Faith Opinion

The belief behind weeping Virgin Mary statues

Christian worshippers gathered next to a statue of the Virgin Mary that they said ‘weeps' oil, in, a small town in northern Israel in 2014. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In a Catholic parish in Hobbs, New Mexico, a statue of the Virgin Mary has been “weeping.”

Onlookers have gathered out of curiosity, and also for prayer and healing. The liquid on the statue has been found to be olive oil and balsam – the same mixture that is used for certain Catholic rituals after being blessed by a bishop.

Claims about supernatural phenomena, including weeping statues, have historically been common in Catholicism. A well-known example is the Madonna of Syracuse, Sicily, a plaster statue that has shed tears since 1953. Last year, in fact, weeping statues were reported in Hungary, Argentina and Macedonia, just to name a few.

To understand why a weeping statue would be religiously meaningful, it’s first important to appreciate the connection between miracles and the Virgin Mary.

Miracles and Mary

Catholics believe Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ and, therefore, the mother of God.

Throughout Catholic history, supernatural events have been attributed to Mary’s power. When France’s Chartres cathedral burned, only Mary’s relic – called “The Veil of the Virgin”– survived after being safeguarded by three priests who were miraculously preserved from the heat and flames.

Mary’s intercession is also believed to have ensured victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when an Ottoman fleet was repulsed by the forces of Genoa, Venice and the papacy.

Mary’s tears have special significance for Catholics: She cries not only over the sins of the world, but also over the pain she endured in her earthly life, referred to as “the seven sorrows of Mary.” These sorrows, which include the crucifixion and death of Jesus, are depicted by seven swords piercing Mary’s flaming heart.

Even the flowery scent of olive oil and balsam evokes Mary since she is called “the rose without thorns.”

The icon of Jesus and the Virgin Mary at Kykkos monastery in the Troodos mountains, where pilgrims gathered after reports of perfumed oily tears running from the eyes of both mother and child in 1997. (AP Photo/George Constantinou)

It’s not surprising for a weeping statue of Mary to become an object of prayer and devotion.

And when this happens, the local bishop sometimes steps in to investigate.

The possibility of trickery

In examining claims of the supernatural, bishops are guided by standards set by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Catholic doctrine. These standards primarily concern reports of “apparitions” of the Virgin Mary. But the framework also applies to other supernatural occurences, including weeping statues. Perhaps because they address controversial issues, the standards were only made public in 2012 – nearly 35 years after they were first implemented.

The bishop, or a committee appointed by him, evaluates the supernatural phenonmenon’s impact on the community. Positive aspects can be healings and conversions, or even a more general deepening of faith among Catholics. Negative aspects would include sinful acts such as selling oil from a weeping statue or making claims contrary to Catholic doctrine.

One of the primary questions is whether the event has been staged. For example, in two cases of statues that wept blood – one in Canada in 1986 and another in Italy in 2006 – the blood turned out be that of the statue’s owner.

Liquids can be injected into the porous material of statues and later seep out as “tears.” Oil that is mixed with fat can be applied to a statue’s eyes, which will “weep” when ambient temperatures rise in the chapel.

In the case of the bronze statue of Mary in Hobbs, New Mexico, the investigation has uncovered no such trickery. But the fact that no cause has yet been found does not mean that a miracle has taken place.

The Catholic Church rarely endorses weeping statues and similar phenomena. Usually, a bishop or the Vatican will only go as far as saying that faith and devotion are more important than tales of supernatural happenings.

Searching for meaning

While understanding the phenomenon, it’s also important to appreciate the stories and individual motivations that people bring when they pray or worship in the presence of a statue that seems to weep.

A special outdoor Mass was celebrated in honor of Audrey Santo, who was reputed to be connected to miracles, at the Holy Cross College stadium in Worcester, Mass. (AP Photo/Gail Oskin)

In my hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, for example, statues and pictures have wept oil and blood at the home of the late Audrey Santo, who died in 2007 at the age of 23. As a child, “Little Audrey,” as she is still called, was left mute and paralyzed after a swimming pool accident. In spite of her physical condition, she was believed to pray for those who made pilgrimages to see her. After her death, a foundation was established to promote her cause for sainthood. The statues and pictures weeping in her home were seen as signs that God had specially blessed Little Audrey’s life of suffering.

In my writings about the case of Audrey Santo, I was tempted to focus on the stories of supernatural wonders. And the claims surrounding Little Audrey are still hotly debated. In the end, I thought it would be more interesting to study how people find meaning in phenomena like weeping statues.

At the Santo home, the people I talked to shared moving personal stories of pain and sadness, hope and healing. The sense of togetherness in and through suffering was far more important than talk of miracles.

The ConversationIn Worcester – as well as in Hobbs, New Mexico – I expect what is going on is much more than superstition.

(Mathew Schmalz is an associate professor of religion at the College of the Holy Cross)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Mathew Schmalz

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  • As a Catholic, I tread lightly around claims of the miraculous, especially when they involve statues, rosaries and such. And I’m especially dubious about the glut of alleged Marian miracles. I don’t discount God’s ability to perform the miraculous, but when a so-called miracle smacks more of “watch me” (as do the Medjugorge events, for example) than an authentic call to holiness, red flags go up. At least they do for me.

    It should be noted that the mode of the Catholic Church is caution as well. There are some fairly rigorous criteria that need to be met before the Church will officially entertain the possibility of any alleged miracle being considered worthy of belief, and even then the faithful are not required to believe. It’s always a matter of personal choice.

    I have my own standard, which basically comes down to whether or not a belief enhances or hinders my growth toward God.

  • I guess those Italian Catholics in Worcester are well connected. You had Father Diorio as well back in the day.

  • Using the fairly rigorous criterion on Medjugorge, the Catholic Church advised its members to avoid it.

    It also worth repeating that a Catholic is NEVER required to recognize not only a miracle but any purported advice or teaching associated with the alleged miracle.

    Everything necessary for salvation was contained in the revelation which concluded with the death of the last apostle.

  • “To those who believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who don’t believe, no explanation is possible.”

    Said the bishop in a case a few years ago where a miracle that had been verified by everyone except for those in charge of such stuff. Everyone was certain.

    It turned out not to be a miracle of any sort, but the bishop certainly covered his holy butt.

  • “In Worcester – as well as in Hobbs, New Mexico – I expect what is going on is much more than superstition.”

    “Expect”? – on what grounds – other than wishful thinking.

    And what unspecified “going on” does he imagine?

    I suppose that, to the faithful, the expectation of an associate professor of religion “in an exclusively undergraduate liberal arts college that embraces a Catholic, Jesuit identity” carries some weight – even when it’s vague and pseudo-mysterious.
    Guess what – without explanation his expectation is no more realistic than his apparent acceptance that his God saved a bit of cloth rather than save the building it was in – just as it saves the child but can’t/won’t prevent the crash that leaves the child without family.

    When first you practice religious belief you start with little sillinesses – then, if when they’re challenged the admission of error is unacceptable, the silliness becomes more extreme, and more extreme and more………. Just like telling little fibs can soothe the conscience and prepare the way for lies, whoppers and utter fabrication. Some of us were fortunate enough to realise that the religious words coming out of our mouths were nonsense, sadly many never get there.

  • I’d be willing to bet that most bishops secretly pray that no miracles are reported in their dioceses on their watch. If there’s one thing that every bishop I’ve ever met has in common — and I’ve met more than a few, both liberals and conservatives — it’s the desire to avoid anything controversial or loopy.

    Poor Bishop Smith, minding his own business and counting the days until retirement, and suddenly everybody’s waiting on him to decide whether Jesus’ face really appears in that grapefruit or not. It’s just not fair.

    BTW, that quote is actually attributed to Thomas Aquinas.

  • I did t know where it came from, but I have heard it more than once. I figured it was old. My humble opinion– kind of weaselesque. It is a non response designed to take the heat off the non responder, as you note.

  • I guess you can look at it that way. I’ve always interpreted it as basically saying there’s no point in arguing about matters of faith.

  • And yet, it is apparent by the very fact that they investigate miracles to determine whether they are genuine— a real world determination, not a faith based determination, though the explanation may well be— that it is not really an argument about faith at all.

  • A fair point, but keep in mind that the original quote wasn’t made in the context of investigating anything. It was just a statement about the nature of belief, no more and no less.

    As I said in my original post, I’m dubious about alleged miracles and so is the Church. I don’t think bishops enjoy being in the miracle investigation business at all, and they only do it to try to keep the crazy claims to a minimum. It’s a thankless job being the bad cop who has to put the kibosh on a person’s supernatural fantasies (which have a way of turning into money-making ventures), but it goes with the territory.

  • Thank for, once again, adding absolutely nothing to the conversation except anti-religious snark.

  • It is about the Catholic Faith, not about anyone’s personal “faith” in miracles.

  • Follow the money.

    The church will never say a purported miracle is fake, no matter how obvious the fakery, because pilgrims donate money.

    Church leaders have no qualms about allowing the gullible to be fleeced. They wiggle word their assessment of the claims to cover their behinds and laugh all the way to the bank.

  • All this is telling is us…Yes, Catholics fall for quackery and nonsense just like Evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc…

    As a Catholic kid, I believed all that Lourdes and Fatima b*llsh*t too !!

  • Why is Fatima bullshit? Of all the Marian apparitions; this one was witnessed by 70,000 believers and non-believers alike.

  • Rock might disagree.

    But really, the only reason I am responding to you at all is because you just added absolutely nothing to the conversation except what passes for low grade anti ben snark on BobWorld.

    Now you can go back to being the king and the god of BobWorld

  • 70,000…That’s nothing! Hundreds of thousands of Irish and non-Irish have seen leprechauns. My grandmother actually talked to the little guys !! And over the centuries, millions of Chinese have seen fire breathing dragons.

    Oh, but not one photo of a real leprechaun, dragon or the Fatima small potatoes…there never is !!

  • “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (The acts of the apostles. chapter 4)

  • Hmmm.. interesting. You won’t seriously address my comment.
    Based upon what little I know 70,000 people showed up on the prescribed date to see the sign as promised by the Holy Mother.

  • UFO’s are becoming passe and losing the revenue stream pocketed by the con-men who exploit this crap.
    Their latest : USO’s – Unidentified Submerged Object.
    Nessie has competition – sans borders.

  • You are now going to know more.

    There are varying estimates of the numbers – from 30K to 100K

    The eyewitness testimony (known to police officers worldwide as the least reliable form of evidence) varies dramatically and many believers said they saw nothing. If you look at the sun directly for a little while it often seems to move – probably because the tiny movements we make in keeping our head inclined are exaggerated by the millions of cells in our eyes.

    The only known photo of the sun that day shows no unusual activity.

    Sunk cost fallacy suggests that many who made the effort to visit will have needed to experience something that justified the effort – surprise – they “saw” something, though often not what others reported seeing.

    As to the “Holy Mother”. It is not rational to believe that “she” promised anything until you can prove that such a being exists. You can’t – you can believe she does but there is no way to prove it.

    So what your believing is the selected result of a garbled hodgepodge of various claims reported (and denied) by people of faith who had travelled expecting that “something” would happen based on the statements of young children who believed in something that no-one can demonstrate exists. Oh – and a lot of money has been generated by the promotion of this “happening”.

    Now – about this bridge……………………………

  • And…………………………..?

    I can cut and paste also – how about

    “”Man is a Religious Animal. Man is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven…. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.””
    Mark Twain

  • Except the number of witnesses to the incident increase over time. Plus the addition of claims of non believers seeing it. Stories of witnesses tend to harmonize over time. Differences get lost and official narratives form. Then they start cribbing from popular fictional account.

    The same thing happens with UFO sightings and abduction stories.

  • Every incident that could be investigated, turned out to be a hoax. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable conclusion that the rest were too.

  • Because some are frauds does not logically entail that all are frauds. The most one could properly assert is that “Miracles are probably frauds that were never caught and exposed”.

  • Eliminating the supernatural with an updated prayer:

    The Apostles’ Creed 2018 (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

  • 70,000…They know that from the number of tickets sold? Or did they have turnstiles like at Disneyland?

  • David Hume’s argument against evidence of Miracles

    1) People are very prone to accept the unusual and incredible, which excite agreeable passions of surprise and wonder.

    2) Those with strong religious beliefs are often prepared to give
    evidence that they know is false, “with the best intentions in the
    world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause”.

    3) People are often too credulous when faced with such witnesses, whose apparent honesty and eloquence (together with the psychological effects of the marvellous described earlier) may overcome normal scepticism.

    4) Miracle stories tend to have their origins in “ignorant and barbarous nations” – either elsewhere in the world or in a civilised nation’s past.

  • difference being that knowing that my three pounds exists requires no belief, no imaginary friend and no artificial fear or silly (if you think about it – actually horrible) promises of a groundhog-second boredom called eternity.

    Side note – why would you thank, however hallucinatory they may be, a father for a son – in the real world sons are consequential upon fathers are they not?

    Second side note – “Amen” translates as “so be it”.
    It’s a wish – not an “abracadabra” – it has no impact upon whether what you wish becomes real.

  • Praise be the Lord and say Hallelujah Brother – I have seen the light !

    Religion and schizophrenia (psychosis)

    ” The relationship between religion and schizophrenia is of particular interest to psychiatrists because of the similarities between religious experiences and psychotic episodes; religious experiences often involve auditory and/or visual hallucinations,and those with schizophrenia commonly report similar hallucinations, along with a variety of beliefs that are commonly recognized by modern medical practitioners as delusional.[1]

    Religious delusion (psychosis)

    ” In 2011, a team of psychiatrists, behavioral psychologists, neurologists and neuropsychiatrists from the Harvard Medical School published a research which suggested the development of a new diagnostic category of psychiatric disorders related to religious delusion and hyperreligiosity.[23] ”

    ” They compared the thought and behavior of the most important figures in the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Paul)[23] with patients affected by mental disorders related to the psychotic spectrum using different clusters of disorders and diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV-TR),[23] and concluded that these Biblical figures “may have had psychotic symptoms that contributed inspiration for their revelations”,[23] such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, manic depression, delusional disorder, delusions of grandeur, auditory-visual hallucinations, paranoia, Geschwind syndrome (Paul especially) and abnormal experiences associated with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).[23] ”

    Jerusalem Syndrome. (psychosis)

    ” Jerusalem syndrome is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences….The best known, although not the most prevalent, manifestation of Jerusalem syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a person who seems previously balanced and devoid of any signs of psychopathology becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem. ”

  • “Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

    So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

    Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

    Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’

    Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

    Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.'”

    JOHN 20:24-29

  • I’ve never been shy about criticizing Church leaders when they deserve it, but your claim simply isn’t factual. The official default mode of the Church is skepticism when it comes to so-called miracles. They certainly aren’t out there trying to drum them up.

    There are a handful of events that have been officially deemed worthy of belief, like Lourdes and Fatima, and, yes, the local sites make some money from donations. But many, many more miracle claims have been disavowed by the Church. They tend to keep such disavowals quiet because they don’t want to embarrass anybody and, also, because they don’t want to inadvertently call attention to these events.

    Bishops don’t want to be in the miracle business and they all quietly hope the crazies will stay out of their back yard.

  • Hume’s argument does not invalidate the statement “Because some are frauds does not logically entail that all are frauds”.

  • It doesn’t because you are misstating it.

    It is saying it is likely to be fraud from the outset and should not be given credibility barring extraordinary evidence (which is never produced in such instances). The chief proponents of miracles are liars who seek to promote their faith (#2).

    Much like one should dismiss ponzi schemes and multilevel marketing out of hand on principle due to the inherently dishonest nature of the claims presented.

  • a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind? I can pray for you if you ask in Jesus name?

  • Show me anytime any component of the Catholic church said “No donations here.”

    Pay attention to the actions, not the words. By their fruit shall ye know them.

  • Show me any time any institution said that.

    You’re deflecting. My point wasn’t about donations but your claim that the Church encourages any and all fake miracles to solicit them. It doesn’t.

  • “They compared the thought and behavior of the most important figures in the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Paul”
    Minor problem – outside the biblical stories there is no evidence that either Abraham or Moses existed – probably both as fictitious as the exodus from Egypt. Situation not that much different for “Jesus Christ” either come to that.

    Unless those reporting made it clear that they were basing their conclusions on the claims in the biblical stories rather than assuming the reports were factual I would question their approach – and therefore their conclusions.

  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If it were not so we’d all have to believe every crackpot idea that anyone has ever imagined – even when they are mutually exclusive. (And my brain hurts readily enough without adding infinite cognitive dissonance).

  • Presumably you posted this because you have chosen to believe it happened.

    You are free to choose to believe such stories if you wish – but don’t expect others to make the same mistake.

  • Perhaps it happened; perhaps it didn’t. I think it demonstrates the importance of Christian belief over purported miracles.

    No bone for you.

  • “….if you ask in Jesus name ”

    I live and vote in NJ. Which district does he/she represent ?

  • It is a story which is used to encourage people to believe rather than to test.

    In other words – surrender your reason to whatever an alleged authority claims.

    Martin Luther apparently was fond of telling people that it was not possible for them to be Christian unless they “pluck out the eye of reason”.

    I think that is OK when the authority is impeccable.

    Unfortunately religious authority is never impeccable.

  • I think creation itself attests to a Creator that/whom I know as “God”. I think Jesus really existed based on at least (if not more than) the four collections known as “canonical gospels”. I think Jesus’ teachings reflect — generally — what can be reasonably regarded as good rules for a moral life and healthy society. I do believe in Jesus as God within the mystery of the Trinity. I think the teachings of his earthly witnesses, filtered as they would be in initial storytelling and later writing, point to a man whom I reasonably regard as divine. If your Martin Luther quote is correct, I would disagree with him. Perhaps what constitutes “reason” in this matter is in the eye of the beholder. What is “reasonable” for me might not be “reasonable” for you, and vice versa. I agree that “religious authority is never impeccable”. Reasonableness, however, is not impeccability. Jesus relied on flawed human beings to convey the essentials of his teaching. The Holy Spirit’s aid to them did not necessarily make them morally flawless in all earthly conduct.

  • LORD Jesus by thy blood protect the man Patrick and his house from wind, rain and flood as well as any visitation by the evil ones and save him and his loved one by this weekend. In Jesus name, Amen.

  • “….thy blood….”

    Are you anything like Hannibal Lecter, Jack-the-Ripper or Wiley Coyote ?

  • I will make any kind of statue, etc, you want, which will (any or all) :
    Shed tears, bleed (choice of head, hands, heart, eyes etc), perspire, urinate, defecate, puke or fart (choice of sweet or pungent).

    If you’ve got the $$$$, I’ll give you any ” MIRACLE ” you want.

    2 – 6 wk delivery, seasonally dependent. Order early for Easter, Christmas and Ground Hog’s Day.

    Terms : 1/3 down, 1/3 @ 50% completion, bal on delivery.
    CASH ONLY – FOB my loading dock.

    Order within the next 10 min – and get a 2nd Miracle FREE ! (just pay a separate charge)

  • Jesus, the lamb of God came on earth to be the sacrifice on the cross to take away the sins of the world that whoever believe in Him will have everlasting life. That is from the Gospel of John.

    Only He can save you and your loved ones if you are willing (free will). Tell Him you want to be saved and you will be saved. Amen.

  • “I think creation itself attests to a Creator that/whom I know as “God””

    All you’ve done is moved the need for evidence/rational thought back to “creation”.

    The universe exists – we know with a massive degree of certainty that it started with the rapid expansion of a singularity some 14.83bn years ago. We understand the processes which followed that expansion and resulted in us and the universe we inhabit. Within that understanding there is nether evidence nor need for “God”(s).

    If you call the start of the universe “creation” you are implying the need for a creator. To justify the “creator” through “creation” is therefore simple circular logic and irrelevant – you must be able to demonstrate the reality of either “creator” or “creation” before you can justify either through reference to the other.
    – – – – – – – –
    ” I think Jesus really ………………….. I think Jesus’ teachings ………………………………………………… I do believe in Jesus………………………………I think ……………………….”

    Thank you for making it clear that these are your beliefs rather than shouting, as many do, that they are facts. It is generally accepted that figures such as Jesus the itinerant teacher existed at that time – one may well have been Joshua/Yeshua of Nazareth – another was Apollonius. Beyond that – the factual reporting quality of the Gospels is questionable – the divinity of Jesus is unproven – all is belief. You can believe – I can’t.
    – – –
    The Holy Spirit – whose existence again is a matter of belief only, would appear, if real, to be pretty ineffectual. Realising that the changes it was alleged to make in those who were Christians just didn’t happen was the start of my journey out of belief.

  • Yes, all I’ve done is move the evidence back to all of creation brought about by the ultimate uncreated Creator known as “God” My explanation may or may not be “rational” for you, but it is “reasonable” to me and others.

    Who/What brought about not only “the rapid expansion of a singularity” but also what existed, however infinitesimal in size and complexity? For me, who is responsible is the Creator. Your “singularity” didn’t just pop into existence on its own accord.

    Your references to “creator” and “creation” ignore the simple fact that science knows what exists and continues to search for what plausibly seems to exist. My argument may be “irrelevant” to you but not for scientists who value scientific method as well as belief in what/whom brought about creation at its first instance. The Uncreated accounts ultimately for all that exists, whether known or not yet known.

    It’s been said that the Gospel is metaphor. I’m not convinced such is the case although the four canonical gospels do contain metaphor. Somewhat like you, I suspect some of the purportedly factual accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry may be “questionable”, but all the stories (handed down orally among different communities, eventually put into writing in different communities, and likely massaged by later copyists) convey important life lessons for believers and unbelievers alike. I try to distinguish between *believing* and *thinking*. I’m reminded of Anselm’s observation, for instance, that theology is “faith seeking understanding”. The Church of Rome teaches there are two paths/tracks to Truth — faith and reason. Each has its own method. I think the problem arises when someone “jumps tracks” trying to prove or disprove something by recourse to a method inappropriate to faith or reason. You appear to be engaged in this fruitless effort.

    There is scriptural support for the presence of the Holy Spirit. You write, “The Holy Spirit…would appear…to be pretty ineffectual. Realising that the changes it was alleged to make in those who were Christians just didn’t happen was the start of my journey out of belief.” Allow me, please, to admit that I am shedding crocodile tears. What justification do YOU have for insisting that God produce favorable results for you? By whose authority do you invoke the right to tell God to act on your time rather than on God’s time? I’m reminded of a reply (given several times by our grandfatherly instructor) in a training class years ago. When one of us complained about an outcome not being “fair”, he would answer, “My two kids used to complain years ago, ‘Daddy, that’s not fair.’ I would reply, ‘Of course, life is not fair, kiddo. A fair is a fancy country picnic!'” To borrow another example, Jesus approved of slavery, and the Christian Church would support the morality of this practice by recourse to scripture itself. It took nearly two millenia for Christian communities to finally condemn slavery (the Church of Rome did not “categorically” condemn slavery till December 1965, according to the late jurist and scholar, John T. Noonan, Jr in his A CHURCH THAT CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF CATHOLIC MORAL TEACHING). For slaves, this “delay” would not have seemed fair. Nonetheless, we must ask, What/Who accounts for this gradual move toward abolition and later condemnation of slavery? I don’t think any moral person today would argue for a return to slavery, but who/what accounts for this gradual change of heart? The Church of Rome sees the Holy Spirit’s influence among all people of good will, regardless of their faith or lack of it.

    It’s not my point (or competence) to instruct you on what you should do in light of our exchanges and your experience. All I can say is that for me, faith is the sine qua non.

  • And in addition to Rick’s request, can you do a statue that walks on water? And I don’t mean the calm little YMCA swimming pool — can your statue do the walking under gale-warning conditions? How much you charge 4 that?

  • Atheists demand observable evidence & rational inference that God exists.

    Christians provide observable evidence & rational inference that God exists (and it’s not difficult!).

    Atheists then ignore observable evidence & rational inference that God exists.

  • “Who/What brought about not only “the rapid expansion of a singularity” ”

    I don’t know – but ignorance does not promote a preferred unsupported and irrational idea to fact.
    – – – – – – –
    “The Uncreated accounts ultimately for all that exists, whether known or not yet known.”

    What Uncreated? – if your answer is “God” then you are thinking in circles again are you not? And how do you know that the Uncreated (assuming for the moment it exists) accounts for all that exists – that surely is supernatural belief – not necessarily wrong but no more likely to be right than the blue of unicorn emissions.
    – – – – – – – – – -.
    The Gospels contain some stories that convey lessons to all – yes,. but so do, Le Morte D’Arthur, The Tales of Robin Hood and the Foundation series – we don’t imply divinity to their characters do we?
    – – – – –
    “The Church of Rome teaches there are two paths/tracks to Truth — faith and reason. Each has its own method”

    Yup – but only one is measurable and can demonstrate success. Faith is only Truth when one has the faith that faith is truth – more circles?
    – – – – – – –
    “There is scriptural support for the presence of the Holy Spirit”

    Which can only be relevant if you regard the scripture as authoritative – and you’ve already expressed reservations about some of it.
    – – – – – –

    “What justification do YOU have for insisting that God produce favorable results for you?”

    I must have been unclear – the people who taught me to believe in their God told me that the HS (back in the days when it was still the holy Ghost!) would bring with it change in people’s lives. It was clear that those lives were not as I’d been lead to believe they would be – and as a consequence my journey of questions began. It wasn’t about me not getting something – the HS didn’t work for others, including those who told that it did – the resulting attempts to resolve the dilemma took me to a choice – kid myself that something undeniably untrue was, in fact, true – or question the accuracy of the teaching I’d received. I opted for what I consider to be honesty/integrity/morality (not sure which is closest).
    – – – – – –

    “The Church of Rome sees the Holy Spirit’s influence among all people of good will, regardless of their faith or lack of it.”

    Well it would wouldn’t it – I mean that is basic to its existence. A bit of corporate sunk cost is hardly surprising. Trouble with that is, again, you can only “see” it through the eye of faith – it doesn’t work without that.
    – – – – – –

    “I can say is that for me, faith is the sine qua non.”

    Whilst for me reason hits the spot – and precludes supernatural belief.

    – – – –

    Reading your response makes me wonder how much of it is actually your own considered belief, and how much of it is a re-iteration of the doctrine you have accepted (learnt as opposed to discovered/ prefabricated as opposed to self built/job lot as opposed to self-selection).

  • “Christians provide observable evidence & rational inference that God exists (and it’s not difficult!).”

    If it’s not difficult why don’t you do it?

    Could it be that Christians (and Hindus/Muslims etc.) look at what they think is evidence and reason through the wrong end of the telescope of belief whilst Atheists, having understood the manual, use the microscope of scepticism?

  • So, (in a sincere attempt to nudge this discussion towards rationality), can you explain exactly how I’m killing anybody at all?

  • You are promoting homophobia, which leads to gay and trans people being lynched, just for being gay or trans.

    You do know what I mean by “lynched”, don’t you?

  • Your problem (not mine) is that you are attempting to use the method of one track/path (rationality) to disprove the reasonableness of the other path/track (faith).

    “Whilst for me reason hits the spot – and precludes supernatural belief.”


  • Not trying to disprove the reasonableness of faith at all.

    When I see a white cat I’m not trying to prove it isn’t a brown dog. I just see a white cat. Either I have to pretend to myself that I’ve seen a brown dog (knowing that, over time, my memory will probably adjust my perception of the reality and I will believe that I saw a brown dog) or I accept that I saw a white cat and get on with my life.

    Either way it was a white cat that I saw.

  • Perhaps — in matters of faith — you need to expand your perception. You are wearing blinders unlike Christian scientists who are not. You continue to try disproving the value of faith by resorting to the method of science.

    Go to Click “Essays in Theology”. Hit the “archives” button. Search for relevant terms. Quite informative.

  • Before I take-on a commission, I want to see the clients financial and integrity bona-fides.

    You’re 0 for 2.

  • Perception, unlike faith, requires something to perceive. The search for that something can be done through the scientific method or through faith – but only science provides the means for testing and repetition.

    You are mistaken – I’m not trying to disprove the value of faith – because I’m not starting from a position where faith has value. I’m starting from a neutral position and asking what value faith has.

    I can see that it acts as a crutch for some but then pretty much any alternative mysticism would do the same and I’m fortunate enough not to need such a crutch.

    I can see that other people’s faith makes life easier for those who benefit from that faith, the temporal and religious leaders who’s lives are greased by the uncritical obedience that faith promotes.

    I just can’t see any reason why believing something that is unevidenced and unnecessary could make my life better/richer/more useful.

    I rather think that, unless they completely compartmentalise the two areas, Christian scientists are the ones wearing blinkers.
    “My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.” population geneticist J. B. S. Haldane

  • There are a number of parlor tricks that appear to change water into wine. Here are three commonly used:

    A. A special jug with two chambers.

    B. Very clear white wine poured into a container with a little food dye in the bottom.

    C. solutions of sodium carbonate and of phenolphthalein. (I did this one with my chemistry kit when I was a wee lad.)

    Jesus would have need a trick jug holding 120 gallons to fill the jars. And the servants would haveeasily detected the smell of the wine in that mega-jar, not to mention the fact that they themselves filled the six 20 gallon jars. So it couldn’t have been A.

    As for B, the servants filled the six jars themselves with water, not wine. Water mixed with food dye may look like wine, but nobody would be fooled after one sip.

    Option C likewise would not taste anything like fine wine; I also wouldn’t advise drinking it.

    So, no, any engineer or chemist can NOT come up with any way to change water into wine; the most they can do is change the color of a liquid solution.

  • So you’re still trying to rely on science/rationality/empiricism. Such is your right. We disagree. I’m not going to go around in circles with you. It’s been an interesting (if repetitious) exchange, and you have not disproved the existence of a Creator known to millions of folks by name of “God”. That’s OK.

  • As I’ve noted just a minute ago, you are prolonging a needless exchange. You cannot prove the non-existence of a Creator known generally as “God”. Nothing wrong with your path/track — except when you attempt to use its approach on the other track/path.

  • Let me address the ” miracle ” at Cana 1st. If you accept the NT as a believer – skip to the last segment.

    ” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
    7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” John 2:3–5:3

    And the guests had already consumed what wine was available. And more wine was needed.

    Six jars @ 20 “gal” = 120 gal = 480 qts = 960 pts. Assume ea person would consume 1 additional pt. That’s 960 attendees. Big, expensive wedding.

    These water jars were used for ritual purification :

    ” Clothing contaminated by mold or mildew had to be washed…..A diseased, unclean person had to be quarantined outside the camp until
    the infection ceased. (Leviticus 13:45,46) When the disease was gone,
    the person had to “wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe
    with water.”
    ” Diarrhea and urethral discharges meant disease, …. (Leviticus 15:13) Semen and menstrual
    blood were unclean and required water cleansing….”

    So these ” stone water jars ” meant for ” purification ” were those used by Jesus to make (gasp) wine !

    That’s like drinking out of a urinal/douche bag combined.

    Some ” miracle “….

    Now to your observation –

    ” So, no, any engineer or chemist can NOT come up with any way to change water into wine; the most they can do is change the color of a liquid solution. ”

    What qualifications and/or experience do you have to make that very broad statement ?

  • What you addressed is your contempt for religion.

    Since you weren’t personally at Cana you lack any evidence to do more than carp.

  • “Big, expensive wedding.”

    Nothing can be inferred about the size or cost of the wedding from the datum that Jesus is alleged to have miraculously produced 120 or more gallons of wine. He could have allegedly produced that number for a wedding of any size, big or small. The figure only allows us to say how much wine was said to have been produced, not how large the wedding was, nor how much wine was originally on hand and subsequently drunk.

    “960 guests…1400 guests”

    If you think that much wine is going to suffice for that many guests, all I can say is that you are going to some pretty boring wedding parties! Get out more! Have more fun!

    “contaminated…unclean…” etc.

    I guess you never heard of people making “bathtub gin”!

    Seriously, though, for ritual washing, Jews used a “mikveh”, a ceremonial bathing pool, or else they used the “living” (running) water of a river . They didn’t try to squeeze themselves into 20 gallon stone jars. The jars were used to store the water so it would be available when needed.

    But the whole question is an irrelevant diversion. Who care about 1st Century Middle Eastern hygienic practices? Not me.

    “What qualifications…” etc.

    This is nothing more than an ad hominem attack, in which one tries to discredit a statement by discrediting the person who made said statement, rather than refuting the statement itself. It is a ploy that is commonly used. I could shoot it right back at you, demanding your own qualifications (which, of course, may be impossible to verify.) But the whole approach of relying on “authorities” is typical of the medieval scholastic and modern fundamentalist mindsets; it is better to actually think for oneself.

    “So…any engineer or chemist can NOT come up with any way to change water into wine…”

    As of the present time, I stand by that statement and believe it is factual. But you should know that it is not possible to prove such a negative statement to be true for all time; someone may some day come up with a way of doing it. But for now, as far as I know, the statement stands.

    If you believe that statement to be false (I proposition I admit is possible), all you have to do is provide a single, credible instance of a chemist or engineer producing real wine directly from water. So far all you have provided is a video of a parlor magic trick.

    Finally, one might question whether the doings a lab coated modern scientist, with his laboratory full of sophisticated equipment, are really relevant to the doings of a 1st Century Jewish peasant at a party. Sounds like comparing apples and oranges.

  • I can’t disprove the existence of a 6″ high, green and pink striped, undetectable by science, WiFi enabled unicorn which is sitting on your shoulder and controlling your thoughts. Doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable thing to claim exists.

    Likewise many people believe(d) in Yeti, Nessie and Odin.

    The rule, you see, is that those who make the claim have to justify it.

    I don’t know that there isn’t something that someone might call a god and I’m careful never to say that a (for example) creator who, on an off day, created the singularity which became the universe doesn’t exist. I do say that the lack of either evidence or rational argument for such a being leads me to the conclusion that, should it exist, it is irrelevant to temporal life.

    Those, on the other hand, who tell me that there is a deity (or an Abominable Snowman) have a moral duty to provide evidence or rational argument to support their claim. No-one, as far as I’m concerned, has ever done so.

    So no – I haven’t disproven anything – but I don’t have to. The onus is on those who claim knowledge to back it up.

  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If it were not so we’d all have to believe every crackpot idea that anyone has ever imagined – even when they are mutually exclusive. (And my brain hurts readily enough without adding infinite cognitive dissonance).

  • Many people, some of them extremely clever, have addressed science and religion.

    No-one, AFAIK, has ever satisfactorily addressed the two major opposing concepts that prevent, IMO, science and religion ever being compatible.

    1 – Science is a process that starts with an hypothesis, gathers data, analyses the data, draws a conclusion (which sometimes is “Don’t know”) seeks peer review and is replicable and likely to be overturned if further evidence comes to light.
    Religion may start with an hypothesis, but any answer it reaches has to be compatible with “God”. It accepts as valid data stories which range from the true to the untrue via unevidenced and unlikely, values claims of revelation as equal with evidence, and often relies for support on other unsound conclusions. It is never going to accept a revision which questions the “God” bit.

    2 – Science accepts answers which do not place humanity/me at the pinnacle of importance – it accepts that we are merely the result of processes over which we had no control and are not made to fulfil a deities wishes/commands.
    Religion places humanity/me in a special category at the top of the pile. Many claim the earth was made to suit us rather than being the environment which we evolved to succeed within. They imagine us to be central rather than peripheral to the universe.

    Being a clever person does not mean that what they say is worth listening to. One of the world’s greatest physicists, a double Nobel prize winner, became an avid advocate for the cancer-curing capabilities of Vitamin C!

  • I’m waiting –

    “Christians provide observable evidence & rational inference that God exists (and it’s not difficult!).”

    If it’s not difficult why don’t you do it?

    Could it be that Christians (and Hindus/Muslims etc.) look at what they think is evidence and reason through the wrong end of the telescope of belief whilst Atheists, having understood the manual, use the microscope of scepticism?

  • “Big expensive wedding”

    Nothing can be inferred as to the size or cost of the wedding from the datum that Jesus is alleged to have produced 120 gallons or more of wine. He could have produced that amount for a wedding of any size, big or small. The figure only allows us to say how much wine he produced, not how large the wedding was, nor how much wine was originally on had and subsequently drunk.

    “960 gallons…1400 gallons…”.

    If you think that much wine will suffice for that amount of guests, all I can say is that you are attending some pretty boring wedding parties. Get out more! Have more fun!


    I guess you never heard of people making bathtub gin!

    But seriously, for ceremonial washing Jews used a mikveh, a special little bathing pool. They didn’t try to squeeze themselves into jars. The jars were used to store and draw the water from when it was needed.

    But the whole question is an irrelevant diversion. Who care abount ancient Middle Eastern hygienic practices anyway? Not me!

    “What qualifications…”, etc.

    This is nothing more than an ad hominem personal attack, in which one tries to negate the value of a statement by attacking the person who made it, rather than actually addressing and answering that person’s argument itself. A common ploy. I could shoot it right back at you, demanding your own qualifications (which may be verifiable anyway). But the whole approach of appealing to “authorities” is reminiscent of medieval scholastics and modern fundamentalists. Better to actually think for oneself.

    “so… any engineer or chemist can NOT come up with any way to change water into wine.”

    At the present time, I stand by that statement and believe it is factually true. But you should know that it is not possible to make a negative statement like that which is eternally valid; someone may come up with a way to do it. But at the present time, I believe the statement stands.

    If you believe that statement to be false (a possibility I freely acknowledge), all you have to do is provide a single credible source demonstrating that. So far all you’ve shown is a video of a parlor magic trick.

    One might also question how relevant the doings of a modern lab coated scientist with a laboratory full of sophisticated equipment are to the doings of an ancient jew at a party.

    Sounds like comparing apples and oranges.

  • I think you need to learn what Professor Principe has to say about science and faith. It appears to me that you engage in scientism, just as your true opponents engage in fideism.

  • Even science is built on assumptions as Professor Principe notes in his course. He furthermore states that both faith and science employ reason. Seriously, I recommend his presentation.

  • You assert you don’t have to disprove the existence of God?

    Yes, you do.

    I recommend the course I referenced earlier.

  • There is plenty of reason deployed by people of faith – it’s like a twenty-three storey building. The twenty third sits rationally upon the twenty-second, which is a logical extension of the twenty first, itself a valid follow on to the twentieth and so on – until the (US) second (UK first) floor. That’s where it always stops – that is where the leap of faith is necessary. And leaps of faith are not built on reason but fear, necessity or laziness.

    Demonstrate the existence of that initial floor and the rest is worth considering – until then its just castles in the air.

  • No – the onus of proof is always on the claimant – otherwise if I were falsely to accuse you of murder you could end up incarcerated for the rest of your life – innocent but unable to prove it.

    If the course you recommend doesn’t understand that simple principle I’ll warrant the arguments built upon are spurious.

  • But you are as much a “claimant” as am I. By “entering the ring”, so to speak, to dispute the value/validity of theological or religious claims, you become an opponent of folks who see merit in both science *and* theology in the quest for truth.

    Yes, you could accuse me of murder, but I’d remain innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, even without physical evidence of my innocence, the jury would be able to consider other kinds of evidence, for example, bearing on my character, etc. Finally, there is jury nullification. Your scenario is inadequate. (At least, you acknowledged I “could end up incarcerated”. “Could” is not “would”.)

    As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t intend to get into a detailed debate about science vs. religion. I offered information about the video/audio/dvd/online course as one of many sources devoted to the debate.

  • Even scientists make “leaps of faith”, and such leaps are not based on “fear, necessity or laziness”. Professor Principe discusses your false assertion. Your statements to date may not be “castles”, but they are full of toxic “air”.

  • No. Your zero-sum approach suggests you need to reexamine your thinking about science vs. theology. It’s “both/and”, not “either/or”.

  • You are confused.

    If the burden of proof were not on the claimant you would not be innocent until proven guilty – therefore you could be both innocent and incarcerated.

    You claim the existence of a deity – I doubt that claim – the onus of proof is upon you.

  • Examples of scientists making “leaps of faith” and the “toxic air” please.

  • Science is based on evidence based logic. Religion is unevidenced (that’s why it’s called faith) and any logic is invalidated by the inability to verify the fundamental principles that have to be assumed before logic is applied.

  • I mentioned Professor Principe’s course for your benefit. Why? Because, as a scientist and historian of science, he is better equipped to address your points. I recommend you access his video. I myself value the middle ground that recognizes the benefits of science and faith in the search for truths and Truth.

  • Toxic air is any attempt to discredit faith and rely solely on what one regards as objective reality. I suggest you view Dr. Principe’s video for more information.

  • No, you are confused. It is you, not I, who have challenged the “existence of a deity”. Even science, according to Principe, ultimately must rely on assumptions. Again, refer to his course.

  • The summary information appears to suggest the he equates religion with Christianity. His main area of interest appears to be alchemy (and its transition into science).

    Presumably we agree that the benefits of science include medicine, sewerage, transportation, the www etc., what do you consider to be the benefits of faith?

  • An unusual use of words – Toxic air is generally regarded as air that contains pollutants.

    I disagree that relying on evidence-based knowledge is toxic for humanity; toxic for supernatural beliefs (religions, “alternative” medicines etc.) that debase humanity by encouraging unnecessary misery, poverty and self-loathing – I sure hope so.

    Oh – and reality isn’t objective or subjective – it’s just real – sometimes difficult to establish but just real.

  • People tell me there is a god (or gods). This is their (your?) belief. I can see neither need nor reason to accept such an hypothesis.

    Since I did not invent the concept of “deity” let alone promote it I have no responsibility to prove or disprove it. Those who introduce the concept of deity have the responsibility to support/justify that concept. My challenging the existence of a deity is just that, the request for validation. When the best validation is “well – you can’t prove there isn’t a god so therefore there must be/probably is one (or more)” I am talking to someone whose religious fervour has negated their ability to think rationally.

    FWIW – at around 14 years old I had a thought which, I now know, was effectively solipsistic. After five minutes or so I realised that I could neither prove nor disprove the hypothesis; I therefore discarded it.

  • I repeat what I’ve written before: You are using one track’s method on a different track.

  • If you google “benefits of religious faith”, you can find some answers to your question. FORBES, for example, has a column on the subject.

  • “so… any engineer or chemist can NOT come up with any way to change water into wine.”

    ” But you should know that it is not possible to make a negative statement like that which is eternally valid; someone may come up with away to do it. But at the present time, “I believe the statement stands. ”

    “I believe the statement stands. ”

    Those are your claims.

    I’ll ask you again : “What qualifications and/or experience do you have to make that very broad statement ? ”

    That’s not an ad-hominem personal attack.

    If I were to tell you that I personally, here in my kitchen, developed a method of nuclear fusion at room temperature.

    Wouldn’t you want to know what my qualifications are to make that claim ?

    If I told you I was a colleague of Oppenheimer, Teller and Fermi and was instrumental to the success of the Manhattan Project – you might give that claim a 90% positive rating as to it’s veracity.

    If I made the nuclear fusion statement, and told you I flipped burgers at McD’s for the last 30 yrs – you would give me a 0% rating as to it’s veracity.

    I’m trying to find out whether you’re a nuclear physicist instrumental in developing the Manhattan Project – or whether you’re a hamburger-flipper….

  • I already responded to your previous irrelevant ad hominem deflection.

    The veracity of a statement does not depend on the qualifications – or lack thereof – of the one making said statement. It depends solely on the truthfulness of the statement. That being the case, any statement can be demonstrated to be false by a single contrary example. The fact that you still have not done so, and thus refuted my statement by ACTUAL FACTS (rather than ad hominem deflection), clearly demonstrates that you have nothing to offer here – other than a video of a dopey parlor magic trick.

    Come back when you can provide a real argument with actual facts, Mr. Wizard. Until then, my job here is done. Causa finita est.

  • So? Seeing two tracks validates neither. Though there is a tendency to try to find that which is right near the midpoint of the disagreement in truth the correct solution may lie at one end. When one end relies upon evidence and reason and the other on supernatural belief and wishful thinking there is no midpoint – the two are incompatible.

    And still the fact remains – those who make claims are morally duty-bound to support them with evidence and/or rational argument. Failure to do so is sufficient grounds to conclude that the claim is invalid. It is not necessary to prove the claim invalid – simply to show that validity is not established.

  • You made the claim that there are “Benefits of…”.

    I asked what you considered those to be.

    You referred me to third parties – why? I’m not in discussion with them. Do you not think for yourself?

  • Dr Principe – Reality
    1 – The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them
    2 – The state or quality of having existence or substance.

  • “When one end relies upon evidence and reason and the other on supernatural belief and wishful thinking there is no midpoint – the two are incompatible.”

    That “other” track to which you refer DOES rely on reason, and it does not at all ignore scientific evidence. “Wishful thinking”? Point thy finger at thyself.

    “…those who make claims are morally duty-bound to support them with evidence and/or rational argument.” Theology does use “rational argument”. “Evidence”? Theology does start with evidence.

  • I have never been provided with valid evidence that justifies the start of theology.

    Logic built upon that absence I an well aware of – but solid evidence for the underlying claims of the supernatural – never.

    Can you enlighten me?

  • More ad hominems, and not a single real argument with actual facts. LOL!

    Thanks for posting that clip of yourself!

  • Your mention of “evidence” is again an appeal to the empirical methodologies of the natural and social sciences. Theology, like such fields of science, is a professional discipline.

    In his “Theology and Science”, the late theologian Richard McBrien writes in relevant part:

    “Scientists as scientists can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, nor should they even try to do so. God is knowable only through faith of some kind. The most that people of any specific faith can hope for is the assurance that their belief in God is not contradicted by reason or science.

    “…If there appears to be a conflict between our faith and science, we have either bad science or bad theology. The former deals only with empirical data; the latter, with religious belief.

    “To repeat the point: scientists who explicitly ‘dismiss the possibility of divine causality’ violate their own scientific methods; but scientists who simply prescind from such belief are only doing their job as scientists. “Faith” has nothing at all to do with it.

    “On the other hand, religious people cannot use “faith” to trump science whenever it suits them.”

    I recall reading a number of years ago a statement from the head of the Vatican Observatory: As a Christian, I believe God created the universe; as a scientist, I want to know how God did it.

    As I’ve noted time and time again for your benefit, each track — science and theology — has its own *reasonable* methodology, its own track/path to truths and (writing as a Christian) to Truth. As a believer who also appreciates empirical science, I believe all truths (lower case) ultimately come from Truth itself, i.e., God. There can be no contradiction between genuine scientific truths and Truth since God is the ultimate source of all creation.

  • So what you’re saying seems like

    Science is a process for exploring things that can be explored.

    Faith is a process of imagining something that can’t be explored other than by imagination.

    OK – the two are separate – because science comes to conclusions that can be tested and faith to conclusions that are as cannot be tested.

    If it can’t be tested and it can’t be demonstrated it, rationally, cannot be called truth can it. Calling something that may not exist “truth” is sophistry isn’t it.

  • Your opinions are the same as any third party’s that I might find by googling? Even if they are mutually incompatible?

  • “Because they think the same as you or you think the same as them?”

    (coming from someone who can’t see his own problem)

  • I was responding earlier to your question, to wit: “[W]hat do you consider to be the benefits of faith?”

    I replied to my satisfaction.

  • I’m asserting that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God and that scientists of integrity do not jump back and forth between science and theology. I’m asserting that (Catholic) theology does not attempt to prove the existence of God and that, in service to faith, starts with evidence that is not empirical in nature, e.g., the scriptures, early Christian thinkers, etc.

    With respect to your bringing up “imagination”, I agree that both scientists and theologians can exercise “the ability to deal resourcefully” with new challenges in their respective fields of expertise. (H/T: online dictionary)

    I’m asserting that the empirical sciences and theology are both *professional* fields of endeavor.

    I’m asserting that you continue to be unfaithful to science by insisting that only its approach can be valid in theology. I’m asserting that theologians of integrity do not try to usurp the legitimacy of science. I’m asserting that I am not supportive of so-called “Creationism” or “Intelligent Design”.

    I’m asserting you are frustrated in your attempts to create a clash where none actually exists.

    I’m asserting (once again): no bone for you.

  • What problem – and why won’t you answer a simple question? What do you think are the benefits of faith?

  • OK – you’re satisfied and I’m none the wiser.

    Now, it could be because I’m not very bright – or it could be because you don’t want to have to try to defend your answer?

  • “I’m asserting that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God ” – we agree

    “I’m asserting that (Catholic) theology does not attempt to prove the existence of God and that, in service to faith, starts with evidence that is not empirical in nature, e.g., the scriptures, early Christian thinkers, etc.” we agree

    You, ISTM, are content to live your life based on something that you cannot prove is even likely (or indeed possible) outside the human imagination – I think that is sad but your right.
    I, cannot live my life based on something that I cannot prove is even likely (or indeed possible) outside the human imagination You probably think that is sad but my right.

    My problem comes when people with unsupported convictions encourage, through both irrational fear and unfounded hope (unfounded other than in their faith) other (often vulnerable others) to change their lives. To change their lives in ways which, IMO, impoverish the humanity of the convert, discourage the rational thought that is the only sure way to provide quality of life (the only one we know we have) for current and future generations and, perhaps incidentally, enrich people and institutions which misrepresent faith as fact.

  • “You, ISTM, are content to live your life based on something that you cannot prove is even likely (or indeed possible).” I accept God’s existence *in faith*. I think supporting theological arguments are *reasonable*.

    You have the right not to believe if you cannot believe. This right is based on your inherent human dignity — even without supporting theological argumentation.

    I do not endorse use of any kind of FEAR to motivate people to believe in God. I think genuine faith as well as “rational thought” can contribute to quality of life.

    Faith is a “fact” only insofar as we know (in short) it is a noun. Some people have faith; some don’t. It can be quite reasonable if not empirical.

  • If you perused my suggested SEARCH and are “none the wiser”, I can’t help you because — obviously — you don’t think the sources are competent to write what they did.

    I defended my answer. As to your “bright[ness]” or not, that’s for you to decide. You have, however, repeated the same comments about the superiority of science over and over again throughout our exchanges.

  • I’ve answered by giving you a suggested SEARCH (including a FORBES article) that reflects my thinking about “the benefits of faith”.

  • I’m glad you do not endorse the use of fear. Many religions threaten non-adherents with their version of Hell – be it a simple separation from the deity to eternal pain and suffering. They also state/imply that non-observance will have an adverse effect on the earthly life – “Give us this day our daily bread”?

    There is also much shaming used, images of “Christ’s suffering” can be seen as emotional blackmail. I have many times been told the “Jesus died for you”. Mind you – since Jesus presumably knew that I wouldn’t be a believer that statement is inaccurate, but the only reason to use it is an attempt to apply pressure through shame/guilt.

    I agree that faith can add to the quality of life, as a forty year salesman of some success I am well aware that skill in creating a market can result in the purchaser believing that the the product they own brings much (previously unsought) satisfaction.
    I suggest that many things can add to one’s quality of life, some of which are based on more rationally honest or evidentially supported ideas than are often used to promote religion.

  • “Most researchers have found that the myriad non-spiritual benefits of religion are related to regular religious attendance.

    It is less the strength of your faith than the dependability of your arrival at religious services and other events that matters. This suggests that the mechanism for these benefits may be as much or more the social network that a religious community provides than the actual practice of the religion in a theological sense. Or it may be that those with the most faith also attend services regularly.

    Also, all the results presented here are benefits found to derive from religious attendance or involvement in any religion, so there is nothing here to suggest that one’s particular beliefs are the key to the results. It is having the beliefs, practicing them, and regularly joining with other like-minded adherents that produce the benefits reported here. With that said, what are the benefits?”

    Hardly a ringing endorsement of faith.
    Being part of a like-minded social group has benefits.
    The faith is just an excuse for the social contact.
    Faith in the absence of the supernatural or the superiority of one football team over another is as beneficial as religious belief. At least we can demonstrate that football teams exist!

  • From the very beginning, Christianity has been largely a community experience (hermits being the exception). Jesus’ ministry was largely public, reaching out especially to people in need, i.e., on the margins of society, to tell them of God’s love for them. The word ‘ministry’ is ultimately derived from medieval and ancient terms meaning *servant or service to others* (Matthew 9:13 and 25:31-46; Mark 10:45 and 12:30-31; Luke 11:46, and 1 John 4:20-21 are relevant here). We do know that primitive Christians, having been expelled from the synagogues, were faced with setting up their own social support systems to meet practical needs previously available through Jewish community organization.

    You assert, “Hardly a ringing endorsement of faith.” Your opinion, having the “ring” of empiricism, is unpersuasive.

    “The faith is just an excuse for social contact.” Perhaps for some Christians, your observation is true. I suspect most Christians would disagree. Christian worship is centered around the ancient word ‘eucharist’, derived from the Greek word for “thanksgiving”. Christians assembled not only to give praise to God but also to thank God for all their practical blessings. Worship involved presenting wine and bread from homes to the liturgical presider for offering to God in gratitude.

    You write, “At least we can demonstrate that football teams exist!” Christians and non-believers can demonstrate that faith exists, too.

  • “I’m glad you do not endorse the use of fear.” Neither does the Church of Rome: “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters'” (CCC-1782, referencing Vatican II’s “Dignitatis Humanae”, which also states, “Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth”).

    You mention how people have “attempt[ed] to apply pressure through shame/guilt.” First, a word on terminology. Shame is unhealthy in that it suggests something inherently wrong/bad about a human being. It is a characteristic of dysfunctional self-perception. Guilt, on the other hand, is a reminder within a person that s/he has done something objectively wrong. Religious belief is not necessary for one to feel guilt. Second, the doctrine that “Jesus died for you” stems ultimately from the belief that the Father demanded some kind of satisfaction from Jesus in order to save us from inevitable eternal damnation. It focuses on Jesus, therefore, being sacrificed by the Father who was otherwise ready to exact vengeance/punishment if not placated. Jesus, in this picture, is the “victim” being sacrificed to keep us out of hell. The most notable example of this toxic theology is from John Chrysostom (d. 407), archbishop of Constantinople, who wrote about the “priest” standing and praying over the “victim” (Jesus) on the “altar”. The words in quotes are sacrificial in nature. What this orthotoxy denies or fails to grasp is that Jesus’ sacrifice was *self-sacrifice*.

  • You chose the article on the basis that it agreed with you about the benefits of faith – the article says that the benefits come from association.

    So what do you claim are the benefits of faith which aren’t common to associations of all faiths and none?

    I’m not arguing that faith doesn’t exist – people have faith in their football teams. My point is that the football teams exist, even if the faith in them is misplaced – the faith in god(s) cannot be so demonstrated and must therefore be doubly likely to be misplaced.

  • We are going to disagree about whether the mental effect of plastering of walls with images of a brutal execution and telling people that it was necessary because the viewer was born needing redemption through that barbaric blood self-sacrifice is to engender fear, aren’t we. Not to mention the habit of publicly acting out the road to Golgotha – the demand that a priest hears confessions etc. etc..

    And whilst I appreciate that the abuse, and the hiding and facilitating of that abuse, is neither exclusive to the RCC nor the practice of all its members I think you are on very dodgy ground if you imply that ” “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.” is taken seriously by thousands of those in the RCC’s current and recent hierarchies.

    As to the “sacrifice”. As a non-believer I see things very differently and it doesn’t reflect favourably on the character of the putative deity. Indeed, I cannot understand how any rational person believes such ideas. I know many do, I can’t, it’s probably best left there.

  • Your first paragraph is interesting. I recall entering a church in Juarez, Mexico nearly 30 years ago: women on knees on the floor, a gory scene of Jesus crucified, etc. Most newer Catholic churches have far fewer statues and pictures except, of course, for the Stations of the Cross. Based on my experience, the more conservative parishes tend to lean toward what you’ve described; the more liberal ones, not so (much). You can get an idea of what I’m writing about by visiting, for example, the National Catholic Register website whose readers gravitate toward this pre-Vatican II mentality. If there’s an underlying shared theme for such Catholics, it is their belief that “God sent His Only Begotten Son to Die for Us on the Cross”. Jesus is the “Victim”; the worship master is the “priest” who mediates between God and humans; the action takes place on the “altar”, which is necessary for any “sacrifice”. Such is not my theology in the Catholic tradition even though my first 8 years of Catholic schooling were steeped in it. The sacrament of “confession” has a long and complex history. Suffice to say (and contrary to later developments lasting through today), it was the primitive Christian communities that were challenged to *forgive* the errant member. Today, it is the “priest” (or presbyter or bishop) who has the “power” to forgive sins even though this understanding is at odds with earliest Christian belief and practice when the presider led the assembly in *all* doing the forgiving as Jesus instructed.

    As to primacy/supremacy of conscience, the more conservative and reactionary (against Vatican II) Catholics insist that one’s conscience is *properly informed* only by reference to church doctrine. More liberal and progressive Catholics think that a person, while considering official church teaching, has the right to be informed by actual human experience, as well, not to mention other sources of information. It’s a perennial debate. The aforementioned aside, I’m not clear on your tying in the matter of conscience with “abuse”. Perhaps you can clarify?

    I regard Jesus’ sacrifice as *self-sacrifice*. I do not at all believe he was the “victim” of a Father demanding Jesus’ suffering and death to gain our eternal salvation. I was reared in this toxic understanding, but I’ve learned better since then. Suffice to say, regarding your last sentence, I think Christian belief is reasonable. It’s the particular “brand” of Catholic theology that can cultivate a healthy belief or, on the contrary, lead one down the reactionary anti-Vatican II “rabbit hole”.

  • For me, the benefits of faith come precisely from community involvement — worship, education, retreats, etc. I benefit from the shared experience and insights of other Catholics. I also benefit, of course, from my reading.

    You assert that “the faith in god(s) cannot be so demonstrated.” We disagree, and I am not relying on science here. The Christian faith, from the very beginning, has been demonstrated within community and outreach (like Jesus) to people in human and other need.

  • It is not so much what happens in churches that I’m referring to – one expects religious symbolism/teaching/indoctrination in a church. My father’s parishes displayed crosses (unoccupied ones) prominently. It is more the extra-church situations that concern me.

    I understand that it is commonplace for Catholic controlled schools (as in Ireland for example) to have a crucifix prominently dis[played in every room. Whether or not it is successful, and events in Ireland suggest it is only to a limited degree, this appears to be an attempt to impress the guilt/suffering concepts on immature, vulnerable minds. I’ve seen walls plastered with exhortations to thank God who made you what you are (does he know what he’s being blamed for?) in UK Anglican schools – Anglican dominated but state-funded. The Irish experience suggests that the view that getting them young will fill pews in future is false, but how many lives are damaged by the mis-education that is often used in order to try to prop up beliefs that are losing their power.
    – – – –
    “Today, it is the “priest” (or presbyter or bishop) who has the “power” to forgive sins even though this understanding is at odds with earliest Christian belief and practice when the presider led the assembly in *all* doing the forgiving as Jesus instructed.”
    This is interesting – My father rejected the confessional – he taught his parishioners that their conversation should be directly with their god.
    – – – –
    “I’m not clear on your tying in the matter of conscience with “abuse”.”
    Abusers, and their enablers/protectors, override the ability of the abused to act according to their conscience. The testimony of the abused makes that clear – they were ignored, called liars, threatened in order to keep the abuse hidden. If one truly believes that everyone should be free to act in accordance with their conscience one does not seek to deny that right.
    – – – – –
    I don’t doubt your sincerity when you say “I think Christian belief is reasonable”. I even understand that much of the dogma flows rationally from the initial faith. I just cannot see any grounds for thinking that the initial faith is reasonable.

  • You describe how you obtain benefits – you haven’t said what those benefits are. You could, I do, enjoy community involvement without any need for faith.

    I have no problem with the concept of homophily. Most humans enjoy the company of like-minded folk. I enjoy chocolate – I’m not sure that counts as a benefit.

    By “the faith in god(s) cannot be so demonstrated” I don’t mean that the act of faith cannot be seen, but that the faith is based on a premise that is itself an act of faith (god) whereas my alternative (the football club) undoubtedly exists.
    Faith x 2 as opposed to faith x 1

    Are we at cross purposes about what we mean by “faith”? I mean the conviction that something which cannot be demonstrated to be valid is, in fact, valid. I’m not suggesting that faith doesn’t occur – it does. I’m suggesting that it is irrational, and that encouraging irrational thinking is harmful to humanity at all levels (I, of course, don’t accept the religiously spiritual as an actual level).

  • I benefit from my faith, and I’ve shared information with you to my satisfaction.

    As to your other comments, let’s agree to disagree. Science is real; faith is real. Both are reasonable. Theology has its method; science its method.

  • Official doctrine on supremacy of conscience (from Vatican II and repeated in the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH at #1776 thru 1802) is one thing; abuse of helpless people is another. A speed limit, for example, can be necessary for safety; we still have speeders who endanger other people’s lives. Do we abolish speed limits to accommodate speeders?

  • The scientific method and faith both exist – and can therefore be considered “real”.
    The scientific method is based upon observation and experiment. Faith is based on other faith.
    We disagree about whether “both are reasonable” – reasoned yes, but “reasonable” I think not.

  • Do we take away the cars of those who speed or merely transfer them to a different location and let them get behind the wheel there?

  • I asked, “Do we abolish speed limits to accommodate speeders?”

    Speed limits are a rule. So is the Church’s doctrine on supremacy of conscience. The State does not abolish the speed limit, and the Church — thanks to Vatican II — will not abolish the doctrine on conscience.

    Some drivers will still speed. Some clerics will still abuse their position. Neither situation requires or suggests abolishing the rule.

    You ask, “Do we take away the cars of those who speed or merely transfer them to a different location and let them get behind the wheel there?”

    Your last few comments have not been about science vs. theology, i.e., what prompted our exchange to begin with.

  • Speed limits are law – in the UK at least. There is a framework which is tested and found to work. For example we often apply 20mph limits past schools whilst pupils are arriving and leaving. There is evidence that injuries are fewer and less awful than when the limit is 30, let alone higher. That is science.

    The supremacy of conscience is a doctrine. It does not have the status of law and is untestable. That is religion/theology.

  • So, in your opinion, faith is “real”. Yes, faith is real. It can even be observed in action (cf. James 2:14-26).

    So, “Faith is based on other faith.” No. To quote Richard McBrien, “We have faith because it illuminates and gives deeper meaning to the ordinary experiences of life.” “Every religious faith answers two basic human needs: the need to find meaning in life, and the need to participate in a community of shared meaning. Such meaning cannot be derived from rational argument alone. It is embodied in the very fabric of human experience itself. We look at reality and conclude that it is worthwhile and purposeful rather than ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'”

    So, you think faith is not “reasonable”. We disagree.

    SUGGESTION: Go to **. Click “Essays in Theology”. Click “I want to search the archives.” At “Title Contains”, enter *faith*.

  • “That is science.”

    And you are regurgitating your belief that faith, unlike science, cannot be proved. We’ve been here before.

    “[S]upremacy of conscience…is untestable.”

    The doctrine on conscience is “reasonable”. Formation of conscience does not per se rely on religious, i.e., faith, indoctrination (although, speaking as a Catholic, I think Christianity can justify freedom of conscience). Again, you are regurgitating what we’ve already covered, to wit, science vs. theology. Even absent church doctrine, primacy/supremacy of conscience is “reasonable” even if, as you think, it is “untestable” (I suspect not all social scientists would agree with your assertion that supremacy of conscience is “untestable”, but such is a matter beyond the scope of our exchange).

  • You have switched from “faith” to “religious faith”. “Faith” is a part of normal human experience – that does not make it anything more than an extreme version of wishful thinking. Most men have faith that their children carry their genes.

    If you accept the “faith without deeds can’t save you” premise I have never met anyone who, allowing for one second the possibility, is going to Heaven. Some who might get close – but – “all have sinned and come short………….”.
    It was the contrast between claims and actions that forced me to re-appraise my former religious faith. I suspect that’s why many who claim to be (non-RCC) Christians add those verses to the list of those that need to be repudiated/explained away/ignored.
    – – – – – –

    “two basic human needs: the need to find meaning in life, and the need to participate in a community of shared meaning.”

    No – a straw man argument.
    I’ve met many people who have no need to find “meaning in life” (indeed, I wonder how many would ask the question if they hadn’t first been sold the idea).
    I accept the concept of homophily – in itself it has nothing to do with faith.

    – – – – –

    “Such meaning cannot be derived from rational argument alone.”
    This we agree upon – though for very different reasons.

    – – – – –
    “It is embodied in the very fabric of human experience itself. We look at reality and conclude that it is worthwhile and purposeful rather than ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Nonsense – Just because one person decides to think their existence is worthwhile and purposeful (even if everyone so decided) is irrelevant to the question as to whether it is or is not so. Remember – if numbers of believers against unbelievers validated anything every religion would be deemed false.

  • Contrary to your assertion, I have NOT SWITCHED from “faith” to “religious faith”. We’ve been discussing the latter all along.

    You’re simply regurgitating your beliefs and opinions.

    You’ve proved nothing except your distaste for religious belief. So be it.

    Taking my bag of bones elsewhere.

  • False assumption.

    I don’t have distaste for religious belief.

    I have dislike of all superstitious belief – of which religious belief is but a subset. They net harm all levels of society from the individual to the global.

    I don’t understand how anyone can claim that faith is an equivalent/alternative/companion for the scientific method when the only way we can test either’s efficacy is through the scientific method. Wishful thinking, the occasional co-incidence and unsupported “revelation” are not, and cannot ever be, the equal of scientific rigour.