The idea that any church has more to offer seems weird to me. What does that have to do with truth? Who cares if a religion offers more? Shouldn’t all you care about is whether there’s sufficient evidence to justify a belief in it? At least protestants don’t offer nearly two millennia of failure to help the poor while their religious leader lives in a solid gold palace. Not that protestants don’t have their share of con-artists taking money for personal gain, but it’s on a smaller scale.
What evidence are you referring to? Failure of individuals to live up to a religion’s doctrine doesn’t constitute evidence against that religion, unless that itself runs contrary to the tenets of said religion.
It’s also noteworthy that those whom the Church upholds as examples to follow did in fact help the poor. Sts. Martin of Tours, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Nicholas all come to mind. Note that there are very few popes from the Middle Ages and Renaissance that the Church honours as saints. It isn’t as if we think they were all good popes. Many were corrupt and immoral, and some were rebuked by saints such as Catherine of Siena or Bernard of Clairvaux.
There’s no concrete evidence for the existence of God or Jesus Christ. I know it’s based on faith, but there’s also clear evidence of Church corruption on a grand scale that would point towards it not being a particularly holy institution.
No concrete evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ? What about the gospels, Josephus, Tacitus, etc.? Jesus’ existence is just as well attested as many other historical figures of the time.
Not really. The gospels were written much later than he was supposed to have lived. Definitely long enough later that there’s no reason to believe they are quoting him verbatim. And there’s definitely no historical documentation that would point towards those documents being credible. I’m not sure what historical figures you’re talking about so I can’t attest to that.
I’m referring to most historical figures who weren’t kings or something similar. I can’t think of a lot of good examples because there simply aren’t many non-Biblical people from the first century or so who are well known. But Pontius Pilate is only known, aside from one partial inscription, from the gospels (c. 70-100), Josephus (c. 75-95), and Philo (died c. 50). This isn’t much different from Jesus, who is attested in the Epistles of Paul (c. 50-60), the gospels (c. 70-100), Josephus (c. 93), and Tacitus (c. 115). There is a fringe theory that Jesus did not exist, but it seems to stem more from an implicit desire to disprove Christianity than from genuinely wanting to reconstruct history.
The “fringe” theory that he didn’t exist is largely just a theory that he didn’t exist in the form that the Bible describes him as. This could be said about pretty much all of the Old Testament Kings too.
No, that’s the mainstream theory. The fringe theory that he didn’t actually exist is what I thought you were referring to and is known as the “Christ Myth Theory.” The Old Testament histories fall into the genre of ancient history, so I don’t have much of a problem accepting that they are probably not factually inerrant.
There are also scientifically inexplicable miracles, still visible in the Shroud of Turin, the Tilma of Juan Diego
There are images that look like certain things appearing in everything. I just googled around a found examples of chicken nuggets shaped like Abe Lincoln. What about the “face on Mars”?
Doesn’t anyone believe in coincidence anymore? If we’re taking all of these as literal divine interventions just because they look like something or because someone claimed it happened, then you have to accept all other similar claims made by other religious people or even nonreligious people or you’d be intellectually dishonest. My brother claims to have seen a ghost in our childhood apartment. Was that apartment haunted? What makes him less credible than eye-witnesses to other such apparitions?
Images looking like certain things certainly doesn’t apply to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the Tilma of Juan Diego, unless you’re referring to details in the eyes, etc. As for the Shroud of Turin, this certainly doesn’t hold true (see here for a detailed forensic examination of the shroud). The carbon dating to the 14th century is more convincing. I had thought that had been explained away, but I guess the argument that thousands of people fingering the shroud contaminated it may not hold water after all.
I suspect most so-called visions and apparitions are fake (which is why the Church doesn’t typically approve them), but I am willing to accept that some ghost sightings could potentially have a supernatural nature. I also think it’s possible to imagine things or to hallucinate.
Then why believe these specific miracles. It sounds like an implicit desire to prove Christianity.
For the same reason I believe anything else. Because of the evidence for their authenticity.
the Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano…
How could you possibly say that a priest 1300 years ago claiming to have found flesh in his eucharist is a scientifically inexplicable miracle? I guess if we had any reason to believe that it actually happened, it’d be a scientifically inexplicable miracle. But there are people every day that claim to have meetings with aliens, or Elvis. Do you believe them? I have a theory about the miracle of Lanciano: the guy lied. Or at best was totally mistaken.
It was scientifically analyzed by Dr. Odoardo Linoli and found to have not decayed despite not containing preservatives or being in a hermeneutically sealed container, and, like in other Eucharistic miracles, the blood type is AB, among other things. Now, the text of the study is unfortunately not freely available, so I can’t personally attest to its validity. But I certainly can’t dismiss it off-hand.
I can dismiss it off-hand because I know that bread and wine can’t turn into flesh and blood. That’s just how reality is.
Of course it can’t on its own. But if an all-powerful God exists, he can do whatever the heck he wants with matter. You’re looking at it with the assumption that a personal God does not exist, whereas I am looking at it as possible evidence for the existence of such a God (and specifically the Christian God).
The universe has no explicable origin without God. Matter doesn’t just spontaneously generate itself. Not to mention the unliklihood of life simply coming to be through a chemical reaction of some kind. The fact that you believe these things occurred is itself an example of faith without concrete evidence.
Where’d God come from? Why doesn’t he need an origin, but the universe does? And I don’t “believe” in anything. That’s something you’ve attributed to me. I don’t know how the universe came into being. Haven’t claimed to, don’t plan on it. Not to mention, even if I granted that a god was a necessity, that grants no credibility to any particular religion.
God doesn’t need an origin because he is being itself, and is immaterial. Sorry for putting words in your mouth, I made a presumption which I thought was fair, but clearly wasn’t.
Why does he not need an origin? The Bible, at least in the old testament (and even in the new now that I think about it, given Christ’s humanity), describes him as pretty material and tangible.
Because he is the source of all existence; he is being itself. He is not simply “a (really powerful) being.” He is Being, and doesn’t make sense for Being to have an origin beyond itself.
In the Old Testament, he wasn’t described as material and tangible, but rather attributed anthropomorphic characteristics at times and apparently described as appearing under more substantial forms sometimes. In the New Testament, it’s quite clear that he isn’t material and tangible, but that he took on a human nature.
Church corruption was no greater than any other organization in history. It should have been far less, of course. However, if you were to look only at those Catholics who have actually tried to live out their faith, I suspect you will see very little corruption.
I have higher expectations for God’s representatives on earth and there are plenty of irreligious people that have been just as great as Catholics that have tried to live out their faith. And it’s definitely not true that it’s no more corrupt than any other organization in history. What, is the Women’s Christian Temperance Union as corrupt? What about SETI? Or the Free Masons? How are you gauging the level of corruption?
Are any of these plentiful irreligious people as great as the saints?
I’d argue yes. Even if they were more flawed, I’d say that the accomplishments of people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Churchill, Earl Warren, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, John Adams, Carl Sagan––just a few people that randomly came to my head––and many others have far greater accomplishments and inspired or helped a lot more people than saints like Mother Theresa. I know some of those examples had to claim affiliation with religion in order to survive politically during their respective times, but they weren’t particularly devout and none were Catholic. I’m sure you won’t consider them as great as the saints, but I don’t consider spreading Catholicism or the word of God to be a virtue, so I have much greater respect for people who helped, advocated for, or educated others (which is why I included Sagan) for irreligious reasons. Also, people can do great services without engaging in hands-on charity. Earl Warren protected the rights of tens of millions of Americans as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which directly helped a lot more people than even the most charitable saints.
Fair enough. We’re arguing from completely different points of view, so clearly we will never agree on this.
I suppose I wasn’t very clear when talking about corruption, so my claim isn’t very meaningful. When I think of corruption, I’m thinking in more religious terms, where it can refer to any sort of immorality.
I don’t care much about morality unless there’s hypocrisy involved. Like caring about the sanctity of life and then opposing condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. I would actually be less frustrated by an institution opposing AIDS prevention if it didn’t claim to value the sanctity of life.
In fact, what I should have said is “individual Catholics are no more likely to be living immoral lives than anyone else, and in fact those who actually attempt to live out their faith are far less likely to be doing so,” or “corruption in the Catholic Church is not disproportionate to the amount of wealth and prestige it has enjoyed.”
The wealth and prestige is a big part of why I consider it to be a fraudulent organization, frankly. I don’t recall Jesus Christ or any of his followers living in anything other than poverty. There’s a sound biblical argument to be made that Christ was opposed to the accumulation of wealth at all, if we’re taking the gospels for what they are.
I agree that the wealth and prestige of many Church officials (and aristocratic laymen) throughout history is scandalous. I don’t see that as evidence that the Catholic Church is fraudulent, however, but rather as an indication of the unwillingness of many of its members to truly embrace its teachings. Most Catholics are just as much in need of conversion as anyone else. As far as Jesus’ teaching goes, I agree that he encouraged literal (voluntary) poverty. He would have, and I believe will, condemn many popes and bishops just as strongly as he condemned the pharisees. The Church realized early on, however, that private property was a necessary evil, although a Christian should still live simply and not extravagently.
What is important, and this seems clear from Jesus’ teachings as well, is a spirit of poverty (“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”), i.e. a detachment from material things and by implication, a willingness to generously share what one has. In the story of the rich young man, at least one of the gospels reports that “[Jesus] loved him” when the young man recounted his faithfulness to the commandments. Jesus then counselled him that if he wanted to be perfect, then he should go and sell all that he had and give it to the poor. This implies that a certain degree of poverty is necessary for perfection and sanctity, but that one can follow the commandments well and still have material wealth. If my family gave up all our possessions and gave to those poorer than us, we would soon be living on the street. It simply isn’t practicable for everyone to live in poverty.
The truth of the matter is that there is no other comparable institution on earth. You mention the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, but that was never a potential means of power as becoming a clergyman in the Catholic Church once was. The same applies to Freemasonry. SETI does not have any bearing on one’s personal life. Any number of other organizations have either been relatively short-lived, do not require any moral commitments from their members, do not offer opportunities for power and wealth (this comes with size and prestige).
You didn’t make that distinction, but even still, most governments or governmental institutions in the western world aren’t as morally corrupt as the Catholic Church has been. It’s interaction with the Nazi Party, the child sex abuse coverups, and moral hypocrisy on abortion and birth control are just a few examples of issues that, while awful on their own, I find to be much more egregious coming from such a pious institution.
I certainly don’t see that. Governments are corrupt even on provincial and state levels (it’s a matter of course, in Canada, at least, for government workers to be paid to do things like going golfing, and of course there are many more serious examples to be found). Support for euthanasia, abortion, and complete disregard for the sacredness of human sexuality are just a few of the examples that are indicative of a general moral bankruptcy in the governments of the Western World. You mention that the Church is somehow hypocritical in condemning these things. How so?
I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to regarding the Nazis. Why did Nazis target Catholic priests if the Church was complaisant towards the regime? I suggest you read at least the first few paragraphs of the Wikipedia article on the subject to get a more balanced view of the Church’s response to Nazism:
Pope Pius XII is credited with doing more than any other world leader to save Jews, and in fact the chief rabbi in Rome, Israel Zolli, converted to Catholicism after the war at least partly because of his efforts and that of other Church leaders.
Sex abuse coverups are often due to corruption, though sometimes they are simply due to cowardice or misplaced “mercy.” It is unfortunate that the problem was as severe as it was in certain countries, but it is a minority of clergy who are culpable. Most Catholic clergymen that I’ve met are wonderful people. There are bad apples, and a handful that merit a far harsher term, but what do you expect from human beings? There are also many saints and inspiring examples among their ranks.