News

Fifty years later, Catholic Church reckons again with unbelief

Netley Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery in the south of England. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

(RNS) — Fifty years after it held the world’s first international conference examining the rise of atheism and secularism, the Vatican is joining forces with a British research initiative to host a conference on “Cultures of Unbelief.”

In late May, scholars from a range of disciplines will gather at Rome’s Gregorian University to discuss the results of the research initiative, called “Understanding Unbelief,” which for the past two years has been mapping the rise and nature of non-religion across the world.

Funding for the $3 million Understanding Unbelief program, which is based at the University of Kent, has come from the John Templeton Foundation.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of “nones” — those who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular religion — will reach 1.2 billion worldwide by 2060. In the United States, 23 percent of the population currently claims no religious affiliation.

Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Photo by Eric Vandeville/Creative Commons

Young people are particularly likely to identify as nones. Last year a study by Understanding Belief researcher Stephen Bullivant revealed that 70 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.K. identify as having “no religion.”

Among the research projects being undertaken is a study of unbelief in countries where the majority population is made up of nonbelievers. These include South Korea, Vietnam and Japan, a challenge to the widespread assumption that unbelief is a solely Western phenomenon. Another group is examining the motivations, experiences and problems faced by nonbelievers in religious societies such as Egypt.

Other projects are looking at non-religious childhoods in the U.K., the persistence of magical thinking in unbelieving societies and the ways in which mindfulness meditation might be seen to constitute a secular religion.

Pope Paul VI in 1963. Vatican City official photo/Creative Commons

The previous conference, “The Culture of Unbelief,” held in 1969, came in the wake of the new spirit of openness brought about by the Second Vatican Council, which had closed only four years earlier. The Curia initiated a number of dialogues with other Christians and with Jews and those of other faiths. It also set up a pontifical secretariat for nonbelievers (Secretariatus pro Non-Credentibus) to dialogue with nonbelievers.

The conference was convened to address what then-Pope Paul VI saw as “among the most serious matters of our time” — namely, atheism. Cardinal Franz Koenig, then the archbishop of Vienna and the pope’s pick to be head of the secretariat, said it represented a “new approach in the way of proceeding of the Catholic Church, less preoccupied with defending her position than with meeting the very grave problems of the modern world.”

The problem was that few in official Catholic circles knew any nonbelievers. The cardinal asked the eminent American sociologist Peter Berger, who died in 2017, who he should invite to the conference.

“The Secretariatus pro Non-Credentibus was eager to have this dialogue, but it did not know with whom to have it,” Berger wrote in his memoir. “Unlike the other interlocutors, the non-credenti cannot be found in the phone book.”

There was huge media interest, and some 3,000 people attended the conference to hear the world’s leading sociologists, historians and theologians give their papers. It ended with a papal audience. Among the prominent academics gathered were Harvard University’s Harvey Cox, Martin Marty from the University of Chicago’s Divinity school and British sociologist David Martin.

“Harvey Cox was quite the star,” Martin told Religion News Service. “He was overwhelmed to learn that the Pope had read his book,” the seminal study of unbelief, “The Secular City.” Martin recalls with amusement how several of the freethinking secular academics present were star struck at meeting Pope Paul VI.

An abandoned church in Rathcormac, County Cork, Ireland. Photo by Alison Killilea/Creative Commons

But, according to Peter Berger, the conference failed to make a lasting impact, despite the fact that the dialogues between atheists and cardinals continued into the pontificate of Benedict XVI, when the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a program set up by Pope Benedict to promote contact with the unchurched world, hosted a famous encounter between Cardinal Martinez and the Italian philosopher and writer Umberto Eco.

There are currently no definite plans for Pope Francis to address this summer’s conference, but organizers say the possibility remains open. What’s important, they say, is to build a dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers in order to gain a greater understanding of the others’ metaphysical existential and moral beliefs.

“The growth of different forms of non-religion has been a significant development in many societies across the world in recent decades,” says Gordon Lynch, Michael Ramsey professor of modern theology at the University of Kent.

“This conference,” he added, “drawing together findings from the most substantial international programs of research in this field, promises to be a genuinely landmark event in taking forward both our understanding of the varieties of non-religion and the social implications of these.”

This story has been changed to reflect the correct year of Peter Berger’s death.

About the author

Rosie Dawson

150 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Gotta love those titles: coping with unbelief, the culture of unbelief, reckons again with unbelief.

    Honey, we’re all unbelievers. The difference between an atheist and a true believer is that the atheist has belief in one less religion than the true believer. And if that unbeliever actually understood why he doesn’t believe in everyone else’s religion, he might begin to understand why the atheist doesn’t believe in his.

    And don’t get me started on Cardinal Pell’s statement about Adam and Eve being only myths constructed for religious purposes after centuries of claiming it was literally true. Even the believers are unbelievers.

  • Re: “In late May, scholars from a range of disciplines will gather at Rome’s Gregorian University to discuss the results of the effort, called ‘Understanding Unbelief,’ which for the past two years has been mapping the rise and nature of non-religion across the world…. 

    According to the Pew Research Center, the number of ‘nones’ — those who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular religion — will reach 1.2 billion worldwide by 2060. In the United States, 23 percent of the population currently claims no religious affiliation.” 

    They’re going to have a problem right from the start, if they equate “unbelievers” with “nones.” As I’ve pointed out for many years now, those two groups are not the same thing. Not even close! 

    Unbelievers are be a subset of “nones,” to be sure, but there are plenty of believers among the “nones” as well. The “nones,” really, are simply “religiously unaffiliated” folks. Some of them are “New Agers,” others are Christians, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. but don’t belong to any organization and don’t attend any one church or worship site. They can run the gamut of available belief systems. 

    I daresay there are, very likely, among the “nones” a few people who are Catholic but who simply don’t attend church any longer and may not subscribe to all Catholic dogma and doctrine. (Yes, I hear Catholic loyalists out there screaming “Those people aren’t Catholic!” but I pay them no mind, nor should anyone else.) 

    At the very least, let’s try to get the terminology straight, here. It’s the least one can do. 

  • “According to the Pew Research Center, the number of “nones” — those who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular religion — will reach 1.2 billion worldwide by 2060.”

    Only if for the very time in history a trend continued unabated through three generations.

    This illustrates one of the various howler errors the Pew “Research” Center makes on a regular basis, misusing statistics by drawing straight lines through a few data points in a complex set of data.

  • “The difference between an atheist and a true believer is that the
    atheist has belief in one less religion than the true believer.”

    Apparently another difference is that a true believer has some idea of what’s he’s talking about while an atheist like yourself has none.

    Maybe that’s why Pew lumps atheists and nones together.

  • Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15)

    So Christians, Christian leaders especially, have been known by their fruits. The response from broader humanity would indicate that in the marketplace of ideas Christianity isn’t what it used to be. Those prelates who favor a smaller, purer, doctrinally-correct church will surely not care what the heathens think. The remaining bishops gathering in Rome, however, would do well to contemplate what has really driven so many away from belief in the Nazarene carpenter and his gentle message of love and towards belief in nothing? The only chance that their successors will have a church to lead is if they are willing to confront these questions with brutal honesty. It remains to be seen whether the bishops are able to rise to this challenge. In sexual matters especially it would seem that honesty has not been their M.O.

  • Re: “The remaining bishops gathering in Rome, however, would do well to contemplate what has really driven so many away from belief in the Nazarene carpenter and his gentle message of love and towards belief in nothing?” 

    To be fair, it’s been close to two millennia since anyone actually followed the reported teachings of that Nazarene craftsman. It’s not just the R.C bishops who’ve rejected things like the Sermon on the Mount — all of Christendom left all that behind, long ago. 

  • Thus says the Lord:
    Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who sees strength in flesh; whose heart turns away from the Lord.
    It’s simple, men lack humility. They are the center of their own universe; their own wants and own desires are all that matters. They feed their pride, their lust, their greed and contempt on the backs of others.
    No sympathy nor empathy for their fellow man; much less contemplating or realizing that they are nothing compared to the vastness of the universe.
    Technology doesn’t help either; it only further separates man from God. No need to experience that what is of the Lords hand; when one is immersed in virtual reality 24 hours a day.
    As far as the unbelievers; meh.
    They will always exist. They have chosen to turn their back on God and actively seek to destroy the souls of believers.
    The church should focus on spreading the gospel, conversion of sinners and teaching the faithful.
    The unbelievers would be wise to learn about the visions of St. Faustina or St. John Bosco.

  • “And don’t get me started on Cardinal Pell’s statement about Adam and Eve being only myths constructed for religious purposes after centuries of claiming it was literally true.”

    In all fairness the Catholic Church dropped literal creationism in 1950.

  • I am also afraid they will include some of the more “rabid” Atheists, who also aren’t representative of all of us that consider ourselves Atheists.

  • Elagabalus, re: that so many have been driven away “from belief in the Nazarene carpenter and his gentle message of love…”

    I think there are many who now call themselves nones, or unaffiliated, who still do believe in that carpenter and that message, but have no faith home to go to because of other things those old line Christian faiths believe. One would be the role of women in the family, in the church and in the world. Another would be in how so many Christians exclude LGBTQI. I think, too, that we very much need to reexamine our most basic concepts of God and creation given what we now know about/from science. God and His creation are MUCH bigger than imaged in the Bible.

    So, yeah, there will be many among the nones who truly do not believe in any god. But I think there will also be many who carry a germ of belief – a central message of faith – but just can’t go along with a lot of the interpretations of different aspects of their faith that no longer make sense.

  • I know. It only took them 1950 years, give or take a century. And as we also know, if Adam and Eve fall, so does Christianity. God’s word must have changed.

    Though it is pretty funny to see hyper Catholic you-know-who weaseling around with it, while hyper fundies you-know-who insist it’s all literally true. What’s even funnier is that the latter aren’t attacking the former for denying the Truth of the Bible. It’s almost as if their social and political agendas are far more important than their religious agendas.

    Who woulda thunk that?

    And of course, you have to wonder where Sola Scriptorum girl is in all of this, though she hasn’t made much of an appearance lately. But since I mentioned her, I’m sure she will to denounce me for leading the uneducated, the gullible, and the easily led astray from the One, The Only, The True Word o’ God!

    what fun!

    God’s word never changes, except, off course, when it does.

  • Why would we have any credence in the visions of people who were clearly mentally ill. Nothing but hallucinations which were influenced by their beliefs and upbringing, the way people today might hallucinate about being in space or aliens.

  • A lot of “mentally ill” have had similar visions and experiences throughout time and space.
    These visions are gifts from God to sinners and non-believers.

  • It would be interesting to hear the “nones” or “non-religi[ous]” deny their actual idols.There is a religion taking shape in this country that professes to be none at all, I think.

  • This entire comment convinces me that I’m safer remaining in my decades long atheism than to again be subjugated under the whims and hubris of all the Abrahamic patriarchies.

  • Just had the Beatitudes in Church, yesterday. With a rousing Sermon from Father on how to grasp the joy of this message.

  • And it was all precipitated by The Great Kibosh of All Religions!!! 🙂

    Once again for those eyes who have not seen:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten
    seconds: Priceless !!!

    As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism,
    Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    There was no Gabriel i.e.Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    There was no Easter i.e.Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on
    Buddhism.

    A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings
    (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups
    calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early
    philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completelydifferent ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • Sorry, but schizophrenia and similar hallucination-prone illnesses are not a gift from god. It is my opinion that many of prophets and those claiming divine visions were ill.

  • Matt 7: 15 fails rigorous historic testing so you are commenting on words not uttered by Jesus.

    e.g. http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb401.html
    Item: 401
    Stratum: III (80-120 CE)
    Attestation: Single
    Historicity: negative

    And from Professor Gerd Ludemann’s analyses published in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 152-153

  • But keep in mind that whereas Jesus uttered the words of Beatitudes, the reality is that they are mostly vitiated by the fact that there is no Heaven and there is no god as summarized below:

    The Apostles’ Creed 2019: (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
    Jerusalem.

    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.

    Amen

    (references used are available upon request)

  • You are assuming that every one was illness related. Interesting that they all have similar experiences; again across time and space. How could ALL have similar experiences?; especially when some were not well read or were separated from one another.

  • Why would we put any credence in a post which is clearly from somebody who is mentally ill?

    Obviously they must be hallucinations influenced by their upbringing because the vision was in whatever language they spoke.

  • And, on a happy note, all the males in the Abrahamic patriarchies are saved dealing with a grumpy aging distaff veteran.

    It is a win-win.

  • CORRECTION: “In the United States, [of the] 23 percent of the population currently claim[ing] no religious affiliation” – ONLY “3% of the total population … call themselves atheists”! So, no way, and eat your hearts out, all you folks at Pee-ew Re-Search Scenter & Yawn Simpleton Flotation – “among the most serious matters of our time … atheism”, scoring ONLY 3% in terms of influence, ain’t it at all!

    Wanna know how IN-significant or use-LESS or LAUGH-able 3% is? WATCH THIS:

    (1) “ONLY 3% of American shoppers regularly buy groceries online”, CNN, February 7, 2019.

    (2) “ONLY 3% Of Technicians Are Certified To Work On Electric Cars”, InsideEVs, November 28, 2018.

    (3) “ONLY 3% of Russians say they believe Moscow poisoned Skripal”, Euromaidan Press, October 31, 2018.

    (4) “ONLY 3% of Gaza water is fit for human consumption”, Near East News Agency, June 17, 2016.

    Source: The Economist, May 16, 2018, “The elusive phenomenon of churches without God”.

  • The “R. C.” bishops – we assume that you’re not speaking of the folks who bottle Royal Crown – have not rejected the Sermon on the Mount.

  • You’re correct to the extent that those like you and Elagabalus whose beliefs more closely correspond to, say, the Platform of the Democratic Party, find something like the Orthodox Communion, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the Catholic Church displeasing.

    Elagabalus took the advice I gave you and joined the Episcopal Church.

    If you find a difference between what it purports and the Platform of the Democratic Party, it is just punctuation.

  • Then these words were written especially for you…
    So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.
    Luke 15:4-7

  • 2 ATHEISTS TELL IT BETTER THAN YOU, because they happen to be talking about you:

    (1) “As an atheist myself, I’ve found ‘new atheist’ writers to be an embarrassment. … Like the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, they come across as narrow-minded and ill-informed bigots whose only purpose is to antagonize religious people.”
    – Noam Chomsky, Attack the System, March 11, 2012.

    (2) Some atheists are “just looking for flaws in theism or religious people’s behavior out of some animus … prejudice or malice. … Some atheists really do seem to have gotten into this movement to indulge in their feelings of superiority to those they pitilessly disparage as ‘stupid’ or wicked. … They are just in this to throw rocks at the ‘retards’. I have no sympathies with such people and am ashamed that they’re associated with me.”
    – Daniel Fincke, Camels with Hammers, June 17, 2013.

  • You might read the Beatitudes in church, but if you’re like 99.9% of Christians through the entire religion’s history, you don’t actually obey Jesus’ teachings. Let’s tease this apart and look at some specific things: 

    When someone strikes you, do you allow them to keep hitting you? That’s what Jesus told you to do (Mt 5:39, Lk 6:29). 

    If you were sued in court, did you just hand over what was demanded of you, and then some? That’s what Jesus said you should do (Mt 5:40). 

    Do you pray only in your “inner room” (or closet)? That’s what Jesus wants of you (Mt 6:6). 

    Have you sold all you own and given your money to the poor, because having any wealth will prevent you from being saved? That’s what Jesus instructed (Mt 19:21-25; Mk 10:21-26; Lk 18:22-26). 

    Do you follow the Mosaic Law completely? Jesus told you he came to uphold and maintain it, not to strike it down (Mt 5:17-19) 

    I could go on — there is, after all, plenty more — but won’t bother, because I’ve made my point. Christians don’t do any of the above, and in fact, they’ve cooked up rationales, over the centuries, for why they shouldn’t have to. 

  • “MANY among the nones … truly do not believe in any god”?! NOPE.

    ONLY 3%, that’s all. Virtually NOTHING & NOBODY.

  • Well, it goes without saying they’ll cherry-pick, and look for examples that serve to rationalize and support their sanctimony and persecution complex. Christianity being what it is, the poor little things can hardly be expected to do anything else! 

  • “UNBELIEF”? WHAT “UNBELIEF”? Take it from these 2 Atheists:

    “Unbelief … is rarely ‘on its own.’ As [Stephen LeDrew, The Evolution of Atheism: The Politics of a Modern Movement, Oxford University Press, 2016] points out, with the rise of evolutionary theory, atheism ‘moved from simple negation of religious beliefs to an affirmation of liberalism, scientific rationality, and the legitimacy of the institutions and methodology of modern science—and thus from religious criticism to a complete ideological system.’ Atheism, then, is ‘a form of belief—rather than a lack of belief—shaped by its socio-historical context’ and ‘inextricably bound up with’ a plethora of principles that emerged from the Enlightenment.”

    Source: David Hoelscher, “New Atheism, Worse Than You Think”, CounterPunch, January 29, 2016.

  • Re: “Technology doesn’t help either; it only further separates man from God.” 

    I see that doesn’t keep you from using it, though. Hypocrite. 

  • I know what the focus of my life should be.
    Unfortunately, many don’t; living in an alternate reality. Pretending to be someone they are not; desiring things and life’s they cannot have.
    Walking the toad of unhappiness because, like you, they believe true happiness is pleasing themselves.

  • I said in my opinion because it can’t be proven/disproven. Since I do not think any spirits exist or speak to humans and auditory and visual hallucinations are considered signs of illness, the answer is yes. Unless they’re faking, of course.

  • Scientific rationality, legitimizing the scientific method! What will those evil scientists think of next, says the guy writing on a computer?

    That makes it the opposite of ideology. It makes it reality. And reality usually has a liberal bias.

    When was the last time a religion built a computer?

  • Do you mean idols like a society based in tolerance, mutual respect, democratic values, and lifting everyone up?

    Quelles horreurs! That’s almost as bad as legitimizing scientific inquiry!

  • The society that is still held together by Christian values and the freedom from fear? Nope. Try again.

  • Don’t give up on them ’cause they’re hard. I’ll only respond on one. Jesus was struck on the cheek for our sins, but he still asked why?

  • Re: “Don’t give up on them ’cause they’re hard.” 

    Yes, but too freakin’ bad. It’s their religion. Christians signed up for it. If they don’t want to obey one of Jesus’ instructions to his followers, they ought to have signed up for some other religion, instead, which is more convenient and easier to follow. 

    Re: “Jesus was struck on the cheek for our sins, but he still asked why?” 

    Makes no difference. Jesus ordered his followers to “turn the other cheek.” They have to do it, or find some other religion whose instructions aren’t as difficult to obey. It really is that simple. 

  • You’re all in favor of a society based On tolerance, mutual respect, democratic values, and lifting everyone up unless it involves leaving someone like Jack Phillips, then it’s “Hang’em high!”.

    You’re a fake, in other words.

  • It’s not as funny as reading a hyper gay anti-Catholic posing as though he actually has some idea what he’s talking about.

    You wouldn’t know Biblical exegesis from a hamster in a paper tube.

  • “When was the last time a religion built a computer?” SERIOUSLY, DUDE?!

    FYII (For Your Insult to Intelligence), here’s a Religious, Non-Atheist Timeline of Computer History for you:

    (1) In “1937 … Bell Laboratories scientist George Stibitz uses relays for a demonstration adder … called the ‘Model K’ … George Stibitz grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where his father taught ancient languages at a theological seminary of the German Reform Church.”

    (2) In “1939 … Hewlett-Packard is founded … David Packard and Bill Hewlett found their company in a Palo Alto, California garage. Their first product, the HP 200A Audio Oscillator, rapidly became a popular piece of test equipment for engineers. … When [William and Flora Hewlett] established the [Hewlett Foundation] in 1966 in their Palo Alto home in California, they sought to formalize their many charitable impulses with a loose charter mandating only a ‘perpetual existence … as a charitable, religious, scientific, literary or educational foundation for the purpose of promoting the wellbeing of mankind.’ … She was a trustee of the San Francisco Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church located in San Anselmo, and served on the board of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She also generously supported the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), a consortium of eight graduate schools of religion affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley.”

    (3) In “1942 … The Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) is … designed and built by [John] Atanasoff and graduate student Clifford Berry … [Atanasoff] was a member of the parish council at St. Mary’s Eastern Orthodox Church in Falls Church [Virginia].”

  • Berger claims the last conference “failed to make a lasting impact.” What would lasting impact look like? A rise in religious conversions? If so, the present conference is doomed to failure.

  • Dear Pope Francis and the scholars participating in the Understanding Unbelief Conference,

    Besides discussing The Great Kibosh of All Religions, some added observations as to why the number of atheists and agnostics continues to grow:

    THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC/SATANIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

    Joe Smith had his Moroni and Satan/Perdition/Lucifer. (As does M. Romney)

    “Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the
    first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah.”

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being
    created by God and of course Satan and his demons.

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this “tinkerbell” got around) and of course the
    jinn.

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern
    day demon of the demented. (As do BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)(As does Trump?)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other “no-namers” to
    do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these “pretty
    wingie/ugly/horn-blowing thingies” to the myth pile. We should do the same
    to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals.
    Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders
    and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    Continued below:

  • The
    Apostles’ Creed 2012: (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

    Jerusalem.

    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.

    Amen

    (references
    used are available upon request)

  • Code for no, you do worship idols and don’t know it? That you think I might makes not a bit of difference to me.

  • I’ve got a different interpretation -it’s symbolic. It means that you refuse provocation – represented by the slap.

  • Only a talking head sociologist would would conclude, as the late Peter Berger did, that the last conference “failed to make a lasting impact.”

    No conference, short of a conference preparing a treaty for signing, makes a lasting impact.

    Ah, those crazy Austrian belly button gazers.

  • “They have to do it, or find some other religion whose instructions aren’t as difficult to obey. It really is that simple. ”

    You have no idea whatsoever of what being a Christian requires and does not require. It is really that simple.

  • Just to get some idea of what a tenuous grasp you have on religion, Jesus did NOT say he was there to uphold and maintain the Mosiac Law, and your citation doesn’t support your statement.

  • Those in the Bible, yes. Years ago JWs had book studies on the visions of John, Ezekiel and Nehemiah.

  • You have no idea whatsoever of what being a Christian requires and does not require. It is really that simple.

    According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are over 33,000 distinct Christian denominations world-wide. Apparently you guys can’t figure it either.

  • You scored a point – Connelly reverts to insults.

    Without the fall of a perfect man, Christianity is pointless.

  • No. Your further response interested me. I see from your other comment that symbolism means something to you, and that you have a moral code about provocation. So does that make you a true “none?”

  • You have no idea whatsoever of what being a Christian requires and does not require. It is really that simple.

  • The Good news is: “What are we to do that we may perform the works of God? In answer Jesus said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'(John 6:28-29).” It really is as simple as that. Faith in the One who was slapped, took the load of our sins to Calvary, and is present to each one of us in our inner chamber through the Holy Spirit. Jesus ushered in the Jubilee where the Law is to be practiced in Faith bought by his Love, in the Hope of Eternal life.

  • It is considered an allegory. Perfect Man did fall, somehow. The Tree and the Fruit are symbolic. Jesus also used parables, like the one of the Tree that bears fruit. And he opened up the way to the Tree of Life, on the Tree of the Cross.

  • I have been to some classes where the “nones,” are talked about. The point is to see how the Church can reach out to them, and tell the Good News.

  • One of the key aspects of science (as a philosophy or activity or process) is the notion of “falsifiability”: if there is no way, in principle, of showing that a claim is false, then the claim is simply silly, useless.

    It is no accident that not a single major claim of any religion is falsifiable. It is impossible, in principle, to prove that a soul exists, god exists, there is an afterlife, etc.

  • Many folks aren’t aware of the Vatican Observatory in Arizona. The one near Rome is nearly useless due to light pollution but the one in Arizona is in a primo location, has a 6′ mirror and has a list of discoveries – yes, real science – to its credit. It’s run by Jesuit astronomers working with the University of Arizona. Still no success in locating Heaven despite reports in the National Enquirer!

  • I understand it’s an allegory. I’m ignorant of how the fall took place per Catholic theology and how you know since the actual events aren’t in the Bible. Besides faith.

  • Not until now. I did check out their Wikipedia pages. I’m sticking with mental illness or fraud. You want to claim them as real, fine by me.

  • Virulently anti-religion. I don’t think that religion/s is/are evil. There are many people that have found religion beneficial AND helped them become better people. There are also plenty of examples of people whose religion has helped them become worse people. Generally I think all people should be judged by the content of their character NOT by their race or ethnicity, their religion or lack of religion, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, wealth, educational attainment, social status, or political affiliation. (I think I covered everything!)

  • Vlad: Hey DonnieBoy this jerk Mark Connelly is not quite as good at insults as you are but he lies a lot like you too.

    Donald TRump: yeah Connelly isn’t one of the best performing members of my team but he is a lying swamp dweller like the rest of them and does good service on his knees using his many names.

  • You’re an average family. Religious but not overly so. Your 12 year old daughter comes to you and tells you that god is talking to her. She hears him. What is your first reaction? Pitch a TV series to Fox? No, you take her to a mental health expert for evaluation. Who assumes god is actually talking to their daughter?

  • For Ben in Oakland to counterclaim & boast “[Not] religion [but Atheism] built a computer”, that means, as you’ve rightly & astutely observed, These “idols are coming out of the wood-work (er circuitry)”: “Computers!”

  • Given a choice between a deity and a psychologist talking to my daughter, I would be inclined to go with the deity.

  • Speaking of which: Wanna know how IN-significant or use-LESS or LAUGH-able 3% is? WATCH THIS:

    (1) “ONLY 3% of American shoppers regularly buy groceries online”, CNN, February 7, 2019.

    (2) “ONLY 3% Of Technicians Are Certified To Work On Electric Cars”, InsideEVs, November 28, 2018.

    (3) “ONLY 3% of Russians say they believe Moscow poisoned Skripal”, Euromaidan Press, October 31, 2018.

    (4) “ONLY 3% of Gaza water is fit for human consumption”, Near East News Agency, June 17, 2016.

    (5) “[Of] the proportion of Americans who call themselves ‘unaffiliated’ … [ONLY] 3% of the total population … call themselves atheists”, The Economist, May 16, 2018 (“The elusive phenomenon of churches without God”).

  • …it’s not unreasonable. Faith involves some extrapolation. Sin is with us, in the world. Jesus redeems us from sin.

  • As HpO showed, to invoke science against Christianity is false. The development of computers is not incompatible with Christianity. Theology is also a science.

  • Because they see the need for redemption. Perhaps you might try to observe how many instructions they do obey, and the triumphs of faith in the Risen Lord.

  • FYII ( For Your Insult to Intelligence):

    (1) In ancient Israel during the time of the 1st apostles and disciples of THE Christ Jesus, there existed and was made publicly available, in one sense, an ACCOUNT (διήγησιν – pronounced dieegeesin). This was a full narrative carefully recorded in a historical account that is as authoritative as it is thorough, complete and comprehensive, of the things accomplished among the 1st disciples of Jesus, that was handed down to them by His 1st apostles, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses. This was investigated carefully from the beginning and then written out in consecutive order.

    So, for instance, according to this account as a διήγησιν or dieegeesin, “Jesus … [was] the son of Adam, the son of God.” That means the source for this particular evidentiary ACCOUNT (διήγησιν – dieegeesin) was from ancient-time, reliable eyewitnesses passing it down to Jesus’ 1st apostles, who then gave them to disciple Luke (cf. the first & third chapter of his messianic gospel).

    To this day, no testimonies from ancient-time, reliable counter-eyewitnesses have surfaced to render any of such evidences void.I DARE YOU TO PRODUCE EVEN JUST ONE SUCH COUNTER-EYEWITNESS. You have 48 hours. GO.

  • FYII ( For Your Insult to Intelligence):

    (2) In another sense of the word, it was the first ACCOUNT composed about all things (πρωτον λόγον εποιησάμην περι πάντων – pronounced proeton logon epoieesameen peri pantoen). This, too, was the first continuous, written narrative historical account that was composed concerning all the things pertaining to the subject matter.

    So, for instance, according to this account as a λόγον or logon, “Jesus presented Himself alive after His suffering to the apostles whom He had chosen, by many convincing PROOFS [τεκμηρίοις = tekmeeriois = fixed and sure sign-post supplying indisputable, unmistakable, irrefutable information], appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” And as far as His Father was concerned, “God … had furnished PROOF [πίστιν = pistin = guarantee, certainty, assurance] to all men by raising Jesus from the dead … so as to judge the world in righteousness”. That means, then, that the source for this particular evidentiary ACCOUNT (λόγον or logon) was The Christ Jesus Himself as the ancient-time, reliable eyewitness who passed on this evidence to His 1st apostles. The latter then gave them to disciple Luke (cf. the first & 17th chapters of his apostolic memoirs).

    To this day, no testimonies from ancient-time, reliable counter-eyewitnesses have surfaced to render any of such evidences void. I DARE YOU TO PRODUCE EVEN JUST ONE SUCH COUNTER-EYEWITNESS. You have 48 hours. GO.

  • If these Nones-sensicals formerly were born-from-above, fired-up and die-hard followers of THE Christ Jesus of the gospels, epistles and revelation, don’t bother.

  • So they want “redemption” from their Jesus, but don’t think they should do what he told them to do? How does that make any sense? This is like eating one’s cake and having it, too … they want to get something from the religion but won’t put anything into it. 

    Again, I’m asking a very serious question that deserves a serious answer: Why have Christians signed up for a religion whose tenets they refuse to obey? If they want “redemption,” but don’t want to have to follow any inconvenient instructions, why don’t they just invent some other religion for themselves that doesn’t have any pesky requirements? Huh? 

  • It’s always struck me as, umm, ….peculiar…that the alleged all-powerful god has never stepped in to correct the misunderstanding of his alleged claims and statements perpetrated by humans. Or has waited so long to correct.

  • My understanding of the church’s position on evolution is that in fact it accepted Darwin’s ideas long before 1950.

  • That raises an interesting bunch of questions: how does the church, or any religious authority, decide what statements in the bible should be taken literally, and which should be taken figuratively.

    There is, for example, that passage in the bible that states that believers will be able to handle poisonous snakes and take poison without being harmed. But somehow, I’ve never heard of any priest doing that…..

  • You forgot to factor in “time”. Vaccines, nuclear fusion, etc. were all viable before a point in time. God is before time and you will see Him in time. Moses felt as you do, and then God took Moses ahead in time to see the Son. Time! The world is running out of time.

  • Taking any of it literally is always going to be problematic. Despite the We are not talking about a historical text or scientific text. We are talking about a religious scripture where much of its content was mythical and allegorical in nature.

    Literalism is also a deeply immature and dishonest form of religious belief. It denies faith as the basis for belief in public, but it is obviously so amongst believers. Literalists have to lie about their beliefs and facts because they find faith isn’t convincing enough to others.

  • God works in mysterious ways. He has a wonderful plan for us.there are things he will reveal in his own good time. God’s ways are not our ways. A day in heaven is an eternity on earth.

    Did I miss any?

  • Well, your last sentence ain’t in the Bible. But no problemo. Encouraging biblical literacy is step one to answering Howard’s concern about correcting misunderstandings.

  • Your second sentence is correct, and former pastor Mike Aus (you can guess why he’s now “former”), would agree 100%.

    But your first sentence don’t cut it, because like Mark said elsewhere, some people around here ain’t really interested in exegetical discussion. Ain’t hard to find out

    Speaking of Ben, he’s actually right about something here: I do NOT see any reason to attack Mark for advocating Pope Pius’ famous quotation.

    (Alhough my own position, following the OT/NT Bible genealogies quoted by Sandi and also Romans 5:12-17, is that Adam can only be literal. This is also supported by Pope Leo XIii in 1880, Pope Pelagius in 550 AD, and the 1909 Pontifical Biblical Comm.)

    But — and this is important — I’ve been in enough back-alley brawls with evo’s and atheists, to appreciate the power that Pope Pius’ words and other recent Popes exert against them. I love it.

    So forget about me helping any evo’s, athy’s, or gay activists attack Mark on the Darwinism Scam.

    Reference (my favorite):. Catholic writer Thomas J. Centrella, the Kolbe Center, “Is Theistiv Evolution Truly Possible?”. online.

  • Psalm 14:1-4 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?

  • The existence of Adam is literal.

    That his first name was “Adam”, surname unknown, is not literal.

  • In any other context, such a statement would be dismissed as rabid bigotry. I’m not aware of any evidence that unbelievers are any better or worse than believers. If there is any evidence, please enlighten us.

  • I think everyone –well, anyone with any knowledge and any sense –understands that everything in the OT and NT is “man made”, that scribes altered texts they were given to copy, and so on. The OT especially contains lots of stuff that is just plain psychotic.

    So an overwhelming number of the texts in the bible are ambiguous and can be interpreted according to the wishes, and especially the NEEDS, of the individual doing the interpretation.

    And since religions in general, and Catholicism in particular, is all about manipulating and controlling the behavior and thinking of believers, the Catholic church interprets verses in such a way as to maximize that.

    And a propos of the current meeting in the Vatican re abusive clergy, it’s gonna be real interesting to see how the Vatican interprets various verses.

  • You are correct that I forgot to mention the time factor.

    But don’t you find it more than curious that sometimes god takes so long to correct human beings in their mistakes? And during the period between the mistakes humans make, and when god corrects things, not only are goid’s creations being hurt, but isn’t god himself being disrespected?

    Oh, and how about addressing my point about falsifiability?

  • “Just show [you] the evidence that God or Jesus exists”?! Why not “the evidence that God [had raised] Jesus [from dead non]exist[ence]”?!

    See, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, AND WILL NEVER DO. διήγησιν (dieegeesin) and λόγον (logon) are accounts of testimonies given by ancient-time, reliable eyewitnesses of “the evidence that God [had raised] Jesus [from dead non]exist[ence]”. Until they saw it with their own eyes, they didn’t believe that was possible at all, even though they were the very 1st apostles and disciples of The Christ Jesus. So what you’re asking for, then, is that you wanna be like them: the very 1st apostles and disciples of The Christ Jesus. And that you wanna be as privileged as they were: in order to see what they saw: “the evidence that God [had raised] Jesus [from dead non]exist[ence]”). DO YOU KNOW HOW DUMB DE-DUMB DUMB YOU SOUND?!

  • You’re absolutely right I don’t understand.

    I need evidence before I believe any claim. And in the case of god, Jesus, etc., actually, all the evidence is that they do not exist, have never existed..

  • HOWARD KAY (“6 months ago”): “I am an agnostic of long standing … I am a devout individual … a devout *empiricist*”.

    HpO: Forever doubting, lost & despairing, in other words. God & Jesus couldn’t care less. Neither the people in the U.S., because “[of] the proportion of Americans who call themselves ‘unaffiliated’ … [ONLY] 4% … identify as agnostic”! HA-HA.

    Source: The Economist, May 16, 2018, “The elusive phenomenon of churches without God: When a group sings, talks and bonds like a religion but may not be one”.

  • Well, you’ve impressed me on two counts.

    First, I;m impressed that I made such an impression on you and that you cared enough to somehow retrieve my words of 6 months ago.

    But even more, I’m impressed that based on observations I’ve made here, you’ve been able to discern so much about me and my nature and behaviors.

    NOTE: in case you missed it, the sentence above is sarcastic. How do you know I’m lost and despairing?

    Actually, I guess I’m very lucky, since I *never* get depressed or “down”. (Well….on second thought…I do sometimes get disgusted and annoyed when I contemplate anything about the Orange Liar )

    I guess someone, some time, has told you that non-believers feel lost and are despairing.

    And actually, I’m not at all “forever doubting”. I’m certainly skeptical, but “doubting”? I just want believers to provide evidence for their ridiculous claims.

  • I don’t find it curious that God takes a long time to correct people. Once that I realized that He does that, I thought about it and now I emulate him. I call it his twisted sister side of his personality and now I find him to be quite cool. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with falsifiability, the problem that arises is that you had a notion that you can not prove.

    Issac Newton had a notion that cows could fly in zero gravity and then he proved it. I hope this helps.

  • Wanna know how IN-significant or use-LESS or LAUGH-able 4% is? WATCH THIS:

    (1) “Only 4% of Americans see Saudi Arabia as an ally”, YouGov, October 17, 2018.

    (2) “Only 4% of new social houses built by local authorities”, The Irish Times, September 27, 2018.

    (3) “‘Only 4% of Kenya’s police officers are corrupt’”, Nairobi News, July 21, 2017.

    (4) “[Of] the proportion of Americans who call themselves ‘unaffiliated’ … [ONLY] 4% … identify as agnostic”, The Economist, May 16, 2018 (“The elusive phenomenon of churches without God”).

  • There is not a shred of evidence at all that god exists, and an enormous amount of evidence that cultures invent the idea that there is a god.

    A claim that something exists when it does not, allows the claimant to then make up any claim he wants–and since those claims are not based on evidence, there is no way of disprove them.

    Even the Catholic church acknowledges that the idea of god’s existence must be taken on faith.

  • Would all the clergy in the Vatican wo violate their vows of celibavy, and prefer the spirit of luxury to that of the spirit of poverty, count as unbelievers or jus differently believing or dissenters?

  • Vlad: Hey DonnieBoy this jerk Mark Connelly is not quite so good at insults as you are but he lies a lot like you too.

    Donald TRump: yeah Connelly isn’t one of the best performing members of my team but he is a lying swamp dweller like the rest of them and does good service on his knees using his many names.

  • There is not a shred of evidence you exist.

    You could be Ben in Oakland posting under another name, or vice versa, or a 10 year old eating potato chips while playing on the computer.

    In fact that last one would go a long way toward explaining some of your posts.

  • “. . . organizers say [it’s important] to build a dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers in order to gain a greater understanding of the others’ metaphysical existential and moral beliefs.”

    This language disinvites collaboration to discover the-objective-truth in this world. The-objective-truth does not seem to tolerate either beliefs or metaphysics.

    I won’t attend a conversation that does not invite each human being to exercise his or her individual power, individual energy, and individual authority (IPEA) to develop civic integrity rather than infidelity toward what can-be or has-been discovered: the-objective-truth. For example, civic individuals do not deceive or lie so that they may lessen human misery and loss rather than to fulfill some metaphysical rule.

  • No, I believe you would like Christians to not present the Good News — only turn the other cheek. Passive Souls are much easier to deal with, aren’t they? Or are they?

  • Actually, I think many of them are from Catholic families. I don’t know how fired up they were 🙂 They have lost touch with the Church, in favor of the actual religion of secular humanism.

  • Re: “Passive Souls are much easier to deal with, aren’t they? Or are they?” 

    That’s not relevant. Jesus reportedly said what he’s reported to have said. I didn’t make it up. 

    I get that his recorded teachings are inconvenient, but too bad so sad for you. It’s Christians’ religion. They signed up to follow it. If it’s too hard for them to obey their own Jesus, they need to drop his religion and follow another, whose teachings are easier for them to live by. 

  • PsiCop. If you experienced what happened to me, when looking up an answer for you in the Bible, you would examine inwardly this obvious tension you feel toward Christianity. Obviously, the Good Lord is interested in YOU, since this did not occur on any other answers I was looking up. What happened has only happened rarely to me. I am confident that if you look for your answers you will get them. But you have to look. My answers to you ARE turning the other cheek. Christians are sinners. Most of us work on not breaking the 10 commandments. That is the point of All God’s covenants — we are the breakers. That was until the perfect Man Jesus Christ came and saved us. We still break them, but we sign on for them. That includes this one too: “Judge not that you may not be judged. The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.”

  • Re: “PsiCop. If you experienced what happened to me, when looking up an answer for you in the Bible, you would examine inwardly this obvious tension you feel toward Christianity.” 

    I have no idea what this is about. 

    Re: “Obviously, the Good Lord is interested in YOU, since this did not occur on any other answers I was looking up.” 

    There’s no way to know this is true. It’s unverifiable. 

    Re: “I am confident that if you look for your answers you will get them. But you have to look.” 

    I’ve already “looked” and already know the “answer” to this problem: Christians profess to follow a religion whose teachings they not only won’t follow, they rationalize ways to justify not doing so. What they ought to do instead is drop Christianity and follow some other religion whose teachings they’re willing to obey and aren’t inconvenient for them. 

    Re: “Christians are sinners. Most of us work on not breaking the 10 commandments. That is the point of All God’s covenants — we are the breakers.” 

    And that, right there, is one of those rationales I just mentioned. It’s part of the reprehensible philosophy encapsulated in the slogan, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven!” 

    Re: “That was until the perfect Man Jesus Christ came and saved us.” 

    Bully for you! I’m glad to hear you’re just so special

    Re: “We still break them, but we sign on for them.” 

    Bzzzzt! Wrong. That’s a non sequitur. You can’t “sign on” to follow rules you have no intention of obeying and for which you’ve crafted rationales to explain why you don’t need to. It’s one or the other … pick one. 

    Re: “That includes this one too: ‘Judge not that you may not be judged. The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.'” 

    I’m not sure what the point of this is. If you’re saying your own Jesus ordered his followers not to police each other, that’s arguably true. But it doesn’t mean Christians can’t judge themselves and honestly evaluate whether or not they are, themselves, following Jesus’ teachings. 

    If you’re saying I shouldn’t judge Christians for not obeying their own Jesus … I only need point out I’m not a Christian and am not obliged to follow this teaching. I can, and will, judge anyone I want based on anything I want, any time I want, and that’s just how it is. The only way to invalidate my judgements is to refute them. So far you haven’t been able to do so. 

  • Jesus can be your saviour, too. Catholic means Universal. Anyone can grasp his saving hand. We are not special. He was. Goodbye, from me. but you haven’t got the Goodbye from God yet. The hound of heaven is following you.

  • Re: “Jesus can be your saviour, too.” 

    I wasn’t aware there was anything I should be “saved” from, nor have I ever met this “Jesus” person everyone keeps talking about. 

    Re: “Catholic means Universal.” 

    Funnily enough, I know the etymology of the word “catholic,” and on top of that, happen to be literate in Greek (from which it comes). I’m not sure what that has to do with me, but you’re absolutely correct about this. 

    Re: “Anyone can grasp his saving hand.” 

    Really?! How? Which “hand,” where? Please point it out to me. 

    Re: “We are not special.” 

    Yes you are. You said so: You’re “saved,” and I’m not. 

    Listen, it’s OK if you want to believe this. Honest. It’s fine. But it does make you an elitist. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, but you may as well own it and admit it. Pointing out that you’re “saved” while others aren’t, but then saying that doesn’t mean you’re special, is inconsistent and illogical. 

    Re: “He was.” 

    Who was? I’m not sure who you’re talking about. 

    Re: “Goodbye, from me.” 

    Uh … well, OK. Thanks. 

    Re: “but you haven’t got the Goodbye from God yet. The hound of heaven is following you.” 

    Wow. That sounds vaguely like a threat. 

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs