly phrase in characterizing my argument, when it is so clearly not applicable on historical or doctrinal grounds?

    Posted 26 Jul 2006 at 11:47 pm
  21. Tom Smith wrote:

    “I note the following from today’s random endorsement of this blog:

    ‘I have found that his blog is a useful antidote to the lingering bigotry amongst some Evangelicals (as opposed to constructive debate) against the RCC…’

    Indeed. But, Tom, your position is unfortunately fuelling that bigotry…”

    Who’s the problem here? The one who merely states his belief, or the one who decides to let himself hate because he disagrees? I can’t make apologies for stating my beliefs, even though they’re considered positively medieval by the vast majority of modern people.

    That which I believe is just that: that which I believe. I have attempted to enunciate these beliefs in a rational, non-polemical and non-inflammatory way. If I have offended, it is not because I have been insulting, but merely because you find that which I support highly offensive.

    If that is indeed the case, that you are offended by my beliefs, rather than my particular expression thereof, then there’s really nothing I can do, is there? You can tell me to shut up, but that doesn’t fix the problem, does it?

    “…by suggesting a return to the old days when Protestants were systematically persecuted in Europe and Latin America.”

    Keep in mind, once again, that the system I have outlined does not support violence. Also, I would point out that the norms for confessional states which I have discussed are nearly identical to those which Protestant confessional states adopted centuries ago.

    One last thing, because I can see this one coming: If you’re trying to argue that the things I have discussed above have led to violent repression in the past, then we should avoid playing a game of “who was worse? Protestants persecuting Catholics in England, Scotland, Switzerland, and the Germanies, or Catholics persecuting Protestants in France, Spain, and the Germanies?” because it’s beside the point and rarely leads to a clear winner.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 12:08 am
  22. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    C’mon, Tom, don’t be a liberal weenie on this… Any legimitate state has implicit power to do whatever is necessary to order and preserve itself. The Church may not condone it today, but this is easy from the position of great wealth and relative security she enjoys… a wealth and relative security purchased by the ruthless, grisly exploitation by Western powers of the rest of the world over the last 5 centuries. She has been forced by exigencies in the past to turn a blind (or at least winking) eye, to tolerate the lesser of evils (e.g., death & mayhem where Catholics survive vs. death & mayhem where Catholics die). She may be forced to do so again… and we’ll be thankful if and when she does… and if all goes well, live to tell about it.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 1:04 am
  23. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    And… btw… John… a church to scare the hell out of us is exactly what we all need. But they are alas in very short supply these days…

    Cheers!

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 1:11 am
  24. Tom Smith wrote:

    “i don’t doubt you, but can you cite documents that state these points?”

    Surely.

    Leo XIII, Libertas (1888)
    “Right is a moral faculty, and as We have said, and it cannot be too often repeated, it would be absurd to believe that it belongs naturally and without distinction to truth and to lies, to good and to evil.”

    Pius XII, Ci Riesce (allocution to Catholic lawyers)
    “It must be clearly affirmed that no human authority, no State, no Community of States, of whatever religious character, can give a positive mandate or a positive authorization to teach or to do that which would be contrary to religious truth or moral good… Whatever does not respond to truth and the moral law has objectively no right to existence, nor to propaganda, nor to action.”

    Leo XIII, Libertas
    “Civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness — namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges.”

    Leo XIII in Immortale Dei:
    “The Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic Faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, ‘Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own free will.”

    Leo XIII, Libertas
    “While not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she (the Catholic Church) does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good.”

    Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors (these are condemned propositions)
    “15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.”
    “55. The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.”
    “77. In the present day, it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.”
    “79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.”

    Also, the Spanish Charter of 1945 is an example, in legal form, of the Catholic teaching, which it relates very well.

    “1) The profession and practice of the Catholic religion, which is that of the Spanish State, will enjoy official protection.
    2) No one shall be disturbed for his religious beliefs nor the private exercise of his religion. There is no authorization for external ceremonies or manifestations of other than those of the Catholic religion.”

    All these quotes are relevant to the discussion at hand, and form the basis of what I’ve been saying, although I’m too tired to arrange them in such a way as to create an argument. I just wanted to get some quotes up before I go away for a day or two. I’ll come online again to discuss the above when I’m back in Pittsburgh tomorrow.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 1:50 am
  25. Tom Smith wrote:

    Aighty, Steve-o, here’s a fun one for you:

    From Leo X’s Bull Exsurge Domine, in response to Luther’s 95 theses.

    This is condemned proposition number thirty-three.

    “33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.”

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 1:59 am
  26. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Ooooh…that’s scary. Scary is always a good argument.”

    Scary? Perhaps. Unchristian? Definitely. Allow me to paraphrase Jesus:

    “Let he who has never believed or taught error light the first fagot.”

    The direction this conversation has gone is almost enough to make me sick to my stomach.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 7:53 am
  27. Peter Kirk wrote:

    Tom, you are entitled to your beliefs. I suppose Hitler was also entitled to his beliefs (although not to put them into practice), as was his friend Franco whose Spanish Charter of 1945 you quote with approval. But surely I am entitled to find such beliefs highly offensive and a threat to world peace (well, yours would be if you became a national leader as Hitler did), and so to argue against them.

    I am not at all defending past repression of Catholics by Protestants, except that I could say that Catholics started it – here in England it was Bloody Mary. (Not all the Tudors were not Catholics!) I note also, by way of balance, that it was a Catholic king, James II, who first introduced religious tolerance in England.

    You asked me,

    Why do you feel that there exists a natural right to religious freedom? Can you demonstrate the existence of this right, either rationally, empirically, or from some tradition?

    I did not actually argue that there was such a right. But the empirical need for such a right is obvious in the modern world. Europe was torn apart in the 16th to 18th centuries because of fighting largely to protect the rights of Catholic and Protestant believers, and found peace and prosperity only in the 19th century when (despite the best efforts of the reactionary popes you quote) religious tolerance became widespread. Now in the 21st century peace is threatened again because of the lack of religious tolerance in the Islamic world.

    Thanks for the quote from St Augustine:

    Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own free will.

    The pope who quoted this was wise to hold that no one should be forced to embrace his faith. Forcible conversions are usually shallow, as is clearly seen in Latin America where much Catholicism is in fact paganism with a thin Christian veneer. In fact God gave to humans the right to choose even to disobey him, which they have done much of the time ever since Eden. He did this partly to ensure that their obedience would be free and genuine, compare Psalm 32:9. That doesn’t imply that their disobedience went unpunished, but that’s another matter.

    Suppose I and a group of my friends did attempt to hold a Protestant, or for that matter Muslim, worship service in the Holy See, in St Peter’s Square? Presumably this is in some sense illegal, and I suppose the Swiss Guard would try to stop us. But, you say,

    violent means are verboten in the enforcement of these laws.

    What would happen if we refused to stop our worship service when we were asked politely? Should the Swiss Guard reject violence and simply stand and watch? Or should they use violence, with their ceremonial antique weapons or more modern ones, to break up our worship?

    Meanwhile I used the term Roman Catholic fundamentalism with reference not to Protestant fundamentalism but to the Islamic, Hindu etc versions, as popularly defined. These forms of fundamentalism are characterised (as is the Protestant variety, for which I have few kind words in my own recent blog series) by reactionary religious views and support for the use of state power to enforce these views at least in outward expressions of religion. Yes, it was being used as a smear word, because I consider your views dangerous enough to justify being smeared. Another name sometimes used for Islamic fundamentalism is Islamo-Fascism. Your views seem to be the same without the Islamo-

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 8:04 am
  28. Peter Kirk wrote:

    It may look strange that I ended my last comment with a hyphen. There was intended to be a full stop (period) after it, but nothing else.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 8:08 am
  29. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Justice, dignity, and a measure of liberty I can agree with. But religious tolerance? I must admit that I’m confused by this one. Once upon a pre-conciliar time, it was considered absolutely axiomatic that ‘error has no rights.’ Since II Vatican, however, theologians have tended to minimize this traditional Christian principle in favor of wishy-washy religious liberality; sadly, Catholics today think that the Church has always been a-okay with the current religious indifferentism.”

    There is a a difference between permitting unfettered public expression of religion and indifferentism (or universalism, for that matter). I’m not indifferent to error. I believe the pre-V2 was dead wrong to advocate restrictions on public expression of religions other than Catholic Christianity. On the other hand, I think the post-V2 Church has been far too tolerant of buffoonery within her own fold.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 9:09 am
  30. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Odd, I think you just described Saudi Arabia, Tom.”

    Or Reformation-era England.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 9:16 am
  31. Peter Kirk wrote:

    Reformation era England had sadly not entirely rid itself of the attitudes of its pre-Reformation pro-Rome period. It took Cromwell in the 17th century to legalise all forms of Protestant religious practice, as well as to allow Jews back. The crypto-Catholic Charles II took a step backwards into enforcing conformity to a state religion he privately rejected, but the open Catholic James II injected some realism by proclaiming freedom of religion. But memories of Catholic terrorism in 1605, Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, were too strong for the country to give full toleration to Roman Catholics until the 19th century.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 9:34 am
  32. Anthrakeus wrote:

    States don’t have the right to use whatever force is necessary to establish order. Order is the purpose of the state, but violence is inherintly disordered. The state can under very rare circumstances use force, but only when there is already disorganization to begin with. Furthermore this force must directly effect order, not exceed the disorder combatted in magnitude, and must be the only option available.

    In the case of religious disorder within a society, the state has the positive obligation to provide order. Now, this order must be founded upon divine law (so only Catholicism is a legitimate basis for civil society). Of course, rarely if ever will private religious practice cause enough disorder that the state would be required to act directly. Simply encouraging that Catholicism be taught in schools and by the media should be sufficient.

    Also, don’t confuse “private” and “occult”. “Occult” actions are clandestine and hidden. “Private” actions are simply those done outside the purview of the state. In the U.S. almost all religious expression is private. Only such things as the 700 Club or street preaching attain to public status. In the UK the prohibition on Catholic monarchs is definitely public. Beyond that it gets a bit murky. So long as all the heretics and pagans are doing is praying in their own churches, this shouldn’t be a problem. It might be that, say, if Muslims refused to work on Friday or Quakers refused to join the military this *might* be a problem about which the state must act. However, the state doesn’t need to root out error directly.

    ———————————————————-

    “Catholics started it – here in England it was Bloody Mary”

    Umm… Henry VIII killed Thomas More and John Fisher for refusing to support schism from the Church of Rome. And Elizabeth I killed more Catholics than Mary did Protestants. I believe Edward “ordered” some executions of Catholics during his reign (not that he actually knew much about what his advisors were doing).

    Also, you argue that Catholic/Protestant and Judeo-Christian/Muslim wars are caused by intolerance. Could it not be that these wars developed due to the rise of these errors, and in the Catholic/Protestant example only subsided when Catholicism specifically and religion generally were removed from public influence. You would then be left not with a state that must tolerate all religions but one that must tolerate no religion at all.

    “God gave to humans the right to choose even to disobey him”
    You confuse “right” and “ability”. These are not the same thing.

    In fact, that’s the whole point of this argument. Certainly the state can’t remove the “ability” to hold to error, but does this mean that the state must recognize a right to do so.

    “Presumably this is in some sense illegal”

    The Holy See has no such law in force, as it has not come up. If there were to be any punishment (which is unlikely; Tom and I are arguing a position not so popular these days), it would simply be expulsion from the city.
    ——————————————————————————–

    Is it just me, or has comparing people to Islamic Jihadists become the new “commie pinko”? This is the second time in as many weeks that my views have been compared to Islamic Theocracy and Fascism. I do wonder why rejection of pluralism is treated as so fundamentally unacceptable by our society, which otherwise prides itself on its tolerance of differing opinions.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 9:10 pm
  33. Jerry wrote:

    Tom:

    To clarify the render unto Caesar, I’m sorry if I was unclear. The point is that Jesus himself implicitly distinguished between civic and religious authority operating in parallel. The Letter to Diognetus, an early Christian text, also emphasized that Christians are in all nations but are of none. This, combined with the call to evangelical simplicitly, make a strong case against state-enforced religious beliefs and practices.

    Now for the history. The Romanovs of Russia and the Bourbons of France were probably the two dynasties who had some of the greatest influence on and enforcement of religious belief and practice in their countries. Politics ebb and flow, alas, and so do whatever religious beliefs that are caught up in those practices. France has been notoriously anti-clerical for the past two centuries, and Russia became the head of the most malignant atheistic movement in history. I still see some bloggers use the term “Holy Mother Russia”, but to judge from the still-prominent atheism and abortion rates, I don’t find Russia very holy or maternal.

    Oh sure, you can still claim that the Romanovs and Bourbons are not representative of religious governments, but the decay of Byzantine Christianity, Henry VII’s adventures in schism and heresy, and Spain’s very liberal culture all make me very reluctant to think that monarchies and/or theological enforcement by the state are conducive to the flowering of orthodox religion. Can you, Tom, name any historical period that gives a lasting example of what you have in mind, or is this all theoretical?

    And that’s even apart from “little” details like the sayings of Christ and the early Christians that I cited above.

    As an aside: Catholics and Orthodox are not the only ones to realize the dangers of mixing faith and politics too closely. Mainline Protestants found out about this the hard way in America as they are beginning to fade, having attached themselves to political trends (mostly liberal ones) that are growing obsolete.

    Evangelicals may get their lesson soon as well as they crow over their political influence and many of their number seem to conflate their political and spiritual fortunes. (Funny how they condemn Catholic meddling in national politics throughout history yet promptly did it all themselves, ja?)

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 9:45 pm
  34. Jerry wrote:

    Another clarification: when I said that Tom sounded like he was describing Saudi Arabia (no public worship according to non-official religious beliefs, but private was permitted), it wasn’t to label him an Islamofascist or anything silly like that, but it was to perhaps get him to look in a mirror, ‘cos he did describe more or less the official Saudi position on other religions in their land.

    Someone wiser than me made an observation about absolute power corrupting absolutely, and giving organizations thorough-going powers such as used in Arabia is a recipe for poisoning true religious commitment and encouraging hypocrisy. Jesus didn’t tell the apostles to beat or arrest those towns that didn’t listen to them, but rather to shake the dust off their feet and move on. We don’t need a state to help us follow those instructions, and I think we have enough historical evidence to show that any state-led help in that department does more harm than good in the long run.

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 9:50 pm
  35. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “Can you…name any historical period that gives a lasting example of what you have in mind, or is this all theoretical?”

    1. France under St. Louis IX
    2. Better example (if not Catholic), China under the Confucian Mandarins. This was the flourishing of Chinese culture and international influence.

    Also, while I don’t raise them as high as many do, Spain under Ferdinan and Isabella wasn’t too bad (unless you were a crypto-Jew or Muslim, the latter being almost certainly a traitor of some sort).

    Posted 27 Jul 2006 at 11:38 pm
  36. Peter Kirk wrote:

    OK, Henry VIII not Mary I started it. But Henry’s motivations were more political than religious, as were Elizabeth’s, and Henry was hardly a Protestant. And don’t forget that before he split from Rome he had put to death the pioneering Protestant John Frith (1533) and ordered the death of the Bible translator Tyndale (1536).

    Anthrakeus complains that

    This is the second time in as many weeks that my views have been compared to Islamic Theocracy and Fascism.

    Could this be because they are in fact objectively similar? I was in fact referring to Tom’s views, and he quoted the fascist Franco with approval. You are both advocating a kind of theocracy, a particular religion being imposed by the state and other religion being outlawed, which in the contemporary world is found only in Islamic countries. So, yes, there are good reasons to compare your views with Islamic theocracy and with fascism. As I have said before, you are entitled to your views (although maybe not to put them into practice), and by making these comparisons I am not trying to start a witch hunt against you. After all, I am not the one quoting a pope to justify burning at the stake!

    Posted 28 Jul 2006 at 5:23 am
  37. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “You are both advocating a kind of theocracy, a particular religion being imposed by the state and other religion being outlawed”

    Well, yes and no. “Outlawed” could mean many things. What I (probably we, I can’t speak for Tom) advocate is government imposed limitation on other religions. In the US (I can’t speak for Brittain) about the only groups that have what could be called “public displays” are some of the evangelicals. Even we Catholics rarely have a procession outside. So, were I to take over in the US (a frightening prospect I know), little would change for the average Protestant. I suppose they might be limited in book publications, but again, that’s mostly the evangelicals.

    It wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to try to root out all non-Catholic religions.

    “Could this be because they are in fact objectively similar?”

    As they say, one swallow does not a summer make.

    ——————————————-

    As to the Funky’s comment: that’s a bit scary. I’m not sure what’s worse, when the government has no place for religion, or when it misuses it.

    Posted 28 Jul 2006 at 12:38 pm
  38. Peter Kirk wrote:

    Anthrakeus claimed that

    So, were I to take over in the US (a frightening prospect I know), little would change for the average Protestant.

    Are you suggesting that the average US Protestant is not evangelical? I don’t know what the exact figures are, but there are an awful lot of evangelicals out there, who would react very strongly to any attempts to limit their evangelism and their publishing. If (God forbid!) you were to try to impose your principles on the USA, you would quickly have a revolution on your hands. Actually you would of course be acting unconstitutionally and would quickly be impeached if you tried this, but that’s another matter. So, in fact nothing would change for Protestants because your policy would fail.

    Posted 28 Jul 2006 at 1:36 pm
  39. John wrote:

    “In the US (I can’t speak for Brittain) about the only groups that have what could be called “public displays” are some of the evangelicals.”

    I grew up in Boston and am currently living in New York, and there is not a weekend day in the summer, and few weekdays that there are not large processions for whatever saint is connected to that day.

    Posted 28 Jul 2006 at 6:08 pm
  40. Anthrakeus wrote:

    I suppose I’m used to the fairly subdued Irish piety of Western Pennsylvania. Processions *are* more of an Italian and Eastern European thing.

    If it’s the Irish with the processions, then I guess Western Pennsylvanians are just lazy.

    Posted 28 Jul 2006 at 8:39 pm
  41. Tom Smith wrote:

    “C’mon, Tom, don’t be a liberal weenie on this…”

    It’s funny that I’m being called a “liberal weenie” on a thread in which I advance my view that the state is obliged to advance religion.

    “Any legimitate state has implicit power to do whatever is necessary to order and preserve itself.”

    How so? This strikes me as almost *exactly* the position that Niccolo Machiavelli advanced in the The Prince — a position which was almost universally condemned then and now. Another traditional Christian ethical maxim important to remember in this discussion is that one may not do evil that good may come of it.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 1:45 am
  42. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Scary? Perhaps. Unchristian? Definitely. Allow me to paraphrase Jesus:

    ‘Let he who has never believed or taught error light the first fagot.'”

    Apples and oranges. Christ’s message, in this passage, was one of forgiveness. Should we forgive those who have fallen away from the faith? Yes; most definitely. Stopping those who would spread ideas directly leading to the damnation of souls is another matter entirely, which is why the Church *does not* and *has never* taught that holding heretical views privately is a matter to be dealt with externally. It is only the public spread of these views which the Church deems unacceptable.

    “The direction this conversation has gone is almost enough to make me sick to my stomach.”

    Why? Have you given the arguments laid out even the time of day, or have you dismissed them out of hand? I have yet to see you make a counter-argument, so I can’t help but think the latter. Prove me wrong. Instead of calling my views “almost enough to make (you) sick to (your) stomach,” why don’t you try to change my mind?

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 2:08 am
  43. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Tom, you are entitled to your beliefs.”

    In the interest of consistency, I must conditionally disagree. If my beliefs are wrong, then I do not have a right to hold them. Which is why I am trying to get people on this thread to actually engage my arguments, rather than smear them and call me names; I want to find out the truth of the matter. I have laid out my position, which is, I believe. the correct one (obviously). Tell me why you think I’m wrong; you may get me to change my mind.

    “But surely I am entitled to find such beliefs highly offensive and a threat to world peace (well, yours would be if you became a national leader as Hitler did)…”

    Are you implying that I am like Hitler because I advocate a state religion? NEVER ONCE have I stated that I support execution for the sake of any cause, even religion. Because the Holocaust is the first thing that comes to the minds of most when Hitler is mentioned, I can only conclude that your purpose was to compare my views to wholesale slaughter on the basis of ethnicity. In case I haven’t been clear enough, I find mass execution morally unjustifiable.

    “…and so to argue against them.”

    Commence with the argumentation. “You’re very much like a fascist” does not constitute an argument.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 2:26 am
  44. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Yes, it was being used as a smear word, because I consider your views dangerous enough to justify being smeared.”

    Fair enough — but keep in mind that you’re not discussing this matter with a third party, with whom a smear might be more appropriate and effective. You’re debating me, and smearing my views to my electronic face isn’t doing your position any good. Please argue against my points; you have nothing to lose by doing so, and you may gain my agreement.

    “You asked me,

    ‘Why do you feel that there exists a natural right to religious freedom? Can you demonstrate the existence of this right, either rationally, empirically, or from some tradition?’

    I did not actually argue that there was such a right. But the empirical need for such a right is obvious in the modern world.”

    If there is no natural right to religious freedom, all the “empirical need” in the universe isn’t enough to create one.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 2:34 am
  45. Tom Smith wrote:

    “There is a a difference between permitting unfettered public expression of religion and indifferentism (or universalism, for that matter).”

    If I gave the impression that there was no distinction between the two, it was accidental, as such a difference is obvious.

    “I’m not indifferent to error.”

    …never said that you were…

    “I believe the pre-V2 was dead wrong to advocate restrictions on public expression of religions other than Catholic Christianity.”

    Great. . . why? Gimme something to argue against. Throw me a bone.

    “‘Odd, I think you just described Saudi Arabia, Tom.’

    Or Reformation-era England.”

    While the ideas prevalent at the time may have been outwardly similar, I think that you may be trying only to compare my position to that of Bad People of the Past. I never stated that violence is appropriate means for any of what I’ve been discussing.

    Now, on to Jerry’s comments…

    “To clarify the render unto Caesar, I’m sorry if I was unclear. The point is that Jesus himself implicitly distinguished between civic and religious authority operating in parallel.”

    I have no problem with religious authority operating parallel to secular authority. They are separate, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    (As an aside, however, I would note that, here, Christ merely acknowledges the distinction between the spiritual and secular arms — He makes no judgment as to whether or not that is a good, bad, or completely indifferent thing.)

    “The Letter to Diognetus, an early Christian text, also emphasized that Christians are in all nations but are of none. This, combined with the call to evangelical simplicitly, make a strong case against state-enforced religious beliefs and practices.”

    I think you are mischaracterizing my position. I do not support in state-*enforced* religion, I believe in state-*supported* religion. The distinction is, I think, rather huge.

    “Now for the history. The Romanovs of Russia and the Bourbons of France were probably the two dynasties who had some of the greatest influence on and enforcement of religious belief and practice in their countries. Politics ebb and flow, alas, and so do whatever religious beliefs that are caught up in those practices. France has been notoriously anti-clerical for the past two centuries, and Russia became the head of the most malignant atheistic movement in history.”

    I can’t speak to the Romanovs, since Russian history is not my specialty. So I will concede to you that the case of the Romanovs supports your position.

    As to the Bourbons, I take it that you’re positing that the Bourbon failure to support freedom of religion is the primary factor which led to the secularization and anti-clericalism of France (correct me if I’m wrong). This view is, maybe, a bit too simplistic, I think. Perhaps the lack of religious freedom in France *did* play a role in the current French distaste for religion, but I doubt that it could be correctly called the primary factor. Also, keep in mind the heavy-handed way in which the Bourbons were notorious for ruling (“let them eat cake” — almost as heavy-handed as I have been in this debate). I would say that the Enlightenment philosophies, which one could argue were most influential in France, were the primary cause of the French abandonment of religion. Descartes, Voltaire, and Montesquieu were all Frenchmen.

    Also, consider this: Humanae Vitae turned a lot of people off to Catholicism. For that reason, many condemn it as incorrect. But the number of people who dislike it has no bearing on the veracity of its truth claims.

    One more thing: you mention only the Bourbons and Romanovs. But lack of religious freedom has been the historical norm, not the deviation. Almost all European nations were what moderns would call despotic in regard to religion, and almost all European nations have been secular for many years. So I don’t think one can point to any particular state and say that its lack of religious freedom led to the destruction of religion in that state, if for no other reason than that there are no major examples of states tolerating a multiplicity of religions other than within the past century or two. (Also, note that religion has utterly failed to take off in Europe since the beginning of the period of toleration.)

    “Oh sure, you can still claim that the Romanovs and Bourbons are not representative of religious governments, but the decay of Byzantine Christianity…”

    “…Henry VII’s adventures in schism and heresy, and Spain’s very liberal culture all make me very reluctant to think that monarchies…”

    I’m not advocating monarchism, Jerry. Please argue against my points.

    “…and/or theological enforcement by the state…”

    Again, I’m not supporting *enforcement* of religion. I’m supporting *support* of religion by the state.

    “…are conducive to the flowering of orthodox religion. Can you, Tom, name any historical period that gives a lasting example of what you have in mind, or is this all theoretical?”

    I did not have a period in mind, as I am merely arguing the point on philosophical and doctrinal grounds, not historical ones. However, Anthrakeus mentioned France under Louis IX. I think he could have expanded that to include almost the entire High Middle Ages. The High Middle Ages were not religiously tolerant times, yet they were, once-upon-a-time -before-the-1960s, remembered by the style “The Age of Faith.”

    “And that’s even apart from ‘little’ details like the sayings of Christ and the early Christians that I cited above.”

    Those aren’t “little” details, but, as I stated above, I feel that they are irrelevant to the arguments I’m making.

    “As an aside: Catholics and Orthodox are not the only ones to realize the dangers of mixing faith and politics too closely. Mainline Protestants found out about this the hard way in America as they are beginning to fade, having attached themselves to political trends (mostly liberal ones) that are growing obsolete.”

    Again, Jerry, that’s a big fat non sequitur. The difference is that they mold Christianity to fit political trends whereas I seek to mold political trends to fit Christianity. Take manifest destiny or gay marriage: they were both advanced into the public square, and then a Christian argument was made to support them. In my mind, that’s utterly bass ackwards — Religion should be making the arguments, and politics following suit, not the other way around.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 3:42 am
  46. Tom Smith wrote:

    “After all, I am not the one quoting a pope to justify burning at the stake!”

    I’m afraid that you are mistaken. I did not mean to give the impression that I support the burning of heretics. I posted that quote because I thought Steve would appreciate it.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 3:43 am
  47. Tom Smith wrote:

    A note to everyone…

    The basis of my arguments is thus:

    That there is no natural right to religious freedom, and that the Church teaches that there is an obligation of confessional states to support the confessed religion. If these premises are accepted, which I believe there are good reasons for, the conclusions I have drawn seem to be correct.

    You’ll have to convince me either that both premises are untrue, or that my reasoning between premise and conclusion is incorrect, in order to win me over.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 3:51 am
  48. Peter Kirk wrote:

    Tom, you wrote:

    If my beliefs are wrong, then I do not have a right to hold them.

    You also wrote:

    the Church *does not* and *has never* taught that holding heretical views privately is a matter to be dealt with externally.

    Is this inconsistent? I’m not sure. I suppose you would say there is no right to hold wrong views privately, only a concession, but giving a concession amounts to granting a right. Well, I concede to you the right to hold your wrong beliefs, and so does society, although the public spread of those views may be on the margin of what is acceptable.

    I did not suggest that you are like Hitler except in being a potential threat to world peace. You are the latter because if you imposed your views on any country (rather than making laws which you did not enforce, which might avoid violence, but would be empty gestures) with a sizeable number of non-Catholics the result in the modern world would almost certainly be serious civil unrest and very likely armed intervention by some country which considered itself a protector of the religious minorities you would be oppressing. This in itself is a good pragmatic argument against your views. In practice in what has become a global village the only way for us to live together in peace is to have a measure of toleration for other religions.

    Maybe smearing you to your electronic face doesn’t help to change your mind, but it does help the many others who are listening in to this conversation to understand what your views may amount to – although I accept that you have never advocated some of the worst aspects of fascism.

    You wrote:

    If there is no natural right to religious freedom, all the “empirical need” in the universe isn’t enough to create one.

    Maybe in a strict moral sense it does not create a natural right. But it does make it unhelpful and wrong to advocate a policy of denying religious freedom.

    On the other hand, if all you are really advocating is “state-*supported* religion”, and you allow others to get on with their religion in peace, including expressing it in public in ways which do not compromise public order, then my objections are only minor.

    You also wrote:

    there are no major examples of states tolerating a multiplicity of religions other than within the past century or two.

    I think you are wrong here. Here in England a multiplicity of religions have been tolerated for more than three centuries – although not Roman Catholicism because it was a threat to the state. Ancient Greece and Rome mostly tolerated a multiplicity of religions, until Christianity was imposed in the late 4th century. Even the Islamic Caliphate was more tolerant of other religions than you seem to be. Perhaps what is really new is tolerance of all religions, but even that, in the modern world, does not include toleration of groups who practice terrorism in the name of religion, such as Al Qaeda today or the Roman Catholic church in 17th century England.

    And then:

    religion has utterly failed to take off in Europe since the beginning of the period of toleration.

    No, religion was very strong, and diverse, in Victorian England, where there was also complete toleration – and of course in the USA. I don’t claim any causal link, but the evidence does not show that toleration damages religion. The causes of the 20th century decline of religion in Europe are complex but toleration is not a major factor.

    Meanwhile, Tom, you ask for arguments, rather than smears, to win you over. Fair enough. But on what basis can I argue? You reject any argument from empiricism. You dismiss the sayings of Jesus as irrelevant. You quote popes, and they may indeed support your position, but I don’t accept what they say as having any authority. If you want to argue that yours is the position of the Roman Catholic church, even if it contradicts the position of Jesus, then all I can say is, thank God that I am not a Catholic!

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 6:49 am
  49. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Is this inconsistent? I’m not sure.”

    Well, I don’t think it is. I would say that there is no right to be in error. This is different than saying that public expression of error is something to be dealt with externally.

    “I suppose you would say there is no right to hold wrong views privately, only a concession, but giving a concession amounts to granting a right.”

    I am merely positing that the state has a duty to discourage the public expression of erroneous views. I might go so far as to hold that the state has no right to suppress private error. While there may be no natural right to hold erroneous views, even privately, it is beyond the purview of the state to deal with matters of private belief, natural right or not.

    “Well, I concede to you the right to hold your wrong beliefs, and so does society, although the public spread of those views may be on the margin of what is acceptable.”

    In modern society, I would say that my views are well beyond the edge of what is acceptable.

    “Maybe in a strict moral sense it does not create a natural right. But it does make it unhelpful and wrong to advocate a policy of denying religious freedom.”

    Unhelpful I can, perhaps, see. But wrong?

    “You also wrote:

    ‘there are no major examples of states tolerating a multiplicity of religions other than within the past century or two.’

    I think you are wrong here. Here in England a multiplicity of religions have been tolerated for more than three centuries – although not Roman Catholicism because it was a threat to the state.”

    Fair enough.

    “Ancient Greece and Rome mostly tolerated a multiplicity of religions, until Christianity was imposed in the late 4th century.”

    Well, I was specifically referring to the Christian era. I should have made that more clear.

    “Even the Islamic Caliphate was more tolerant of other religions than you seem to be.”

    While I cannot speak to the caliphs, I would actually argue that the Ottoman Sultans were at almost exactly the level of religious tolerance that I would support.

    “No, religion was very strong, and diverse, in Victorian England, where there was also complete toleration – and of course in the USA.”

    But was religion *stronger* in the Victorian period than it was beforehand?

    “I don’t claim any causal link, but the evidence does not show that toleration damages religion.”

    Whether toleration damages religion or not seems, to me anyway, beside the point. I’m primarily interested in the moral character of religious freedom.

    “The causes of the 20th century decline of religion in Europe are complex but toleration is not a major factor.”

    I agree that it’s silly to point one’s finger at only one cause, although I think that the granting of religious freedom can be a precursor to indifferentism, which is indeed harmful to religion.

    “But on what basis can I argue? …You dismiss the sayings of Jesus as irrelevant.”

    I stated that one (1) statement of Christ was a non sequitur; it was simply off-topic. This does not amount to a dismissal of any of Christ’s teachings. If Christ said anything that refutes my position, I would immediately change my mind.

    “You quote popes, and they may indeed support your position, but I don’t accept what they say as having any authority.”

    Of course you don’t. So make an argument that a natural right to religious freedom exists, or that my reasoning between my premise, that there is no such right, and my conclusion, that states should not support religious freedom, is flawed. There’s plenty there for you to argue against.

    “If you want to argue that yours is the position of the Roman Catholic church, even if it contradicts the position of Jesus…”

    You have yet to show that my position contradicts that of Christ. I merely pointed out that the passage Jerry quoted says nothing of the topic at hand.

    “…then all I can say is, thank God that I am not a Catholic!”

    If the teaching of the Church contradicts the teaching of Christ, we would all be morally obliged to leave the Catholic Church in favor of one that doesn’t. Again, if you can show me that Christ supported religious freedom, I would support it too.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 12:04 pm
  50. Peter Kirk wrote:

    Tom, I won’t try to out-argue you on natural rights etc because I am not an expert on moral theology, and because I don’t have time. But you have given me quite a challenge in the last paragraph, with the promise that I can empty the Catholic church. Will even the pope become Protestant or Orthodox if I can find a teaching of your church which contradicts that of Christ? Let’s see. I’ll start with an easy one: Jesus said

    do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven (Matthew 23:9, TNIV).

    But you Catholics call your priests “Father” and your pope “Holy Father”. Perhaps you will argue that that’s not a matter of doctrine, but let’s try this for as start as I don’t have time for more on this now.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 12:42 pm
  51. Tom Smith wrote:

    I was referring specifically to the matter at hand, religious freedom, but the same principle holds in all matters of doctrine.

    “But you Catholics call your priests ‘Father’ and your pope ‘Holy Father’. Perhaps you will argue that that’s not a matter of doctrine, but let’s try this for as start as I don’t have time for more on this now.”

    Ever call your dad “father?”

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 1:53 pm
  52. Tom Smith wrote:

    Note: In telling you that I would immediately assent to any teaching of Christ that contradicts my current beliefs, my intent was not to have you slam me with passages from the New Testament, if, for no other reason that that it is utterly and completely irrelevant to the topic we’re discussing now. If you want to take it up in some other place, that’s fine.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 2:03 pm
  53. Anthrakeus wrote:

    1. Keep in mind, those states with the greatest religious freedom four centuries ago are the ones which we are least likely to find pleasant. Switzerland and Netherlands aren’t exactly Christian paradises, and the Dutch are practically xenophobic. Spain isn’t too bad, and its problems are mostly due to forced secularism, from which they are returning. Poland has never really endured secularism, and they have what most of us here could agree are the best (i.e., most Christian friendly) laws in Europe.

    In fact, state religion and popular religion don’t have to be the same to keep a place founded in Natural Law. Look at Ireland.

    However, where religious tolerance has been strongest, secularism followed, and with secularism the decay of morality in the public sphere.

    2. Peter, there is no contradiction. One does not have the right to hold error privately either. However, the Church doesn’t require (or recommend) rooting out private error. Of course, if you find error staring you in the face, even privately, you have the duty to correct it according to your ability (e.g., don’t argue with street preachers; you’re not able to win).

    Oh, and rights aren’t granted. Rights are inherint (cf., “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”). Priveleges are granted. Your state may grant you the privelege of religious licence, it may even call it a “right”, but that doesn’t make it a right. Only God can endow rights, and then usually (always?) to all men equally (cf. “Divine Right of Kings” and its general rejection).

    You can’t (nor can society) grant Tom the *right* to be in error. You may, however, grant him the privelege of not being corrected (forcibly or otherwise). Although, I wish you wouldn’t. If we’re wrong, I for one would like to know it.

    3. “the only way for us to live together in peace is to have a measure of toleration for other religions.”

    No. The only way for us to live in peace is to take the first step of all being Catholic. Religious tolerance hasn’t exactly helped in places like Nigeria.

    4. And just because the oppressive secularist regimes of the world would forcibly remove a Catholic government, doesn’t make them right or us wrong. Just ‘cuz ya can’t do something doesn’t mean ya shouldn’t.

    5. “Maybe smearing you to your electronic face doesn’t help to change your mind, but it does help the many others who are listening in to this conversation to understand what your views may amount to”

    I don’t think anyone reading was actually having a difficult time with that. The secularist world of today doesn’t exactly engender warm fuzzy feelings for absolutist positions.

    6. “I think you are wrong here. Here in England a multiplicity of religions have been tolerated for more than three centuries – although not Roman Catholicism because it was a threat to the state.”

    England allowed for multiple forms of Protestantism. However, not all forms were allowed (Puritans, Quakers, et al.). I don’t recall when Judaism was tolerated in England, but I doubt that in 1700 you would have found much tolerance even of Islam, let alone some of the more colorful religions of the world (think Voodoo).

    That’s not so tolerant.

    Ancient Greece really didn’t have much contact with foreign religion, at least not of such a kind as they adopted any aspects of them. Rome did, and it only tolerated it in so far as forcing Buddhists to go to Church on Sunday would be seen as tolerant. Romans allowed the continued worship of the local pagan dieties only under the condition that Roman gods (esp. Caesar) be worshiped, too. There also tended to be amalgamations of local and Roman cults (e.g., the cult of Diana and the cult of Ashtaroth around Ephesus were merged).

    That’s not so tolerant, either.

    The Islamic Caliphate wasn’t tolerant. Within Islamic thought at the time the religion was Monotheism. Islam was the God-given form of worship, but so long as you were a Monotheist it was okay. The acceptance of Islam (Arabic =”submission) was a personal choice. If you weren’t a monotheist you’d be summarily killed. Not what Tom and I are advocating.

    I feel as if I am about to repeat myself.

    7. Victorian England and America had tolerance of Protestantism (and to some degree Catholicism and Judaism, more in England than America). When non-Protestant faiths started joining the mix all of a sudden public morality went out the window. And I think, if not tolerance, secularism is THE major cause of religious decline in Europe today. Furthermore, religious tolerance is one of many things that raises the ire of Islamic Fundamentalists (and in that, perhaps they aren’t wrong. Methods bad. Reasons ?).

    8. Peter, while I appreciate your digging up that old argument, it would take us much farther afield than we are already, and even if you won it would only mean that Catholics would stop calling priests “Father”, not leave the Church. While now is not the time for it, if you want to give Biblical arguments against Catholicism you need to find something more integral than what we call people.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 2:08 pm
  54. Bryan Davis wrote:

    Tom – Sorry for my delayed reply to your question. I hope the conversation hasn’t moved so far forward as to make a reply irrelevant.

    You wrote:

    “Wow. That’s the Church that scares the hell into me.”

    Why? I suspect that you assume that the Church’s stance against the existence of a natural right to religious freedom is somehow violently oppressive. The Church does not teach that violence is an acceptable measure for the eradication of the public expression of non-state religions, merely that the proper course in a confessional state is the outlawing of the public expression of non-state religions. In private, one would be completely free to practice whichever religion suits him.

    Is that really that scary? I wouldn’t call that scary. Intolerant, defitinitely, but scary?

    Tom – I don’t think it has to be violently oppressive, though it certainly has been in the past, on the part of Catholics, Protestants, and probably a majority of major religions. I don’t know how long of a period of contrition is necessary after Inquisitions and the like, but it makes me nervous when I hear of a Christian religion proposing religious intolerance, much as I imagine it makes Japanese folk antsy when they hear talk about offensive army maneuvers.

    If violence is laid aside, how is the state to enforce the state religion, and the ban on proselytizing competing religions. Public humiliation? Hefty fines?

    I’d say that the reason this scares me most is that it seems to abandon the Christ in favor of Christianity. I think Jerry’s quotation of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (which I’ve read as separating the matters of the world and the spirit, though I’m certain there are other interpretations), Funky’s later paraphrase of Jesus’s sticks and stones, and his quotation of the parable of the tares are excellent indications on Jesus’ position. I think his denouncements of the Pharisees’ formalization of the scripture and law are the sort mental posters the leadership of every formal Christian Church should have posted in the offices of their minds. I think intolerance of error not only within the clergy, but the laity and even the public sphere in the vicinity of the Church runs you into the same arena in which the Pharisees made their mistakes. I’m opposed to legislating based on slippery-slope arguments, but I’m not opposed to people using them as voluntary guidelines, and I think it is a guideline that a Church considering mandatory public allegiance to dogma would do well to consider.

    Sorry that’s not a formal argument, but hopefully it’s a valid answer to the question.

    Later, you said:

    Why do you feel that there exists a natural right to religious freedom? Can you demonstrate the existence of this right, either rationally, empirically, or from some tradition?

    Can the existence of any right be conclusively argued, without acceptance of a legal foundation, since a right is essentially a guarantee that some form of authority makes to its protectorate? If we’re talking about the United States in particular, I think that the right has been traditionaly established in the first amendment. If we’re talking more generally, I think the argument has to focus not on the existance of the right but on the necessity of such a right to be guaranteed by any given authority.

    In the case of the authority of the Catholic Church and religious tolerance, my opinion is that the poor decisions and abuses of authority in the past are good argument for them granting this right.

    Even later:

    Who’s the problem here? The one who merely states his belief, or the one who decides to let himself hate because he disagrees? I can’t make apologies for stating my beliefs, even though they’re considered positively medieval by the vast majority of modern people.

    That which I believe is just that: that which I believe. I have attempted to enunciate these beliefs in a rational, non-polemical and non-inflammatory way. If I have offended, it is not because I have been insulting, but merely because you find that which I support highly offensive.

    I agree with you entirely. Thanks for presenting even controversial opinions in a clear and non-inflammatory manner!

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 3:49 pm
  55. Bryan Davis wrote:

    Tom wrote:

    Fair enough — but keep in mind that you’re not discussing this matter with a third party, with whom a smear might be more appropriate and effective. You’re debating me, and smearing my views to my electronic face isn’t doing your position any good. Please argue against my points; you have nothing to lose by doing so, and you may gain my agreement.

    and

    “Tom, you are entitled to your beliefs.”

    In the interest of consistency, I must conditionally disagree. If my beliefs are wrong, then I do not have a right to hold them. Which is why I am trying to get people on this thread to actually engage my arguments, rather than smear them and call me names; I want to find out the truth of the matter. I have laid out my position, which is, I believe. the correct one (obviously). Tell me why you think I’m wrong; you may get me to change my mind.

    Bravo! Impressive rebuttals and argumentative consistancy!

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 4:15 pm
  56. Peter Kirk wrote:

    Anthrakeus, if you are going to accept as an authority what some 18th century Americans considered to be self-evident rights (which I don’t), then don’t forget the bit about

    Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    You and Tom may not be threatening life, but your policies certainly threaten liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to liberty, if there is one, certainly implies the right to error.

    Nigeria? Religious tolerance? You must be joking! Islamic law is imposed on Christians in many provinces, and their churches and homes are regularly attacked murderously – and there is sometimes regrettable retaliation. This is a good example of how religious intolerance leads to civil strife and the breakdown of society.

    Judaism in England was tolerated by Cromwell. In the 18th century practically everything except Catholicism, even Islam, was tolerated, although probably highly public displays would have caused problems.

    There can never be world peace by imposed submission to one man in Rome, although perhaps by voluntary submission to one Man in heaven.

    I accept that my argument about calling priests “Father” was not a very serious one, but then I was very aware that Tom was not serious about suggesting that all Catholics would leave their church whatever I or anyone else might say. I could bring up some more serious theological issues, but I don’t have time to. Anyway, I don’t want to undermine the Catholic church, much of which is doing a good job of presenting Christian truth to the world. The problem is that a few people like you and Tom are undermining that good by resurrecting the spectre of Catholicism imposed by the state, something which even 400 years after the Gunpowder Plot (which I notice you and Tom have not mentioned) still raises strong and raw emotions here in England.

    Posted 29 Jul 2006 at 6:28 pm
  57. Tom Smith wrote:

    “Tom – Sorry for my delayed reply to your question. I hope the conversation hasn’t moved so far forward as to make a reply irrelevant.”

    Not at all. Thanks for rejoining the debate.

    “Tom – I don’t think it has to be violently oppressive, though it certainly has been in the past, on the part of Catholics, Protestants, and probably a majority of major religions. I don’t know how long of a period of contrition is necessary after Inquisitions and the like, but it makes me nervous when I hear of a Christian religion proposing religious intolerance, much as I imagine it makes Japanese folk antsy when they hear talk about offensive army maneuvers.”

    I think I understand your nervousness in this matter. I don’t blame you; it is true that states denying freedom of religion have a rather checkered past. I can only imagine how much of a zealot I sound like.

    “If violence is laid aside, how is the state to enforce the state religion, and the ban on proselytizing competing religions.”

    This is a definite step ahead of what I’ve primarily been thinking about in this matter.

    To be totally honest, I don’t have an answer for you right now, although I fully appreciate the fact that I do need to give one if I’m going to hold to the position I do.

    “I’d say that the reason this scares me most is that it seems to abandon the Christ in favor of Christianity. I think Jerry’s quotation of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (which I’ve read as separating the matters of the world and the spirit, though I’m certain there are other interpretations), Funky’s later paraphrase of Jesus’s sticks and stones, and his quotation of the parable of the tares are excellent indications on Jesus’ position.”

    Perhaps we merely disagree in our interpretations. I honestly don’t think that Christ’s discussion of Caesar is directly relevant to the matter at hand. Jerry argued that Christ acknowledged the separation of religion and political government; I agreed, adding that Christ made no judgment on it.

    “I think his denouncements of the Pharisees’ formalization of the scripture and law are the sort mental posters the leadership of every formal Christian Church should have posted in the offices of their minds. I think intolerance of error not only within the clergy, but the laity and even the public sphere in the vicinity of the Church runs you into the same arena in which the Pharisees made their mistakes. I’m opposed to legislating based on slippery-slope arguments, but I’m not opposed to people using them as voluntary guidelines, and I think it is a guideline that a Church considering mandatory public allegiance to dogma would do well to consider.”

    In what I’ve been discussing, there would need be no mandatory public allegiance to any particular creed — the state would not act as an agent imposing a particular religion, but as one supporting a particular religion. The difference may seem inconsequential in today’s climate of guaranteed religious freedom, but it is, I think, crucial.

    “Sorry that’s not a formal argument, but hopefully it’s a valid answer to the question.”

    I think it is. You’ve given me food for thought.

    “Later, you said:

    ‘Why do you feel that there exists a natural right to religious freedom? Can you demonstrate the existence of this right, either rationally, empirically, or from some tradition?’

    Can the existence of any right be conclusively argued, without acceptance of a legal foundation, since a right is essentially a guarantee that some form of authority makes to its protectorate?”

    I think we’re arguing from utterly different notions of the word “right.” I’m arguing from the perspective of pure natural rights, while you’re arguing from the idea of legal right, more or less. (If I’m misrepresenting you, please correct me.) Natural rights are those which exist independently of human action — all possess them merely by virtue of their membership in humanity. Natural rights may or may not be supported by particular governing bodies. For instance, one could argue that there is a natural right to, say, property. A state can choose to respect that natural right, and enshrine it as a legal right, or it can ignore that natural right and act as though it doesn’t exist.

    “If we’re talking about the United States in particular, I think that the right has been traditionaly established in the first amendment.”

    As a legal right, yes. But the US Constitution does not have any bearing on the existence of natural rights.

    “If we’re talking more generally, I think the argument has to focus not on the existance of the right but on the necessity of such a right to be guaranteed by any given authority.”

    I would contend that it is merely pretense to create a legal right where a natural right does not exist.

    “In the case of the authority of the Catholic Church and religious tolerance, my opinion is that the poor decisions and abuses of authority in the past are good argument for them granting this right.”

    I see your point; however, as I said above, I think it’s erroneous to pretend that people have rights, which, in reality, they don’t.

    “Even later:

    ‘Who’s the problem here? The one who merely states his belief, or the one who decides to let himself hate because he disagrees? I can’t make apologies for stating my beliefs, even though they’re considered positively medieval by the vast majority of modern people.

    That which I believe is just that: that which I believe. I have attempted to enunciate these beliefs in a rational, non-polemical and non-inflammatory way. If I have offended, it is not because I have been insulting, but merely because you find that which I support highly offensive.’

    I agree with you entirely. Thanks for presenting even controversial opinions in a clear and non-inflammatory manner!”

    I try. Thanks for your reply — I think this discussion is very interesting.

    “Bravo! Impressive rebuttals and argumentative consistancy!”

    Bryan, you’ll have to forgive me. . . I have no idea whether you’re being sarcastic or entirely genuine here.

    Posted 30 Jul 2006 at 5:56 pm
  58. Bryan Davis wrote:

    “Bravo! Impressive rebuttals and argumentative consistancy!”

    Bryan, you’ll have to forgive me. . . I have no idea whether you’re being sarcastic or entirely genuine here.

    Sorry, Tom – I realized the potential doublereading there, but didn’t want to resort to smileys. I was being genuine and admiring both the restraint and direct incisive replies.

    You wrote both:

    I think we’re arguing from utterly different notions of the word “right.” I’m arguing from the perspective of pure natural rights, while you’re arguing from the idea of legal right, more or less. (If I’m misrepresenting you, please correct me.) Natural rights are those which exist independently of human action — all possess them merely by virtue of their membership in humanity.

    and

    I see your point; however, as I said above, I think it’s erroneous to pretend that people have rights, which, in reality, they don’t.

    Unless in the latter case you were talking about a particular non-existant natural right of religious freedom (which does not seem to be the case), these seem entirely inconsistant statements.

    However, they are statements consistant with the position I hold, if you replace “rights” in the latter quotation with “natural rights”. I cannot see how natural rights exist. I understand rights in any context to mean a guarantee to a certain situation or thing enforced by someone else. For example, a right to property exists only when someone has stated that they will prevent or punish any encroachment on your property, or legitimate your doing of the same, or pay reparations. If you are out in the great lonely by yourself with no friends, family, or government to back you up and someone takes your property, you have no rights. If you fight to take it back and fail, you have no recourse other than to try to gather backup and re-establish dominance over the lost property. Unless, of course, the argument is that God is the enforcer, in which case “natural rights” are “God-given rights”.

    I think such “natural rights” as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” do not exist as such, but rather are short-hand for a moral justification for legal rights. If those legal rights don’t exist, though, again – you have no recourse and your “rights” are null.

    That’s my position, but perhaps you can clarify what you mean by natural rights if I haven’t addressed them properly. If this has gone too far off-topic on an already off-topic thread, I’m happy to continue by email.

    Also, I’m afraid I don’t understand the significant difference between a state religion and a state-supported religion that permits no other religions to be publicly practiced. Could you explain that a bit?

    Posted 30 Jul 2006 at 8:57 pm
  59. Anthrakeus wrote:

    “If violence is laid aside, how is the state to enforce the state religion, and the ban on proselytizing competing religions.”

    There are many possible ways. I’m not sure which I support, but they are possible.

    1. If by force you mean physical harm, then imprisonment is possible. This might, however, be classified as force.

    2. Education (even to the point of propaganda, but this is not necessary). If the schools have compulsory courses in the Catholic faith this would be enough to avoid most error.

    3. Don’t have freedom of expression in the first place. If people can’t publish books they won’t publish Protestant books.

    4. Exile. While I hate it when people say “Well, if ya don’t like it here, then just leave!”, there is a simple logic to this position.

    While these may not be palatable to you, ask yourself if it’s solely because you support “freedom”. If you assume that freedom is a good thing per se, it’s begging the question to ask if religious freedom is okay.

    ——————————————–

    “I think Jerry’s quotation of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s… which I’ve read as separating the matters of the world and the spirit”

    This quote is germane to the topic. Christ does mean that the concerns of the State are not a pure subset of religion. Nonetheless, religious freedom is NOT a concern solely of the state, but also of the Church. Certainly the Church has little to say in tax policy. However, this is an issue of public morals. The question is whether religious freedom is more like murder (moral, but likewise social) or like impenitence (a moral issue for which no law is possible).

    If you are about to argue that murder causes direct harm, remember another saying of Christ “do not fear them that can kill the body, but fear them that can cast both body and soul into hell.”

    ——————————————-

    “If we’re talking more generally, I think the argument has to focus not on the existance of the right but on the necessity of such a right to be guaranteed by any given authority.”

    I don’t agree with your understanding of right, but we can work with it for the time being. The question for you is whether this is a right granted by God.

    ——————————————-

    Peter, I don’t accept the philosophical underpinnings of American Democracy. I don’t see liberty as a good, only as a means to an end. As for happiness, it is my belief, and the belief of all true faithful (of any religion) that their belief system leads to happiness (even if others do, as well). I am well aware that I am a threat to liberty. I, however, see unchecked liberty as threat to happiness, and perhaps even life.

    ——————————————–
    “Nigeria? Religious tolerance?”

    That was my point. There once was religious liberty in Nigeria; now there isn’t. I was intimating that religious liberty eventually leads to complete religious oppression. The only safeguard is to strengthen the state religion against those who would topple it.

    I’m not sure that such a position holds water, but in theocracies religion tends to be stable if nothing else.

    ——————————————

    “There can never be world peace by imposed submission to one man in Rome, although perhaps by voluntary submission to one Man in heaven.”

    You posit a dichotomy where none exists. The will of Christ is express through His vicar on earth (even if at times poorly). However, this is immaterial. Replace Catholicism in my arguments with your favorite religion. My arguments for religious unity are philosophical not theological. They don’t require that the state religion be Catholic (although, obviously I would recommend it). What I argue is that only that religious system which is true should be tolerated within the state. If you think that’s Anglicanism or Zen Buddhism or the worship of the Great Purple Hamster, so be it. Only truth should be tolerated. Falsehood should be opposed.

    ———————————————

    “In the case of the authority of the Catholic Church and religious tolerance, my opinion is that the poor decisions and abuses of authority in the past are good argument for them granting this right.”

    There’s a Latin saying “Abusus non tollit usum” (Abuse does not remove [right] use). Just because a religious body or a state abuses a right does not mean they lose it. In the personal sphere it’s way we allow criminals to still own property. They may have used their gun to wound someone, but we don’t take away all their possessions (even if we stop them from owning firearms, they can still own knifes and toenail clippers- very dangerous weapons indeed).

    Even if the Church has abused its power (which I don’t grant, btw), it has not lost that power, nor for that matter proven it did not have it in the first place.

    ———————————————

    “I cannot see how natural rights exist.”

    If the state decided to imprison you without cause, would you oppose it? If you do, it’s because you see yourself as having a right not to be imprisoned without cause, apart from the legal guarantee thereof.

    Posted 31 Jul 2006 at 1:21 am
  60. Peter Kirk wrote:

    But if people choose to resist imprisonment or exile, how is the state to enforce its will without violence? On the other hand, probably most people will choose voluntary exile from your thought control state in which Catholic propaganda is imposed against their will and no other thoughts can be expressed in print. But then what other country is going to accept exiles by the millions?

    Posted 31 Jul 2006 at 5:13 am
  61. Anthrakeus wrote:

    Your point of the need for force is valid, but it is true of any legal system. Can you conceive of any legal inforcement that does not require some form of violence as a back up plan?

    The reason for saying that violence won’t be used for enforcement of religious conformity is to to say, more to the point, that is won’t be a witch hunt. No burning at the stake, no public whippings. While force may always be necessary in law enforcement, there are places where it is the first resort, not the last. I’m not recommending that.

    Posted 31 Jul 2006 at 2:16 pm
  62. Bryan Davis wrote:

    Anthrakeus, you are correct – any legal system that binds the unwilling (which is the only kind that is truly necessary) requires force or the threat of force to maintain order. That’s why involving the state in matters of the spiritual is a fundamentally scary. There are certainly arguments for a utopian society in which the involvement of the Church and the State work out well. I would also argue that socialism (not despotic communism) on paper has the potential for utopia, but in reality it’s been a bit more disastrous. So with marriages of Church and State.

    You wrote:

    If you are about to argue that murder causes direct harm, remember another saying of Christ “do not fear them that can kill the body, but fear them that can cast both body and soul into hell.”

    I don’t think the Christ here is saying that murder ain’t no thang. I think it’s a little more like, “Don’t worry about the guys who will just take your wallet. Worry about the ones who take your wallet and stab you in the gut afterward.”

    I was intimating that religious liberty eventually leads to complete religious oppression. The only safeguard is to strengthen the state religion against those who would topple it

    Really? The only states I can think of which remained relatively stable over any extensive period of time had polytheistic state religions that promoted tolerance and inclusion (as long as the other religion wasn’t too weird. (e.g., Rome, Egypt, China. I’m not too sure how Persia and some of the New World states fit in here – I’m not up on New World religions, I’m afraid.)

    Only truth should be tolerated. Falsehood should be opposed

    Terrific. Please provide some method for reliably testing and verifying unique truth in religion. Certainly, under such an absolute system, even the “most true” religion is not acceptable.

    There’s a Latin saying “Abusus non tollit usum” (Abuse does not remove [right] use)

    That it can be expressed in Latin does not make it a truism. Even if it is a relatively common folk saying (though I can’t remember crossing it in several years of classical Latin study, I was certainly no ace student), it’s not true in the way you use it, even in the example you provide. Violent criminals are refused the right to own weapons. If you’re caught on probation carrying a knife, you’d better believe it won’t bode well for you. Criminals who abuse other objects, even traditional non-weapons (like computers) are frequently no longer granted access to the objects of their abuse. People are even denied access to certain other people or places for abusing their access to them.

    The better understanding of the above phrase explains the following: just because a criminal uses a butcher’s knife to rob a store doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a legitimate use in my kitchen. Not the criminal’s kitchen. Just because a hacker broke into the Pentagon with his computer doesn’t mean that I can’t use mine to explore interesting paths in philosophy and theology.

    Does that make sense?

    If the state decided to imprison you without cause, would you oppose it?

    Unless I had been granted the right to freedom without cause for imprisonment (which, thankfully, I’ve been legally granted), I wouldn’t appeal to any “right” in my attempt to free myself. I would appeal to my desire to live a life in which I can make my own decisions, and if I needed outside help, I would appeal to empathy in other people who share that same desire. Are you arguing that inborn (or even societally-trained) social desires are natural rights?

    Posted 31 Jul 2006 at 8:46 pm
  63. sibert wrote:

    Okay, this may get lost in the deluge of comments, and since it is not on-topic I apologize. But brothers, please pray for Mel Gibson. I’ve read the reports and heard the news stories, as have you, but don’t let yourself start to get that celeb-had-it-coming gloat like I did the first time I heard about it. I was almost immediately ashamed and convicted. So, please pray for him and defend him (not his actions, obviously) on any blogs you visit or wherever. God Bless.

    Posted 31 Jul 2006 at 9:06 pm
  64. Anthrakeus wrote:

    1. Persia was monotheistic (sort of; they had a dualistic religion with a lesser evil “god”). China for most of its successful history was Confucian (which is mostly a philosophy) with successive substrates of ancestor worship (similar to Japanese Shinto), Taoism (dualistic philosophico-religious system) and Buddhism, although Taoism was usually more popular of the three. While Rome, Greece, and Egypt were polytheistic, they weren’t really that tolerant. Polytheistic religions tend not to have much in the line of overarching religion, but, as far as the Romans go, what was there was always Roman. What made them “tolerant” is they would take on native cults in addition to the conquerors’ religion. Sometimes these cults spread to Rome itself (the cult of Isis was quite popular in Rome). However, the Romans strictly controled the Jews and by the time of Christianity were engaged in periodic persecutions of both Christians and Jews. The Temple priesthood, before the Romans burnt down the Temple, were put into power by Rome, and their continued office required their support of Rome. We don’t generally consider China a tolerant nation, and religion in the Roman Empire bore much more of a resemblance to the PRC than the USA.

    The Greeks and Egyptians were monoreligious societies. Prior to Roman conquest, Greece had some mystery cults possibly of Middle Eastern influence, but that was about it. However, when it came to religion the Greeks were scarcely tolerant. Remember, Socrates was charged (amongst other things) with impiety, because he didn’t sacrifice to the gods. The Egyptians had one bit of dabbling in monotheism, but ended it by slaughtering the devotees of Aten. The Hellenic invaders adopted Egyptian customs, including religion, without much change. By the time Rome began influencing Egyptian religion it was already waning, and Christianity was well nigh.

    2. “Violent criminals are refused the right to own weapons. If you’re caught on probation carrying a knife, you’d better believe it won’t bode well for you.”

    I meant kitchen knives. I think it also depends on the conditions of your parole. However, parole isn’t exactly release. It’s part of one’s sentence, served out in the real world but under strict supervision. Once a criminal finishes parole there are very few limitations on his or her behavior. (I think gun ownership and voting are restricted to non-felons).

    3. I wasn’t (at least consciously) trying to sound impressive by using Latin. I was merely giving the citation. The phrase is generally used by moral theologians (which is probably why you haven’t heard it), and they use it as I have. However, if you think that abuse removes right use for an individual, I’m gonna have to remove voting rights from a bunch of people who voted for [insert president you don’t like here].

    4. “I would appeal to my desire to live a life in which I can make my own decisions, and if I needed outside help, I would appeal to empathy in other people who share that same desire”

    By that logic serial killers can appeal to their desire to kill lots of people, and the empathy of other serial killers (or people who flock to serial killers, who seem to have groupies; I don’t know why).

    Merely because you want something and get others to agree with you doesn’t mean that you’re right. I do think, however, that were you to be arrested in China without cause (a state that doesn’t guarantee you the right of “habeas corpus”, nor really cares how you want to live your life) I do imagine you’d object.

    5. I believe rights are given by God, and for the most part are natural consequences of human nature. We have the right to freedom from imprisonment because human nature is not designed for captivity, but liberty. That we happen to have an innate (or at least very early learned) desire for our natural rights is both convenient and somewhat part of the plan. However, wanting something (even if everyone agrees) doesn’t give a person any rights, nor does it make that thing good. Only God can do that.

    Posted 01 Aug 2006 at 2:13 am
  65. Bryan Davis wrote:

    1.) Anthrakeus, I’ll have to disagree with you on your assessmement of the historical religions – it was a field in which I did some extensive study (which doesn’t necessarily make me an expert, or more expert than you, it just gives me confidence in my understanding). However, it requires too much detail to discuss, and is too off-topic for this post (but fine to continue by email?)

    2.) I think imprisonment and parole measure the period under which the abuse is still relavent to society – the worse the crime, the longer the period. So the abuse removes use for the criminal is still applicable.

    3.) [Grin] I don’t know if it’s lucky or unlucky for our democracy, but making poor choices apparently doesn’t constitute abuse of the voting system. Making poor choices multiple times in the same election, however – that will get you put in the pokey.

    4.)

    By that logic serial killers can appeal to their desire to kill lots of people

    Sure they can. When I said I would appeal to my desire, I didn’t mean as legal grounds. I meant as a personal motivation to effect my escape, or at least to attempt to do so. I would object, and I’d object my head off, but my objection wouldn’t be based on a right that wasn’t granted to me. Likewise, I would expect any judge to laugh his head off at a serial killer’s plea that the mass homocide fulfilled his emotional needs. But I doubt the serial killer would resign himself to jail simply because he didn’t have a legal “right” to be free (unless he’d come to realize that what he did was in fact wrong).

    5. So, wait – natural rights are given by God, and are the natural consequences of human nature? I think you lost me there. Isn’t human nature fallen? Isn’t human nature not to be chaste? I don’t think we have a natural right to fling off chastity. Could you point out any links that explain natural rights as you understand them, and I’ll do some reading up?

    Posted 01 Aug 2006 at 9:14 pm
  66. Tom Smith wrote:

    Sorry I’ve been lax in responding in the past day or two. We’ve been in the process of moving out of our apartment into a house in another part of town.

    We probably won’t have an internet connexion for a few days, so I’ll probably not be able to post before then.

    Thanks for your patience.

    Posted 02 Aug 2006 at 11:28 am
  67. Jerry wrote:

    Anthrakeus, you wrote:


    2. Education (even to the point of propaganda, but this is not necessary). If the schools have compulsory courses in the Catholic faith this would be enough to avoid most error.”

    Compulsory Christian education in schools is done in Europe. How is your suggestion going to avoid “most” error, as opposed to the cesspit of error that is Europe? Again, as with my recollection of the history and fates of most confessional Christian governments, I don’t see how you and Tom are more than starry-eyed utopians here.

    BTW, what do you make of that little bit about Jesus’ kingdom not being of this world, which is what he told Pilate? Sure, the Church has a prophetic office, and we should give our perspectives to the state and do what we can to ensure a just society, but perhaps some Augustinian “pessimism” is in order as to how can be done in the societal sphere?

    Ironically this smells like Haugen’s “Let us build a city of God” dreck. Or was it Haas that wrote that one? I can’t keep ’em straight.

    Sure, Anthrakeus et al are with a traditionalist focus rather than a hippy one, but the attempt to turn the Church into a political entity, either in the service of the King or in the service of the Democratic National Committee, is equally unhealthy–dare I say disastrous?

    Posted 02 Aug 2006 at 7:54 pm
  68. Tom Smith wrote:

    “BTW, what do you make of that little bit about Jesus’ kingdom not being of this world, which is what he told Pilate?”

    What do you make of His little bit about being given all authority on heaven and earth?

    “Sure, the Church has a prophetic office, and we should give our perspectives to the state and do what we can to ensure a just society, but perhaps some Augustinian ‘pessimism’ is in order as to how can be done in the societal sphere?”

    The Church’s prophetic office is derived from the second of Christ’s trimunera: Priest, Prophet, and King. What of the last of the three?

    “Sure, Anthrakeus et al are with a traditionalist focus rather than a hippy one, but the attempt to turn the Church into a political entity, either in the service of the King or in the service of the Democratic National Committee, is equally unhealthy—dare I say disastrous?”

    Jerry, when did anyone say that the Church was to be in the service of any political entity? You’ve got it backwards — political entities, and indeed states, should be at the service of the Church, not the other way around.

    Also, you talk only about Enlightenment-era states as being Christian confessional ones. I honestly can’t think of a single nation of the Baroque period which fufills the requirements I have talked about. What about medieval states?

    Posted 30 Aug 2006 at 11:00 am

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  1. From My affair with Catholicism: A short book report on Matthew 23 « The Wray-gun Enterprise on 29 Oct 2006 at 6:12 pm

    […] This “Call no man father” passage has often been thrown as a very casual and shallow “bomb” (e.g. “You call your priests ‘Father’, so you’re sinning”) – while I have been mulling this post in my mind for some time, it was prompted tonight by a comment on this post at Ales Rarus, in which the verse was tossed – but I think it has a more crucial significance. As any beginning Catholic apologist should respond, people are called “father” throughout the bible, and Jesus didn’t mean you shouldn’t call your own dad “father”. Clearly we’re not supposed to take it literally, any more than we are to literally pluck out our own eyes. […]

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