jump to navigation

What Century Is This Again? October 2, 2013

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This was in the Washington Post yesterday:

Catholics moved as date is set for canonizing Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII



And included this paragraph:

The shrine [in northeast Washington DC] held special prayer sessions all day to honor the setting of the April Mass dates. It typically takes out the piece of bloodied cassock only after midday Mass as a holy relic Catholics can venerate, or pray before, as a personal item from someone close to God. But the shrine kept it out most of Monday, encased in a silver cross-shaped vessel, so that people could come spontaneously to pray before it.

This is 2014 almost, not the Dark Ages.  These people are worshipping a frikkin reliquary!!!

(I wonder how many pieces of “bloodied cassock” are floating around out there?  Perhaps there’s money to be made selling them on ebay?   Sounds like a better scam than the Madonna on grilled cheese, or Jeebus on a tortilla.)

Please, human beings, grow up already!



1. john zande - October 2, 2013

Ramen to that!


2. Daz - October 2, 2013

So canonising doesn’t mean firing their corpses out of a piece of field artillery then? Damnit, I need to see if I can get my ticket-money refunded…


sirtj - October 2, 2013

Of course not. That would violate canon law.


Daz - October 2, 2013

Aye. They’d probably go ballistic* at the very suggestion.

*Now I’m really really hoping this isn’t a purely British idiom.


3. littlestsouls - October 2, 2013

There is a long tradition behind *venerating* relics. There are many accounts of inexplicable events involving relics, such as those that are outlined in the book ‘Relics’ by Joan Carroll Cruz.


sirtj - October 2, 2013

Yes, there is a long tradition of venerating relics. There are accounts of inexplicable events. And? Do those accounts add up to evidence of the divine? Does having a long tradition make it a reasonable practice today? The answers to both questions are “no”.

And yes, “going ballistic” is not just British, we use it in the USA as well.


Daz - October 3, 2013

Phew! Nothing kills a bad pun quicker than having to explain it!

And I’ll just add my voice to the “unexplained ≠ inexplicable” side of this conversation.


ubi dubium - October 3, 2013

There’s a big difference between “unexplained” and “unexplainable”. Just because somebody didn’t understand an event doesn’t mean that there isn’t a non-supernatural explanation for it.


4. makagutu - October 3, 2013

And that is in the US of A not some backwater country! Oh crazy world


5. littlestsouls - October 4, 2013

I was just clarifying that relics are only venerated. I believe that Etienne Gilson, Garrigou Lagrange and other philosophers have provided very sound arguments for the existence of God. Their arguments are quite in depth, but people might enjoy reading them.

Take care.


ubi dubium - October 4, 2013

So you change the word to “venerated” to make this behavior sound less silly? Grown people are acting like a particular scrap of fabric has magic powers, and that if they pray in front of it, kiss the container, and believe really, really hard, they will get some benefit that they don’t get from bowing to other scraps of cloth. Changing what you call it doesn’t make this any more reasonable.

And arguments for god are pointless. If your god doesn’t actually exist, no philosopher can argue him into existence. If your god exists there should be solid evidence for that, and there’s not, just a lot of confirmation bias and wishful thinking.


6. littlestsouls - October 4, 2013

No; I was only offering the Catholic teaching on the matter. The Church has never maintained that relics are endowed with certain powers.

I believe that there is solid (metaphysical evidence) for God’s existence. The authors I mentioned provide many convincing arguments, which are relatively unknown, and when they are, they are typically misunderstood.

Empiricism and other flawed ideas have led many to believe that empirical evidence is necessary to demonstrate the existence of God. The proofs for God necessarily involve metaphysics. Such arguments show quite clearly that a Being which is Pure Act (the Prime Mover, without potentiality, parts or imperfection) MUST exist. We can conclude from these arguments (such as those found here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/reality.htm#07) that the universe is itself a proof of God’s existence; held, as it were, in existence by His infinite power.


Daz - October 4, 2013

So what you’re saying is, you can’t imagine a godless creation, therefore god.

Yep, I’m convinced. Well kinda convinced. Well, not convinced at all.

Now, how do we make the grand-canyon leap from “creator” to “Yahweh”?


ubi dubium - October 5, 2013

The church might not (currently) teach that relics have magic powers, but catholics certainly behave as if they do. Otherwise why is that piece of cloth in a fancy reliquary with people kissing it and praying at it?

The basic problem with “metaphysics” is that you have no way to check your work. You can’t tell the difference between a deep Truth and some stupid BS that somebody made up because it sounds good. Arguments aren’t evidence. At some point you have to come up with a way to check your answers against the real world to see if you are right. Real physics does this all the time, and as a result we have cars and cellphones and the computer that you are reading this on. Metaphysics and Theology have never come up with a reliable way to check their work, and as a result we have thousands of religions all over the world, all saying they have the Truth™ and all disagreeing with each other. If every religion apart from yours has it wrong, but they used the same methods to come to their conclusions that you did, then your conclusions are almost certainly wrong too.


7. littlestsouls - October 5, 2013

Not at all. The link I provided goes into *some* depth about arguments for the existence of God.

The arguments of Aquinas demonstrate that God is perfect, eternal, immutable, all-powerful etc. The God of Abraham revealed this same essence: “I AM WHO AM” ie. God’s essence is existence itself. The book ‘College Apologetics’ by Fr. Anthony Alexanders presents a very reasonable justification for belief in the Jesus’ divinity, the veracity of the Scriptures etc.

Take care.


Daz - October 5, 2013

As I recall, Aquinas demonstrates that the god he’s arguing for is perfect. Nowhere does he manage to provide checkable evidence that this perfect being actually exists.

How do you know that God revealed himself to Abraham. Outside the Bible, there isn’t even any evidence that Abraham existed. And Arguing from the Bible itself would be to indulge in circular reasoning. Or, as it’s commonly known, a load of old tosh.


littlestsouls - October 5, 2013

The arguments, combined with the realities that they refer to (such as change, motion etc.) constitute the evidence. Some of the most fundamental truths are not “checkable.” The proposition that ‘a circle cannot both exist and not exist simultaneously’, for example, is not “checkable”; it is verified by fundamental principles of logic, without which we would be unable to offer proofs for anything.


Daz - October 5, 2013

Tell you what. Instead of referring vaguely to Aquinas and others, why don’t you actually state whatever your postulates are? I’ll give you the first one for free:

•The universe exists.


littlestsouls - October 5, 2013

My point was that the statement “I AM WHO AM” is metaphysically consistent with reality.

Arguing from the Bible is no more circular than arguing that a book titled “Mr Smith’s autobiography” (d. 1680) was written by Mr Smith because it says so in said book. In itself this does not constitute infallible evidence. Of course. But the substance of the matter remains: the book may be written by Mr Smith. Consequently, we must recognise that fallacies are not tantamount to refutations.


Daz - October 5, 2013

The claim that a Mr Smith may have existed in the 17th Century is not an extraordinary claim; and therefore needs little supporting evidence. Especially when we consider that there would be little likelihood of someone making that claim falsely.

The claim that the purported creator of the entire universe revealed himself to a bronze-age middle-eastern farmer is an extraordinary clam, and requires extraordinary evidence. Especially given that the stories surrounding that creator are very similar to other stories from the same period, which make claims about other, similar, creators, and which you yourself would dismiss as false: as nothing but mythology.


littlestsouls - October 5, 2013

I would merely be re-writing other people’s arguments. Here is a small snippet from the link I provided:

“Motion is not self-existent; we instinctively ask for the source, the moving agent. If motion is not self-explanatory, then nothing else that is in motion is self-explanatory. Hence the proper cause of motion is something that is not in motion, an unmoved mover, the source of all movement, of all change, local, quantitative, qualitative, vital, intellectual, voluntary, a mover which is its own uncaused and unreceived activity.”

The author does not get tied down with speculative objections, such as those which suggested that X (where X is the begining of a chain of causes) does not have received motion. This would be to deny the principle of non-contradiction.


Daz - October 5, 2013

Good grief. You see, you could quite easily have written that as:

•There can be no effect without a cause.

To which, obviously, I reply: if you’re trying to imply a creator as cause, what caused the creator?

A small caveat here: If you’re going to pull out that good old argument that the creator is somehow uncaused, then you need to explain why a universe which consists of a handful of different types of particles, which, by their nature, react to each other in certain ways cannot be uncaused, yet a fully-formed, complex, sentient being can.


8. littlestsouls - October 5, 2013

Perhaps some Catholics appear to behave as though they do, but I am not contending that.

Truth itself is a metaphysical concept. Physics involves a study of truths in the material world. More specifically, human beings utilise their intellect and will to study the physical universe. (I mention will because determinism, if true, renders all thoughts, all research, and all progress random- if materialism is true).

The human intellect is capable of recognising certain metaphysical truths, such as the principle of non-contradiction, which is a foundational truth of logic and existence. Metaphysics (presupposing the existence of the human intellect) allows us to understand causality, which is essential to physics, among other things. The metaphysics of the aforementioned philosphers provides a convincing account of nature and reality. I encourage you to read their writings for yourself. They take some time to dissect, but it is worthwhile.

Not all religions use the same methods. As a Catholic I appeal to faith, reason and Tradition. I believe that of all religions, Christianity- and more specifically, Catholicism- makes the greatest claims. Subsequently, I believe that it is most deserving of our study. My study of the Catholic faith and Tradition (the saints, Catholic metaphysics, Messianic prophecies, apocalyptic prophecies, mystical gifts, victim souls, inedia, faith and reason, the Church Fathers, the Didache etc. etc.) has led me to conclude that the Catholic Church was established by Christ, Who I believe to be God, “consubstantial” with the Father. A brief study of Thomistic metaphysics is enough to undermine many modern philosophies and religions.


9. littlestsouls - October 6, 2013

It isn’t an extraordinary claim, but the structure of the claim is the same.

Perhaps a study of Catholic Tradition, such as some of the things I mentioned, will provide you with greater evidence. No one has exhaustive knowledge of this Tradition, but there is much within it to consider. The evidence is not infallible, but nor is human reason. Even our senses can be highly deceptive.
The argument from motion is not as you have understood it. It shows that a Being without received motion must be the cause of beings in motion. No one can provide “positive evidence” for the existence of such a Being, but the argument is sound. The argument indirectly answers your objection. An uncaused causal chain is subject to the same criticisms. I have to go out, but I can clarify this later if you like.


ubi dubium - October 6, 2013

Perhaps a study of Catholic Tradition, such as some of the things I mentioned, will provide you with greater evidence

We call this the “Courtier’s Response”, from the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

Because the Courtier will tell you that a study of tailoring tradition, with a solid grounding in fine Corinthian leather boots, brocade vests, and a deep understanding of shirt fabric and hat styles, is necessary to understand that the Emperor is not naked. They will say only the uninformed person will think that the Emperor is walking around naked. However, the Emperor is, in the end, walking around naked.

If your god exists, a study of “Catholic Tradition” should not be necessary to figure that out.

You aren’t using “faith, reason and tradition”, you are using “faith, argumentation and tradition”, which is exactly what Muslim apologists use, which is exactly what Hindu apologists use, etc, and they are getting different answers than you do. And none of you has yet devised a way to check your work to see who is right. Until you devise a way to distinguish a legitimate answer from some BS that somebody made up, I have to assume that all of you are spouting BS that somebody made up.


littlestsouls - October 6, 2013

Divine revelation is a central element of Christianity. Jesus claimed He was God; He established a Church; He established Sacraments; He allegedly did many things that attest to His divinity. Consequently, a study of the Christian Tradition is essential. (Testimony is not infallible, but we must make do with what we have).

Reason or the intellect is a faculty of the human person. If it is reducible to material processes, then we must conclude that more came from less i.e. intelligence came from “non-intelligence”, consciousness from unconsciousness etc. Granting this premise (assumption), we would have very little reason to trust our thoughts; especially considering that they must be determined by things beyond our control, such as chemical reactions in the brain. If this is true, then our ‘search’ for the truth is either determined by another, or determined by blind forces. Either way, our freedom would be illusory, and the plethora of religious beliefs that exist would be the product of nature (natural processes), not a perverse human will or unenlightened intelligence.

Why do I mention all this? Because it exposes the shaky foundation upon which atheism is built. Your appeal to reason has not been demonstrated as such.

I am not claiming to have a superior knowledge in this regard, but the existence of an immaterial soul best accounts for universals and other immaterial phenomena (the notion of “dog”, for example, does not exist in the material world; nor does truth). This is certainly an application of reason, not argumentation (as if argumentation does not imply reasoning), which confirms the religious belief that we have been endowed with an intellect and a will by an intelligent spiritual Being Who is Pure Act and is therefore able to actualise our potencies i.e. to put our will in motion etc. Jesus said “Without Me you can do nothing.” This (religious claim/belief) is reasonable considering the philsophical reasoning just given.

When we conceive a thought, for example, we must consider what conceived the thought, and what the cause is. Reductionism is philosophically flawed. Whether or not you are a reductionist, many reject miracles etc., because their assumptions will not allow for miracles in principle.

The reasons given for Jesus’ divinity etc., are based on a certain understanding of human nature that has been powerfully argued (and in much depth) by Aquinas and others e.g. in his ‘Summa Contra Gentiles’. If his philosophy coincides with Christian beliefs, such as the soul, immutability of the soul after death, (ONE) God’s existence, the perfection of God etc., then we can have greater reason for assessing the claims of Christianity, which contradict the claims of many other religions, such as hinduism, which appeals to many ‘gods’. Reason will only take us so far, but when we combine faith, reason and Tradition, then- and only then- can we SERIOUSLY discredit the claims of Christianity. Anyone can appeal to the lack of empirical evidence, but who can reasonably expect empirical evidence for the soul and other alleged truths, which by their very nature are beyond observation?

Having studied the Catholic Tradition in some depth, I am forced to conclude that it best accounts for the existence of the universe, the nature of the universe, and many phenomenon within it, including consciousness, morality, will, intentionality, potency and act, guilt, morality, apparent miracles, alleged prophecies etc. etc. We could argue back and forth on particulars, but ultimately this would take a very long time.

No simple argument can be given. Whereas person A is willing to believe in God based on the testimony of another (this is essential in the case of children and those who are incapable of complex reasoning), person B might only be content with a personal experience of a so-called miraculous event. There is no fixed point at which we can claim that we KNOW the truth. There will always be uncertainty, given our fallible nature, our imperfect reasoning skills etc.

Note here that I am only claiming that Christian claims are worthy of consideration and that some of them at least, do not contradict reality; in fact, they make sense of reality.

I do not mean to be rude, but it has taken me a long time to write this response and I do not wish to engage in further discussion. The books I mentioned, as well as Feser’s book, ‘Aquinas for Beginners’, amongst others, are a good read. They do a better job at explaining Catholic philosophy (in relation to reality) than I can hope to in so few words. I have a lot of work to get done, so I must refrain from commenting further.

Take care.


Daz - October 6, 2013

You appear to mistake argument for evidence.

It shows that a Being without received motion must be the cause of beings in motion.

What beings, as opposed to, presumably, non-living objects, are said to have been in motion at the beginning of the universe? Why do these beings need to have existed? why must the cause of their—or anything’s—motion have to be a (presumable sentient) being?

And you still have an uncaused complex, sentient being as “first cause.” Why should this be considered possible, but not an uncaused, relatively simple, inanimate universe?


10. littlestsouls - October 6, 2013

The arguments, understood properly, demonstrate that an eternal, immutable, perfect, uncaused cause is necessary to explain the universe, which consists of *contingent* beings i.e. beings whose essence does not explain the reason for their existence. Feser’s book, ‘Aquinas for Beginners’, might help to answer your questions. I could not hope to explain Aquinas’ thoughts as well as Feser does.

Take care.


Daz - October 7, 2013

I’m not asking you to explain Aquinas’ thoughts. I’m asking you to explain your thoughts.

As for the word-salad above, I remain supremely unconvinced. Start again. Here we have a universe. We can see it. It’s all around us. It’s made of some quite simple fundamental particles, which react with each other in various ways. Explain to me why this cannot be uncaused, yet (as I’ve now asked two or three times) a complex, sentient being can.

I do not want a description of the properties (perfect, immutable, etc) of any being you might hypothesise; I simply want an answer to the question above.


11. littlestsouls - October 7, 2013

This will be ‘my’ last response.

“Beings whose essence does not contain the reason for their existence, beings that need causes, are called contingent, or dependent, beings. A being whose essence is to exist is called a necessary being. The universe contains only contingent beings… Dependent beings cannot cause themselves. They are dependent on their causes. If there is no independent being, then the whole chain of dependent beings is dependent on nothing and could not exist. But they do exist. Therefore there is an independent being.” – Kreeft


Daz - October 7, 2013

Beings whose essence does not contain the reason for their existence, beings that need causes, are called contingent, or dependent, beings.


Things that are caused are called effects.

A being whose essence is to exist is called a necessary being.

A thing which needs no cause is called an uncaused thing.

The universe contains only contingent beings

We see nothing uncaused in the universe.

Dependent beings cannot cause themselves. They are dependent on their causes.

Effects cannot cause themselves, but depend, on causes.

If there is no independent being, then the whole chain of dependent beings is dependent on nothing and could not exist.

If there is nothing uncaused, then there is nothing to start the chain of cause and effect, and so no effects could exist.

But they do exist.

Therefore there is an independent being.

Therefore, at some point in the remote past, something uncaused must have happened.

We call this “The big bang.”

This edition of Turning Word Salad Into Plain English was brought to you by DixieFlatline Industries™
Please give generously at the door.
Thank you.


makagutu - October 7, 2013

Tell me littlesouls, why isn’t this independent being the universe or rather nature? It is impossible that it was created or caused.


12. littlestsouls - October 7, 2013

Okay… last response! haha

You have misunderstood Kreeft. He is not merely saying: “Things that are caused are called effects.” He is DEFINING a certain type of being i.e. CONTINGENT beings (“Beings whose essence does not contain the reason for their existence”). These alone are “effects.”

The big bang is not uncaused. It is contingent; the big bang did not actualise its own potential. I cannot make this any clearer.

I will not respond to any further comments (which are very patronising, even though I am trying to have a civilised debate).

Genuinely, take care. Have a good one.


Daz - October 7, 2013

He can define what he likes. I can define a colony of nazis hidden on Mars. Doesn’t mean it exists.



makagutu - October 7, 2013

Kreeft must be in the group Schopenhauer calls pseudo-philosophers and who Kant eons ago responded to in his Critique of pure reason.
And you can’t define something into existence.


13. littlestsouls - October 7, 2013

He is not defining something into existence. He is defining something in existence i.e. contingent beings.

I am done.


14. Sabio Lantz - October 15, 2013

Ya gotta love it


15. manyironsinthefire - December 2, 2013

I love your blogroll. nice blog!



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: