Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just because I don't like your ideas doesn't mean I think you are evil.

Dear Miss Gwen and Mai (and any other readers on the secular left),

You have concluded that I press you about your philosophy in order to prove that you are ogres, or to prove that you are just waiting to marry your own sibling one day or cheat on your spouse. You assume that I think you are evil because you are liberal.

However, you misunderstand me, and I am dedicating this post to straightening it out. Because if you truly believe that I (and other orthodox Catholics) find you evil, then shame on me for not being more clear. I have not done a good job, so let me try again.

I push you to follow your beliefs to their logical conclusions not because I'm trying to condemn you, but because ideas have consequences and those consequences can be huge.

There may be people reading this blog while in the midst of trying to figure out what is true or what they should believe. There may be young people out there struggling to find a guiding theory or value system which will inform their future educational choices, civic activities and votes, choice of lifestyle and spouse, parenting decisions, etc. I want this blog to be an arena in which to compare, contrast, dissect and discuss ideas -- respectfully.

Miss Gwen, you admit that your philosophies don't rule out things like sibling marriage and infanticide, and Mai, you concede that nothing is objectively true, and that you determine morality for yourself. These are your own thoughts and conclusions; if I repeat them for clarity's sake, why presume I dislike you? I certainly dislike your secular belief system and where it ultimately leads, but disapproval of an idea doesn't not translate to disapproval of a person. {See this post for more on that point.}

If you would like to press me on my Catholic beliefs and where they lead, please do.... I would be giddy to imagine with you a world in which all of us live out the virtues! It's okay if you want to respectfully challenge me and other Catholics about our ideas and philosophies. Not to reach "consensus" (which would be impossible), but to understand more clearly what Catholics believe.

Ultimately, I do not think of you as the enemy, nor do I think you are evil. I cannot judge any other person's heart or soul. But it would be a shame to stop the informative and interesting dialogues we've been having simply because of a misunderstanding of my intent.

Thoughts?

129 comments:

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  2. "Ultimately, I do not think of you as the enemy, nor do I think you are evil."

    Have you read How to Win the Culture War by Peter Kreeft? (my all time fave of his...blog post coming soon on it!) He points out our enemy aren't Muslims, liberals, anti-Christian bigots, the media, or even heretics within the Church. They are all suffering persecution from our COMMON enemy: SATAN. Those of us aware of this enemy must do all we can to share the Light of Christ with our brothers and sisters! Be the light you want to see in the world!

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  3. Paul, you said:

    "There are these minority moralities, and they become called "deviant", because that's part of what the majority morality does. Sometimes there's huge amounts of deviance, but eventually it gets mostly corrected for because of the force of large social pressure."

    Does this account for the very rapid switch from contraception use being seen as "deviant" to suddenly not being seen as deviant (and the anti-contraception crowd is now deviant)?

    Does it happen that quickly? Did generations of "anti-contraceptive" thinking swing the other way in a matter of a few years because of a societal "correction"? And if so, couldn't the secular humanist also see that as possible with any moral issue, even stealing candy bars, or anything, really?

    Also, just so I can be clear: Are you saying that a determinist would say he has limited free will when it comes to choosing right and wrong?

    And, you said you believe in objective truth. Where do you think truth comes from?

    Glad to have you back! I knew you couldn't stay away. ;)

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  4. The science of anthropology. That is something that has really interested me lately. I watched a debate on facebook between a Catholic and an anthropology student. The student went on and on about how we can never judge anything in another culture as "wrong" including some pretty horrendous stuff.

    Which leads me to this. Did you ever read "The Lottery"? I read it in eighth grade, in the 1980s. I remember being horrified by it (as were all my peers) and it haunted me for weeks. However, today's college students aren't horrified by it anymore. They are yawning. I heard in the mid-nineties a college professor express her shock that her students had, in a matter of a year or two, gone from complete revulsion to the story to an attitude of "who are we to judge?" She was greatly troubled. I have thought about that for the past fifteen years, and then recently I came across this article, about students' reaction to "The Lottery."

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/young-people-today-have-lost-moral-vocabulary-says-archbishop-chaput/

    I'd love for you (or any liberal) to comment on why students have turned so incredibly quickly from horror and revulsion to "so what?"

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  5. Leila-- I can attest to the fact that in the early 2000's, my high school students reacted the same way as in the 90's, and possibly even more non-judgmentally. They were bored by the story and then brought up Biblical stories of human sacrifice... and even Christ. And this at a Catholic school! I had to explain the difference between the redemptive sacrifice of Christ vs the "sacrifice" in the story.

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  7. Lisa, what you just wrote and confirmed is one of the scariest things I have ever read! (Aside from "The Lottery" of course!)

    Goodness, we are in trouble.

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  8. Leila - people have been using contraception for thousands of years. In fact, contraception and looser sexual practices have been both accepted and rejected throughout the ages and cultures of history. It goes in and out of fashion, depending on the current population, the risks of childbirth and sexually transmitted disease, whether or not the people of that particular place and time depended on a large family or not, etc. etc. By the way, these "looser" notions are weaved throughout our modern history as well.

    It wasn't until 1869, that Pope Pius IX dropped the “ensoulment” clause and made abortion of any fetus an excommunicable offense. Until then, there was a 40-80 day window (40 for males, 80 for females)in which a fetus had no soul. But if you read books that blame the abuse scandal on "secular psychologists", I doubt this is in them.

    But hey - I totally get the abortion debate. I agree with a woman's right to choose, but I also understand your position to fight it. It comes down to your belief that the moment a sperm fertilizes the egg, the ensuing replication of cells is a child with a soul whose life should be protected at all costs versus a non-religious belief that replicating cells are just that - cells. And that a woman's right to her own body trumps that of the fetus growing inside of her. Pro-choicers all have different ideas when the line between cells and baby is crossed and what a woman should do about it. Not all liberals think the same exact way because their rules aren't as black and white as yours. This is not an insult, merely a fact.

    However, as far as contraception is concerned, why do I have to take the chance to become pregnant every time I have sex? Jut because the pope says so? My 2 kids are gifts, no doubt, but if I personally don't have the means or the health or frankly the desire to keep having children, does this mean I must become celibate? Do I tell my husband "no sex" because we must only copulate with the intention of reproducing?

    Once a fetus is there, I wouldn't have an abortion, but I don't think you have the right to tell me I can't use a condom or practice the "withdrawal method."

    I guess, for this liberal, "objective truth" is what can be seen and quantified (as said above). When you steal from someone, it hurts them, or it hurts the workers who made the item, or it increases costs for the rest of us. When you use contraception (condoms, withdrawal, anything that blocks sperm from entering the uterus, I am not talking about the morning after pill), it doesn't hurt anyone.

    Just because contraception opens up the idea that people can have sex for other reasons than procreation doesn't mean society is going to fall apart. A doesn't lead to Z. I am sorry you need such strict rules to keep you from going wild, but the majority of us can navigate how to stay happy while not doing harm to others in the process.

    -
    Q.

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  9. Q. (anonymous), this is my fault... Paul brought up subjects on two separate post, which I read at the same time. The contraception discussion actually should be (and is) taking place right now on this post:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/10/we-dont-make-determinations-about-who.html

    When I get a chance to answer you, I will answer on that post not this one. Sorry, I messed up!! :)

    Oh, and your last line is worthy of a post response all its own!

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  10. I 'love' the story, The Lottery.

    It's true- we want our way to be okay. I'm glad I'm not my own god- I'll depend on a higher power

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  12. It's hard to find the words to begin writing some sort of response when I see your sentence: "Miss Gwen, you admit that your philosophies don't rule out things like sibling marriage and infanticide" or read your ridiculous suggestion that the rest of the non-Catholic world ala liberal submits to animalistic tendencies (pssst! all liberals reading this-howl at the moon gathering next month, my house).

    Your blog is intended as you say to teach Catholics about Catholicism. By positioning liberals like myself as antithesis to Catholicism, it allows you to strengthen the orthodox Catholicism message you spout on this blog along with conservative politics. For you, there's only black and white in this world, one right and one wrong-which nicely ties into Catholic Truth. In your quest to put everything into neat little categories of "wrong" versus "right" somehow I've become associated with applauding sibling marriages and infanticide.

    Just how many siblings (of same sex) do you really think will get hitched if same sex marriage were legalized?? Have I not added time and time again that this is considered incest in Western N. American culture? that legally same sex siblings can't get married? And would married same sex siblings really prevent anyone you know from getting married? Catholicism doesn't allow same sex marriage of any kind already. This whole blasted idea takes away from the issue at hand: the credibility of allowing Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender people from officially tying the knot and granting a little humanity to all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

    Yes, I am pro-Choice/pro-abortion. And yes, I find the philosophies of Peter Singer illuminating in many respects. Does this make me a raving infanticide supporter? Really?

    Your conclusions and conceptions about liberals, myself included are not logical, noteworthy or accurate.

    I see answers and situations that are not black and white, that require more debate and ruminations and aren't easily solved.

    Paul, the "hot debate" about treating other cultures has been on-going for quite awhile in anthropology in general. Applied and public anthropology addresses the issue more often because the work usually requires it/brings it up.

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  13. P.S. If you don't think I'm evil, just the consequences of the ideas I believe in that guide my life (and how I live my life essentially) and Lauren thinks I'm under persecution from Satan, I fail to see how I manage not to be connected in your mind to evil?

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  14. anonymous, just wanted to let you know that "withdrawal" is not contraceptive, and is not, as you put it, blocking sperm from entering the uterus. FAR from it. Men release a pre-ejaculatory fluid which has a high concentration of sperm, for one. And two, even if there is "outercourse" on days of your cycle when you are fertile (no complete penetration), sperm can travel in your cervical mucus up and past the cervix.
    So, as much as this may alarm you, your practicing of withdrawal actually IS open to procreation (even if your intention is not).
    I say this as both a FertilityCare Practitioner and a sister-in-law to someone who got pg this way.

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  15. Miss G: there are plenty of incestuous couples who'd live openly, given the chance. Here's just one example.

    But I think you're kind of missing Leila's point. Why is incest taboo? If it's just society being uptight, why should it remain taboo? And if a woman can't help falling in love and/or being attracted to another woman, why not a father and daughter, or biological siblings?

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  17. Also, Miss G: We are all tempted by Satan. Good people are tempted by Satan all the time (just read stories about the saints!). I'm not sure why you think that being tempted by Satan = evil, because Lauren did not say that.

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  19. Excuse me, I've been very consistent with my liberal viewpoints in favor of contraception, access to safe abortion, and same sex marriage.

    I don't see sibling marriage as the next logical step from legalizing same-sex marriage. While I don't have anything against two siblings/family members wanting to get hitched, I doubt very much that that situation would ever be officially condoned in this society. Moreover, the more serious aspect of incest occurring in this country should be directed at stopping/mitigating abuse and histories of family abuse.

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  20. Amen, Miss G. These people who are trying to make you feel bad? Not to worry...

    Glenn Beck is scaring them into being afraid of "liberals".

    It is funny - the idea that.. according to Leila if you subscribe to an idea you also subscribe to the idea's ideology. And every possible negative consequence that idea implies when you carry it to ABSURD extremes (i.e. siblings marrying... really? you're seriously trying to prove something?)

    Do you realize people are actually collecting gold and think that we are becoming a "communist" country? These people need to drink the kool-aid already. I dont know how you have the patience, Miss G.

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  21. Miss G,

    I am not sure how you misunderstood what I wrote. I thought I was clear, but apparently I am missing the mark.

    Never once did I say that you were "applauding sibling marriages and infanticide." In fact, I only stated that your philosophy (by your own admission) did not rule such things out.

    You were actually the one who has said more than once that you don't really have a problem if siblings marry. Does that mean that you are championing it? Or that it will happen soon? Or that it will be common? NO. I never said any of that. Please don't put words into my mouth and I won't put words into yours.

    If you want me to quote back what you have said about sibling marriage and infanticide, I can, but it will take me time and I am always rushed at this point in my life. Can we stipulate that you said those things? I can find the quotes if you won't stipulate.

    The gray areas in life are many. Don't make Catholics into a caricature. Culpability is a gray area, and largely unknown to us. Thinks like "just wars" and economic policies are gray areas. Even the death penalty has a smidgen of wiggle room, making it a bit of a gray area.

    I do not live my life in black and white. I am a mother of eight children. How do you suppose it would work to raise them in a world of black and white? Human nature is fascinating. I enjoy learning more and more about it. And the more I learn about all the gray areas in life and in human nature, the more I love my Catholic faith, which has stood strong on the shifting sand of society's conventions.

    Anyway, I have no idea why you are upset about what I wrote. As always, if you can find where I misrepresented you, please tell me (and please use the exact words that I used, so that I am very clear about my error).

    As for you being evil or not. We are all sinners. You may well get to Heaven before I do. I have no clarity on that, as I do not read souls or know the extent of your or my culpability before God. I do have the Church as a guide to what I need to strive for to have a perfected soul, but I don't have supernatural knowledge to know precisely where you or I stand.

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  22. Anonymous, you've been watching a little too much MSNBC (I watch it, too).

    Also, I think you are being a bit disrespectful. This is my "house" and really you should be less rude to the host who is happy to have you here and invites your thoughts.

    As far as your earlier comment, it is so chock full of misrepresentation and old canards about Catholicism that I will use it in a future post, breaking it down section by section. Please stay tuned. It may be a week or two (I can never tell), but I promise it will be answered thoroughly. Your errors about my Church need correcting.

    Thanks.

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  23. PS: Miss G, have you read "The Lottery" and if so, what did you think of it?

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  24. "You concede that nothing is objectively true, and that you determine morality for yourself. These are your own thoughts and conclusions; if I repeat them for clarity's sake, why presume I dislike you?"

    I find nothing wrong with the statement you attribute to me. Here is what you said:

    "It's about ideas, not judging you personally. Ideas and philosophies have consequences. Your philosophy, taken to its logical conclusion would be monstrous. That is what we are saying. It's fine that you still live in relatively "Christian" ways, but that is likely because you've grown up in a nation that is based on Judeo-Christian ethics."

    First of all, you are taking my ideas down a path that I am not. You take them down your path and restate them in a more fear-inducing way (as Paul suggests). Very simple example: Marie: "I determine morality for myself" Leila: "Then anyone who wants to determine their own morality will be able to do anything they want! Pandemonium!" This is your logic, not mine. Your interpretation of my ideas make them become monstrous.

    Second, I think of my ideas as my own. I thought of them, they are a part of me. To call my ideas monstrous is to call a large part of me monstrous. This is similar to people saying that they love the homosexual person but that their homosexuality is a sin, or terrible, or whatever badness you want to say about homosexuality. To a homosexual person, it is not possible to separate one's homosexuality from one's self.

    Finally, and not really related, but I think you are being very patronizing with this sentence: "It's fine that you still live in relatively "Christian" ways, but that is likely because you've grown up in a nation that is based on Judeo-Christian ethics." As if the only reason I'm not an actual monster is because Christians rubbed off on me. I spent a lot of my youth scrubbing the ideas of Christianity off of me, and re-evaluating my ideas, considering them. Some of them do match, but many do not.

    As a few of us have stated here before, we evolved morals, likely before religion was developed. Babies who are not able to understand language yet have morals: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09babies-t.html

    And so do primates, and dogs - both of which were not raised in Judeo-Christian societies. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html and http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,463467,00.html
    (well, there could be an argument for dogs being "raised" by humans...)

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  25. I love you, Gwen. You make me PROUD to be a liberal!

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  26. Mai, again, I must not be making myself clear. (Is there any liberal out there that understands what I'm saying? Help?)

    Let me try again: I did not say that you want your philosophy taken to its logical conclusion. In fact, I am sure you don't want to see it taken to its logical conclusion. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a logical conclusion.

    The logical conclusion to the I-decide-morality-for-myself philosophy is not a good conclusion. You may stop yourself short in any number of areas, and you may live out a morality that looks very much like your theist neighbors (or not). But when everyone is able to decide for himself what is moral and what is not, the ultimate conclusion is monstrous.

    When there is no objective truth, there is only power.

    Anyway, I hope that is more clear. It's not about your life as you live it out, it's about the logical consequences of a philosophy where truth is determined by each individual.

    And anyway, that is not even what the post was about. It was about the fact that I can disagree strongly with your worldview and yet not think you an evil person. Hopefully, those on the left can say the same about those of us on the other side of the issues.

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  29. There are two points I'd like to address in your previous comment. Since this post is about disagreeing strongly with my worldview yet not thinking I'm an evil person, I'll do that one first. The second is your "logical consequences" but it will have to come later.

    If it were just a matter of you disagreeing with me, and saying so in so many words, I don't think I would be so affected. But that isn't how you (and others here) put it. Our ideas are monstrous. We don't even understand (patronizing again) what our ideas mean. Everything will fall apart if everyone thought the way we do. This is not simple disagreement, this is first of all insulting (I don't even understand my own ideas) and second of all fear-inducing (insert your outrageous re-interpretation of any of my ideas here).

    I disagree with you too. But in my case, I respect that you made a number of conscious decisions to get to your ideas, one of which is: you are a practicing catholic, therefore you must agree with the pope's objective truths. I think I understand your ideas pretty well, and since they don't interfere with any other human's rights and are within the law, I think it is just fine that you practice those ideas. But of course, that's part of my worldview - I'm letting you think for yourself.

    I guess your worldview is that people shouldn't be thinking for themselves, which is why you appear to be trying to insult me, scare me, and sometimes proselytizing me into not thinking for myself any more. I'm only guessing here - I should ask you - are you trying to get me to change my mind? It appears to be so, based on the insults, scares, and proselytizing, but perhaps you should confirm it.

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  30. Thank you Mai for writing the above comment-it is what has been going through my mind as well.

    I find it both a little humorous and frustrating that I (and other liberal commentators) are never "getting the point" we're always "missing the mark" or "misreading the statement." No, I think we are in all fairness, reacting to what we've read and writing our responses which happen to bring up more points of disagreement between us.

    Paul, that's quite the character list you've made up. I don't identify with them and I certainly don't believe in the megalomaniac doctor running after babies with a scalpel. weird.

    I think this blog works better as a place for Catholics than as a place where occasionally liberals get berated.

    thanks christa and anonymous : )

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  31. Mai, can you provide me with anything I said to you that would reflect what you said above, esp. in the last paragraph? Specific quotes would be helpful. Thanks.

    By the way, the "pope's objective truths" are not from the pope. The objective truths are from God. The Pope doesn't (and hasn't) changed the moral law. It's not his to touch.

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  33. Miss G, seriously? Where do you get that? I have yet to see you or Mai actually use a quote from what I said to back up your claims. I think this is why the two sides cannot talk.

    I want to discuss ideas, and you want to insist that it's personal.

    Do you really not see that?

    I choose my words carefully so as not to make it emotional, but you upset anyway.

    I think it's next to impossible to talk to a liberal about ideas (Paul is an exception), and that actually really bothers me.

    But the readers of the blog can decide for themselves if I was insulting and berating. That's the beauty of having a written record to go back to.

    Off to my kids' saints day presentations.... Be back in a few hours.

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  34. Miss G and Gwen, did either of you read "The Lottery"? What was your reaction to it?

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  36. And what about people with views that are in more than one category Paul? I'm am not changing my viewpoint today, tomorrow, or in the near future and certainly not through a discussion on a blog.

    Leila, I haven't read "the lottery" I looked up a synopsis on-line but that still doesn't give me a good idea of what it's about.

    I don't know about students elsewhere, but I sure gave my students a fright reading historical accounts in New Mexico of witchcraft practices, accusations and death for those accused witchcraft.

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  37. Leila - Insult: "I am sure you don't want to see it taken to its logical conclusion" No, you're wrong here. I do want it taken to MY logical conclusion. You're saying that I don't understand YOUR logical conclusion, that don't understand the consequences of your conclusion - in effect that I don't understand my own ideas.
    Scare: "But when everyone is able to decide for himself what is moral and what is not, the ultimate conclusion is monstrous." Needs no explanation.
    Proselytizing: There was only one in this post, from Lauren, but they are quite frequent. You yourself have posted any number of "come back to the fold" links in response to specific topics, from former liberals who have turned Catholic.

    Paul, I refused to discuss abortion in the "suffering" post before, and I really don't want to get into it. I am pro-choice, although I greatly respect your opinions.

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  39. Leila, I'm don't denounce, attack or demean your faith or Catholicism. I may disagree with it and question it but I certainly don't disparage it. So why is it hard to see that Mai and I are standing up for the very principles and philosophies we live by that you condemn so heartily (condemn as in say it is evil)?

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  40. I agree with Leila. I have not seen anything she has written that was insulting or berating. On the contrary, I think it is evident that she respects your dignity as humans and desires to engage and understand your philosophies.

    Miss G and Mai, have you read anything by Socrates? Have we really been reduced to a society where disagreeing opinions cannot discuss their ideas because it is all reduced to a "personal attack"? That does not sound like evolution to me.

    The abortion issue: If I say I don't believe that my children should eat candy but yet buy it for them, am I really serious about my conviction? If I say I am against abortion but vote for politicians who support it, am I really serious about my conviction? Yes, I know this does not apply to Miss G and Mai, but I hear it all the time from liberals. Why not just state you are for abortion, as you both support it. And if you don't think it affects people, go ask Lorena Bobbit or perhaps her ex-husband!

    Voting on principles and not party rhetoric or promises is how we vote in our household. But that is another subject altogether!

    It is a sad state of affairs when discussions are shut down because are feelings are hurt. What would have happened if Socrates got miffed because some of his students didn't agree with him? Walk off and start name calling everyone?

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  42. Paul, I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion here about abortion. Discussions aren't always about changing peoples' minds-they can also be about defending your own opinions and being challenged. Understanding the opposition to your own ideas can be very helpful!

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  44. I have to admit that I do hope to change my mind on some issues when I go into discussions. That doesn't always happen, though. For example, I've been thinking A LOT lately about whether I really do believe in any objective truths. I could see no rape being one of them, and of course murder. But death in general I'm having a problem with.

    When I was in Zimbabwe, I taught high school math for two years, but spent a lot of free time talking with people about AIDS. (If you note, Zimbabwe is bright flashing red on all of the % infected maps for HIV.) The government at the time had a official policy of not believing those western scientists when the scientists told them they should not sleep around and use a condom when they had sex with prostitutes. No amount of scientific data would convince the majority of the population that an HIV virus existed, was passed through bodily fluids, or was actually responsible for killing people. I disagreed strongly with this opinion of the government, and did what I could to change minds while I was there. The idea of not letting millions of people die was more important to me than respecting the other culture's wish to believe what they wanted. (In the end, people started dropping like flies and about ten years after the virus started getting a foothold, the government finally came around and there are tons of AIDS education programs now. By then it was too late.)

    So, I ask myself these days, could THAT be one of my objective truths? That it is most important that these innocent Zimbabweans not die, above all else? Could there ever be a case in my mind that it was good that these people were dying? (needless to say, I'm already anticipating that Leila will say that's not a moral issue, it's something less than that - but still I'm thinking about it. I think my moral issue here is, do I agree that sometimes we should try to change other people's minds?)

    I know that I'll get lots of flak here on this blog for this next point as well, but looking at this from a purely evolutionary perspective, lots of people dying from AIDS is actually making our species stronger (in the very long term) in fighting against AIDS. There are plenty of cases of people having the HIV virus but never developing AIDS, somehow there is something in them that is protecting them. These people reproduce more and their offspring have this internal immunity. Plenty of diseases have come through populations (bubonic plague, etc etc) and wiped out huge swaths of populations, but the species was stronger in the end.

    So, I'm still a little undecided there. I certainly believe that trying to change people's minds was the morally correct choice, but there are so many sides to the issue.

    I also think very hard, if I do say that I believe in an objective truth, where do I draw the line?

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  45. Leila,

    For trying to be a "logical" woman, equating this blog to your "house" doesn't really make sense. It is a public space, as opposed to your private home. You fish for people to answer your questions. You don't own this space like you do your house. I am just nitpicking because thats what I read from you. every. day.

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  47. Leila - one only has to go back a few posts to the "sketchy" debate (sketchygate?) to see how totally offended you become when someone on some other blog asks questions about your choice to have many children.

    It is very serpentine of you to keep insisting that what you say about people's beliefs and moral standards shouldn't be taken as offensive, when you in fact feel the need to defend vhemently every little sentence you write that gets scrutinized.

    Whether you agree or not, you should at least be able to see how someone could take what you say "the wrong way" but I don't think you're a dummy - I think you know exactly what you are saying.

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  48. Why is it so hard to separate our thoughts from WHO WE ARE AS A PERSON? Our thoughts are NOT who we are. In the Christian-Judeao faiths, we are children of God first and foremost. And for that simple truth we have inherent value and dignity. My self worth does not come from my strength, intelligence, wit, beauty, money, thoughts, opinions, social status or even if I find the cure to childhood leukemia. My value is in the being ALIVE at God's will.

    Now, if your worth comes from your actions, thoughts, opinions, and value to society, then I can see how discussions become "personal". Have we really lost the ability to disassociate our thoughts and opinions with who we are? That does not sound like an evolved society to me. In fact it sounds like we are going backwards.

    Leila seems to challenge the liberal's viewpoint of the world by stretching their minds into the future with the logical consequences of such beliefs. Why are liberals so offended that she does not agree with them? I'm beginning to believe that the liberal "belief system" is chock full of holes and contradictions. I am also beginning to believe that their viewpoints cannot be defended without resorting to a sort of "tantrum" - you called my ideas monstrous so therefore I must be monstrous and can't talk to you anymore. To be real honest, this sounds like the arguments my children tell me when they have nothing else to argue. Come on ladies, pull up your big girl pants and face the opposition reasonably. And stay with it, even when it gets icky and uncomfortable. These are just ideas, not who we are as a person. How else did mankind ever evolve if we couldn't talk about ideas (hello? the Founding F thers and our Constitution??)

    I applaud you, MaiZeke, for your honesty and openness to delve into your questions about objective truth. I lived in Africa also and saw the poorest of the poorest. I also saw the happiest people embracing children and life. My heart goes out to you with the work you did over there. "Lots of people dying from AIDS" also gives the rest of the world an opportunity to step up and be the Good Samaritan, as it sounds like you were.

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  49. Paul, I really liked your categories, especially the Star Wars references. :)

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  50. Anonymous, let me break it down really simply for you. You know how some rules of the church are non-negotiable and some are arguable? If not, go ahead and peruse Leila's post on "Why I can't be a Catholic and a Democrat."

    Say you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of your child screaming. You run down the hall to find a creep with a knife attacking your child. Can you kill him? Is he to be spared simply because, by the will of God, he is alive and therefore cannot be judged at that moment by his words or actions? What would the pope say?

    For me (a liberal) this issue is easy - I'd kill him. I do base peoples worth on their words and actions, not the simple fact that they're alive. I do not find people like the knife-wielder to be valuable at all. (Unless there is value because God wants us to be stabbed, beaten or raped by his other creations?)

    But the point is liberals think about every topic as if it's one of your "negotiable" issues.It's easy to say ban gay marriage or abortion for a Catholic, but what about corporal punishment? What about being environmentally friendly? Leila says no to that. Do you? What about "natural family planning"? Even all of you aren't on the exact same page about it.

    There you go. Simple as that.

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  52. Anonymous - you said the following, "However, as far as contraception is concerned, why do I have to take the chance to become pregnant every time I have sex? Jut because the pope says so? My 2 kids are gifts, no doubt, but if I personally don't have the means or the health or frankly the desire to keep having children, does this mean I must become celibate? Do I tell my husband "no sex" because we must only copulate with the intention of reproducing? "

    Your intent for intercourse does not have to be to procreate. If that was the case, then yes you would have to be celibate - and I would be in big trouble here! However, the Church does not teach this. There are TWO purposes to the marital embrace - 1) to procreate and 2) to show love to your spouse by the giving of one's full self. If you wish to avoid a pregnancy you are able to do this through natural family planning. By charting the woman's fertility signs you can successfully avoid an unplanned pregnancy. God gave women this beautiful gift of cycles of fertility & infertility each month for this purpose.

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  53. Dear Leila,

    I just want to commend you on your patience. You're a wonderful woman! :)

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  54. Mai, you said:

    Leila - Insult: "I am sure you don't want to see it taken to its logical conclusion" No, you're wrong here. I do want it taken to MY logical conclusion. You're saying that I don't understand YOUR logical conclusion, that don't understand the consequences of your conclusion - in effect that I don't understand my own ideas.

    Mai, you are making my point for me. I understand that your belief is that your system of "everyone decides his own morality" will end in peace and harmony. But really think about that for a moment. You have children. Imagine if you said to your children: "Kids, you can make up your own rules for behavior. Do whatever you want." Do you think the end result would be peaceful and happy? I have kids, and I know the result would be monstrous!

    Again, how is what I said an insult to you?

    More coming....

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  55. Mai, you said:

    Scare: "But when everyone is able to decide for himself what is moral and what is not, the ultimate conclusion is monstrous." Needs no explanation.

    Mai, that sentence actually causes fright in you or others? To me it's a statement of fact, based on an understanding of human nature. If everyone gets to decide for himself what is moral or not, there would not be peace and harmony. Again, as a micro experiment, raise your children that way and see how it goes.

    Not trying to scare, trying to illuminate. Like "Bobby, if you touch the hot stove, your hand will burn." I can say that with calm and peace, not shrieking as if to induce fear.

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  56. Mai, and anyone else: I would love for you to be convinced of the truth of Catholicism. But, it's not necessary for you to do so in order for me to have a conversation with you. Believe it or not, I don't check people's religion before I talk or befriend them. I have a lot more in common with some atheists than I do with some Catholics.

    Mai, I'm curious about your opinion about AIDS in Uganda? And why their rates are lower than other African nations?

    Gwen, I would have no problem if you did say that my ideas as a Catholic are horrible. I am someone who says that fornication is wrong, abortion (even for rape and incest) is wrong, gay sex is wrong, etc. My beliefs go against what you think is right and good. So, why wouldn't you be able to articulate that clearly? You could say, "Leila, your ideas are dangerous and evil. They lead to horrible consequences if played out. But, I don't think you are evil, because I know you truly believe that you are following your conscience. I can separate an ideology from the person who holds it."

    I wouldn't mind a bit.

    By the way, my terminology might be throwing you. Right and wrong is the same as "good and evil" in theological terms. So, even stealing a nickel would be an "evil" as in a "wrong."

    Maybe that will help.

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  57. God Alone Suffices, thank you! And Anonymous (the one who likes me, ha ha), thank you!

    To the other Anonymous (not Marc, but the one that doesn't particularly care for me) and to Mai, I have some more comments coming soon about what you both have written. First, dinner. :)

    Oh, and if the anonymous writers could at least identify themselves with a name at the end of their post (even a fake name), that would help us keep it straight. There are three anonymous commenters in this post, I think. Thanks!

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  58. Mai, I truly appreciate your comment about your time in Zimbabwe. You have my admiration.

    I know you cannot read my tone or facial expression in a comment, but I promise you that I am about to ask something that is only intended to get some clarification, in the hopes of facilitating communication. Sometimes I don't think we speak the same language, so while it is laborious to define and re-define, I think it's important.

    I think it is totally commendable that you have been thinking about objective truth. I still wonder, though, if we are talking about the same thing. For example, you wrote this:

    So, I ask myself these days, could THAT be one of my objective truths?

    and also, this:

    I also think very hard, if I do say that I believe in an objective truth, where do I draw the line?

    When you speak of "objective truth" here, do you mean that as something you personally will never condone (or will always believe, depending on what it is). In other words, are you talking about something that is absolute for you? Or for everyone?

    The reason I ask is this: When I speak of objective truth, I'm talking about truths that have nothing to do with me or my own thoughts, or my own ponderings. In fact, I don't decide what is or isn't objectively true, or where to draw the line. There is objective truth that exists that I don't even know about, because it is in no way dependent on me or what I know.

    When I speak of objective truth, it is something outside of me and everyone; it's something we seek, find, accept and receive from without, not from within. It's not something we "decide". (Other than deciding to accept the reality of it.)

    Does that makes sense? I am trying to make sense, but sometimes I don't know if it's coming across clearly.

    Basically, can you tell me if you and I are talking about "objective truth" in two different ways? Thanks.

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  59. Say you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of your child screaming. You run down the hall to find a creep with a knife attacking your child. Can you kill him?

    Anonymous, that's an easy one. We are allowed to defend ourselves and our loved ones, even if the force necessary to do so ends in the attackers death.

    By the way, I am very "environmentally friendly". I love the environment (I don't know anyone who doesn't). I recycle, I conserve, etc. I don't identify myself as "green" because to me that is a loaded political buzz word.

    Also, we Catholics may not all use NFP and some may not even agree with it, but so what? The Church says it's morally acceptable to use a woman's natural cycles to regulate fertility. So, we are free to use it (or not). Trust me, we have a lot of freedom as Catholics.

    More on that, here:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/04/knowing-gods-will-and-catholic-freedom.html

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  60. Anonymous, you said:

    Leila - one only has to go back a few posts to the "sketchy" debate (sketchygate?) to see how totally offended you become when someone on some other blog asks questions about your choice to have many children.

    She asked questions of me? Hmmmmm, it was more like a dig. Of course, you know that what she said was offensive, talking about "sick tallies" and "sketchiness". That was meant to disparage. It was not a question based in mere curiosity. My response was quite measured. Can you show me what I said that crossed some kind of emotional line? A direct quote, if you please. Thanks!

    It is very serpentine of you to keep insisting that what you say about people's beliefs and moral standards shouldn't be taken as offensive, when you in fact feel the need to defend vhemently every little sentence you write that gets scrutinized.

    If you think I'm trying to be "serpentine" you clearly don't get that I am an open book and I say exactly what I mean. But then again, you go on to say, I think you know exactly what you are saying. Yes, and so does everyone else, because I say exactly what I mean, as clearly as possible.

    As far as "defending every little sentence that I write that gets scrutinize" -- dude! That's what I do! Don't you get that? I like to dissect arguments, pick apart ideas, clarify and simplify and distill down to the bare bones.

    That's what this blog is!

    Some people sew, some cook, some fish for leisure and enjoyment. I blog about truth and ideas. It's just what I do. It may not be what you are used to, but don't you like diversity? Isn't there room for my kind of dialogue in this world?

    :)

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  61. Anonymous,

    Thank you. You clarified for me that a liberal views a person's "worth on their words and actions, not the simple fact that they're alive." That helps me to understand your view on abortion; a fetus simply has no value because it cannot talk or act out. I'd hate to be a paraplegic, mute, elderly invalid, or in a coma around you. I now understand why you would want me dead. Our viewpoints on where the value of human life comes from are incompatible.

    Did you not know that the Swiss Guard, who protect the Pope, pack heat? Have you ever seen photos from May 13, 1981, when Pope JPII was shot? His Secret Service agents moved in and subdued Ali Agca (not sure on the spelling). If Ali Agca had been killed that day, it would have been a legitimate defense in the eyes of the Church. Let me quote from the Catechesis of the Catholic Church:

    Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he
    is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow...Legitimate defense
    can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is
    responsible for the lives of others. (As in a parent defending
    his/her children from an intruder.)

    So we are on the same page with that one, at least about the intruder scene. Years later, JPII heard his would-be assassins confession in a jail cell. Talk about heroic virtue! God's mercy is endless.

    What do you mean by corporal punishment? My Dad received lashings on his palms in the public schools in Texas. Is this what you mean? Or do you mean capital punishment? It really doesn't matter what my opinions are as they hold no Church authority. My opinions are just that: opinions.

    This is one of my favorite quotations from Archbishop Fulton J Sheen (who's uncle was agnostic):

    There are not 100 people in the united States who hate the Catholic
    Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive
    the Catholic Church to be.

    BTW, NFP opened up a whole new dialogue in my marriage. Something must be right, people who practice NFP have some crazy low divorce rate, 1-4%, compared to the national average of over 50%.

    The Friendly Anonymous

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  62. Sorry about the broken up sentences in the presentation.

    Friendly Anonymous

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  63. Here are some more examples, in successive posts, from the "we don't make determinations" post. Actual copies and pastes.

    - You are the perfect example of what Allan Bloom called "nihilism without the abyss."

    - If your ideas were ever to take hold it would be the end of everything.

    - [your] position is patently ridiculous.

    - Your arguments are logically inchoherent.

    These were by a single commenter, but fully supported in the intervening comments by two others.

    Now, my self-esteem is not so fragile that when someone disagrees with me I throw a tantrum, but at some point the discussion ceases to be a discussion and frankly is no longer a good use of my time.

    And, Leila, I would be interested to hear your comment on Paul's statement: "I just also think you get to "a" logical conclusion, and not "the" logical conclusion."

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  64. Friendly Anonymous: This is exactly the sort of rhetoric that I complained about a few posts ago.

    "I'd hate to be a paraplegic, mute, elderly invalid, or in a coma around you. I now understand why you would want me dead."

    We would want you dead? How does THAT follow from "my opinions are a part of me"? It is frankly a little tiring to having to defend against these outrageous leaps of "logic".

    Speaking of quotes about the Catholic Church, here's one I read just this morning on the bus, from Ignatius of Loyola: "What I see as white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it." This is what I see as the danger of being a Catholic who refuses to question the church. (I think Leila called it orthodox Catholic, but I can't remember.)

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  65. I should have prefaced that last paragraph with "I'll throw out some rhetoric of my own. Please comment/defend."

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  66. First of all, I'm sorry about putting out the rhetoric stuff, when I complained about it. I don't really believe that you will call something black that is white. It is definitely the sort of quote that scares us liberals about the Catholics, though.

    Anyway, on to objective truth. Leila, I think I understand you when you say this: "In fact, I don't decide what is or isn't objectively true, or where to draw the line. ... It's not something we 'decide'." If this is the way you define objective truth, then this is why I'm so opposed to agreeing to your definition.

    Who/what is doing the deciding then? How am I "told" what is objectively true? You've said previously that we'll find out after we die. I can't wait that long, I need to make decisions about actions now.

    Even Paul, who says that ultimately objective truth comes from God, but that "Proximately, it comes from every individual. Each person is an end unto herself, and not a means to an end." If I did have a God who told me these things, I'd have to decide who helps me with my pipeline into God. You have chosen to let the Pope be that, and based on what I've seen of his (and previous popes') decisions, I couldn't do that.

    To continue with the AIDS in Zimbabwe discussion, the Pope has said that God told him that contraception is wrong (a corollary of one of the church's objective truths). So he is against condom usage in Africa, on those grounds. In fact, he went so far as to tell Africans that condom use will make the AIDS problem worse.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/17/pope-africa-condoms-aids

    This makes me cry for people who are dying of AIDS.

    If agreeing with your definition of objective truth means I have to agree with all of your objective truths, then I just can't do that. What the pope said to Africans is immoral in my opinion.

    If I agreed that there are objective truths, our disagreement would then just move on to "well, then, which objective truths are really true?" Which is (to me) the same argument.

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  67. Leila - you are so right. "Sketchy" is an OBVIOUS dig, while "monstrous" is just a neutral question. I went back and re-read that post and found the sick tally comment to be a QUESTION itself, as in "is this some sort of sick tally?" She didn't say you had a tally. But yet you got offended. And for the record, I would have gotten offended too if I raised 8 kids and some woman lumped me in with "Octomom."

    But isn't that what you and yours do? When someone says "I will judge based on words and actions" and your commenter takes that as "I will judge you on your inability to speak or act and kill all the quadrapalegics and fetuses I can?" Or when you assume because someone says homosexual marriage (in a court of law, not a church) is fine, suddenly it's a free for all? Man on boy love and incest comes next.

    I know what you said, Leila - Oh I wasn't saying YOU would do it... but that's what happens... and when a liberal says "you are going to ban IVF" (your church's stance coming to it's conclusion), you say "No one is trying to do that, silly..."

    NO. There are small segments of the population that do awful things - things we can all agree are a no-no, like murder, rape, pedophilia. They will do this whether they have your Catholic rulebook in their pocket or a liberal mindset of "everything is negotiazble." People who do these things are sick, they are not just taking ideas to their conclusions.

    If you were truly having a conversation with liberals, you would be speaking words like, "Okay, I see where you get that idea, but I don't agree because..." Instead you say and infer things like, "you are illogical. Your ideology will result in society's destruction... what are you getting offended about?"

    Maybe if everyone here wanted to have a dialog, we should all ask ourselves "Am I assuming? Am I reacting? Or am I thinking and responding?" And for an extra olive branch maybe think about how someone could take what you are saying as offensive. We all have feelings and emotions that get in the way of who we want to be. It's just the kind of creatures we are. Even you, Leila, are not above this.

    -
    serpentine (BTW that was my 1st comment, I don't know who all the others are) anonymous

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  68. I wish this conversation area had a "like" button. Like!

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  69. MaiZeke,

    The comments made about not wanting to be a paraplegic, etc... were made in reference to Anonymous' comments that human value comes from actions and words. I can now understand that if a person's value is completely based on their actions and words and not from within, then well... human life is only as sacred as far as it can act and speak. I did not intend for it to sound rhetorical. It really helped me to understand why liberals are able to defend and support euthanasia and abortion. In a liberal's eye, there is no value in their "humanness" because they cannot speak or act out. It sounds close to utilitarianism?

    This all tied into the separation of our thoughts from our dignity as humans. Just like Leila, you can assail my thoughts as much you like but that does not affect my dignity or value as a human. My thoughts are not who I am. A Christian's identity comes from being made in the image and likeness of God. If your "god" is your thoughts, ideas, or knowledge then it is understandable that when people disagree or challenge those, you would feel as if YOU are being attacked.

    Why is it that when people want to study chemistry, they seek out the best chemistry books but when they want to learn about or debate Catholicism they rely on second hand information? in the court of law that is called heresay. If I truly want to know the how and why of anything, I seek the source. If you really want to know the Church's teachings, read about it by the Church. Then you won't be getting someone else's spin, interpretation or angle on it.

    The Pope's comments about condoms and AIDS in Africa were taken out of context. I don't have the full text in front of me, maybe someone else could chime in on this one.

    Someone else mentioned the success of the AIDS fight in Uganda. Definitely worth reading.

    The Friendly Anonymous

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  70. Mai and Anonymous,

    "OK I see where you get that idea" of supporting abortion and euthansia, "but I don't agree because" every human life has value in and of itself. Human life is worth fighting for, even Mai recognizes that in the AIDS fight. So why can't that same passion be extended to all human life? I'm not asking this zealously but compassionately as possible.

    Maybe you don't "want" me dead, that would be horrible, but you don't stand up and defend the lives of the unborn and elderly. It is clearer why you don't.

    The Friendly Anonymous

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  71. Friendly anonymous - Now we're talking! :) I cannot speak for every liberal, but when I think of euthanasia, I am not thinking about offing grandma because she is a burden. In that case, it would be WRONG, for sure. Cases of vegetative states I would have to consider on a case by case basis. The good thing is we have DNR releases that state specifically if you want to be "alive" at all costs or not. For instance, there was a case in the papers recently about a woman who had severely malformed twins that shared a heart. The doctors did everything they could to keep the twins alive, which was a slim to none chance as it was, but their bodies were not getting the memo. They kept going into arrest and the mother insisted they be brought back to life each time. The babies are unconscious with tubes coming out of every orifice and vein. The doctors treating the case are emotionally wrought because the babies bodies keep trying to die and the mother won't let them go. The doctors feel like they are prolonging the pain and suffering of the babies. The mother is waiting for "a miracle from God" to save them and until then she is perfectly happy letting them live on machines alone and getting electrocuted back to "life" a few times a day/week. To me, that is ghastly.

    OR, I sat bedside while my uncle died of lung cancer. At the end there was much anguish, pain, thrashing and basically having to watch him drown in his own fluids. We cranked that morphine drip as high as we could (no, we didn't euthanise him, though I wish we could have.) I do firmly believe that if someone does not want to spend their last hours or days in pain, panic and horror, they should be able to end it on their own terms. Because I had to watch it. It was like having to watch my loved one get mauled by a grizzly and not be able to save him or shoot him in the head to end his suffering. That might sound terrible to you, but we put our dogs "down" for a reason: it's humane. Why not let our dying make the same choice? Why do they have to endure it because your rules say so?

    As for abortion, I get where you are coming from. Personally I am really glad I was never put in a predicament where a pregnancy would be anything other than a happy occasion. I cannot speak for the girl whose father raped her, or the drug addict who cannot deal with a pregnancy or any woman who is in the thick of something I cannot fathom.

    I look at it this way, if my daughter (who is 15) got pregnant, I would encourage her to have the baby and do all I could to help her raise it and graduate High School. But on the other hand, I just do not feel I can make that choice for any of her friends or their mothers. So, while I don't like or encourage abortion, I vote pro-choice. I also believe in promoting major sex ed and use of contraceptives. People are going to make mistakes, but if they are using birth control, an innocent baby - whether through abortion or having to live their lives in abysmal circumstances - won't have to pay the price.

    There are always stories of "I kept my baby and it was great" and that is wonderful. But there are just as many stories of these babies being born into abuse, addiction and violence too.

    So in short I guess I am thinking horrible death bed scenarios where euthanasia would be a release, I am not thinking about elderly people at the mercy of a death panel (We have decided you no longer contribute... goodbye) because I think that scene is very far-fetched for me to comprehend.

    And, people seek out second hand information about chemistry, too. I don't know if you know this, but there is a boon of supplements and snake oils being bought because of a lack of understanding about science. People aren't vaccinating their children and they think a macrobiotic diet will cure their cancer. People believe all kinds of things and get their information from all kinds of sources.

    -
    serpentine

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  72. Oh, my. I wish I had time to read these comments, but Leila, you're not alone. This is one of the great challenges of our time. It's become a sin to hurt the feelings of others.

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  73. Mai,

    Sometimes I get caught up in my own rhetoric and go too far. I apologize if I offended you with some of the things I said. I'm not sure if you have read Nietzsche, but in "Beyond Good and Evil" he wrote, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Allan Bloom was talking about people who are able to be nihilists without having the angst that has usually accompanied that position. I thought that described your position, and I'm sorry if it offended you.

    When I said if your ideas (relativism) ever took hold it would be the end of everything, again, my rhetoric was overblown. I meant by that, that if relativism ever became widespread, then something like Nietzsche's superman could come about. That is a fear of mine. I see the natural law, and most people's acquiescence to it, whether they philosophically understand it or not, as a safety that makes civilization possible. That's all I meant.

    The last two comments you cite I stand by, but I could have expressed them in a more temperate way, and for that I apologize as well.

    I think ultimately, that you are a good person, but that you don't fully understand the implications of your philosophy. I think that is what Leila is trying to do on this blog. I think part of what is blocking communication is the fact (and I hope you don't take this personally) that you are not truly what you say you are--a relativist.

    I think you have the same innate sense of right and wrong that we all do, you just draw different conclusions from the facts. I know you don't want babies to die, but you think it is merciful to allow abortions. I totally disagree with you, but we are coming at this with the same sense of concern for the vulnerable. If we weren't you and other pro-aborts would not go to the trouble to say that these babies are not in fact babies. This shows that we believe the same thing about ethics and morals, but we come to different conclusions about how to practically apply our concern for the other. I think the same could be said for gay marriage, etc.

    I think you believe that people like us use natural law like a weapon, to hurt people, for instance in our opposition to gay marriage, and other moral teachings the Church proposes. So because of this you reject right and wrong and say you are a relativist, but in fact it seems that you care very much about right and wrong, and even, for the most part agree with us (concern for the weak, the poor, etc.), although we come to different conclusions on how to apply these beliefs.

    I think this creates a sort of cognitive dissonance, that makes communication between our two sides difficult, if not impossible at times.

    It truly is like we are speaking different languages. I don't know if this makes any sense...

    Marc

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  74. I also have a husband with a degree in philosophy, and from the Catholic university DePaul of all places.

    I asked him tonight if he thought I was a nihilist or a relativist. He said, "You're a secular humanist and a god-hater." Well, you all already know the god-hater part, so the first one is now going to by my reply - I'm a secular humanist. You could call me a god-hater if you like, I won't get offended, but it's best if you prefix it with "that", as in "that god-hater MaiZeke". I'd also answer to "liberal".

    I started calling myself a relativist because you all did. It seemed appropriate - things are relative. But the more I read up, you seem to be calling me this because I specifically cannot bring myself to agree to objective truths. The encyclical from PJPII Veritatis Splendor basically says that you either accept moral truths or you are a relativist. And as we all know by now, relativism is truly monstrous.

    Since we all know that I don't accept what the pope says as truth, I don't believe that I either accept moral truths or else I'm a relativist. I'm a secular humanist, and that's that. No matter what the pope says.

    For fun, I also asked my husband, "Do you think I believe in any objective truths?" He said, "Well, you're a mathematician, and they say math has a lot of objective truths in it."

    "No," I wailed. "I tried that! 2 + 2 = 4 only if we all agree we're talking about base 10!"

    But it got me thinking. I certainly do accept axioms, which are considered to be self-evident, and that we all accept before we start trying to prove other stuff. Like a + b = b + a. (But only if we are talking about Abelian groups, of course.)

    And, I certainly taught axioms to my students, without the parenthetical business. I essentially told them that there was objective truth. It's just true, I said, and left out the other part.

    That's as close as I can get right now, but I haven't closed the door completely.

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  75. Mai, I'm just now catching up on comments. I also have my daughter home from college for the weekend, yay!! So, I may not be able to get in-depth, but I will quickly say that I love this last comment! We both would agree that there are objective truths in science and math (many still undiscovered). So, there is common ground there. :)

    We Catholics just also believe that there are metaphysical and moral objective truths as well. I know that is where we differ.

    What did you think of the encyclical, as a secular humanist? Did you find it offensive, or interesting, or both? I'm honestly just curious.

    More soon....

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  76. From what I can tell, I'm still a relativist in the church's eyes, since I haven't accepted moral absolutes. That's still offensive in its own way, but not personally offensive to me.

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  77. Mai, I'm still confused as to why that would be offensive. If it's not offensive to you, then who would it offend?

    I wanted to revisit the AIDS question, and what the Pope said. A Harvard AIDS expert said that the Pope was basically correct. This (short) article talks about that, as well as the Uganda outcomes. Would like to know what you think:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5987155.ece

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  78. Serpentine, you said that only sick people would push for man/boy love and pedophilia. I'm curious to know if you are aware that the APA was going to "normalize" pedophilia a few years ago (in exactly the same way it did for homosexuality). The NAMBLA types and many pedophiles speak of their penchant as a "gift" that they were born with, and they want acceptance to "be who they were made to be." The only reason that the APA decided not to normalize pedophilia is because there is still enough of a stigma here, and there was an outcry. But I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

    As far as the offensive comment about the "sick tally" of my kids, I think we all see that for what it is. We don't normally speak of someone's children as "sick tallies." It was meant to be rude, not challenging. There is a difference between being rude to someone and challenging an opinion.

    I think Friendly Anonymous is on to something when she said this:

    This all tied into the separation of our thoughts from our dignity as humans. Just like Leila, you can assail my thoughts as much you like but that does not affect my dignity or value as a human. My thoughts are not who I am. A Christian's identity comes from being made in the image and likeness of God. If your "god" is your thoughts, ideas, or knowledge then it is understandable that when people disagree or challenge those, you would feel as if YOU are being attacked.

    Maybe you don't see it, but I think it might be why we talk past each other?

    By the way, the comments become offensive when it stops being about the ideas and starts getting emotional and personal. I try very hard not to be emotional or get personal. But I will never stop challenging the ideas. Ideas have consequences in real life. It's not just an academic exercise. So, I keep challenging, in as polite a way as I can.

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  79. Mai, you said:

    If I agreed that there are objective truths, our disagreement would then just move on to "well, then, which objective truths are really true?" Which is (to me) the same argument.

    I think it's not the same argument, because there really are people who don't believe in any objective truth. To agree that there are some, but that we don't agree on what they are, well, to me that does mean we moved the conversation forward. A good thing, I think! :)

    You also said:

    I don't really believe that you will call something black that is white. It is definitely the sort of quote that scares us liberals about the Catholics, though.

    If it helps, remember that there is nothing in Catholic morality that has changed or will change. It is very consistent (remember, we are the only ones left who still say contraception is immoral). So, we will never take you by surprise and say something different tomorrow than we do today. The Pope has no power to change the moral law. None of the Popes have or could! It's not like Protestantism, which can change doctrine and morals daily if they want.

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  80. Mai, you said:

    Who/what is doing the deciding then? How am I "told" what is objectively true? You've said previously that we'll find out after we die. I can't wait that long, I need to make decisions about actions now.

    Catholics call it revelation. God revealed Himself to us (all of us humans). He is not hidden and He is quite active. As far as the moral law, we would say that has been written on our hearts (though sin can and does dull the conscience so not everyone hears it clearly). So, we have an innate sense of right and wrong (placed on our hearts by our Creator).

    He has also revealed His truth (and protected it) first through the Jewish people, and then through the Catholic Church (which we see as the fulfillment of Judaism). Part of this truth was written down and is known as the Bible.

    Why do I believe any of this craziness? Because logically, after years of study, I can't see it any other way. I believe logically that Christ rose from the dead. Bodily. And that means I believe His claims to be God, and I am a member of His Church. I also see the consistency of the Faith, and the holiness of the saints (and what can only be the supernatural survival of a Church for 2,000 years which should have collapsed centuries ago with as many bumbling fools have led it!). I also deeply feel the love of a personal God. I have experienced it.

    But your question opens up a whole other topic, which is Christian apologetics, or defense of the faith. There is a lot I want to write about that. I want to start with proofs of the Resurrection. Oh, to have more hours in the day!! But I will get to it, someday.

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  81. Serpentine, sorry, I forgot to include the link to the APA controversy (re: pedophilia):

    http://www.narth.com/docs/pedcrisis.html

    Mai also might find it interesting, as there is discussion of the APA's use of the words "morally wrong" -- which seems strange for a science journal.

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  82. Friendly Anonymous hits on an important point. The failure to understand what real human dignity is results in a failure to recognize what charity really is.

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  83. NARTH? Really? This is where you get your news, huh? Forget this. Your truth is from unprovable sources, your news is from biased sources. (because the abuse scandal, too, is the fault of those evil secular psychologists.)You can never concede a millimeter to others and you are not interested in actual discussion. You are interested only in testing and proving your rules against "liberals" and you (in your mind) will always win because you are operating on your own rules. Everything else is illogical, misunderstood, wrong, or will lead to certain destruction. Fine. You win, Leila. You are the queen of your blog circle.

    Note to Mai, Miss G and anyone else who is banging their head against this brick wall: It is futile. You will not change anyone's mind in this place, nor even make them think for a second about anyone else's feelings. Because if they did think, they might ask questions and questions lead to more thoughts... The rule system that they operate on is absolute and cannot be challenged, because if anything is even conceded an inch, the whole structure falls apart. So they will defend their every last word and prove yours wrong, even if that means quoting biased and unproven sources with no references. They will not really listen to you or try to understand (nor even agree to disagree). Good luck with them if you continue to let them upset you. I choose not to.

    -
    serpentine

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  84. Serpentine, I know you don't like the source of this particular article, but it doesn't change the facts of the article. You can read the same info from other sources. Just google it.

    I guess I would ask you: What part of the factual information in the article was wrong? If you could provide quotes, that would be great. Don't say, in essence, "It's all bunk," without at least showing me one or two lies that you found in the article. How was it factually wrong?

    I don't discount truth even when I find it in liberal circles. For example, I often look to the Guttmacher (Planned Parenthood) statistics for the truth on abortion. Guttmacher is hardly on my side, but it's a credible source.

    But what stuck out for me is when you said, "Note to Mai, Miss G and anyone else who is banging their head against this brick wall: It is futile. You will not change anyone's mind in this place, nor even make them think for a second about anyone else's feelings."

    This is not about anyone's "feelings." I am talking ideas, facts, logical thought, not feelings. Liberals talk a lot about feelings, sometimes in the place of facts. We all have feelings, but that's not the point of what my blog is about.

    However, feelings are important and they do matter. Please stay tuned because in the next post or two, I am going to write the thoughts and feelings of a devoutly Catholic mom who has a beloved son who happens to be gay. You may find it compelling.

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  85. http://www.narth.com/docs/symposium.html

    Here are more facts for anyone who wants to read more (yes, from a NARTH article). Can you dispute them? If you want to put up a link to an article which disputes my sources, please feel free to do so. I will read them, and so can anyone else. Please put the links here, and we will let others decide.

    Fair?

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  86. Serpentine, a couple more thoughts:

    As to the priest scandal, I have never defended the actions of the priests who did unspeakable things. It is evil (wrong), and there is no excuse for it. Ditto for the bishops who covered up or relied on those particular secular psychologists for how they would handle the situation. Why is it wrong to say that? The psychologists were wrong, the bishops who didn't do the right thing were wrong and the priests were wrong. Wrong enough that we call these crimes "mortal sins"!

    As for changing minds. If you want to change minds, don't forget the lurkers who are reading. Some (many) may be on the fence. You may never convince me (although using facts will help), but you might convince them. Why give up on them? They can evaluate for themselves who makes more sense. You are free to say what you want and give any sources you want. I don't censor (except for extreme profanity). So, don't look to change my mind, but think of the lurkers or the other readers.

    I don't suppose for a moment that I will change your worldview, but I do think there are some readers who are truly interested in the debate.

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  87. More info for anyone interested:

    http://www.dadi.org/normped2.htm

    If anyone can dispute the information about Judith Levine's book (with forward from Clinton's former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders), please feel free to correct the record here. I hope it's not true, so I will listen to all explanations.

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  88. Serpentine,

    Now that you clarified that human dignity in your world does not come from God, I understand why there is so much grey area on life issues. It also clarifies that Christians and liberals, at the very core, will never agree on these issues. All human life has value to Christians, especially the weak, suffering and marginalized. If you don't see the value of human life, then I understand why euthanizing a human or a dog are the same in your world.

    Where do you draw the line for suffering? In the scenarios you cited above, I can feel your heart full of compassion for their suffering bodies. But what if something is going on inside their souls that is deeper than what is observable on a mere physical level? When has it been wrong for a mother to fight for her children, against ALL odds? It is only in this post Roe v. Wade society that our need to relieve the suffering of one at the detriment to another positions a mother AGAINST her own children.

    I understand that human value in your world comes from acts and words. I keep repeating this because it is a breakthrough in my understanding of the liberal mindset.

    Also, to read up on suffering, check out Leila's blogs on the subject. If your sole purpose is to stop the suffering at all costs, where is the line drawn? I mean, who is to say that someone's spiritual or emotional pain is greater than your physical pain? Who's the judge on it? Is it the observer or the person experiencing it? If it is the observer, then I see a world in a lot of pain but I would not want to euthanize them to alleviate it, even if that was what they so desired in the moment. I'm sure you don't either, but how do you distinguish who should go and who should live?

    Keep reading...The Friendly

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  89. I have a friend who in college tried to kill herself. Her past was littered with all the reasons you stated above to abort a child: born into poverty and a drug riddled home, mom was a prostitute at some point, molested as a child by a family member (she was the one who testified against him at trial), engaged in sexual relations, became pregnant as a result and procured an abortion in high school, and then tried to commit suicide in college. What if she had passionately gone before her doctor and pleaded with him to end her suffering? Her emotional pain was as acute and severe as anyone going through death. She wanted to kill herself! What would have happened if her doctor thought along the same lines of ending her suffering instead of seeing the value in her brokenness: "Well, she IS in extreme pain and I see no hope for her future. Maybe I could compassionately prescribe something for her." Of course she made it through that crisis and is raising 2 daughters. In those moments of human weakness, we need humanity to be strong, to believe in our worth more than we do, to be at our side to tell us that we can make it through the crisis. This is true for end of life issues, a crisis pregnancy, disease, pain, or emotional suffering.

    My son's friend has a name for someone who is always pointing out the reality of a situation: Constant Downer. I hate to be a Constant Downer, but look at our history. Human suffering is a part of it. Go back and read the personal accounts of the battles, plagues, etc.. If anyone knows of one time when humans were not suffering, please point me to it.


    My heart goes out to you with what you went through as your uncle died. My dad died of cancer last year. There was suffering at the end from those of us that surrounded him to his physical body. But I don't know if he suffered spiritually and emotionally. I don't know how present he was to all that was happening in his physical body. I would wonder, "Does Dad know his kidneys are shutting down? Does that hurt? Is he scared? Does he cognitively know the pain in his body?" Science can't answer those questions either. There is a mystery that shrouds death. But to hasten the process, no matter how compassionate it sounds, would interfere with the natural order. Have you ever thought that maybe they need that extra time to reconcile something from their past?

    Sorry this is so long.

    The Friendly Anonymous

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  90. Serpentine,

    "If you don't see the value of human life, then I understand why euthanizing a human or a dog are the same in your world."

    I don't really think you see humans and dogs as the same but your argument for extending euthanasia to humans puts us on the same level.

    The Friendly Anonymous

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  91. I think it's instructive to look at what has happened with euthanasia in the Netherlands. Once a society decides to euthanize for grave suffering, it starts to do so for lesser suffering as well. Also, from voluntary "death with dignity" to involuntary death. The Netherlands is how that mindset plays out.

    Also, I think Dr. Kevorkian was the one who was willing to provide death services to those who were not terminally ill, but who were suffering from severe depression (which often accompanies chronic illnesses).

    Paul doesn't like the term "Culture of Death" but I think it fits.

    For the record, the Church does not require any and all means to keep someone alive. If a person is truly dying, then no extraordinary means are mandated to keep the person alive at all costs. That's simply not part of Catholic teaching. At that point, you would do what you can to make the person comfortable and ease their suffering as they go. But direct killing is not moral.

    And, end of life issues is a whole other subject, which deserves a full post.

    Lots to talk about!

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  92. I'll try to answer as many points as I have time for. If I've missed one that you think is super-important, point it out again please.

    First, why is the church's stand on god-haters being relativists offensive in general, but not offensive to me personally? Well, I think the church is making a huge leap. Basically the church says one must either believe in absolute morality as created/delivered by an imaginary being in the sky, or that person is a relativist who cannot possibly determine right or wrong besides what is for himself. I reject that. I think it is a leap in logic that can't be supported, no matter how many encyclicals various popes put out on the issue. So it's offensive in that the church categorizes entire groups of people as - searching for a word - unthinking? unfeeling? unable to grasp right and wrong? with such logic. However, now that I understand the religious motivation (absolute morality must come from the church's God) I can dismiss it much as Paul dismissed people who argue something solely on the basis of religion a few posts ago. It's just the church, making such pronouncements again. This is not offensive to me; how catholics define my position is more about the catholics than it is about me, and that does not offend me.

    I'll make successive posts, since I sometimes have trouble with URL too long for long posts. Then I can stop easily when I run out of time.

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  93. I'm a little unclear how we got into Pedophilia - I think it is because serpentine used an example, and Leila took it as an opportunity to show how depraved scientists are.

    From what little research I did on the topic (frankly it's not a burning issue in my mind since there is no danger of decriminalizing pedophilia), it sounds like the APA's ultimate goal was to move to normalize sexual behaviors that are not the norm. In the case of homosexuality, it was long needed. THere are other para-sexual identities, too, and apparently pedophilia is one of them, so they had to consider it.

    So they considered it, and people had opinions. In the end, they re-classified it as some long word I can't remember, but now the proposed revision is a disorder, with a list of conditions for making the diagnosis, and I note that an actual act of pedophilia is an automatic diagnosis.

    So I think that Leila is concerned about the people who had opinions on pedophilia that were not ultimately what the APA is recommending. I frankly have no problem with that - we need to have multiple opinions on issues, we must consider them all, even if to reject. Companies who are comprised solely of yes-men are not well-run.

    I also agree with serpentine on the NARTH issue. To call that scientific journal is similar to calling all of those journals on creation research "scientific journals". Once I read a sentence like "That worldview must take into account our creator's design, which inevitably involves gender complementarity." (from the symposium page Leila provided the link for), I realize I can't waste much more time on this publication.

    But the other thing that I want to point out, Leila suggested that I might be interested in the "APA's use of the words "morally wrong" -- which seems strange for a science journal." I don't think this is strange at all. Take for example the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. True scientists are actually interested in morals and how they develop - it's not the purview of god-lovers.

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  94. Ok, let's talk about Uganda. From what I read, it is only recently that the government agreed with the American Evangelists and started removing condoms from their AIDS education marketing material. In fact, many sources suggest that the infection rate is increasing since the removal of condoms and the sole promotion of abstinence/monogamy as a prevention measure (http://www.avert.org/aids-uganda.htm).

    Leila has also been asking me about something I put on my own blog, about the proposal to kill homosexuals in Uganda. It blew up a few months ago, the bill was introduced in October 2009 but withdrawn in May of this year after much international opposition. Basically, the bill proposed (from Wikipedia) "introducing the death penalty for people who are considered serial offenders, are suspected of 'aggravated homosexuality' and are HIV-positive, or who engage in sexual acts with those under 18 years of age."

    Much of the criticism in this whole situation was directed at the American religious right. Some of the opinions I read at the time talked about how the rhetoric in the United States is so high about this issue, we start to ignore inflated logic/rhetoric like "once we allow homosexuality, we'll allow sibling marriage and soon people will be marrying their own dogs!" The high-level Ugandan politicians, the president and his wife included, seem to be strongly under the influence of the American religious right who speak this way.

    One of the reasons I complain about this escalation of ideas (from "a person is defined by his ideas" to "we would want to kill you if you are a parapalegic") is because of this case specifically.

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  95. About the Harvard guy who basically said what the pope said about condoms is correct (in the times UK). Leila asks me what do I think.

    I agree with one of the dissenters in the article, from this paragraph:

    "Today, this claim was disputed as “ludicrous” by Michael Bartos, chief of the UN AIDs Aids Prevention Unit in Geneva"

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  96. Mai, I understand about long comments being difficult, so I will make my responses short.

    Secular humanists believe that morality is relative. The Church states/repeats the fact that secular humanists believe that morality is relative. That is seen as offensive. Color me confused.

    Uganda: So, are you saying that but for the influence of gay-hating America, countries such as Uganda would be a peaceful place of acceptance for homosexuals? I think that's a stretch, especially since America is a gay-friendly (extremely tolerant) society, and condemns violence against gays. Unlike many countries in the world, I might add.

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  97. Mai said: it sounds like the APA's ultimate goal was to move to normalize sexual behaviors that are not the norm. In the case of homosexuality, it was long needed. THere are other para-sexual identities, too, and apparently pedophilia is one of them, so they had to consider it.

    Yet, you become indignant when anyone suggests that the secular left has/will consider normalizing other "not the norm" sexual behaviors. This is just the path they took when normalizing homosexuality a few years back. Why it it a stretch to say it could happen again with pedophilia, when they are following the same path? Just because society hasn't accepted it yet doesn't mean they won't in twenty or thirty years, correct?

    Again, you seem to be confirming the facts we present (the left has looked into normalizing deviant behavior), but then tell us we are being silly when we point it out.

    You said, "They had to consider it." Why? Why do they have to consider it? Do they have to consider it in the case of a man who wants to rape women (but would never act on it)? I don't get that statement that they had to consider the case of pedophilia. It seems like you want it both ways. ("Pedophilia is clearly and obviously sick, but they had to seriously consider that it might not be -- even up to the point of preparing to put it in the DSM.")

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  98. it sounds like the APA's ultimate goal was to move to normalize sexual behaviors that are not the norm. In the case of homosexuality, it was long needed.

    Just to stress, this is your opinion. Because there are many folks who say today that, "In the case of man/boy love, it was long needed."

    It's just your opinion, as the folks at NAMBLA have their opinion. One day, if society evolves to accept a wider range of sexualities, your opinion could be the one that is seen as repressive and out-of-touch, no?

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  99. Mai said:

    Once I read a sentence like "That worldview must take into account our creator's design, which inevitably involves gender complementarity." (from the symposium page Leila provided the link for), I realize I can't waste much more time on this publication.

    The statement wouldn't change the essence of the argument if you took out the words "our creator's". I think gender complementarity can be seen even by the secular.

    And I'm curious. If you saw this statement: "Because of love for God's creation, we must care for the sick and the poor, and we must care for the environment," would you reject the substance of the statement because it's clearly a religious source?

    I don't get the refusal to address the facts of things (even if they are couched in religious language). The same with what the Harvard "guy" (AIDS expert) said as he defended the Pope's observations. You answered by saying "It's ludicrous." How is that an argument?

    I understand if you didn't address the specific points because of time constraints. Believe me, I am with you on that. But just to say "ludicrous" is not addressing the points the Harvard "guy" raised.

    I will let you have the last word here on all of this (and will read with interest). Thanks for the good discussion!

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  101. People who use condoms are much more likely to have a false sense of security and are thus more likely to engage in risky sex, i.e. outside the confines of marriage, and with multiple partners. That is intuitive.

    Condoms have a high failure rate (even among responsible, educated, adult users). Don't ask me how I know. ;) There's a good likelihood that condom users at some point will have a breakage or other mishap which will result in a pregnancy if the sex was during a woman's fertile time (maybe 5 or 6 days a month). AIDS can be transmitted all the time during a person's cycle, so a condom mishap is much more treacherous regarding AIDS risk vs. pregnancy risk. This is intuitive.

    I wouldn't put a whole lot of trust in a condom to prevent pregnancy, since the failure rate is high, and so I cannot imagine anyone telling people in an AIDS-ridden culture to trust a condom to prevent something that could kill them. It's Russian Roulette. That is intuitive, too.

    People who have sex within the confines of a monogamous marriage don't generally get AIDS. That is intuitive.

    Paul, you are 1,000x smarter than me on all things scientific. But sometimes we can use our common sense to understand things, without having to be a statistician or scientist. (Lucky for me!) :)

    (PS: When it was mentioned that people who don't use contraception have more sex than those who do, that was (I believe) concerning married monogamous people who once used contraception and now don't. I would give you more details, but that's for another post! :) It has nothing to do with AIDS or unmarried people.)

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  102. I saw this quote on a blog and I just felt like posting it:

    "One Truth: That the mind is below Truth, not above it, and is bound, not to descant upon it, but to venerate it; that truth and falsehood are set before us for the trial of our hearts." ~ JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

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  103. I agree, this has been a very good discussion. Only two points I'd like to make

    First, about the Uganda homosexual issue: Here's an article implicating American Evangelicals in the Uganda anti-homosexuality bill (admittedly from the NYT)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html

    When evangelicals say things like "homosexuals are trying to destroy traditional families", Africans (at least some of them in Uganda) take it at its face value.

    We've become immune to these sorts of statements. I read them and think, well, they're not that bad - I don't REALLY think that people who say that think that if gay people marry, all family structure in the US will be destroyed. I don't think people who are saying it really think it either.

    And, interestingly enough, the National Catholic Reporter has some very good articles on the issue. This one in particular has a number of points we've recently discussed, including western influence in foreign countries' affairs.

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/why-catholics-arent-speaking-uganda-about-anti-gay-bill

    On this point, I'm all for the people who told a different society to change their actions because we think what they are doing is morally wrong. And the Catholics apparently aren't (weren't?) speaking. This article was from a while ago.

    Second point, based on this paragraph of yours:

    "Secular humanists believe that morality is relative. The Church states/repeats the fact that secular humanists believe that morality is relative. That is seen as offensive. Color me confused."

    No, secular humanists do not believe that morality is relative. Catholics think that secular humanists believe that. Secular humanists actually do think that some things are right and some things are wrong, regardless of what a society decides - Ugandan killing/imprisoning of homosexuals is a case in point. We think about how to define right or wrong, as opposed to being "told" it by some otherworldly being.

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  105. Paul,

    Here's the truth: If people lived according to the Church's teaching (sex only in monogamous marriage), the AIDS crisis would disappear. If people use condoms to reduce the risk of promiscuous sex, they will still get lots and lots of AIDS (as we are seeing). Why would the Church ever want to lie to folks and say that condom use makes illicit sex "safe" when it clearly does not?

    Here is an article which may interest you:

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0079.html

    If condom users are perfect in their use, there is still a 10% failure rate. Is that good enough for your child, let's say? If your child could contract and incurable, deadly disease 10% of the time using a "safety device" would you still promote the "safety device"? Sorry, that's not good enough for someone I love. You?

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  106. Mai, you said: "On this point, I'm all for the people who told a different society to change their actions because we think what they are doing is morally wrong."

    I have to ask, why? Why on this point and not others?

    You also said: "Secular humanists actually do think that some things are right and some things are wrong, regardless of what a society decides - Ugandan killing/imprisoning of homosexuals is a case in point. We think about how to define right or wrong, as opposed to being 'told' it by some otherworldly being."

    Again, I am confused. Your idea of "right and wrong" comes from within your own brain, right? So, how is that different from your opinion? What is the difference between truth and opinion? Can you define each?

    Also, if you believe that some truths are objectively right or wrong, then you are not a moral relativist. But to say that implies that truth is outside of you, above you, in spite of you. Otherwise, truth that comes from within you is simply your own conclusion, your own belief, your own opinion. How can it be otherwise?

    I think there is a conflict in your philosophy. I mean that sincerely, not arrogantly.

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  107. This is the point. Catholics (and other god-lovers) do believe that about secular humanists - that we either believe that there is an objective truth outside of us (i.e. God) or we must be moral relativists. My argument is that there is a middle area, where I live. It's a framing problem for both sides - how to define the middle area - for a long time (much longer than I've been thinking about it).

    THere is a new book that I have brought up before, but didn't know much about. I just bought it over the weekend, though, and am interested to start in on it. It's called "The Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris, and he is taking a huge break from all of the other secular humanists (moral athiests?) and is embracing the phrase "objective truth" for scientists.

    Our definition of objective truth does not involve God (Harris writes), and rather involves (I think) the scientific-like testing, iterative, morality-may-change-over-centuries concepts that I've been trying to explain (which Catholics think make me a moral relativist). Without having read his book, I think the point is that we agree with the concept of "objective truth" as long as we are allowed to evaluate it, and as long as some otherworldly being that we can't even prove exists is the one "telling" us about it.

    Like I said, I haven't read the book yet, but have read reviews and some essays on the topic by this author. This book is being embraced by a number of prominent atheist thinkers, even those who have been against the concept of "objective truth" for atheists. So likely I will too - I don't profess to be an original thinker about such high-level philosophy.

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  108. Mai, I sincerely look forward to what you find in reading the book. Let me know; I'm truly interested.

    And, if it can help answer my questions in my most recent comment, I would be grateful.

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  110. Paul, if you are saying that abstinence before marriage and monogamy after marriage will not end the AIDS crisis (not eradicate the virus, but end the crisis as it stands), then you are right that it's not worth the time to dialogue and we need to move to another topic. We've reached a point of clarity as to what we both believe, and that is what I aim for.

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  111. JoAnn, that Daily Mail website also has an article saying that there is a cure for Alzheimer's disease, which isn't true. So, I think they may be like the Onion newspaper. May want to look into how valid the stories in general are on a website.

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  112. A very specific scenario that I'd like to hear your opinion on:

    It is your hypothetical daughter's wedding day, and she has just married a wonderful man whom you very much like.
    You're thrilled and excited for her.
    Then you find your daughter in tears. Her new husband has just given her very bad news. In the womb, he contracted HIV from his HIV-positive mother, and he has lived with it all of his life. He did not procure this disease from any immoral act (drug use or promiscuity), but it was rather a result of terrible misfortune.

    What is your advice for your daughter?
    Her options seem to be:
    - divorce this man
    - continue the marriage she just entered into, but refuse to conjugate the marriage to protect herself, deciding on a life of celibacy for her and her husband
    - conjugate the marriage, but use a condom to protect herself from contracting HIV

    I have a feeling I know what your answer will be, but I'm still curious to hear your response.

    -quick question

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  113. My advice to her:

    "Your new husband tells you on your wedding day that he has a deadly, incurable disease, that you can never have children together and that you have a serious risk of contacting said disease? He tells you today? He's not a man, he's a jerk. And since he perpetrated a fraud on you, that is grounds for an easy annulment, both civil and religious! Run as fast as you can."

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  114. Okay good--I'm with you there.

    Now let's change it up a bit. The week before the wedding, the groom-to-be is feeling a bit under the weather and goes to the doctor for some routine bloodwork.
    Hours after the wedding ceremony, he receives a phone call from his doctor informing him that he is HIV positive. (Let's keep the fact that he contracted it at birth, to avoid clouding this scenario with him obtaining it in a morally illicit way)

    What should she do now, hours after promising to love this man in sickness and in health til death do them part?

    -qq

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  115. Need one more bit of info: Have they already consummated the marriage?

    (And, wouldn't HIV turn up years before, if he contracted it at birth?)

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  116. I'd like to hear your answer for both situations (consummated or not consummated).

    And yes, he might have begun to show symptoms, but I imagine that someone who has neither been sexually active nor used drugs would probably not have been tested for HIV in the past.

    If it helps, we could say, instead, that he accidentally contracted it during a blood transfusion or some other (unlikely, but possible) morally licit way.

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  117. Anonymous,

    If not consummated: Annulment (easy for both civil and religious marriages).

    If consummated, that's a sad story. First, she's already been exposed to HIV. If she is prudent, she will not subject herself to further exposure and live as brother and sister with him. If he loves her, he would never put her at risk.... Think about it: Fifty years of marriage, 10,000 exposures to HIV via sex, with an unreliable piece of latex. If that latex shield gives out at the normal rate of condom failure, that's basically playing Russian Roulette with his wife. Would he want that? Would she? Of course, morally, they cannot use condoms anyway.

    It's like if a couple got married and the man was in a horrible accident on their honeymoon. He was paralyzed and brain damaged. The vows were "in sickness and in health, till death do us part." What is the Christian view of marriage? There is no reasonable way to have marital relations. Does she leave and have affairs with others? Does she divorce him? Or does she live faithfully with him, without sex?

    The culture says that the latter is unthinkable (don't people, like, explode or something without sex??). Christianity says that sacrifice and love are basically synonymous.

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  118. Very well

    I think the only thing I might add is that this might be one of the situations in which an anti-contraceptive viewpoint would NOT allow for the most unitive sex possible (being that it does not allow for sex at all).

    Transmission rate of HIV without a condom: 0.3% (3 out of every 1,000)
    Transmission rate of HIV with a condom: .06% (6 out of every 10,000)
    (Source: CDC)

    I'd much rather take those odds

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  119. Also, I find it a bit sad that you would expect this man to never marry, simply because he is HIV positive (speaking of the situation in which the marriage was not consummated)

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  120. I'd rather take the odds of not playing Russian Roulette.

    Could you provide the link to the CDC on that issue? I'm not a scientist, so go slow with me. 10,000 what? Acts of intercourse? People? And, is it typical use or perfect use?

    It is very sad, indeed. Many things in life are sad. It is sad that illness and death happen, and any number of other things. It's a fallen world.

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  121. PS: Sex with a condom is not unitive. Condoms are literally putting a barrier between husband and wife. Not unitive. Divided.

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  122. http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htm

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3127299.html#2a

    http://library.med.utah.edu/WebPath/TUTORIAL/AIDS/HIV.html

    By the way, it does not use the numbers (3 out of every 1000, .06%, or 6 out of 10000). I did the math myself:
    The chance of contracting HIV in an act of intercourse is .3%. Condoms are 80% (according to the article they are 86%, but said that it could be as low as 60% and as high as 96%, so i averaged to 80%) effective at preventing the transmission of HIV.
    .3% x .8 = .24% of the time the partner would NOT contract HIV (the times the condom is effective)
    1 - .24% = .06% transmission rate per act of intercourse with an infected partner

    And you would go so far as to say that sex with a condom is so "divisive" that it is less unitive than no sex at all?


    And the CDC article cites that the condom use is "consistent and correct."
    All the more reason to teach people how to use them (they are tremendously more effective when used properly, as you know, I'm sure), IMHO.


    I'm fully aware that I will never convince you of any of this.
    Just putting it out there

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  123. Yes, I understand that we will not convince each other.

    I do have a question: Would you tell your daughter to have sex with condoms over her lifetime with her HIV infected husband? Knowing that even in a "consistent and correct" usage, she will be risking infection?

    And, if you were that husband, would you put your wife at that risk? Just asking.

    Even adults who are competent and mature have condom mishaps, breaks and slippage (don't ask me how I know... ;) ). It's pretty common. And then there are the defective condoms, such as Planned Parenthood is wont to pass along to its customers:

    "In its February 2005 edition, Consumer Reports surveyed twenty-three different types of condoms to measure their effectiveness. In last place were condoms made by Planned Parenthood, with a failure rate of fifteen percent! One of their brands received the equivalent grade of an "F" in the two standards measured: reliability and strength. "

    http://www.chastity.com/chastity-qa/birth-control/abortion/whats-so-bad-about-planne

    More in a minute....

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  124. And you would go so far as to say that sex with a condom is so "divisive" that it is less unitive than no sex at all?

    Clarifying question: Do you mean emotionally or physically?

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  125. If it were me, I would continue to have sex with my HIV infected husband, of course using the best condoms on the market.
    (something your chastity.com article didn't mention was that 7 out 20 condoms tested earned PERFECT scores in the consumer reports testing (do you know how difficult it is to earn a perfect consumer report rating??)...granted, not perfect, but i'd take that risk

    http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/2009/11/consumer-reports-health-seven-of-20-condoms-tested-earn-perfect-score.html)

    If I were the husband, I would obviously not jump in right away nor assume that we would be sexually active, but rather defer to my wife and go with whatever she chose, as it her choice.

    If I were the mother, I would simply tell my daughter what I would do.




    Yes, Planned Parenthood isn't perfect. Far from it in fact. But that doesn't change the fact that some condoms are, in fact, quite effective against the transmission of HIV.




    And to answer your clarifying question, however you define unitive. I was just trying to use your vocabulary.

    To me, I don't find that I am any more emotionally united with my husband when we have sex with vs. without a condom.
    I also don't find the "physical barrier" issue to be of any concern whatsoever. Yes, there is a literal barrier between my husband and myself (the one that is keeping us from becoming pregnant...thank you barrier!), but I liken it to hugging my husband with or without a sweater on. Not a noticeable difference there, physically.

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  126. I can understand that one would have no difference in emotion or physical feeling between having sex with or without a condom. But nonetheless, a physical barrier is, in reality, there. Putting on shields for "protection... are you going into battle or making love? ;)

    It also changes the very nature of the marital act, rendering it purposely sterilized.

    Obviously, the culture does not mind changing the nature of sex. I would argue that it has been catastrophic for how we understand marriage, sex and children.

    Thanks for the clarity!

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  127. JoAnna posted this in another post, from Janet Smith:

    Pope John Paul II has very profound and beautiful things to say about the meaning of sexual intercourse and I can only give you the briefest of descriptions of it here. He says that the sexual act was meant to be an act of total self-giving. You want to give everything you've got to someone you love. And when you're withholding your fertility, you're withholding something that belongs in the sexual act, something that actually belongs there. To withhold it means that you're not giving of yourself completely. I heard someone compare contraceptives to someone who says, "You know, you're having a bad hair day. Would you mind putting a paper bag over your head? You know, I want to make love to you, but I can't stand looking at that hair. It's driving me crazy." That's what a condom is and that's what a contraceptive is. It says, "I love you but I don't want a very important part of yourself here, something that actually belongs in this act."

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  128. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html

    Here's the link for anyone interested.

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