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 18

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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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