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My Take: 'Real Catholics' not opposed to birth control
There has long been a division between Catholic clergy and congregants on contraception.
February 3rd, 2012
02:06 PM ET

My Take: 'Real Catholics' not opposed to birth control

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I don’t know yet what I think of the Obama administration’s policy of requiring employers, including Catholic ones, to offer contraceptive services for free as preventive care. But I know this: It is crucial in this dispute to distinguish between the Catholic hierarchy and rank-and-file Catholics.

Catholic bishops have a clear position on contraception. Citing the encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), they contend that sex has a purpose, and that this purpose is procreation inside marriage. Therefore, any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, as is any “unnatural” means of birth control inside marriage. So while the so-called rhythm method is acceptable, condoms and IUDs and the pill are not.

But is this the Catholic position? It depends on what you mean by Catholic.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has strongly condemned the new Department of Health and Human Services rule. “Never before in our U.S. history has the Federal Government forced citizens to directly purchase what violates our beliefs,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the group's Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “At issue here ... is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty.”

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

Yet survey after survey has shown that U.S. Catholics neither agree with official church teachings on contraception nor follow them.

According to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute survey, “only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning.” A 2002 survey found that Catholic women in the United States were more likely than American women as a whole to use the birth control pill, and only slightly less likely to use a condom. In a 2000 poll that strikes even closer to the heart of this debate, 90% of American Catholic women surveyed said they wanted to see access to birth control services at community hospitals.

Turning from behaviors to beliefs, it is clear that the majority of U.S. Catholics also disagree with church teachings on contraception. According to a 2005 Harris poll, 90% of U.S. Catholics support the use of birth control.

Is Obama losing the Catholic vote?

Of course, U.S. bishops say that Catholics who think and do these things are bad Catholics. If so, the pool of "good Catholics" would seem to be shrinking to close to zero.

Are the only "real Catholics" in America the priests decrying the new Obama administration policy and the 2% of U.S. Catholic women who rely only on "natural" birth control? Who is to speak for the other 98%?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Bishops • Catholic Church • Health care • Politics • Polls • Religious liberty • United States

soundoff (467 Responses)
  1. savvy

    The moon is made of green cheese,

    NFP does not seek to intentionally block life. It simply uses nature's way of determining fertility. It also improves communication among spouses, respects a woman's body, and emphasizes total self-giving as opposed to just self-taking.

    There's a big difference, between killing Grandma and letting her die naturally.

    February 3, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      If they're not intending to block life EXACTLY why are they doing it ?

      February 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      Please stop the "grandma" analogy already..it's simplistic, and does not apply. Letting your grandmother die requires absolutely no intervention on your part. NFP requires a LOT of intentional activity, (temperature taking, charts, etc, etc.)

      February 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Perhaps the better ana.logy would be that it's like difference between letting your grandma starve (hey, it's natural) and giving her meds to help ease her pain and let her pass (artificial). Both acts require conscious effort to have grandma kick the can (poor grandma), one is just "natural"

      February 3, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      *facepalm*,
      Agree, in a sense. But the assumption is that (a) human action/activity is "unnatural". They never define what "unnatural" is. It's a set up for a false dichotomy. I have one question..."is eating 'natural' ?"
      Their assumption is that the ONLY reason se'x evolved was for procreation. It clearly has many other functions.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • P00 Nut

      "It also improves communication among spouses, respects a woman's body, and emphasizes total self-giving as opposed to just self-taking." I agree, letting your husband watch every time you squeeze out some chunky brown dumplings into the toilet really improves communication and involves giving and taking!!

      You can say it's gross all you want but if that's the glue that holds the family together, why not? Just have faith!

      And hey, it's all natural right? And best if you use the timing method, but a hot cup of coffee or a smoke will do it too...

      February 4, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  2. catholic engineer

    Malcolm Muggeridge was a well known English journalist. He used the following device to explain the Catholic Church's teaching on artificial birth control: In the Roman Empire days, they would hold large feasts. THey would eat and eat to the point of misery. Then they would go to a vomitorium and empty themselves. Then they'd go back to feasting, then repeat the process. This act completely separated eating from its purpose – to nourish the body. The use of artificial birth control does the same thing. It completely divorces the marital act from it's purpose, which is to procreate. Artifical birth control turns the act of act into a secksual vomitorium.
    THe Church has always had an exceedingly exalted view of human secksuality. Much too exalted for the secular mind.

    February 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      So the ONLY times you have ever had se'x, was when you wanted a child ? Didn't you tell us once you were older ? You and your wife then have stopped having s'ex, I presume.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  3. PrimeNumber

    Malcolm Muggeridge was a well known English journalist. He used the following device to explain the Catholic Church's teaching on artificial birth control: In the Roman Empire days, they would hold large feasts. THey would eat and eat to the point of misery. Then they would go to a vomitorium and puke. Then they'd go back to feasting, then repeat the process. This act completely separated eating from its purpose – to nourish the body. The use of artificial birth control does the same thing. It completely divorces the secks act from it's purpose, which is to procreate. Artifical birth control turns the act of intercourse into a secksual vomitorium.
    THe Church has always had an exceedingly exalted view of human secksuality. Much too exalted for the secular mind.

    February 3, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  4. savvy

    Stevie 7,

    You might want to read this article. The Catholic population in the U.S is actually growing.

    http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2010/11/pies-damned-pies-and-statistics-is.html

    February 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Stevie7

      The very limited growth is due entirely to immigration. Immigrants offset the exodus of native-born catholics from the church. (c) is still a very popular option – roughly 30 million people in this country consider themselves as ex-Catholic

      February 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  5. savvy

    bff,

    Every Catholic who has seriously studied this issue, has ended up changing their mind. At least the ones that I know.

    The church cannot force anybody to leave. There is no such thing that can stop someone from being a Catholic.

    An excommunication is a penalty put on someone, to make them repent. It does not end church membership. Such as person is still a Catholic, but under certain penalty.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Every serious Catholic who has studied the issue has:
      a. Changed there mind
      b. Ignored the teaching based upon personal convictions – convictions shared by other Catholic clergy
      c. Left the Church

      Given that around a third of people raised Catholic in this country no longer consider themselves as such, (c) is actually a pretty popular answer.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      "Every Catholic who has seriously studied this issue, has ended up changing their mind"

      Argumentum ad populum...yet again.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Giving up is not the answer. You have to re-group and get back to the fundamentals men! Now let's get out there and fight!

      February 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  6. Dr.K.

    It is so much taken for granted that I think we forget to ask ourselves – why is the church so hung up on se.xual intercourse? So many rules about chasti.ty, celibacy, birth control, coupling positions, etc etc. With all the horrible problems in the world that need to be addressed, why are religions so obsessed with se.xual intercourse?

    February 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Because it is the hardest thing for them to control.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • isn't it obvious?

      god is a ho.mophobic vo.yeuristic perv with very specific tastes

      February 3, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Let's be honest now, athletes are not always all that smart, but they do have lots of money and large erections.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  7. savvy

    The moon is made of green cheese,

    Since this debate is about contraception. Let's stick to this only. If you are interested in a theology debate, go to Catholic answers/forums for your questions.

    NFP is still open to life and does not block it on purpose. It's the difference between killing grandma and letting her die naturally.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      No let's not. YOU are the one talking about NFP, and trying to explain why it is moral. I just pointed out to you thatthat your church's position is NOT consistent, and by IT's own definition is "gravely sinful". Why would anyone "practice NFP" OTHER than to prevent conception ? Name one reason. You're hiding behind the "open to life" bullsh1t. If your wife had a hysterectomy, does she have to stop having se'x, (as there is NO WAY she can get pregnant...the se'x act is in no way "open to life".) The INTENT Of NFP is still clearly and ONLY to stop a new life.Telling me to "go away" because I know more about your church than you do ain't gonna work.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Ok Green Bay fans, we know all about the Green Cheese. What you need is more defense.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      Finally...someone connected the dots...LMAO 🙂

      February 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  8. savvy

    bff,

    It all depends on what you mean by knowledgable. Like I said, too many people did not teach about this for a long time, esp. in the West and now I think that the chickens have come home to roost.

    The priest on the radio should encourage married Catholics to use NFP and start teaching about this, as should other priests.

    My brother-in-law is an NFP teacher.

    And then if people still want to leave, then it's up to them. My issue is that this subject is not being taught across the board.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      savvy,
      The INTENT of NFP to to prevent conception. Go to your catechism, and read the 3 requirements for mortal sin. One is "intent". Game over.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • bff

      Savvy,
      I'm telling you, again, that these people are as knowledgeable as you and probably more. And there are millions of them, millions!
      These people are everywhere, and some are doctors, lawyers, even a few (very few) scientists. There are certainly some that must be at least as knowledgeable as you, considering how young you say you are.

      For arguments sake, just submit that the is 1 woman who is as knowledgable as any catholic in the world.
      The question isn't if she wants to leave or not, it's whether the church hierarchy should force her to leave based on their own laws.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Well they are not all that smart but if you have a full pre-season with mini-camps they will eventionally grasp it. The smartest guys on the team are the 0-Linemen. It is all about them and the QB. On the other hand, great athletes can make up for their mental shortcomings. Always a chess match.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  9. savvy

    bff,

    It just proves that most people are sinners, and not perfect. We are all in need of redemption, which is a life-long process we have to work at.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • bff

      OK, BUT WHAT ABOUT THESE 98% WOMEN IN YOUR CHURCH???? They will not repent on this. They will believe birth control is good until the day they die. They WANT the church to change, for that matter.

      Do they belong in this church or not?
      I know what your leaders would say, the ones you are following. You seem to be looser on the rules.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      Ok look, if you are raised a Yankees fan, nothing will change that. If you are raised a Red Sox fan, nothing will change that. Quit whining about it and just go root for your team. Jeez.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  10. savvy

    bff,

    Your definition of a good Catholic is too narrow. This is not even the church's definition. Nobody can be excommunicated for just disagreement nor is one obliged to leave because of it.

    This is what I have been trying to get across to you.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • bff

      Then the whole thing is a house of cards. You have a pope that is INFALLABLE and who proclaims that these are the beliefs and laws of the catholic church!

      And on the other hand you have at least 50% (in America, and possibly the world) that are knowledgeable of this and STILL disagree.

      This is quite a problem, no? Do these people belong in this church or should they break off and form another? I just listened today to a catholic radio station where the priest said that either your on board with this or you should look elsewhere.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      The Pats might be built on a house of cards if Brumkowski is going to be out. Good call on that. I thinkg the secondaries will make the difference. Turnovers.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  11. savvy

    The moon is made of green cheese,

    It's the posters here using the appeal to popularity argument.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  12. Andy

    You're never too old to learn something stupid. Especially from a bunch of unmarried guys. Good Catholics use birth control.
    Grow up and think for yourselves. Myths and story tellers have to use fear inorder for you to follow.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • bff

      Andy,
      That's my current argument with savvy. I say that there are no good catholics that use contraception because they openly defy the laws laid out by their unmarried man-leaders. Therefore the must be excommunicated or they must leave the church. And the fact that about 98% of women fall into this category, well all you have left is a mens club.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • savvy

      Andy,

      There is no such thing as a good Catholic. There are other alternatives to artificial birth control.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2012/02/why-contraception-is-a-bad-idea-1-natural-law.html#disqus_thread

      February 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  13. savvy

    bff,

    I am very young. For example Theology of the Body, NFP is more popular about younger practicing catholics than older ones.

    There's been a period of bad teaching. I do think church teaching and explanation on this subject needs to be promoted. People have been silent for too long. Perhaps this is an opportunity to let this happen.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • bff

      Savvy, I said 98% of women that have EVER had s.e.x have used birth control. I know you are young, but do you fathom that? Do you understand the implications?

      How old are you, honestly?

      February 3, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      savvy,
      It doesn't matter what is "popular" or not. EVERYONE once thought the earth was flat, nd they were ALL wring. It's called the 'argumentum ad populum".

      February 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      oops. wring = wrong

      February 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  14. Colin

    Savvy, I believe in Leprechauns.

    I believe that the Leprechaun King created the entire Universe about 6,000 years ago. I know there is a substantial amount of evidence suggesting that the Universe is significantly older than this, but I think a lot of that evidence comes from bad science, or from a worldwide conspiracy of scientists who want to deny Leprechauns. I know this because it is written in the Leprechaun Chronicles, a book cobbled together from various authors, most unknown, by our church during the Dark Ages.

    The Leprechaun King lives in Leprechaun Heaven, where he where he busies himself answering prayers, running the Universe and recording the lives of humans for their final judgment before him. He is surrounded by an entire society of magical beings – his son Merlin, the Holy Leprechaun Spirit, the good fairy Mary, thousands of Leprechaun saints, fairies, pixies and the souls of many millions of dead people.

    Each Leprechaun saint and pixie has a special task. For example, Saint Christopher is the patron-pixie of travelers and it is his job to intercede with the Leprechaun king on behalf of travelers to keep them safe. Most countries and professions similarly have a special Leprechaun who pays them special attention – even lawyers. There are strict rules governing the roles, responsibilities of the various Leprechauns, elves, pixies and other heavenly beings.

    I believe that the Leprechaun King loves me and hears my prayers. He intervenes in my life periodically by saving me from various ills. All I have to do is think to myself and he reads my mind and answers my prayers. He loves me and when I die, provided I have lived a good life, I will go to Leprechaun Heaven, where I will live happily ever after with all other humans who have ever led good lives.

    I know there is not a lot of evidence to support my beliefs, but that is just the point. The Leprechaun King wants us to have “faith,” so he never reveals himself. To make an unambiguous appearance and settle once and for all the question of his existence would deprive us of free will and, even though he is all-knowing, he would not know who his true believers were.

    In fact, I believe that the Leprechaun King is “beyond understanding”. He is “outside the Universe” and any time I am faced with something about my Leprechaun belief that makes no sense, I don’t dare question it, I just close my mind and tell myself that my mind is too small to understand the greatness of the Leprechaun King. These answers are satisfying to me.

    Some people are called “atheists,” and they are skeptical of my belief in the Leprechaun King. They point out many inherent contradictions and unsupported assumptions that underwrite my belief in Leprechauns. But, they can’t prove he doesn’t exist, so he must exist. And so what! Even if I am wrong, and go my whole life believing in Leprechauns and it turns out I am wrong, I have lost nothing. However, if they are wrong, the Leprechaun King will send them to hell to burn forever in the presence of the Evil Ground Troll.

    Am I convincing you to believe in Leprechauns yet?

    Perhaps if you reflect on why I have not convinced you to believe in Leprechauns, you will understand why I do not believe in your hokey, Iron Age Palestinian sky-fairies.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • savvy

      You have not convinced me to believe in Leprechauns, because your views are more in line with Evangelicals than with Catholicism. Be honest and find out what other people actually believe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good place to start.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Colin

      Savvy, let's try this for size. Here are my major objections to belief in a god. Please tell me what I get wrong.

      1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.o.mo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

      While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

      Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

      2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as lusting after their hot neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

      3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is honestly not believe in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

      4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

      5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

      6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, ra.pe and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

      7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

      Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

      8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

      9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that Bigfoot exists is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any groping guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 360 degrees.

      Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

      Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • periwinkle

      colin,

      I am convinced.
      An atheist is born!

      February 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Jonathan

      @Colin

      Sorry, not Savvy,but I couldn't resist

      "Please tell me what I get wrong.

      1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago" <--–RIGHT THERE!!!

      The age of the universe that you quote is based on a naturalistic assumption that precludes the non-existence of supernatural causes. If 'all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire universe', he would possess all the power and resources to do so within an infitessimal amount of time. If 'God" existed, and has always existed, it would logically mean that causality has no basis on his existence and the only way that would happen is if time did not exist before he chose to create it.

      You start with a strawman and proceed to knock it down fairly well. I do have to give credit where credit is due. When properly researched and understood, the Christian faith is incredibly consistant. You just have to allow yourself to start with the assumption that, if "God' existed, what they are saying is entirely possible.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      An atheist is born? Guys we need to talk. But let's wait a little bit. OK?

      February 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Jonathan, I don't know you. But maybe you'll know. It's about God's Brother.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Jonathan

      @Tom Tom

      "God's brother". Sorry, never heard of him. Is that Mormon doctrine? If so, I'd love to study up on it. I enjoy studying different religions and seeing how they compare to other denominations and original texts. If you are referring to the Judo-Christian-Arabiac 'God', I'm afraid that according to their texts, 'God' has no brother.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Jonathan

      "When properly researched and understood, the Christian faith is incredibly consistant. You just have to allow yourself to start with the assumption that, if "God' existed, what they are saying is entirely possible."

      And here's the thing with this method. The only way that the doctrine and teachings of the beginning of the universe etc.etc. could be true is if you believe the original premise. There is no way to disbelieve, look at everything that we know about the universe and the earth, and come to the same conclusion. There are multiple conclusions that we can come to, which essentially means that the argument cannot be conclusively decided without more information. Requiring the belief of your original assumption, for the rest to make sense is circular reasoning. At this point in rational human knowledge, the only thing that can be said for certain is "we don't know yet".

      February 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Jonathan

      "There is no way to disbelieve, look at everything that we know about the universe and the earth, and come to the same conclusion."

      This right here is the problem. (I gather...) You assume that 'what we know about the universe' is correct. Every conclusion that we reach is based on a basic assumption. Every 'fact' that we 'know' is based on the interpretation of the 'evidence' as seen through the viewpoint of our 'assumption'. What is missing from the world today is people willing to suspend their belief for even a moment in order to question the status quo.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • fred

      Colins major objections are suspect:

      Point 1 Scientists have changed their estimate of the age of universe from 6,000 years to as high as 25 billion years then back to 7 billion years and now inching back up to a current 13.8 billion years in just the last 200 years. Jesus talked about truth and love which has not changed in 6,000 years. Truth is truth and does not change where as science makes a new assumption then extrapolates from there. We can only conclude based on evidence that we really don’t know the age of the universe but atheists are getting smarter all the time while Christians rely on time tested truth of Christ.
      In only 3 years of preaching Jesus changed the entire world view which 2,000 years later remains the dominate world view. All of this was accomplished by using the language familiar with a people in a small area of the middle East. Not one person has accomplished such a supernatural feat with such a rebellious stubborn people. Words so powerful that even those not involved in an agrarian culture clearly understand 2,000 years later. Words so powerful that the mention of His Name Jesus Christ stirs hearts and minds around the world. Words so powerful the Jews, Muslims and atheists have spend 1,500 years attempting to undermine with no success. Attempts to stifle the Word of Christ by powerful atheist lead armies of Stalin, Mao and Poll Pot could not shake the foundation of truth. Millions of lives changed bringing Glory to God each and every year. If this is not Divine what is?
      6,000 years age a chosen people began a journey that is recorded in the Bible. The Bible is a story about God redeeming his people that culminated in the death of Jesus at the Cross. As a result of that finished work anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus is still saved to this very day and until the end of time. That is one Divine work !

      February 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      1. "...sat back and waited..."
      Does God sit or wait?

      "While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East,..."
      Why would he? Let's say you could go back in time and you start going on and on about galaxies and whatnot...what good would it accomplish for those you would tell? Ask yourself what the purpose of God's revelations were. Was it science?

      "Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it."

      Nothing like an atheist literalist telling everyone else how they are wrong about their faith *rolls eyes*

      2. "He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers."

      Is it magic that you are what you are and able to do? If not...then why call what God is/does magic?

      "..so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die."

      If one believes that God is "all" then all belongs to him. You are not your own being.

      3. "Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell."

      This is acctually incorrect. The NT (forgive me but I cannot recall which book of paul's writings it is right now) has it where one that does not know the gospel would be judged on the goodness of their soul.

      4. "The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages. "

      Incorrect....in that NO ONE has ever proved this accusation. I have yet to see one person that shown that the Tanakh has borrowed from any other story in the Middle East. Let's use the fun flood story shall we. One could say that the writer(s) (or storytellers) of Genesis borrowed from the Gilgamesh epic. But there is no evidence this happened. It could just as easily happened the other way..but we will probably never know.

      5. "and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead)."

      My gosh..tell a lie enough times. Wrong..there is no evidence that the writers of the NT borrowed from any other religions. Coincidence does NOT equal proof. Not to mention that many of the "myths" mentioned does not go with the story of Jesus anyway.

      6. "The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, ra.pe and the complete subjugation of women."

      Morality is subjective. Sorry if I go Star trek here but I think it is wise to keep in mind a sense of the Prime Directive. We should not use our viewpoints to condemn the actions of those in the distant past. We can agree that we might not behave in such a manner today but we should not imply our morals are naturally superior to theirs.
      Most of your argument only works if one is a biblical literalist. Most ppl are not that.

      "...it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration."

      Opinion without any facts. You cannot know the motivations of any of the writers of the Bible. Not unless you have some "magical" ability to know what they were thinking...lol.

      7. "A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality."
      Agreed

      "Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited"

      Don't stereotype a ppl because of a time period they lived in. And you are implying spite where their is no evidence of it. Are you mean spirited for how you act in the here and now? 1,000 years from now, some yahoo might think you are.

      "Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions."

      Disagree....in that any insti_tution that man controls others with can do this. organized religion is no different than science, medicine, politics...etc. If a person of power has an agenda, they will use whatever tools they can.

      "..but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility."

      As with politics, if you do not pay attention and think...you get what you deserve. Organized religion is not unique in this.

      8. "We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on."

      So? Much of how history, faith and philosophies are based off of very little info. Look at Socrates...all we know of him comes primarily from Plato. Do you question if Plato made him up or his views?
      Any idea or faith should be tested by the individual.

      "It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there."

      @ssociation fallacy. Why not just pick the NAZI while you were at it?

      9. "When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it."

      Error, you are making it out as if Christiianity is on the run? From what? You? Hardly.
      Faith is not illogical always you know. If you spend time with someone that says they love you. That seems to worry about your well being and wants to make you happy. You will have faith that they love you. Their could be all sorts of other reasons like they are setting you up to take all you are worth. Maybe they they have a biological need to care for you like a parent. But chances are you will have faith that their actions are motivated by love. Faith does not equate to being in error.

      "However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something..."

      No one of faith believes just to believe. They have reasons...some good and well thought out, some not so good or thought out well.

      "Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in."

      Not always. Many ppl that were raised in other cultures or faiths have converted to other faiths. The US is a fine example of a nation with many accessable faiths and beliefs that hopefully most look at carefully.
      You ignore the possiblity of epigenetics as well.

      "Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support."

      Incorrect. Come on..co_mparing one's theological belief to that of your fav sports team? That's pretty daft.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • fred

      Point 2 we really do not know the method of connection between God and man and talk of telekinesis is pure speculation. What we know is that there exists a communication that often times are through the Holy Spirit or intermediaries such as Jesus or others. Believers confirm this communication in a consistent manner. Science does not have the tools or methodology to comprehend this form of communication.

      February 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • fred

      Colin
      "Am I convincing you to believe in Leprechauns yet?"
      Your post actually makes it very clear that there is no power in the name of the Leprechaun King. Even you know it's foolisness when you post it. Each time you attempt to insult the Name of Jesus Christ you only prove the statements in the Bible true. His name is above all names and by His name you can find salvation. It was Jesus Christ that was crucified on the Cross for you not the Leprechaun King. It was Jesus that Pilate asked what is truth.

      February 4, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      fred I know now is not a good time. We can talk later. But I want to ask you about something.

      February 4, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • fred

      Tom Tom
      ok

      February 4, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  15. savvy

    bff,

    Do you know these women personally to judge what they know or not?

    February 3, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • bff

      Yes. Every catholic woman I know disagrees with this except my 75 year old mother!
      There have been many studies on this. They have found that 98% of all women that have ever been s.ex.ually active have used birth control. That would mean millions of catholics. They can't all be ignorant of the teaching of their own religion, could they?

      February 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  16. Sports Fan

    The Scots can't compete with Man. United. Out of their league.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  17. savvy

    bff,

    It's really depends on what their disagreement stems from.

    There must also be full knowledge and full consent; otherwise the culpability for the sin may be diminished. Only God knows for sure.

    "Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason he forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone" (Gaudium et Spes 28:2).

    February 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • bff

      savvy,
      Things would be a little easier if you used the reply button on the original post.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • bff

      Now, as to your post..
      These are women who clearly disagree. They are not ignorant of the teachings. What about that? Should they be allowed to stay in a church whose hierarchy proclaims that members must not disagree?

      February 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  18. Sports Fan

    The Scotsman can't compete with Manchaster United anyway.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  19. Colin

    A good article. The Pope increasingly reminds me of an incompetent father trying to admonish his teenage children who have long lost respect for the old fool. Eventually, as Catholics continue to desert the church, it will be forced to change its stance on issues like contraceptives and gay marriage, or it will have a congregation of exclusively 70 year olds.

    Fortunately one can rely on the choking, stultifying bureaucracy to ensure that they will be nearing irrelevance before they change. And good riddance to this Dark Ages inst.itution, its "infallible” popes and its cast of hokey Iron Age sky-fairies.

    February 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • savvy

      Colin,

      Thanks for betraying your own ignorance.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • bff

      Savvy,
      If you pipe in with a bumper-sticker line like that, which clearly doesn't hold water in light of what Colin just said, then you really need to redeem it with a little better explanation.

      What is ignorant about Colin's post.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • savvy

      Colin,

      Younger Catholics are more Orthodox than the 60s boomers. Hence it's the Liberals that are dying out, not the other way around.

      The church has survived change and empires for over 2,000 years.

      Keep dreaming Colin... The gates of hell will not prevail. Matt 16:18

      February 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Colin

      Savvy brings up one of my favorite Catholic superst.itions, that of the unbeliever burning in hell. I don't have to kill, I don't have to steal, heck, I don't even have to litter. All I have to do is harbor an honest, rational and reasonable skepticism as to the existence of the Christian god, and it will inflict a grotesque eternal punishment on me, an infinite times worse than the death penalty. And it loves me.

      Dark Ages nonsense.

      February 3, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  20. savvy

    The moon is made of green cheese,

    The fact that you don't understand organic development of doctrine is the reason why you sound so ignorant.

    February 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • sam

      Your last ten posts are why you sound like a smug know it all, and that pretty much causes most posters to argue with you on principal and not pay attention to what you're trying to say.

      February 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Colin

      That's right Savvy, and anybody who does not accept that fact, based on 2,000 year old claims by people we know nothing about is arrogant and a "sinner". They should just accpet that the moon is made of green cheese and anytime that belief comes into conflict with observable facts, simply accept that the greatness of the Moon Cheese God is "beyond our contemplation".

      February 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      The Scots can't compete with Man. United. Out of their league

      February 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      savvy
      If you are SO savvy, please explain why, upon hearing the statement, ("tu es petrus" Matthew 16:13-20), "and upon this rock I will build mt church", Pete didn't ask, "What's a church?", since at that time there was NO such thing. In fact those lines in Matthew were written in later, to support the many claims of a growing organization.
      (http://www.atheistnexus.org/video/david-fitzgerald-skepticon-3?xg_source=activity)

      February 3, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • The moon is made of green cheese.

      savvy
      Your "organic development of doctrine" refutes itself. Why would it HAVE to "develop" if truth was "revealed" ? Obviously you also have never, from the inside, watched the messy, very human, development process. It's ALL human nonsense. Your Church says it's based on the pillars of Scripture and Tradition. Unfortunately, we have all seen the "tradition" pillar be changed any time it becomes inconvenient, or unpopular.

      February 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.