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Further to the last post...
To those of my flist who commented on "In Which Lil has a revelation... organised religions",

thecatsamuel sent me this message...

"There is a (long!) statement on my LJ, currently open to the public but with comments screened, which responds to some of the issues raised here.

If people are interested, they are welcome to have a look."

Link to the post with thecatsamuel's permission.


Oh, and thecatsamuel has rightly reserved the right to withdraw if the comments get out of hand and, in their opinion, nasty.

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Ooh so not biting there.

It changes no one's mind.

People have different perceptions of their journals. Mine is coloured by the knowledge that once I put anything on the internets I have published my views, and that I don't want to hide them or close them off to debate. The most I will do is put behind a cut and warn. There are a number of my flist (some of which I have known personally for over 20 years) who know what such a cut means and steer clear.

I offended and upset thecatsamuel on her LJ, under flock, as well as on mine. I have apologised for the comments on her LJ - not for the content but for continuing to comment when I should have stopped -- to which she has a right to object. I will not apologise for the debate on mine which, as always with this type of post, is open and you can say what you like, short of personal insult and trolling. This is her reply to that debate, and she wanted you people to see it, so I offered the link.

Interesting, thanks.

I lack Mr FB's appetite to engage in this sort of debate.

Personally, I find no need to resort to religion to provide me with a mornal code, nor would I look to those who would cover up child abuse to provide moral or spiritual authority.

But I don't see there's anything to be gained by engaging in debate with those who do hold to those beliefs because they ain't gonna change. And their capacity to ignore the problems in their belief system is boundless.

I love debate.

However, I tend to forget that the straight talking on here (and the only things that'll get anyone banned from my LJ are personal insult and trolling -- or, at least, those are the only things I've encountered so far) cannot be transferred some people's blogs without consequences, and that not everyone can divorce criticism of their beliefs -- and not just religious beliefs -- from personal criticism.

I also feel I have a moral obligation to make posts like this open, so that anyone, flist or not, can come and debate. On the other hand, I don't want people to have to read this kind of thing if they'd rather not (and some of my flist will studiously avoid this kind of post and QUITE RIGHT TOO), hence the warning cut. Those who've been around here a while know that I really mean it.

People's perceptions are different. philmophlegm considered the debate under the last post "polite and well reasoned" (I'm still trying to get my head round the 'polite'). thecatsamuel went away.

I cannot see why anyone should think an organisation like the Catholic church has any moral authority at all. However, that's me.

nor would I look to those who would cover up child abuse to provide moral or spiritual authority

Ditto. People who protect sex offenders from reasonable civil law don't get to claim to be better than me. I will believe that the Catholic hierarchy gives a damn about the children who were systematically abused when (a) every single piece of information they have is turned over to the civilian authorities, and every single cleric who knows anything likewise goes and provides all their information to said authorities, on oath, and (b) I see them performing the kind of public penance that they have in the past prescribed to others for rather lesser crimes (if crimes at all). When I say I want to see the Pope crawling round St Peter's Square in his vest and pants (he is an old man, and I am not inhuman, so he may also wear gloves and knee protectors) before I believe that he is sorry I am not being flippant - if I followed his example in recent history I might have him doing slave labour in a laundry for fifty years instead.

I thought about it. Decided not to. Just tired of it, I guess.

I've already upset her too much.

I half-wrote a comment over there, and then stepped away, because it would have involved asking a Christian who is clearly making a sincere effort to be a good public citizen (and when it comes to individuals, I do believe that many if not most fall into this category) a question about why so many Christians misuse their religion to be bad public citizens (alas, both a very large number of churches and many if not most openly religious politicians).

Her discussion on morality and its connection to religion is what causes me pause, because I am a third generation atheist, but also a very moral person. I have not made up my own moral values, I have inherited them from my culture, which has a strong Judeo-Christian influence, but also a strong Greco-Roman one, and, thanks to the Reformation, no small part of a high-Islamic focus on the importance of science and education.

All of these influences have been tempered by centuries of legal process and movements such as the Enlightenment and last century's Civil Liberties campaigns to provide me with a very solid secular morality that is capable of change, but resistant to fashion.

Cardinal George Pell, who is a Sydney Anglican and a very disapproving man, tells me that this secular morality is but a thin veneer plastered over my innate barbarism, and that without the certainty of the Church, I am a step away from baby-eating.

But having read the Bible from cover to cover, the moral lessons contained within it change dramatically from those fitted to often oppressed tribes of Jews hammering a living out of the harsh desert, to those suited to a revolutionary set of Jews, Greeks and Romans living strongly urban lives under one occupying army. Which only makes sense. If there are 500 people in my community and we don't get around much, then we need laws about marrying your cousin and we probably don't want to encourage divorce because it will bring on divisive levels of rancour. If we have 50,000 people and a mobile citizenry, then marriage restrictions are far less important, but suddenly property becomes a moral issue.

Civil societies are very good at being civil, morality acts in concert with the law to protect the citizenry and uphold the greatest good for the majority. Where it all goes to hell is where part of society stands up and insists that their rights outweigh those of others, or that their morality is more moral than anyone else's. I am perfectly happy for people to find personal comfort in the Church, because there is a lot of beauty in those rites. But like you, I find the Church's insistence that it is the source of moral authority to be troubling and dangerous.

For me, it is exactly the same as those 19th century landlords who used their property rights to deprive swathes of Scottish and Welsh tenant farmers of their homes and living. Both parties did have a legitimate right to make their case, but in both cases, the assertion of those perceived rights would lead to a far greater social evil than their suppression.

And in both cases, the 'rights' themselves were historical tricks: poor farmers had been eking a living out of the land for centuries before the titles were awarded to individuals, and in the present pressing case, marriage has been a civil rite for millennia longer than it has been a religious one.

None of this means that I begrudge anyone the solace they receive from a personal belief in the divine. I receive a second-hand solace from Wren's architecture and Bach's music, I can only imagine their faith as a beautiful personal experience. But I resent and reject the extension of that personal faith into the secular sphere at levels disproportionate to the number of citizens it represents, and in a fashion that damages the lives of others.

(I have to confess that I am stopping myself going back and asking why, if everyone is answerable to their own conscience, does excommunication exist? Entirely leaving aside the outrages attached to recent excommunications, which I could see as a political issue rather than a spiritual one.)

And Judeo-Christian morality was inherited from a general near-eastern morality bits of which might well go back to when our ancestors walked out of Africa.

Human beings are social animals and work by a social code some of which is inherited and some of which is learned. It's the same in chimps and other social animals such as wolves.

But because of what we are morality changes. I often wonder how these people who believe morality is religious equate this with the millions of very moral Confucianists throughout China over a millienium and a half, because, though Confucius and his followers believed in gods, it was not from those gods that he drew his philosophy.

And it sure doesn't say much for the people who are Christians and Muslims if they need a threat from a supernatural power to keep them 'moral'.

Yes, even for Christians, morality changes dramatically from the Old Testament to the New, and within the arc of the New Testament as the revolutionary aspects of early Christianity took on a separatist position. St Augustine permitted abortion up until three months, while the Pope has only been 'infallible' for about 150 years.

I think that many individual Christians and Muslims have a lot of flexibility in their personal moralities: I remember nuns in Tanzania handing out condoms because they wanted to stop the spread of syphilis back in those days and when my dad joked that the Pope wouldn't approve, they replied 'No, but Jesus would, and what the Pope doesn't know won't hurt him.'

What worries me is that the increasingly rigid dogma coming out of many of the churches disenfranchises these people as much as it damages secular legislation. The idea that the CoE needs to draw a hard doctrinal line to satisfy the African churches on gay rights is absurd: surely they would be far better served leaping onto the revolutionary coattails of Wilberforce? (Even though he was a Methodist. I think. Oh, Wikipedia says an Evangelical. Heh, remember back when Evangelicals fought for MORE rights for people? Oh history, such japes!)

I think it was you who said that the tax-free status of religion was a major problem, and I agree completely. For as long as the Churches function largely as wealth-creating and wealth-maintaining institutions, their ability to act with moral authority will be fatally compromised, because they, like many political parties, will be far to concerned with protecting their revenue base.

I commented there and got a polite thank-you. A substantive response to me would have been nice but I certainly don't consider it obligatory.

A more general response seems to be to start a response, then decide it isn't worth it and come back here to blow off steam. Which is fine.

A substantive response would indeed be nice, but I don't think she wants to get into any sort of frank discussion.

But we like letting off steam on your journal, Lil, well known fact. *g* BTW, speaking of which, are you going to poke and laugh during the s5 live watch tonight?

I'm not going to post over there, because I only have negative stuff to say. The only thing I thought worth writing (and decided against) was in response to this:
I would have had to walk out of every one of my jobs if I objected to flaws in the running of the organisation or the morals of the managers.

If my managers were withholding information from the police in regards to possible sex offenders believed to have abused young children in their custody and were even enabling those figures to continue said abuse elsewhere, I think I would HAVE to walk out of that organisation.

I would need to have radically lowered moral standards to respond any other way.

Edited at 2012-06-16 10:49 am (UTC)

I also seriously doubt that those organisations were claiming to represent a deity or to interpret said deity's words, either.

Also, what kind of deity allows his followers to get away with that sort of thing? Shouldn't they all be running scared of retribution, in heaven if not on Earth? Oh, wait, they get all their sins forgiven...

Edited at 2012-06-16 11:10 am (UTC)

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