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Oct 22 2011

My View of Love Apparently Aligned with Catholic Church

So apparently, my skeptical/ atheist view of love is aligned with that of the Catholic Church.

No, really. Yesterday, I posted a link to a piece from my archives, A Skeptic’s View of Love. (The gist: Love is more than something you feel — it’s something you do, a series of choices you make. And viewing love as a flawed human activity instead of divine destiny or the joining of soul-mates is not only a more accurate view, but more sustainable, and more richly satisfying.)

And I got the following comment from Emmet:

A thoughtful article: a good antidote to how love is often portrayed.

I think you would find much to agree with in the thought of Polish philosopher Karol Wojtyla, who wrote extensively on love.

“However, Wojtyla is concerned that people today often think of love only in terms of feelings. His concerns seem all the more applicable for a culture like ours, in which love songs, romance films, and TV shows constantly play with our emotions and get us to long for quick, emotionally thrilling relationships … .

Real love, however, is very different from “Hollywood love.” Real love requires much effort. It is a virtue that involves sacrifice, responsibility, and a total commitment to the other person. “Hollywood love” is an emotion. It’s something that just happens to you. The focus is not on a commitment to another person, but on what is happening inside you—the powerful good feelings you experience when you’re with this other person.”

http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/edwardpsri/loveandresponsibility/04.asp

Wojtyla is, of course, better known as Pope John Paul II, and I suggest that what you describe as a “skeptical/materialist view of love” is much the same as the Catholic view of love, as expressed in the above quote from Edward Sri or in this article by Peter Kreeft:

http://www.envoymagazine.com/?p=376

and of course, in many other books/articles/sites in many other places.

I think you could read both articles I’ve quoted here, discarding as you go their Biblical references and and mentions of God or Christ, and still see that both you and Catholics are aligned together against the prevailing modern view of love!

I thought y’all would like to see my reply:

Right. Except for the part where the Catholic Church thinks the love Ingrid and I have for each other is a horrible form of wickedness, and we deserve to be punished for it by being burned alive. And the part where they think our marriage is not just wicked, but actually invalid and non-existent.

And, of course, there’s the part where they think this sort of love is only valid if a magic man stands up in front of you and says some magic words before you start your life together. And the part where they think this sort of love should only happen once in someone’s life (unless their partner dies, in which case it’s okay to go for seconds). And the part where they think this sort of love has to result in as many children as your bodies can produce (or at least be willing to have this result). And the part… oh you get the picture.

And, of course, there’s the part where they think all this without even the slightest scrap of good evidence, on the basis of what some duly appointed magic men pulled out of their asses as the right way to interpret a book of hearsay written 2,000 years ago about what a man who supposedly claimed to be God told people what to do.

Yeah. Not so aligned. On the whole, I think I’ll take the prevailing modern view of love. You know. The one that says Ingrid and I have a right to it.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    martha

    Oh, this guy sounds like my Dad. One Christmas he gave every one of his grown up children a book of JPII’s philosophy and most of them were left in a neat little stack by the door. Is it bizarre to mourn your religious father by commenting about him on atheist bog sites?

  2. 2
    JT Eberhard

    Greta Christina will have none of your shit.

    I love you.

  3. 3
    Jules Cox

    It all comes down to this: Maybe if the religious (Catholics in particular) weren’t shitty to those who don’t share their views, we could actually sit down and talk about the things that matter – you know, like love.

    It would help if they weren’t so blazingly wrong.

  4. 4
    Adam Lee

    It sounds like even the Catholic church is seeking the Atheist Seal of Approval. :)

  5. 5
    Leo

    I get that you’ve been very careful to say “the Catholic Church” and treat it as an organisation without naming anyone. I also get that he compared your views to a Pope’s, who does tend to be a rather important member of this church, and rarely the most progressive one.

    I still get bad “boo Catholics” vibes from your post. Like every Catholic has sex-negativity rays beamed at them from the Pope hive or something. Which you’ve been careful not to say.

    I’m not sure why. Maybe is because of the “they think”, which, while totally reasonable language to talk about an organization, sort of sweeps under the rug the fact that most Catholics are much more independent from the hivepope than the stereotype – capable of saying “The Pope says that fucked-up shit, and I call bollocks.”, infaillibility doctrine be, er, damned. Maybe it’s because when you say “the Catholic Church”, you think of the guys with hats in charge, rather than “my priest and the parish and the school club and the crowd I was in when I went to see the Pope”, or “that thing most people are in and I guess I am too”, which are what more Catholics would mean. Maybe because I was raised in a country where Catholicism was the default, and now live in a country where it isn’t, and reading things from the US where it’s a minority makes it feel more like an attack on individual Catholics and not on religion and big bad churches in general.

    But yeah, guy who says condoms are evil and his successor guy who says transpeople destroy the rainforest? No seal of approval for you. (Somewhere-between-agnostic-and-atheist Catholic friend to whom homophobia is just bizarre and arbitrary? Yes seal of approval, but go read you some Dawkins.)

  6. 6
    Nurse Ingridn

    “I think a celibate Italian weirdo knows a *little* bit more about matters of sex than you do.”

    Flanders (as Sir Thomas More) to Homer (as Henry VIII)

  7. 7
    Ganner

    Leo,

    You’re right that she didn’t address all Catholics, or individual Catholics. But I’ll say as a former Catholic, I welcome the “boo Catholic” vibes. If you support by your allegiance, attendance, and donations an organization that is beaming sex-negativity in every direction, is anti-contraception, is misogynistic, is corrupt in its cover-ups and support of child molesters and numerous other scandals, then you deserve some amount of scorn. You may disagree with things they’ve done, may ignore infallibility doctrine like most Catholics, but if you keep calling yourself Catholic and supporting the church which claims infallibility on these matters and demands unquestioning obedience of you, then expect to take some criticism for your choice to associate with such a despicable organization.

  8. 8
    martha

    There’s that old joke about the guy in the bar in Northern Ireland. They ask him if he’s a Catholic or a Protestant. He says, “Atheist” and they say “But are ye a Catholic Atheist or a Protestant Atheist?”

    When I first started listening to Freethout Radio, I could so tell the Catholic Atheists from the Protestant Atheists and it was always making me mad. I must be getting better because I don’t notice so much anymore.

    For the never-been-Catholics and non-USA people out there, the basic problem is that most Catholic families came to the US as immigrants who were made unwelcome in more or less nasty ways on account of their religion. We have family histories and cultural memories about this that make it difficult for us to listen to criticism of Catholicism from outsiders, even when it deserves it.

  9. 9
    Kagehi

    If you support by your allegiance, attendance, and donations an organization that is beaming sex-negativity in every direction, is anti-contraception, is misogynistic, is corrupt in its cover-ups and support of child molesters and numerous other scandals, then you deserve some amount of scorn. …

    Much more accurate description of the, “I don’t like the ‘boo Catholics’”, types views:

    “I disagree with much, if not most, of what I religion does, has done, claims from on high to believe, has hidden, condoned, falsely justified, or taught, but don’t you dare suggest there is something wrong with being Catholic, or supporting them!”

    OK… How about we just point out that the first 27 words ***do not*** support the any sort of reasonable conclusion that the last 15 of them make any damn sense at all. If you agree with the first 27, you can’t *be* the last 15. What you are is someone clinging to a label, because you don’t want to give that up, while the “church” itself has abandoned any moral stance on any of the issue, by their direct failure to do what it moral, or support things that help, instead of harming, others (by definition, and immoral act). So, either the church is wrong, or you are using the wrong name for your own faith, either way, you and they are not members of the same faith ***at all***.

    And, that basic refusal to recognize the fundamental inability to your supposed “leadership”, to pay any attention at all to their followers, or visa versa, is precisely what will get you booed, just for claiming to be one in general, never mind how much your actual opinions may differ from the holy watzit.

  10. 10
    'Tis Himself

    I really cannot accept that a bunch of unmarried, professional virgins have anything to say about sex or love. Especially when the Catholic hierarchy makes a point of refusing to listen to the concerns of the laity.

    Leo #5 says:

    Maybe is because of the “they think”, which, while totally reasonable language to talk about an organization, sort of sweeps under the rug the fact that most Catholics are much more independent from the hivepope than the stereotype – capable of saying “The Pope says that fucked-up shit, and I call bollocks.”, infaillibility doctrine be, er, damned.

    We understand that many Catholics ignore what the hierarchy says on various topics. Bill O’Reilly makes a point of slamming Pope John Paul II’s condemnation of capital punishment. However many Catholics follow the Church’s rules blindly. The Church is against same-sex marriage, the laity clicks its heels and shouts “Jawohl Herr Pope!” Benny Ratzi tells lies about condoms and AIDS, many Catholics nod their heads in agreement. A Brazilian archbishop excommunicates everyone* involved with giving a nine-year-old rape victim an abortion and expressions of support come in from around the world.

    Some more liberal Catholics ignore what the Church says about contraception and divorce. But there are a whole bunch more Catholics who toe the line. For them, the role of the laity is pay, pray and obey and they fill this role quite well.

    *Actually two people were not excommunicated. The girl wasn’t excommunicated because she was too young to give informed consent. And the rapist is still a member of the Church, which is not surprising since the Catholic Church supports and protects child rapists.

  11. 11
    Jon Jermey

    Many years ago I joined the Australian Public Service. There were a lot of things about it that were good; but there were also a lot of things about it that were seriously fucked up. I knew that the time had come to leave when I found myself explaining to my friends why the fucked-up things weren’t so fucked up after all. At that point I either had to drink the Kool-Aid, let cognitive dissonance do its work and settle down to a life doing something that I knew deep down was pointless and pathetic, or get out. I got out.

    At some point in the next fifty years or so, every Catholic is going to have to make that same choice.

  12. 12
    Larry Ayers

    Wonderfully sharp and witty riposte, Greta!

  13. 13
    Steve Jeffers

    It’s another example of the religious slippery double standard, isn’t it? It’s sleight-of-hand. We’re told that because we come the same conclusion we must use the same working to get there.

    Well, OK:

    “I think you could read both articles I’ve quoted here, discarding as you go their Biblical references and and mentions of God or Christ, and still see that both you and Catholics are aligned together”

    This person’s argument is not that we *can* actually ‘discard Christ and the Bible’ and just get on with life.

    What they mean is the exact opposite, in fact. That you’ve somehow stumbled blindly into the Truth of the Catholic message.

    An extraordinarily disingenuous argument, in fact. Or, to put it another way, as I find myself saying over and over: ‘if they’re the guardians of the truth, why do they spend so much time lying to people?’.

  14. 14
    Steve Jeffers

    “We have family histories and cultural memories about this that make it difficult for us to listen to criticism of Catholicism from outsiders, even when it deserves it.”

    ‘We’ and ‘us’ and ‘outsiders’ implying that you feel this?

    Then the question is this: GET OVER IT.

    Sorry, that’s not a question. Let’s try again: Get over it, you’re not persecuted in the US, you’re over-represented politically and judicially; your priests are typically treated like they have diplomatic immunity; your hierarchy is active politically and partisan, and has literally taken lessons on how to run its affairs by studying how organized crime does it.

    Sorry, that’s still not a question, is it?

    How about this: do you not see that in the modern US, Catholics are simply not subject to the same forces that they were a hundred and fifty years ago in Europe? That acting like the Church does, aggressively and high-handedly, in full contempt of the law of the land, it does nothing but damage the tolerant, secular state whose existence is precisely what has allowed it to thrive? That imposing Catholic solutions on non-Catholics is the tyranny that your ancestors fled?

    Yes, what your Church preaches and what its members actually believe are diametrically opposed. Catholics, unlike their priests, think dictatorship and child molestation are bad, the church-state divide is good, that there’s no problem using condoms, that gay people are people. That’s an argument against the Church, not a defense of those who fund it (or attract funds to it) even though they don’t believe a word of it any more.

    I’ve spent a lot of time on Catholic boards, and the message is clear enough – ‘outsiders’, as you so charmingly put it, are somehow weird for thinking that one in ten Catholic priests in the US has been accused of child abuse. How dare we criticize what ‘insiders’ do? But … then the Church spends tens of millions on anti gay marriage political campaigning. You have an Archbishop in New York scandalized that a cake shop might be *forced* to sell wedding cakes to gay couples. He, incidentally, was recently accused of making over $100M from his diocese disappear so he didn’t have to pay court-ordered compensation to the children his priets had raped.

    It’s not ‘anti Catholic’ to say child abuse is bad, that individuals complicit in child abuse might not have perfect moral authority. And it’s actively disgusting to portray the child rapists and those who covered for them as the *victims*.

    Yes, it’s a minority of Catholics who were abusers. But Catholics *didn’t* put their house in order, a huge number still see it as no big deal, or a spot of bother, or some kind of unfair persecution. A religion that teaches that *thinking* bad thoughts is the same as doing them is reduced to going ‘well, the Mormons rape their kids, too, why don’t the media ever report that?’.

    This idea of ‘outsiders’, the knee-jerk defensive stance of any criticism … that’s precisely what allows something like child abuse to thrive.

    In the Middle Ages, Catholic doctrine was that Popes were *more* fallible than average people. They would be targeted by the Devil, tempted by worldly power. They were watched carefully, questioned, vetted relentlessly before taking office, replaced at the slightest sign of weakness. Perhaps, if you’ll take a suggestion from an ‘outsider’, that’s the ‘cultural memory’ you might want to revive?

  15. 15
    martha

    Whoa, I get it. I walked. But please read my post again, I was offering background information. Possibly I should have said non-Catholic instead of outsider. Also I wasn’t talking about Europe a hundred years ago, but the US up to fairly recent times, all the way from “Irish need not apply” to people like my grandfather who had to fight for the right to have Catholic student clubs on their nominally Protestant campuses (and yes, that should make the Catholic colleges currently banning Atheist clubs think again. I did say I walked, didn’t I?)

  16. 16
    'Tis Himself

    Martha #15

    Whoa, I get it.

    I don’t think you get it. We’re not objecting to Catholicism because the Pope is the Anti-Christ or any of the other anti-Catholic sneers made by Protestants in the 19th Century.* We’re objecting to the Catholic Church as being an exemplar of evil. Steve Jeffers and I gave examples of the Church’s evilness.

    I walked.

    So?

    But please read my post again, I was offering background information.

    Nobody here is discussing how some 19th Century Protestants treated Catholics. We’re talking about how the Catholic Church is acting right now.

    Possibly I should have said non-Catholic instead of outsider.

    The particular word you used wouldn’t have made much difference. You were complaining about how the Catholic Church is perceived by people who are not members of the Church.

    Also I wasn’t talking about Europe a hundred years ago, but the US up to fairly recent times, all the way from “Irish need not apply” to people like my grandfather who had to fight for the right to have Catholic student clubs on their nominally Protestant campuses (and yes, that should make the Catholic colleges currently banning Atheist clubs think again.

    We weren’t talking about pre-World War I Europe, we were talking about the modern world. It’s true that priests were raping children in the 19th Century and earlier. It’s also true that priests are raping children today and the Catholic hierarchy is still supporting and protecting these rapists and their enablers. Cardinal Law is not living in the Vatican because he wants to admire the Sistine Chapel paintings.

    I did say I walked, didn’t I?

    Where are you walking to or from?

    *Or later. Ian Paisley’s 1990 denunciation of John Paul at the European Parliament comes to mind. But Paisley is hardly an atheist.

  17. 17
    Steve Jeffers

    “I was offering background information.”

    I apologize for my early morning pre-coffee tone.

    There’s clearly prejudice in the world, and much of it is ever-present. My point is simply that many US Catholics still have this ‘persecuted’ narrative when they’re more typically the persecutors in modern America.

    I think there’s a US narrative that Europe two hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago was some unidentified ‘tyranny’ preying on all religious minorities. Often it was the Catholic church doing the discrimination. The Paris Commune saw Catholic priests shouting at the soldiers that they’d go to Heaven if they shot protestors.

    Afterwards, Monmartre was built on land that had been given to the working class, as a monument to Catholic victory over the working class. Hitchens reports that there’s a panel in the Cathedral that celebrates the ‘miracle’ that during WW2 allied bombers missed the Cathedral and killed hundreds of proles in the slums around it instead.

    Getting out is a great response, and must have had its difficulties. I admire that, for what its worth, and again sorry for biting your head off.

  18. 18
    Steve Jeffers

    “We’re objecting to the Catholic Church as being an exemplar of evil.”

    Hmmmm. I don’t believe in ‘evil’. What I do believe in is ‘suffering’. There are many in the Catholic Church who do their very best, guided by their belief in God, to alleviate suffering. That they could equally well just do it without the magic biscuits and other drivel, as plenty of other people have demonstrated, is beside the point.

    But … then there are those who lie and cause suffering. Living, actual, individual human beings. The child abuse thing … well, being concerned about that is not some radical anti-Catholic stance, and it’s bizarre (and instructive?) when it’s painted as that.

    But … gay marriage. There is no possible way, even in the labyrinthine, tortuous logic an Archbishop is capable of summoning in which two people who are not nor have ever been Catholics who want to get married ‘threatens Catholicism’. If a particular religious cult wants exemptions from laws … well, negotiate them. The Amish don’t have to wear hard hats when they build their barns. Fine. But what the Amish don’t do is spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year lobbying to *stop* the rest of us wearing hard hats.

    As for federally-funded abortions. (a) No, there aren’t. (b) Let’s do a deal. We can do that if Catholic schools and hospitals get massive subsidies from the federal government. Say … 50% of their operating costs. . Oh … wait. They already get *87%* of their cash from the government. And tax breaks for being a charity.

    This is not persecution. This is the exact opposite of persecution.

  19. 19
    martha

    I will try again.

    ‘Tis Himeself, I walked out. Of the Church. Voted with my feet since I wasn’t allowed to with my voice. Sorry I wasn’t clear. And if you think there are no lingering and possibly class based prejudices among Protestants toward Catholics, you should try being a Catholic marrying into an Episcopalean family.

    That said, please let me disassociate myself from anything said on Fox News. I don’t watch TV, but it occurs to me that I may be repeating in a tone deaf manner things otherwise being thrown about by Bill O’ Reilly and his ilk. I am not defending the Catholic Church or saying that present day Catholics are entitled to a persecution complex. I am sayin that if you grow up Catholic in this country, you probably have some history with main stream Protestant prejudice. On the scale of historial grudges this one’s pretty small and not that hard to overcome, but it does mean that when people who have never been Catholics say things about the Catholic Church, you have to take a minute to work out whether this is a legitimate criticism or somerhing arising from prejudice and ignorance. I was trying to say to Leo @5, LOL, I know that feeling. That’s it.

    As for saying “we” and “us,” when I became an athiest, I didn’t spring full grown from the brow of Richard Dawkins, I came from somewhere. I came from all those dreadful Catholic people and I brought a lot of who they are with me. So, yes, “we”.

  20. 20
    Fenix

    I have read some Wojtyla before, and one of my biggest problems with him is his discourse on “use.” According to his definition of morality and use, that due to some stuff about subordinating yourself and subordinating another person (in love vs. not), that casual sex is evil because it subordinates another person through their use. He claims that casual sex (presumably outside of marriage) is evil and immoral because it hurts both people.
    The way this guy views the world it is almost as if the entire point of life is to get married and have children. Oh wait…

  21. 21
    hoverfrog

    I’m sure that JPII came up with some good ideas from time to time. He did live a long life and wrote a lot. The odds are that some of it would loosely connect with good ideas that other people have come up with. It is a bit of a leap to say that two opinions that meet in one place also connect in many other places too. When I say “a bit of a leap” I mean a huge jump.

    Personally I find the idea of a love that is filtered through a deity somewhat off putting. I want a love that is shared between myself and my partner and I’m still jealous enough to not want to include a third party in that. I want trust and sharing and I don’t want my partner running off to talk to their imaginary friend if we disagree on something.

    I happen to love someone of the opposite sex but if I fell in love with someone of the same sex then I’d hate to carry around any guilt about that. I’d hate to feel that our love were somehow wrong or dirty because our love didn’t conform to the views of an ancient, dress wearing, male virgin in Rome.

  22. 22
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Leo

    …. most Catholics are much more independent from the hivepope than the stereotype – capable of saying “The Pope says that fucked-up shit, and I call bollocks.”, infaillibility doctrine be, er, damned.

    Sure they are and that makes them hypocrites.
    I’m German, so I just had to endure a papal visit. Those people use contraception, had sex before marriage, are divorced and re-married, think that there should be many more condoms in Africa and still they travel hundereds of kilometres, spends tons of money and attack everybody who doesn’t for seeing the pope.
    They think he talks shit on 99% of matters, but that the remaining 1% is holy wisdom and makes him the greatest living being on earth. And damn you if you say that he’s a profesional virgin who covered up the rape of thousands of children and who is responsible for a lot of suffering in Africa.
    You can’t have it both ways:
    Either they’re independent thinkers, which means that they should be held responsible for supporting such a disgusting human being and such a disgusting criminal organisation, or they’re not.

  23. 23
    Steve Jeffers

    “Either they’re independent thinkers, which means that they should be held responsible for supporting such a disgusting human being and such a disgusting criminal organisation, or they’re not.”

    There’s definitely doublethink there. The way I see it formulated on the Catholic boards I’ve commented on is always something like ‘whatever their faults, they … ‘.

    Part of the deal with Catholicism is that you have to accept that the Church was entrusted by Jesus himself, that they are the only organization so entrusted. If you do believe that … well, convincing you of the rest of it is easy. They can form alliances with Mussolini, get the Mafia to run their banking, rape a hundred thousand kids, lie about AIDS, lie about homosexuality, lie to the police, lie to governments and … Jesus entrusted them. So God must have his reasons. And it’s a mindset that spreads to everything – Ratzinger is not a devious, scheming opportunist political creature who spent twenty years clearing his way to the Papacy, he miraculously emerged the day after John Paul II died.

    It can’t be a coincidence that Catholics have an ability to believe in things for which there is no evidence whatsoever, but have an inability to see things for which there are clear paper trails.

    The way most Catholics have squared the circle is to leave. There are more ex-Catholics in the US than practicing Catholics, now.

    I genuinely believe that most Catholic priests, even, are nice people. That they want the world to be a better place in much the same way we do – more peaceful, more tolerant, more charitable and so on. If they need to have a little game of make believe and drink special pixie juice to do that … well, it’s a moral failing on their part, but it does no harm. But the Vatican is clearly run by very old, very right wing, very unpleasant people who see themselves above all laws and community standards, and who routinely lie. I wish there was some way that lay Catholics, who know that, and the good priests who know that better than anyone, could find a way to speak out and instigate changes.

  24. 24
    Nurse Ingrid

    “It can’t be a coincidence that Catholics have an ability to believe in things for which there is no evidence whatsoever, but have an inability to see things for which there are clear paper trails.”

    Steve Jeffers, you win one Internet for that one. Nicely distilled.

    The problem, of course, is that the Catholic Church is not a democracy. There are no channels for the laity, or even the priests or bishops or cardinals, to petition the pope for a redress of grievances. The choice, as you so aptly put it, is to leave, or to stay and remain in some way complicit in their many crimes. The U.S. government does plenty that I’m not proud of, but I can always vote, or protest, or do other things that stand a chance of making a difference. So I still proudly call myself an American. But I don’t see how any modern person with a functioning conscience could call themselves a Catholic.

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