September 3, 2007

"Her atheism was not like mine."

Christopher Hitchens versus Bill Donohue re Mother Teresa.

Newsbusters highlights the part where Donohue asks if Hitchens wants to "take it outside" because it's missing from the MSNBC transcript. Also missing from the transcript is the last word out of Hitchens mouth, which amused me. At the end of the whole heated debate, Donohue gets off his last line "The only people that do not have doubts today are dogmatic atheists, people like you, Chris." Hitchens mutters "Christopher."

I enjoyed watching this exchange, not only because I'd listen to Hitchens talk about anything, but because Donohue keeps up the pressure, baiting Hitchens. Hitchens always seems angry, but he keeps it at a controlled seethe, and Donohue is doing his damnedest to get him to boil over. Twice, Donohue taunts him about the physical dimensions of Hitchens' book about Mother Teresa: "the thing against her, five and a half inches by eight and a half inches long, 98 pages, not a single endnote, not a single footnote, not a single citation," "your 98 page book, five and a half by eight and a half inches long—you have no citations." And, although it only appears once in the transcript, Donohue repeatedly says "an Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman talks." Twice, Donohue pulls out the old line about how it's the atheists who are dogmatic.

Hitchens maintains his seething control and won't get distracted into reciting citations or explaining why atheists are not dogmatic. He keeps the focus on Mother Teresa, and his new approach is to claim her as a fellow atheist and to express sympathy for her as a victim of the church:
She tried her best to believe. Her atheism was not like mine. I can't believe it and I am glad to think that it is not true, that there is a dictator in the heavens. So the fact that there is no evidence for it pleases me. She really wished it was true. She tried to live her life as if it was true.

She failed. And she was encouraged by cynical old men to carry on doing so because she was a great marketing tool for her church, and I think that they should answer for what they did to her and what they have been doing to us. I think it has been fraud and exploitation yet again....

Because of the opportunist chance that Mother Teresa offered them for publicity, [the Church] failed to restrain someone who really should have been seeking proper help that she never got. Instead, they exploited her to the very end and even gave her an exorcism, as you know. The archbishop of Calcutta has admitted it. He even had to give her an exorcism in 1997, because they had so much despair of her state of mind. It‘s a cruel exploitation of a simple and honest woman....

[The C]hurch... has an answer for everything. If you can‘t believe it, if it all seems to be radically untrue, nonetheless, faith will square that settle for you. She was trying for that. But as we now know, she failed. It can‘t be done. You can‘t make people believe in the impossible. All you can do is make people feel very guilty that they can‘t make themselves believe it.

30 comments:

Bob said...

I enjoy almost everything Hitchens writes, myself, although I don't agree with much of it.

Funnily enough for an atheist, Hitchens is on record as teaching his children the King James Version of the Bible, believing it to be a great work of literature itself, and a sourcework for much of English literature in general.

Paddy O. said...

Hitchens reminds me a lot of new earth Creationists really. If you listen to them they sound very intelligent and have a whole system of arguments, with even a lot of science involved. The problem isn't that they don't sound intelligent it's that their 'scientific' arguments leave out a lot of information and selectively choose what to discuss and suggest a lack of familiarity with the broader topic.

But, it's sciency sounding enough to really appeal to those who also don't have a background in science. They've never heard the specific problems discussed so it sounds like the Creationist writers are getting some real zingers.

Only for those in the know it's kind of sad.

Hitchens has that same kind of sad, though for me it's mixed with an admiration about his self-marketing abilities. He's grasping on to whatever is in the news to sell more books, which curiously is a lot like not only creationists but peddlers of end-time books.

Anyone who reads Mother Theresa doesn't jump to atheism, as Mother Theresa didn't. There's a classic theological tradition of which this is a major part. The monastics called it the temptation of acedia in one form. In another form John of the Cross called it the Darkn Night of the Soul. Indeed, we read about such things throughout religious literature. Those who are in it the deepest are propelled not by the feelings of religion but by pure faith there is something and this drive pushes them often to outward acts of devotion.

Mother Theresa had hers. John Wesley had his. He once wrote in his 60s that he didn't think he ever loved God nor that God ever loved him. This even as he was changing the world with his cultural and spiritual influence.

Of course, on his death bed, Wesley's last words were "The best thing of all -- God is with us" spoking with, observers said, a brightness of face and voice.

So, for those who study such things, it's not surprising what Mother Theresa experienced, but rather a component of the lives of many saints. That Hitchens turns it another direction is yet again a sign that he's an amateur playing the expert, for an audience made up of the same sorts.

For Hitchens there is no land on the other side of the ocean. His fear causes him to turn around and mock those who press on through thirst and storm and hunger.

Yet those who press on see something absolutely amazing, something that keeps them going despite the often harsh realities and absence of clear encouragement.

That something is only for the intrepid explorers to understand.

Paul Snively said...

Hitchens is a national treasure, and I say that as a right-of-center Libertarian Lutheran. Speaking of which, I wonder what Hitchens makes of Luther, the tormented soul who promised Saint Anne he'd become a monk if only he were saved from a thunderstorm, who beat himself bloody for his sins, alternately sure of God's eternal wrath and condemnation and then sure that God didn't exist?

Until, that is, his confessor, Father Staupitz encouraged him to actually read the New Testament... which was so transformative for Luther that it emboldened him to stand up to the Vatican and the Holy Roman Emperor, putting a price tag on his head, requiring Prince Frederick to hide him away in Wartburg castle, at which point Luther began to translate the Bible into German, which was then printed on Gutenberg's presses, standardizing the German language and creating the first successful Protestant Reformation.

The world changed forever, out of the ashes of horrifying anguish, doubt, despair, and ultimately, acceptance and faith.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm sure Hitchens will address the "Dark Night of the Soul" argument if he hasn't already. It's rather clear what he should say: The reason the phenomenon recurs is that those who think deeply and honestly about God realize that they cannot perceive Him because He doesn't exist. The standard progression of the mystic is to emerge from the night, and it is interesting that Teresa never did. The atheist's point will be that Teresa was more honest, because she never talked herself into believing that she perceived what she did not.

igbalonigbanlo said...

Paddy o.: His fear causes him...

How did you ascertain this fear of which you speak? How do you go from claiming the existence of sophistry in Hitchens many arguments to throwing out an unsubstantiated 'fact' of your own, or is that an opinion?

Bender said...

A compelling response to all of this muckraking is the article written by Carol Zaleski four years ago, The Dark Night of Mother Teresa. And it behooves anyone who wishes to opine intelligently upon this to first read her article, wherein Zaleski says, inter alia,
"The dark night of Mother Teresa presents us with an even greater interpretive challenge than her visions and locutions. It means that the missionary foundress who called herself “God’s pencil” was not the God-intoxicated saint many of us had assumed her to be. We may prefer to think that she spent her days in a state of ecstatic mystical union with God, because that would get us ordinary worldlings off the hook. How else could this unremarkable woman, no different from the rest of us, bear to throw her lot in with the poorest of the poor, sharing their meager diet and rough clothing, wiping leprous sores and enduring the agonies of the dying, for so many years without respite, unless she were somehow lifted above it all, shielded by spiritual endorphins? Yet we have her own testimony that what made her self-negating work possible was not a subjective experience of ecstasy but an objective relationship to God shorn of the sensible awareness of God’s presence. . . . This was exactly the way Mother Teresa learned to deal with her trial of faith: by converting her feeling of abandonment by God into an act of abandonment to God. . . . Humanly, there were times when Mother Teresa felt burnt out, but faith supplied what was lacking even to troubled faith; spiritually she was often desolate, but her vow endured and her visible radiance —- to which everyone attests -— was undiminished." (emphasis added)

Paddy O. said...

How did you ascertain this fear of which you speak? How do you go from claiming the existence of sophistry in Hitchens many arguments to throwing out an unsubstantiated 'fact' of your own, or is that an opinion?

Oh, I thought that's how this game is played. It's what I think on the matter that's important. Not self-interpretation or what others think.

I might even write a book on it. Atheism is Fear. I bet the anecdotes abound. Yeah, it's just an opinion, but as I've read Hitchens and know the topic I figure I can throw in my own counter interpretations. If Hitchens can 'understand' Mother Theresa I can 'understand' Hitchens.

Ann, your response is certainly a potent one. That is sort of what he's getting approaching. Except that again discounts those who over the centuries have written about it. They write about it not as an excuse or as an excuse but to suggest that there is in fact land on the other side. It is both an expected phenomenon among the most persistent spiritual seekers and one that is not left with despair. There is a profound hope in the agony of such writers. And when they do get to the other side (often in this life, even if at the end like Wesley), there is a profound amount of peace and depth in their lives in which religion has lost all its poisonous attributes.

Those that drop off in the middle are those who are the most lost, as they've been untethered to either the physical or the spiritual world.

Anthony said...

Paul Snivley,

I'm a big fan of Hitchens, and I can pretty much promise you that he despises Martin Luther. (I don't have his latest book in front of me, or I would provide a quote for you.) While he might praise Luther's breaking of the strangle-hold the Church had, Hitchens never would (or should) accept someone who said:

"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has"

Of course, this quote is true, but Luther wasn't pushing people to come down on the side of reason.

...and his writings on Jews were just repellent.

igbalonigbanlo said...

Paddy O.

And what the Prof said is the reason after 10 years I had to leave evangelical christianity. I gave it everything I could but I couldn't be honest with myself and agree with the premise and path of faith. Even Hebrews 11:1 (a huge foundational premise)is seriously problematic as a literal reading (simplistic I know) defines delusional thinking. Anyone that has seriously dedicated his/her life to believing and studying and seeking the truth (at least I can speak of christianity but I suspect it's true of every religion) knows that it would take tomes to detail and follow the many threads that are so closely woven in any system of faith.

To discount the experiences of those who left is as arbitrary as maintaining that those who stayed till they died somehow invalidates the experience of the former. And of course that seems to be the same self-similar pattern that permeates the very schism between faith and it's lack, there's no proof one way or another that there's anything more than this but faith by it's very definition doesn't need proof or at least expects that 'believing is seeing' in the pattern of the 'earnest of your salvation' meme. In short I don't see how anyone on any side can hope to convince those on the other.

Zeb Quinn said...

Christians are taught from the getgo that doubt and feelings of abandonment by God are part and parcel of faith, inextricably linked, as heads is to tails. And that the more fervent the faith and the greater the sacrifices made by the faithful, when the critical times come then the greater the doubts and the greater the feelings of abandonment will be. Christians are taught to expect this, and that as an article of faith to persevere on. So when Teresa spent her life, decades amid the squalor, tending to an unending line of suffering, even she, maybe especially she, had her share of monumentous moments beseeching, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But persevere she did.

Christianity 101. Does it just go over Hitchen's head?

vet66 said...

Hitchens fails to understand the liberation of faith. Relying on reason without faith is delusional as it pretends to understand the unknowable.

The ultimate answer will be as simple as a child looking up at the displayed universe in awe. Or accepting something faith based on the intrinsic worth of the individual created in the eyes of the Maker.

It could be just that simple. Humans use the gift of choice to make simple things complex usually creating something akin to Mary Shelley's monster Id to Dr. Frankenstein.

Some night just look up! It is low tech but worth the effort.

Ann Althouse said...

Paddy O: "Ann, your response is certainly a potent one. That is sort of what he's getting approaching. Except that again discounts those who over the centuries have written about it. They write about it not as an excuse or as an excuse but to suggest that there is in fact land on the other side. It is both an expected phenomenon among the most persistent spiritual seekers and one that is not left with despair. There is a profound hope in the agony of such writers. And when they do get to the other side (often in this life, even if at the end like Wesley), there is a profound amount of peace and depth in their lives in which religion has lost all its poisonous attributes. Those that drop off in the middle are those who are the most lost, as they've been untethered to either the physical or the spiritual world."

So there's "land on the other side," but God chose to leave Mother Teresa in the dark, after all she did and all she tried? Now, you'll need to explain why God is such a sadist. And, of course, there's an answer for everything, and I know the standard answer. It's not for us to presume to try to understand God's reasons. In other words, another demand for faith. Or he wanted Mother Teresa serve as the example as someone who would continue on, despite the darkness, and the right response is for us to be awed by her great faith.

Anthony said...

Zeb's posting was unintentionally hilarious. Allow me to summarize:

- Christians recognize that faith is tenuous

- The more you give up for your faith, the more you will ask whether it is worth it

- So it is especially important to have faith (belief without evidence) in those tough situations

And you think that rebuts Hitchens...how? Notice how everything you so is fully compatible with (maybe even evidence for) the whole system being nonsense.

Sure it's easy to believe in something untrue when it costs you nothing. And it is natural to reconsider those beliefs when they are costing you a great deal.

Why stamp out this innate human logic?

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gedaliya said...

God is such a sadist

Job's suffering makes that which Teresa (we're told) experienced seem insignificant and trivial. Job's travails even take place before an audience of angels in what was an increasingly grim spectacle.

I'm not well-educated in philosophy or theology, but it seems to me that few of the countless scholars who have pondered the lessons of Job during the last two millenia have pointed to God's sadism as the underlying explanation for his suffering.

The subject brings to mind others who suffered for their gifts to mankind...Prometheus, for instance, whose liver was twice daily eaten by eagles because he dared to steal fire from Olympus and give it to the human race.

Was Zeus a sadist for promulgating this daily horror on poor Prometheus? I think not. Zeus knew quite well what Prometheus' hand doth wrought, and perhaps made the punishment fit the crime.

Anyway, it's an awfully interesting subject of conversation, and I am pleased that you decided to bring it up.

Ann Althouse said...

" it seems to me that few of the countless scholars who have pondered the lessons of Job during the last two millenia have pointed to God's sadism as the underlying explanation for his suffering"

Well, the atheists bring it up all the time. Of course, those who are arguing for the existence of God can't go there.

Gedaliya said...

Well, the atheists bring it up all the time. Of course, those who are arguing for the existence of God can't go there.

Well, it's hard to make an argument that something non-existent is at the same time sadistic. Presumably, the atheist attributes Job's travails to a combination of bad luck and man's inhumanity to man, and not to the venal actions of a sadistic supreme being.

Even so, theologians as diverse as Aquinas and Maimonides have pondered the question of God's existence from both the "does exist" and "does not exist" premises. It is arguably the oldest theological question of them all, and while pondering this question the issues of suffering and pain inevitably enter the argument.

The other day someone used the term "manicheism" here to describe someone's politics. I think he meant that some people see all politics only as a struggle between good and evil.

As I understand it, however, the Manicheists believed that both good and evil exist simultaneously in God's nature, and within Him they are constantly in struggle for dominance. In that sense, I suppose, one can make a reasonable argument that God is indeed a sadist, especially when His dark side is in temporary control of God's being.

Manicheism has been around a long time, presumably long before someone gave it a name. From that perspective, the notion that God is a sadist has probably been extant since the dawn of mankind. However, I think it's also true that the notion is held by only a tiny portion of those who profess belief in God.

Paddy O. said...

First Things had an excellent article on Mother Theresa's darkness about four years ago.

Paddy O. said...

And, of course, there's an answer for everything, and I know the standard answer. It's not for us to presume to try to understand God's reasons. In other words, another demand for faith. Or he wanted Mother Teresa serve as the example as someone who would continue on, despite the darkness, and the right response is for us to be awed by her great faith.

We don't understand God. We just need to believe.God used her as an example. We need to shut up and applaud. Those might be the standard answers, but they're not really all that satisfying really.

Not satisfying to me at all. But those are the easy answers, and maybe that's why they've become the standard answers, and the answers that people are left with. Which is sad. Mostly because I don't think they are the right answers.

I think the answers are more personal really, and might not have a generalized response. Why does God distance himself? Lots of reasons, most of which we find a story about somewhere in the Bible.

Often the reason has to do less with existential angst and more to provoke us to actions we might not otherwise take up. Would Mother Theresa been Mother Theresa if not for that darkness which drove her to constant action for the most needy? Being comfortable lulls us to passivity. We don't press on, we don't fight, we don't move past what is easy through what is hard. We like to settle as we can.

Spirituality is no exception but if we are seeking something deeper then that comfort is taken away, forcing us into a posture of exploration. God steps back so we step forward, not as an example to others but as a way of progression, pushing us along in an ecclesial boot camp which is at each point harder than humanly possible. But by pressing on there is a realization of so much more.

I've experienced the thrills of passionate faith and the absolute darkness of God disappeared for years on end. Now, I see a faith that is so much deeper, and so much more freeing. Not so that I can tell others what or how to believe. Rather so that I can be the person I was really always meant to be, without the emotional/spiritual constraints of either religious or cultural society.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Presumably, the atheist attributes Job's travails to a combination of bad luck and man's inhumanity to man, and not to the venal actions of a sadistic supreme being.

The atheist attributes Job's travails to the author's humanity and the sometimes sadistic human nature.

Paul Snively said...

It's true that Luther saw reason and faith at odds, but he certainly didn't argue against reason as any late medieval man understood the term. Indeed, a significant point in his refusal to recant before the Diet of Worms was precisely that unless he could be persuaded "by scripture or clear reason," he could not recant, because to do so would be "neither safe nor sound," that is, not safe to his soul theologically, nor sound logically. That is why Luther was willing to accept his excommunication and (anticipated) handing over to the secular arm for execution: that would only result in the death of his body. Recanting in violation of his best understanding of the Bible and logic would damn his soul for all eternity.

It is regrettably true that Luther's later writings on the Jews were despicable. Luther never once claimed to be without sin—quite the contrary. In more recent years, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod leadership has apologized to Jewish leadership for these writings.

James said...

Zeb Quinn said...

Christians are taught from the getgo that doubt and feelings of abandonment by God are part and parcel of faith, inextricably linked, as heads is to tails. And that the more fervent the faith and the greater the sacrifices made by the faithful, when the critical times come then the greater the doubts and the greater the feelings of abandonment will be. Christians are taught to expect this, and that as an article of faith to persevere on. So when Teresa spent her life, decades amid the squalor, tending to an unending line of suffering, even she, maybe especially she, had her share of monumentous moments beseeching, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But persevere she did.

Christianity 101. Does it just go over Hitchen's head?

So, apparently this God wants to make it as hard as possible for someone to believe in him, then punish them by sending them to hell when they die for following the doubts that come naturally. If one reads the Bible literally (I know many here will say that the majority of Christians don't, but I have seen enough who do to know that it must be a large number) this God makes it so essentially all scientific evidence we have completely contradicts his word, and then punishes us for believing in that evidence. I think I'd take this, along with Ann's comment, and point to God, if he were to exist, as being an all-powerful sadist

Bender said...

Well, the atheists bring [God's sadism as the underlying explanation for his suffering] up all the time. Of course, those who are arguing for the existence of God can't go there.

Not so. Believers go there all the time. Faith is not an act of the blind; it is an act of reason. The believer sees the existence of evil and considers all of the possible hypotheses for the existence of evil, including the hypothesis that God is Himself a sadist. After all, if God created everything and evil exists, then does that mean that God created evil? In his many works on the existence of evil, Augustine of Hippo considers this possibility many times.

The believer, properly utilizing reason, will consider the logical implications of (1) the existence of God and (2) a God who is or can be sadistic and evil. Such a hypothesis invariably leads to nihilistic existentialism, that is, if it does not twist itself up on logical knots first. As Augustine demonstrated, in answer to the Manicheians, "evil" (including the evil of sadism), does not and cannot have an existence in and of itself. That which we call "evil" is really nothing more than a privation, detraction, distortion, or perversion of the "good," which is to say it is a privation, detraction, distortion, or perversion of truth. If God is the creator of this reality, then He is necessarily reality itself. He is the "Is" from which all else comes. He is not merely truly real, then, but is Truth itself in it's fullest transcendent sense. So, for God to be evil is to say that God is contrary to truth, that is, that God is contrary to Himself. And, logically, a thing cannot both be and not-be at the same time; God cannot be both truth and untruth.

Now, reason will also dictate that a sadist-God is not the only answer to the question of evil; there are other possibilities.

The believer will also consider the question of evil from a premise of faith -- that God is good and God is love, and is therefore incapable of evil. Starting from that premise, what reasonable other explanations could there be for evil; what reasonable other explanations could there be for the appearance of abandonment, for remaining silent?

One explanation could be that things are not always as they seem to our fallible eyes. There might have been times when Blessed Teresa of Calcutta thought that she was alone, but that is not necessarily true. I remember watching "Mother Teresa," a movie starring Olivia Hussey, and there was this scene where she sees this old and frail man, near death, and the implication of the film is that she is seeing Jesus.

Such an implication, of course, is entirely consistent with Matthew 25:35-40, "'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Also consistent with Joan Osborne's song "One of Us.")

I have no doubt that Blessed Teresa saw Jesus everyday; she saw Him everyday in the faces of the sick and diseased and dying. But why should He remain silent? Why shouldn't He shout out, "Here I am"? Perhaps it was the silence that allowed her to exhibit the love for others that she exhibited in abundance, much like any parent (or teacher) might remain silent when a child or student seeks to be spoon-fed knowledge. Perhaps it was to allow her to participate in Christ's Passion, where He was abandoned (not by God), but by mankind. These could be the explanations, or there could be other explanations, but the claim of "God is a sadist," which believers are perfectly willing to consider as a hypothesis, is not the only explanation, nor is it even the best explanation that reason might suggest.

Bender said...

this God makes it so essentially all scientific evidence we have completely contradicts his word

May I ask -- what is the first, the very first premise of science? Is it not that truth exists, that reason exists? Is it not a premise of science that the universe is ordered, that it strictly operates according to rational laws?

And yet, some who promote "science" as the answer for all would also have us believe that the universe and reality itself sprung into existence by an arbitrary and accidental act. That is was just coincidental that certain sub-atomic particles react with other particles in particular fashion, and that they are bound together, so as to permit the existence of atoms, molecules, and compounds, not to mention galaxies, stars, and planets. The existence of these things, and the fact that they follow rational laws, would dictate as a matter of science that they were caused by something rational and true.

The fact that one of those planets just happened to be so lucky so as to be just the right distance away from the sun, which radiated just the right kind and intensity of light and heat, and the temperature of the planet was just right and that planet had just the right kind of elements in the right proportions so as to be able to form oxygen and water, shows that we are either (a) extra-ordinarily lucky, like hitting the Lotto everyday for 100 years (indeed, the global warmists tell us that the world is so fragile and delicate that if the temperature rises even a couple of degrees that all life will perish), or (b) we are here because of some rational creative act of reason.

Now, some of this matter became animated, that is, alive, which also points to a rational, reasonable cause; it points to the conclusion that life is not simply the result of random events. And the fact that some of that life actually has the capacity for sentience and thought, an ability to form and create ideas and to exercise independent agency, that is, free will, which actually transcends the physical, points to the possibility that reality is not limited to the physical universe, but there is a reality beyond it. Indeed, science has repeatedly postulated the existence of realities beyond the known universe, or even the existence of non-corporeal life.

From a scientific viewpoint, the existence of such a transcendent extra-universe reality clearly could not logically be caused by arbitrary and irrational events, such as chance.

There was a cause to all of these things. That cause was necessarily "creative reason," i.e. Logos. Even people who make foolish assertions about science are not the arbitrary product of chance; they are not the result of the random collision of molecules and electro-magnetic pulses. They too were created as a purposeful act of creative reason.

And if they were the merely the result of accidental, chance events, then they clearly would have no intrinsic value in and of themselves. They would have no moral value any greater than any rock one might find on the ground. That may be fine for the atheists, but I believe that we each have more intrinsic value that a rock.

amba said...

Now he says she's "a simple and honest woman"??? Didn't he write a whole book about how she was a huckster, scam artist, grandstander and egomaniac?

amba said...

He reminds me of the pro-lifers who are eager to blame the male abortionists fr everything, the woman for nothing!

Thorley Winston said...

"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has"

Of course, this quote is true, but Luther wasn't pushing people to come down on the side of reason.


I defy you to prove that Martin Luther ever said or wrote those words.

John Kindley said...

I think a big part of the problem, the obstacle to faith that many experience, is that institutional Christianity has historically demanded that people "believe" all sorts of things that aren't really essential. Not only Mother Theresa, but another person who threw me for a loop in my trying-to-be-devout Catholic days was Frederick Copleston, the Jesuit author of the well-regarded nine-volume History of Philosophy, who in an autobiography late in his life confessed to a growing sense of the unreality of it all. The big issue that led me to finally admit to myself that I could not call myself a Catholic was the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which is at the very heart of the priesthood and the institution of the Catholic Church. The doctrine is quite beautiful on many levels, Christ remaining with us even physically till the end of time, offering Himself as our spiritual food and us becoming incorporated into His Mystical Body by partaking in communion. But I had to ask myself, if Jesus is God, isn't he with us just as much in everything in Creation that is sustained in being by the Word of God? (The poem "I see His Blood Upon the Rose" expresses this very well.) The doctrine seems to quite literally put God in a box (the tabernacle).

The position of the Deist, who does believe in God and His Providence, is much easier to maintain in the mind of the believer. For me, however, I am also persuaded, by the historical arguments that have been made and the seeming fittingness that God suffers with his creatures, that Jesus rose from the dead and is the Son of God. I do not, however, believe that salvation depends on belief in or the truth of these or other propositions, which puts me out of the Christian mainstream, Catholic or Protestant. I put the emphasis instead where Jesus Himself seemed to put it, in answering the question what is the greatest commandment (to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and your neighbor as yourself). For me, then, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is more compatible with what I actually believe than Deism.

Anthony said...

Thorley,

Do your own research, as even a simple Google quote confirms Luther's sentiments. (As one page put it, Luther's tirades against reason are "famous".)

But if you want to be specific, why don't you start with the book "Martin Luther, Table Talk (1569)"

I've also seen the quote written as "Reason is the devil's harlot" - which, if anything, is worse.

Of course, any argument based on reason being inadequate or evil is immediately self-defeating.

Paul Snively said...

As I mentioned earlier, Luther had a mixed relationship with both faith and reason, which is, I think, a major reason why Protestant Christianity gained traction with so many people who just couldn't place themselves into either the politically or the mystical submissive relationship to the Catholicism of his day. Fast-forwarding several hundred years, we find out from Kurt Gödel, Андре́й Никола́евич Колмого́ров, and Gregory Chaitin that reason has some insurmountable sharp limits. That doesn't mean that we should abandon reason by any means; it merely means that not all truths are reachable by reason alone, and—lest anyone think that all of those truths are faith-based—that a great many truths are only true by accident.