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Ultimate Belief

Rod Hagen

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I responded to "Regulation" in my "Tell parents" string. BUT, it's off topic and because of the new format I can not get at it to delete it. so I've created another topic here:


> But some

>people can't ignore their beliefs

>and remain true to themselves.

> Should they be expected

>to do that?


How about this, people who aren't prepared to love their children unconditionaly should not have children.


Before I hear "what if you are the parents of Timothy McVeigh smart guy, are you just suppoosed to say his crimes are ok? Huh, smart guy?" No I did not say that, I did not say that you have to always accept, or even forgive, all that your children do. But they are yours. You created them. They would not exist if not for your will or whim.


Accept that responsibility, because bringing life into world is the ULTIMATE responsibility. Period. I can not and will not accept people putting their beliefs ahead of their children. Let me repeat that: regardless of whether you're Christian, Atheist, Hindu, or AYN RAND if there is the remotest possibility that your ultimate convictions may supercede your love for your children, DON'T fucking have kids. It is not every human being's right to raise children. It is, however, the most important decision there is.


Fine, this makes me "intolerant". Whatever. Actually, you know what this attitude 'makes me'? It makes me a humanist, and that is the best a man can be.






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Wait a minute -- you're saying that in a thread about how people reconcile escorting or clienting with their relationship with their parents, our discussion about parents who can't deal with their childrens' lives is off topic? But a bunch of posts about which is the best radio station in L.A. is okay?

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> But a bunch

>of posts about which is

>the best radio station in

>L.A. is okay?


GOOD POINT! Ooops. Sorry. And now I can't delete this one. This new system is REALLY getting difficult too deal with. Sorry.







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Guest cp8036

What I find quite odd is that we having this serious thread about religious values on a site about male prostitution. Albeit ironic, is still interesting and well thought.


While not pro or anti religion, one must remember that the bible (and other books of faith)were written at a time when men thought the world was flat. Moreover, most of the content is written as metaphor. It is all open to interpretation. Anyone that would forgo the life or health of a child to obey religious teaching cannot think for him/herself.


While I respect religion, and they beliefs people hold dear, many do indeed seem odd (read inappropiate) in the context of the modern world. Such as: no birth control in poverty-stricken countries; sacred undergarments; handling of poisinous snakes; driving with lite candles; polygamy; and killing of thy neighbor.

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cp, all you're really saying is that you think the world's major religions are just a sham -- that they don't really connect their members with the teachings of a Supreme Being. That's fine, but it doesn't really address the situation of people who believe that their religion is not a sham.

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My religion is not a canned, processed pork luncheon meat forced down the gullets of disowned children barely surviving in orphanages and I resemble that remark.




PS. My friends and I collect and trade escorts. It's much more fun swapping war stories than keeping it to yourself.


PPS. While ladling out the matzoh ball soup, and after carving the Easter ham and bowing towards Mecca, my mom asked if I was still getting plowed by escorts.

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>PPS. While ladling out the

>matzoh ball soup, and after

>carving the Easter ham and

>bowing towards Mecca, my mom

>asked if I was still

>getting plowed by escorts.


Yes, but what did you tell her?







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Guest cp8036

>cp, all you're really saying is

>that you think the world's

>major religions are just a

>sham -- that they don't

>really connect their members with

>the teachings of a Supreme

>Being. That's fine, but

>it doesn't really address the

>situation of people who believe

>that their religion is not

>a sham.




Thank you for your comment. I don't think all the world's religions are a sham. When I said "MANY" seem odd or appropiate, I meant many beliefs and/or rituals. Important ommission on my part, and I thank you for pointing out my shortcoming. I writing bad English again :)


IMHO, there are many beliefs or rituals that are odd.


Sure, some of their practices may connect them with a Supreme Being, but that alone doesn't make it appropriate.


Maybe what some simple person as I find odd, the adherents certainly feel they are righteous, and in touch with their diety. However, there are some cases that are just a bit hard to accept.. when parents will not allow proven medical care to a dying child (my brother's in-laws). I understand to go with medical care would compromise their beliefs, it is seemingly wrong to onlookers.


Is a religious belief or ritual so important that it should supercede all else?


The above refers to some examples of extreme beliefs that may oppose society at large. Spiritual beliefs and practices are a wonderful thing. It provides compassion, guidance, and strength. It gives many sense of belonging, a sense of history, and so on.


Abandoning a child, even if based on a strong belief, is not compassion. It is following an extreme belief, and something that most people would take issue.

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>Is a religious belief or ritual

>so important that it should

>supercede all else?



That, of course, is the issue we are dealing with when we talk about parents who cut ties with their children because their children act in a way that contradicts the parents' beliefs.


The example we were talking about in the other thread is Abraham, who was prepared to sacrifice his own son because God requested it.


My answer is that it depends on whether one actually believes that one's religion IS a connection with the divine. If, like Abraham, you believe in a God who is omnipotent and omniscient, then if that God tells you to sacrifice your child you would probably do it. God, by definition, possesses a wisdom that is not available to human beings, so it doesn't make a great deal of sense to argue with Him. To put it another way, if you believe that the tenets of your religion come directly from God, then if those tenets require you to cut ties with your children you would do so. If, on the other hand, your religion is to you nothing more than a set of rituals that you find enjoyable, then there's no reason for you to choose your religion over your children or over anything else that you value or that gives you pleasure. In that case religion is not something that actually connects you to God, it's just a sort of hobby, like fishing.

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At the risk of losing cool in all directions (I losing my cool while writing, you losing your cool while reading), here I go.


All day yesterday I thought about the fascinating and intelligent conversation regarding ethics and religion that sprang up on Rod Hagen's "Would you tell..." thread. This time yesterday morning I was sorely tempted to jump in; but I had something urgent and serious on my mind and decided that recreation could wait until a more opportune moment.


That's what got my attention: the automatic decision that any discussion about religion and ethics on a site dedicated to homosex is "recreation." If such a topic came up on one of my professional discussion forums -- an unlikely event -- I would have thought nothing of devoting a couple of hours to reading and writing about that very subject.


What got my attention was my disgusting assumption that a bunch of gay men going on in mostly negative terms about religion is just same-old, same-old and not worth my "serious" time.


I apologize, both to you and to myself.


If anyone is still reading, therefore, let me "come out" on this board, right here and now.


(1) As BostonGuy says, there are people who perceive themselves as animated by personally chosen religious faith, and there are people who do not. I suspect that most people in the developed world -- and that includes denizens of this website -- fall somewhere between those two poles.


(2) I further suspect that most of the inhabitants of this planet, both now and unquestionably in the past, would have been bewildered by any state of consciousness that one could describe as "animated by personally chosen religious faith." As a characteristic of a large number of laypeople, that state of consciousness seems:

(a) to be almost exclusive to Protestant European societies of the 18th century and later;

(b) to have flourished in those societies in which an elected assembly, pooling the individual political choices of their constituents, determined public morality by law;

© to have provided for the non-religious a critical foundation on which to base public ethical discourse;

(d) and, in general, to be regarded as a truly free choice ONLY by those members of the society who were prosperous and educated enough to enjoy the privilege of believing that they could effect their own ethical values through political action.


(3) The corollary assertion maintains that the notion that both religious belief (not faith) and ethical standards are voluntaristic and therefore contingent DOES NOT and HAS NOT existed -- so far as we know -- in the following cultures of the world: all cultures before the 18th century; most traditionally Catholic or Orthodox European societies; Judaism before the modern period; Hindu and Islamic nations, then and now; traditional, clan-based societies in Africa, Polynesia, and so on; societies indigenous to the Americas both before and after the European conquests.


THEREFORE: It seems to me that any discussion of religion and morality in contemporary U.S. society, especially that portion of it composed of mostly white, mostly educated, mostly financially stable, mostly engaged and articulate, mostly male homosexuals, will most fruitful if:


(1) we recognize that religious faith and religious belief are not synonymous;


(2) we acknowledge that ethical systems and religious systems are not necessarily compatible;


(3) we allow for the possibility that the core of all major religions is a way to understand the fundamental meaning of life itself, even of the universe;


(4) we permit the possibility that religion, ultimately, is not about right and wrong in human behavior, and is certainly not concerned with ethical proscription;


(5) and we further allow that, such being the case for religion, ethics in a pluralistic society -- and that is what we are in -- cannot be the codification of some group's religious values. There are perfectly ethical atheists and perfectly unethical believers. In other words, I'm not persuaded that religion and ethics are NECESSARILy related, even if the contrary is the common practice.


For me, the really interesting question here is: How does homosexual orientation in human beings shed light on some deeper and darker places of the world's great religions? Another way to put the same question would be to ask how any or all of the world's religions (NOT ethical systems) enrich the meaning and value of human sexuality. If you want to find bunches of folks who'll tell you that you're a degenerate if you have sex with boys, you don't have to look for religious people. There are plenty of faith-deprived people who'll step right in, perhaps using religion as justification for their actions.


Finally, I "come out" really and truly. I am a professional intellectual, a historian of late-medieval and early-modern European culture, with a Ph.D. and a long list of scholarly publications behind my name. You can call me anything you like, but "stupid" or "irrational" won't do. Even so, by my own free choice, I am a believing, practicing Christian who is also, after a process of conversion in full adulthood, a practicing, devout Roman Catholic. I am also a practicing homosexual. Furthermore, I do not find even the slightest incompatibility between my sexual orientation and its exercise and my religious beliefs and their manifestation in my ethical decisions.


How's that for outrageous?




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Guest allansmith63



Wow! Not at all outrageous from my point of view.


I'd like to pursue a discussion with you with regard to your last paragraph - particularly the last sentence. I think off the board's where I would like to discuss your comments. If you've time, please email me at [email protected].





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Guest jeffOH

Despite the best of intentions, attempts to organize spirituality

almost always fall back upon themselves, masking the spirit and

occasionally even flipping over to become the embodiment of what-

ever they oppose.


By their nature spiritual organizations are superfluous. They seek to do what is already done. A successful church is transitional, a stepping-stone toward consciousness, not a rock

upon which generations duplicate the mistakes of the past.


To orient your life around a structure of some other human being's understanding is to worship a false god. It is to lock

yourself into a framework of someone else's prejudice, however

well intentioned. It is to prefer the past-oriented knowledge of

another to your own present-moment perception. It is to doubt

both yourself and the Creator who would, if you permit it, awaken

within you. So it has been written, "They stand in God's Presence

yet see only their idols. Their eyes look upon images of beauty

engraved in stone and in the faces of coins, yet do not see the

living beauty all around them."


Those who orient their lives around human organizations are left

with little happiness and less satisfaction. They are like mice

on a treadmill of self-validating and self-defeating beliefs.

Until they choose to step off the treadmill there is little we

can do to reach them. For they alone have the right to determine

how they will understand themselves and their world, and they

have the freedom to maintain the world they have chosen, however

limiting. From "The Third Millennium" by Ken Carey

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Guest albinorat


>Finally, I "come out" really and

>truly. I am a professional

>intellectual, a historian of late-medieval

>and early-modern European culture, with

>a Ph.D. Even so, by

>my own free choice, I

>am a believing, practicing Christian

>who is also, after a

>process of conversion in full

>adulthood, a practicing, devout Roman

>Catholic. I am also

>a practicing homosexual. Furthermore,

>I do not find even

>the slightest incompatibility between my

>sexual orientation and its exercise

>and my religious beliefs and

>their manifestation in my ethical



>How's that for outrageous?


My God! Will I am shocked (smiles icon here). I have a lot of trouble with Catholicism (my brother is a Bishop. We fell out because he refused to let our father die peacefully and without pain which our father longed to do.)


I know you are not addressing human fallibility and hypocrisy, which are everywhere there are people from this board to The Vatican. But "organized religions" seem to me to have a large share of the lie deliberate about them -- "Opiate of the Masses" and all that. Let me say I feel the same about "Gay identity politics".


That is not to put down a private, subjective, keenly felt and sincere religious connection between you (say) and some "ultimate principle beyond the death of the body".


Or to suggest that putting sexuality in the context of a life entire means one should be ashamed or avoidant of anything or persecuted and prosecuted for indulging in one's sexuality.


Only to say that I am hostile to "religions" and "group think" generally. Your experience in faith (for example) cannot be codified for anyone else, in my opinion, and I believe that was true for the first "Christians" as it is for anyone bothering to read this.


I am not sure Christianity as we know it (for example) has anything to do with its founding principles whatever they were and whoever invented them.


I know that Saul from Tarsus (better known as Saint Paul) had some kind of nervous breakdown on the way to Damascus, which resulted in temporary blindness (Adolf Hitler had exactly the same kind of breakdown with the same symptoms after World War One -- he later killed the psychiatrist who treated him). Though the literal historical accuracy of surviving documents cannot be established, Saul's account of how he became Paul seems true enough in outline.


But he did not go to Jerusalem where "Jesus" (whoever that was) had "family" ("James the brother of Jesus" was a historical figure, much admired -- Jesus was not known to witnesses such as Josephus but James was -- and James The Brother was later killed by conservative, pro-Roman, Jewish hierarchs. His assassination really did stir riots and result in the recall of the Roman Governor. Nothing of the sort seems to have happened in a verifiable way after Jesus' death. James The Brother, though hands on in the "commemoration of Jesus" was a devout Jew as was Cephus, better known as Saint Peter and one must assume Jesus whoever he was, was also.)


Saul, changing his name to Paul, went to Damascus where a splinter cult seems to have been in control of the "memory of Jesus". This cult seems to have had some Hellenic/Pagan practices including tattooing ("I am marked with the signs of the Lord" Paul writes, but 'stigmata' was invented much later by people who had no idea of what crucifixion entailed. It turns me on since it involved ropes and bare feet. But nails were costly. The victim was usually sat on a perch, his arms were suspended high above him, sometimes tied behind him so his shoulder were dislocated and he couldn't even begin to support his weight, however, even tied in front his muscles would have failed to support him within hours, his feet were tied above the ground, he was bloodied some, and he slowly suffocated as his chest caved in, since the chest began to bear all his weight, while birds and insects feasted on him -- that's why it was the most dreaded punishment of the time).


Paul's converters must have had ritual signs that were tattooed onto an initiated. They probably also indulged in mediumistic activities, which likely involved "talking with Jesus" after his death.


James and Peter hated Paul. Paul loathed them. If you read his epistles in the Greek or in a responsible translation --(not King James please) -- Paul's rage and insults rain down on them. Paul says he did not know Jesus "after the flesh" (meaning in person, though he is the earliest writer about Jesus -- probably starting to write within the decade of Jesus alleged crucifixion, and he was in Jerusalem according to his own chronology when Jesus would have been there). But if the Gospels aren't entirely fictions, then Peter did indeed know Jesus. And one must assume that James was either literally Jesus' brother or had had a close association with him and been given the leadership position in the cult of Jesus' memory.


Paul was the architect of our modern Christianity through his epistles, though they have been twisted to suit the purposes of later "Church Fathers". The Gospels of course, came much later than James, Peter or Paul. The "Church Fathers" did not know who wrote the gospels they thought were legit -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are made up names since their texts were not signed and circulated anonymously until about two hundred years after they were written -- and no one can be sure the most widely circulated texts had not been highly edited and re-written as "establishment teaching" changed (as you know, Will, there are tons of "apocrypha" -- writings that may or may not be as "authentic" as the four chosen gospels, including the "Gospel of Thomas" which some American Religious historians are willing to accept as authentic).


What is clearest about Paul's Christianity (though he never denied his Jewish origins) is he thought Jesus was coming back tomorrow and kept thinking that until the last epistles, where grudgingly he began to lay down rules.


Paul otherwise seems to have been of his time. His obsession in prison with the beautiful Barnabas (later an important Christian) suggests "love", whether sexually consummated or not.


But as "Hellenic" as opposed to Hebrew, Paul lived in a bi-sexual culture where the love of beautiful boys by boys and men was much more written about and romanticized than it has ever been since. Even among Jews, same sex "love" was hardly unknown (David and Jonathan is one of the great same sex love stories, for that matter so is Ruth and Naomi, both in the "Old Testament".)


Paul's constant invocation of Rome (in Nero’s time, very welcoming of same sex play), the list of eminent Romans (including someone with the same name as Nero’s Librarian) is suspect to me (and others) in terms of his motivation. Remember Paul was the inventor of "the ascended Christ" -- that is not Jesus the man who claimed to be Messiah, but of a godly figure whose "kingdom was not of this world" and no threat to Romans Jesus or other "freedom fighters" most certainly were threats. Paul changed the meaning of Messiah to a religious rather a political/military term.


So as far as organized Christianity goes, with its hatred of same sex unions (more emphatic and drastic after Martin Luther), I do find structured belief a little hard to understand, which is not to say I don't respect it.


One thing though I think one must beware of is reading back our sense of "gayness" into earlier times. "Homosexual" is a word invented in the 1890's and not in common use until after the First World War. It was the Wilde trial that created a sense of "homosexualists" as a sub-culture, outside the norm and criminal (not only violating statutes against "immorality" but involving male prostitution and blackmail).


The "gay movement" took that as it's starting point. They saw "Gayness" (as opposed to same sex play or love) as an "identity" of a group of potentially disenfranchised and oppressed people, separate from the majority. As opposed to same-sexuality being a taste, indulged where appropriate in a given culture, probably at some points in Western History by a large number of eminent men. (No one seems to have cared about women until recently, so one assumes they diddled one another often with impunity).


But Wilde did not think that way, that is that he was "gay" in our sense (he married, loved his wife and adored his two sons) and it's entirely unlikely that anyone before him would have felt that way, including Paul or Jesus for that matter. Earlier societies tended to integrate people more.


Cities before the 1860's were very small, nightlife existed in only a few places and was dangerous (you were more likely to get your throat cut than your rocks off). Within societies rules by extended families and kinship ties (Greece, Rome to the end of the Empire, many periods in European history) there was (still is in some places) a line drawn between public duty and private pleasure. The first always involved men creating legitimate male heirs and behaving like men "in public" and in terms of "public duty" like fighting wars. The second could include anything indulged by those same men, so long as it was really "private".


Neither Paul nor Jesus very likely would have seen anything wrong with a one on love between two people of the same sex. They would not have conceptualized it as we do, or separated it from the common range of "earthly experiences". However, either or both could have (and probably did) preach restraint, care and self-questioning as indeed Plato has Socrates do in the Symposium (the result is not anti-sexual, but it goes to deeper questions of personal responsibility and experience).


As for the Jewish influence on Christianity, one must remember the virulent "anti-sodomy" rules -- whatever "sodomy" would have been taken to mean in context -- are not more severe than the rules against eating pork and shrimp or having sex with one's wife when she is menstruating.


Again, a difference needs to me made between our society and theirs. Promiscuous or anonymous sex of any kind was linked to Pagan sects (where on feast days anything went as part of the worship of a given god) and seen as threats to the homogeneity of the Hebrews.


Within the Hebrew communities at any point, same sex love was probably seen as typical as it usually is where women are closely guarded and girls are totally segregated from men. Only someone who did not marry and reproduce legitimally would have been in for trouble, under some but possibly not all conditions.


As for Abraham and Isaac, invoked above, remember, God stops speaking to Abraham after he agrees to sacrifice Isaac. It is an "angel" who saves Isaac. Abraham is never spoken to by God again. There is a pattern in the "Old Testament" where the Hebrew God challenges his truest believers to defy him in conscience. He rewards those who do, but "drops" those who obey unthinkingly.


As is also true of the Sodom story, Abraham and Isaac is always mid-read to suit later readers, blind to the societal contexts, which create such stories. Human sacrifice was something the Hebrews turned on and hated (after practicing it, apparently, for a while). Abraham's willingness to do it even at God's command is a betrayal of the race and a caution about the relationship of the individual to authority. One must always, the story suggests, be guided by sternly understood personal conscience. To abandon consciousness and obey authority even when authority is "God" leads to the annihilation of not only the individual will but of the community as well (as Isaac, an heir represents all those who are slain by mindless obedience).


If anyone has read this far, thank you, but goodness what are you doing with your life? (I'm not doing anything which is why I wrote it).



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Al, I guess one of my (very obscure) points is that I cannot talk about "Christianity as we know it" if someone includes me in the "we" without my first acquiescing in his terms. What you mean by Christianity and what I mean by Christianity may be very different things indeed. By that I do not intend to say that the nature of a major world religion is entirely subjective. I do mean, however, that in my experience people differ widely in what they mean by terms like "the Church" or "Christianity." One reason is the long, complex, rich history of the religion itself. Another is that we tend to get rational definitions/arguments mixed up with powerfully emotional connotations attached to those words.


Consequently, it is difficult to have a meaningful discussion unless the interlocutors can agree on the terms. If I take what you say as your notion of Christianity, for example, I'd say that we can discuss your notion or my notion, but that we are not talking about the same thing. I would also argue from empirical evidence that my notions are neither entirely subjective, nor entirely personal. And they are certainly not unique to me. I am personally acquainted with plenty of Catholics who share my views. They come in all ages, all races, all genders, all sexual orientations, and not all of them are laypeople. Indeed, one of my "twins" in this regard, as well as one of my best friends, is the Abbot of a Benedictine monastery in Europe. Another is a contemplative nun who has lived with great pleasure in major papal enclosure for over fifty years. If they don't qualify as "real" Catholics I don't know who does.


I am certainly not trying to impose my beliefs on anyone. On the other hand, it is very, very difficult for me to think about arguments based on generalized and stereotyped notions of any religion. I can't be persuaded that any of the world's religion is monolithic or that any of them merits being called an "-ism." All the ancient religions are extraordinary pots-pourris of contradictions.


For example, I feel a strong emotional, intellectual, and especially theological attraction to many aspects of Hinduism, not least to its psychology (in meditative practices) and its art. Even so, I have known many people who are forever chasing after gurus and who can sing Siva mantras in the lotus position by the hour. They also tend to go on forever about the superiority of Eastern (an undefined term) as opposed to Western (another undefined term) spirituality. But they quickly become enraged when I ask them how they fit their concept of Hindu spirituality with the equally Hindu spiritual practice of Sati (if that's how you spell a widow's being thrown onto the funeral pyre of her husband), or how the supposed gentleness and acceptance of "Eastern" spirituality can create an ethical climate that fosters the bad habit of under-dowered brides catching on fire in their in-laws' kitchens.


Finger-pointing is rarely a good conversion technique, but it does wonders to reaffirm the finger-pointer's own certainty of the rightness of his beliefs.


As for the dreaded "organized" religion, I don't want to live in any kind of cocoon all by myself. If I'm a dog-lover, I want to join a kennel club. If I'm a baseball fan, I want to be with other fans. If I love opera, I'd rather hear it in the opera house than at home, alone, on a record. If I'm a gay man, I want to hang out on sites like this one. If I'm a Christian, I want to go to church.


All of these organizations, including all religions without exception, are human. But I don't know of any other kind of organization that is open to members of our species.

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Guest albinorat

>Al, I guess one of my

>(very obscure) points is that

>I cannot talk about "Christianity

>as we know it" if

>someone includes me in the

>"we" without my first acquiescing

>in his terms.<


Firstly Will, I meant no offence to you or anyone. I too have known great and heroic people who were very devout Catholics as we would all understand that term, or were Fundamentalist and/or Born Again Christians.


I used your post to riff on my own idée’s fixed and beg your pardon if you discerned "finger pointing" or blame.


That said,


> What

>you mean by Christianity and

>what I mean by Christianity

>may be very different things



I think we're talking about Catholicism here. Many non-Catholic but Christian sects elevate the individual conscience and experience of God or Jesus above any organizational principle. That is not to say that they are without core beliefs, widely held and to some degree enforced, but that the central experience is meant to be private.


Catholicism is (and I don't really think there can be any argument here) a religion fundamentally about obedience to a long list of rigidly held dogmas and doctrines. The individual doesn't matter. He or she will have a mediator in the hierarchy from Priest to Pope. The Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals and all rulings along those lines have had a political dimension. None-the-less they are totally and absolutely binding on all Catholics.


That means that non-procreative sex of any kind is sinful (how sinful depends on the sex). That means that man-made contraception and abortion are horrible sins. That means that no woman has parity in the faith with a man -- women cannot be ordained. That means one must read all documents of faith with Catholic eyes. For example, though Miriam the mother of Jesus is explicitly cited as the mother of other children in Mark (a gospel read by Catholics) she is "ever virgin". All Catholics must accept the doctrine of "original sin", though it was not part of Jesus' teaching (in so far as that can be known) or the thinking of the earliest Christians. All Catholics must accept the central mystery of the mass, that is that a piece of bread, consecrated by an ordained priest (who must never marry and remain "chaste"), becomes Jesus and can be served only to the "faithful". (There is a vast literature about whether Jesus himself actually instituted a specifically "eucharistic sacrament". There is no hard evidence and Paul doesn't seem to know anything about it.)


I could go on. You cannot be a Catholic without acquiescing to these beliefs whether you take them with a grain of salt or not.


I realize Catholics no longer believe that if you eat meat on Fridays and die before you can confess and be absolved you will go straight to hell for all eternity no matter your morality before that lapse.


I realize that in the last 30 years there has been much more tolerance in the American Church toward dissenters who still want to think of themselves as Catholic (however the Vatican has silenced and punished many who wrote and/or taught). I realize that your Abbot and Sister friends are good people of high intellect and open minds. I realize that in many "Catholic" communities women have assumed many more pastoral duties than would have been possible forty years ago, and that in some there are even married priests (priests generally married in fact until roughly the year 1000, Jesus may well have been married). I also realize that there has been more (guarded) reaching out to gay men and women.


But this current and infallible Pope has reaffirmed all the old dogmas rigidly and repeatedly. I am not talking about "my" Catholicism but about the Catholicism he would understand as Catholic (on a much more detailed and sophisticated plane than I am on here). He would not burn you at the stake or torture you to recant if you disagreed, as did earlier Catholic eminences. And the Vatican has sent mixed signals about homosexuality, without endorsing it or granting that homosexual love exists. But this Pope would think of you as a lost sheep, say Episcopalian.



>As for the dreaded "organized" religion,

>I don't want to live

>in any kind of cocoon

>all by myself. If

>I'm a dog-lover, I want

>to join a kennel club.

> If I'm a baseball

>fan, I want to be

>with other fans. If

>I love opera, I'd rather

>hear it in the opera

>house than at home, alone,

>on a record. If

>I'm a gay man, I

>want to hang out on

>sites like this one.

>If I'm a Christian, I

>want to go to church.



A need for community is built into humans. I respect anyone who sees "Church" as a place to affirm his/her place among peers. I do think though that the Catholic Church would not be happy to be seen on the same level as a kennel club, baseball or even the opera. None of those things require of attendees big acts of belief (unless they are Callas fans of course). Catholicism does indeed require gestures and articulations of faith that are highly specific and firmly enforced.


But enough of me. No wonder no one can stand me. Good for you and good upon you, Will. I have my problems with Catholicism and with Christianity as is all too obvious. But your life decisions are clearly serious, admirable and highly intelligent.



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Hey Will -


Thanks for joining us (I was hoping you would).


I think that religion must have been a vexing question for every thinking person at least once or twice; surely trying to confront the vast, unanswerable questions it raises cannot always be easy, if the attempt is to mean anything.


A few thoughts:


In paragraph (1), above, you make the point that most of us fall somewhere on a line between perceiving ourselves as animated by personally chosen religious faith or not perceiving that. The first several times I read that paragraph, I agreed with it. (And not just because it begins with "As Boston Guy says.."!)


But on a bit more reflection, I find myself questioning it more, especially the 'personally chosen religious faith' part. It seems to me that even many of the most faithful perceive their faith to be 'personally chosen' -- yourself and myself included, through decisions made in adulthood. If by 'personally chosen' we mean 'personally designed', I'm back in the middle of the line with you (I think; I want to reserve the right to change my mind on this point later). But, at least on some level, it seems that everyone makes a personal choice regarding their religious faith -- even if the choice is to not believe -- and ends up aware and perhaps even proud of the choice.


In paragraph (2), you essentially define a culture or perhaps a type of culture that has proven able to support this idea of choice or at least make it possible. It feels about right. But again, after reading it several times, I have to ask some questions and those questions are based somewhat on how much the questions we are discussing now are defined by and shaped by our own culture. I find myself wondering if we give our ancestors too little credit.


For example, each of the world's major religions has had a starting point, a point in time at which that religion was unknown, a new idea or a new sect. And certainly each religion in turn took time to get established, time during which the inhabitants of that time viewed it suspiciously and perhaps even extremely antagonistically. People alive at that time would have mostly worshipped in a different way, in a different faith, and if the present is any guide, they would not have taken kindly to this upstart claiming to know all the answers. In essence, they would have chosen not to believe in the new religion just as its devotees would have consciously chosen to believe in it. So wherever two religions have come into contact, it would seem necessary for conscious religious choice to have also come into play. It might not be the kind of choice that one thinks about daily, but knowledgeable choice nonetheless.


Surely we can easily find times and cultures where one religion was so dominant that adhering to other beliefs would have seemed unthinkable. But deciding religious issues purely on the basis of common practice in our least knowledgeable predecessor societies wouldn't seem the best way to go. And just as surely, for the past two thousand years or more, educated men and women in the western world (at least) have known of more than one religion -- and chosen to believe in the one they do without necessarily killing off the people whose beliefs lay elsewhere.


So I'm not so sure that the idea of personal choice is quite as new or quite as radical as I did a little while ago. (I'm making this up as I go, by the way, so feel free to shoot me down with facts whenever necessary!)


I do suspect that the idea of a set of ethical standards that stands apart from and can be adopted separately from one's religion may be a newer idea. But perhaps someone reading this will know for sure.


Now one of the questions I have for you concerns the distinction you are drawing between religious faith and religious belief. As Regulation has pointed out in another thread, you either believe in the tenets of a religion or you don't; picking and choosing a middle ground might be convenient but might not really lead to the kind of true 'faith' that true believers are thought to have. On first reading, I read 'faith' as synonymous with 'religion' (as the Catholic religion), but I think you mean something else by this and I am confused.


Next, in (4) under Therefore, you suggest the possibility that religion is ultimately not about right and wrong. I'm all for that, since I find myself having come to a point where I feel grounded by ethics instead of religion and I don't feel that I am absent a moral compass. But do you think that the leaders of the major religions would agree with this possibility? If religion is not about right and wrong, if it's not about guiding human behavior with the promise of an ultimate reward for living a good life, then what is it about?


Which brings me, finally, to my last point: the only thing today that can drive me a little nuts about religion is the fanaticism of the true believers who believe that not only are they on the right path, but everyone else must be brought there as well.


I see religions as having developed over the course of history as devices that allowed the leaders of societies to govern a basically uneducated mass of people and get them to treat each well and act in consort for the good of the tribe. They did this in essence by treating the masses a bit like children: if you are good boys and girls, look at the reward you'll get. If you get people to believe in the reward and also in the pain that will come with not obeying, it becomes a very strong mechanism for control and enforcing behavior. In early civilization, life was likely very tough and competitors fierce and many. A society that was well-disciplined, healthy and happy would have a better chance of survival than one that was not.


That might be a corruption of what really happened, but it's how I view religion. I see it as something that was necessary and something that worked. And if people today want to continue those beliefs, for whatever personal reason, I support their freedom to choose and to worship in whatever way they will.


Why, then, do so many of the faithful seem to have so much trouble with someone who makes a different choice?


And, to address your question about homosexual orientation shedding light on religions, I go back to my view of religion's roots: if the goal of religion was to promote the society and keep it strong and together, then the first thing every early society (and every early religion) needed was more members. We're not talking about societies starting with millions of members, but rather hundreds and thousands. (Go back and look at the incredibly small populations of some the early towns in the ancient middle east.)


Any practice that prevented population growth would have been seen to be wrong and against the group's goals. They didn't kill neighbors and they didn't eat pork because you could die from doing so, which they undoubted learned through difficult experience. And most certainly they didn't want a whole lot of sex that wasn't going to produce babies.


And, over time, messages like this probably became enshrined as God's law, not to be disobeyed.


So here we are two-thousand years later on a world overflowing with people and the religions have kept their message the same. The Catholic Church, for one, has a very long view. It's been able to take the stance that 'this too will end' many, many times, even if the period of time 'it' would take to end might be decades or longer. This leads to a very conservative organization loathe to change. And a strong heirarchy that has been growing in strength for a couple of millennia isn't likely to view change well, either, just from the point-of-view of its own self-interest. As Reg says, starting changing the message and people might just start seeing it all as a house of cards.


But that's only my opinion and who knows? Maybe someday I really will rot in hell. :-)

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Dearest Al, I never thought that you were in any way criticizing or attacking me. But even if you were, that goes with the territory when one says in public the kinds of things I said yesterday. I expected far worse, and regarded your long response as precisely what it was, an airing of your own views, just as I had aired mine.


But we differ. We differ fundamentally. I strongly disagree with the notion that Catholicism is "fundamentally about obedience to a long list of rigidly held dogmas and doctrines."


I know all too well that many, many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, believe that; and if one's whole exposure to Catholicism had been beamed through the lens of what until recently was an exclusively Irish-American hierarchy, I can easily understand that formulation. Many Catholic children were taught in schools by ignorant, superstitious, and in some cases downright cruel nuns; many people, including myself, have suffered under a so-called pastor who was also stupid and ignorant, but invariably "right" because he could count on the support of his fellow priests and they on their local ordinary, and he on the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, and the Apostolic Delegate on whoever happened to be the Pope. When I have been trapped in that kind of situation -- such as learning that my local priest had discussed the contents of my private confession with a college student -- I have been angry, indeed outraged, and I have absented myself from the monster's presence as long as he was here.


So I'm deeply sympathetic with hurt, angry, bewildered, and bullied people who think that being a Catholic is sort of like being a religious Nazi. All lock-step and no-think. And I fully agree with those who say that the Church is both responsible and liable for the damage done in its name.


On the whole, however, that is neither the sum or even the majority of my experience. I quickly acknowledge that finding like-minded people in the small community where I live has not been easy. But one of the reasons I like being a Catholic (and, frankly, that's what it comes down to) is that I am not confined to rectionary secular culture and its mores spoken by the clergy as though it were the Gospel truth. Furthermore, I also know that any institutional policy is just that, a policy. Policies are contingent on historical circumstances, no matter how exalted the rhetoric in their support. Even the present Pope acknowledges that priestly celibacy, for example, is not a mandate of Scripture but a disciplinary custom adopted only in the 11th or 12th century. That doesn't prevent his interpreting that information as though Jesus himself had said that priests should be celibate.


Frankly, I don't think Jesus care(d)(s) whether the clergy is celibate or not. I do think he care(d)(s) whether the clergy lives under compulsory celibacy or compulsory marriage. I also don't think that Jesus care(d)(s) whether we are heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual; I'm not even sure that he'd have understood those terms in the first place. But I do think that he care(d)(s) that we use our sexuality in a way that brings life to us and to others.


In more secular (to some, not to me) terms, I also think that capital punishment is a grave social injustice -- a sin, if you will -- even though I know that it is Constitutionally defensible and that many people of good will support it. But I cannot. And my reasons are deeply rooted in my religious beliefs, as are my notions about the justice of the distribution of the world's resources, the exploitation of the poor, and so on and so forth. Each of my positions on those questions, moreover, has been clearly and unambiguously articulated by not only the American hierarchy but by the hierarchies of other nations as well. In other words, I am in complete harmony with my understanding of Catholic doctrine as concerns social justice, partially because it is a response to the economic realities of the world we actually live in.


On the other hand, I think the Church is just plain wrong about most of the consequences of its teachings regarding sexual ethics. I know, however, that the current state of affairs has not always been the way it is, that things are loosening up, that institutions change slowly, and that we are dealing with what may be the most culturally pluralistic institution in the history of humankind. But the Church is wrong, I think, because the basis of its argument is an ethical philosophy developed in the thirteenth century. At that time, as indeed in all times before or since, the Church has always taught that any authentic ethical teaching CANNOT contradict the scientific evidence. That's easy to say, of course, when the "scientific evidence" supports what you want it to support, as it did in the thirteenth century. But there are lots and lots of Catholic intellectuals who never tire of pointing to the utter inadequacy of the Church's accommodation of contemporary science, including the science of human behavior.


Anyhow, the Pope isn't the Church. Nor are the bishops. The Church is the whole body of believers. Even John Paul II has to acknowledge that. And here's one fairy who's glad to be a pain in his ass. He'd love for me to withdraw, but I'm such a bitchy queen that I won't!!!


Do you think anybody is reading this stuff apart from you and me, Regulation, and BostonGuy? I doubt it!


With warm affection,


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Guest regulation

> As Regulation has pointed

>out in another thread, you

>either believe in the tenets

>of a religion or you

>don't; picking and choosing a

>middle ground might be convenient

>but might not really lead

>to the kind of true

>'faith' that true believers are

>thought to have.



Actually, that isn't the point I was trying to make. No doubt my own clumsy language obscured the one I WAS trying to make.


Let me give it another try. The three major religions of the West (I include Islam because of its long history of interaction with the West) share certain features. All claim that their teachings are those of a prophet or prophets who have had direct communication with an omniscient and omnipotent God. These teachings are therefore the result of a divine wisdom that surpasses human understanding. To the extent one believes that this is true, it doesn't make a great deal of sense to disregard elements of these teachings simply because they don't agree with one's own inclinations. In fact, one of the major teachings of Christianity is that many of our personal inclinations are wrong, and would lead us into actions that God doesn't want us to take.


As an example, the Church teaches that the use of prophylactics is a defilement of the process of human procreation as God intended it to function and is therefore an action prohibited by God. The Church tells us that those who disobey such prohibitions and are unrepentant will suffer dreadful punishments in an everlasting afterlife.


So if one is living in a community -- like San Juan -- that has a major AIDS problem, what should one do? If one believes that the teachings of the Church have a divine source, one should obey those teachings despite the risk of getting AIDS, just as the Cardinal advised. If one doesn't believe, one should simply use one's own judgment, which is presumably just as good as the judgment of whatever human being is actually the source of the Church's teachings. The only position that doesn't make sense to me is that in which one professes to believe that the Church's teachings have a divine source, but chooses to ignore them in favor of his own judgment.


Is that any clearer?

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>So if one is living in

>a community -- like San

>Juan -- that has a

>major AIDS problem, what should

>one do? If one

>believes that the teachings of

>the Church have a divine

>source, one should obey those

>teachings despite the risk of

>getting AIDS, just as the

>Cardinal advised. If one

>doesn't believe, one should simply

>use one's own judgment, which

>is presumably just as good

>as the judgment of whatever

>human being is actually the

>source of the Church's teachings.

> The only position that

>doesn't make sense to me

>is that in which one

>professes to believe that the

>Church's teachings have a divine

>source, but chooses to ignore

>them in favor of his

>own judgment.


>Is that any clearer?



As reluctant as I am to get back into this discussion....


Reg, what I have found is troubling for folks of deep faith, is that they believe teachings have a divine source, but at the same time they recognize that they are being taught, interpreted and translated by human institutions, the Churches. What troubles folks of deep faith is the fear that the human institution is not properly interpreting the meaning of the divine source. That is why folks can be deeply faithful, and beleive in ther God, but have problems with the institutions which are supposed to represent the divine. God is divine, but maybe some parts of the human institutions are not. That is why a person of faith will take direction from his church, but ultimatley must searh for himself to find what is really divine. Its not easy, which is why I beleive that folks of deep faith are often troubled by situations in the world that pose problems not even considered when the supposed sources of divine wisdom were written. What would Jesus say about condoms? The Church's position is but one human interpretation.

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First, when it comes to rubbers, you don't have to go to San Juan. Something on the order of 85% of American Catholics use them and Italy, the cradle of Roman Catholicism, actually has negative population growth because of contraceptives. Hell would be crowded indeed if one were to believe what I do not think the Church actually teaches, that the use of artificial birth control is a mortal sin.


Second, while the present benighted state of official Catholic teaching regarding birth control needs radical revision, as many Catholic theologians insist, most Christian bodies, including the RCs' cousins the Orthodox and the Anglicans, have no problem with it.


Third, even the Holy Roman and Apostolic Church insists on the primacy of conscience, which means that it is immoral for an individual Christian to act in contradiction to his prayerfully formed conscience.


The spread of AIDS is a cultural phenomenon, not a religious one. In places where religious attitudes support dominant cultural attitudes, it looks bad. As I said to Al, however, I think the Catholic Church is (a) wrong and (b) culpable when it comes to sexual morality.


But not all morality is sexual. And as I said yesterday, religion isn't primarily about morality.

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Dear BG, dear Al, and dear Regulation,


If anyone persists in reading my posts, they'll be happy to learn that this is probably the last one on this thread. When I sounded off the first time on Rod Hagen's subject, I was hoping to move the discussion to a level on which I could actually participate in it, in the hopes that I would learn some things. I wanted to talk about sexuality – especially homosexualty – and religion, not about homosexuality and ethics.


However, the thread has degenerated – that's a strong word, but I mean it – to parrying about Catholicism, as I feared it might. I know every argument that you and everybody else has made. The arguments are sound, and some of them are even factually supportable. And precisely because there is nothing original about them, I know that you share your views with thousands, maybe millions of people. Even so, I do not feel in the least defensive about things as I see them. On the other hand, I am not interested in continuing a non-dialogue that comes down to high-minded and highfalutin Catholic bashing. I don't really think that we're interested in finding common ground on which to stand while we talk about what I'd hoped to provoke by my initial post.


In every long reply to my posts there have been numerous errors of fact, tendentious interpretations of ambivalent and ambiguous positions, well-meaning and kindly but ultimately patronizing comments about my own apparently weirdo brand of being a Catholic, and solipsisms that have the effect of generalizing the experience of the few to apply to the whole. I myself easily slip into such self-justification, despite the fact that I don't like it. And it gives me a headache. So I'm signing off.


But not without a last word. To my way of thinking, human beings are hard-wired to be religious, whether they like it or not. If they weren't, I don't know why religious or para-religious acts are features of every culture we know anything about, however old and however perhaps not even Homo sapiens (I'm thinking of some of the caves in France). Religion as I understand it is the almost infinitely complex exercise by which human beings respond to this impulse. And what's it an impulse towards? It's an impulse towards confronting, enacting, and even rationalizing the transcendent realities that every single human being who has ever said, "Ah!" or "Wow!" has experienced. Religion isn't about how human beings figure out how to tell right from wrong. Religion is about what human beings do when they believe themselves to be in the presence of God.




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Guest albinorat

>I strongly disagree

>with the notion that Catholicism

>is "fundamentally about obedience to

>a long list of rigidly

>held dogmas and doctrines."


>and if

>one's whole exposure to Catholicism

>had been beamed through the

>lens of what until recently

>was an exclusively Irish-American hierarchy,

>I can easily understand that

>formulation. Many Catholic children

>were taught in schools by

>ignorant, superstitious, and in some

>cases downright cruel nuns>


Well yes. It's called Jansenism was eventually banned as heresy but took root in Ireland. It focused not on love but dread. Not on the assurance of redemption but the certainty of hell, particularly (if not exclusively) because of pleasure in sex.


Its theoretical aspect, which is not so tendentious but central to Catholic teaching is the doctrine of "original sin". That is all humans (except Miriam the mother of Jesus and Jesus Incarnated) are born in a state of sin. Only Baptism and taking the sacraments can prevent hell fire. Babies who die unbaptized go to Limbo.


However, I am not Irish, nor is my brother the Bishop whose Catholic education was very sophisticated and European, and I myself have been educated abroad and worked in religious theory.


Unfortunately Will, and I am not being patronizing, you are in a minority in trying to have it both ways. Catholicism is a highly organized religion of doctrines and dogmas, which are not up for negotiation. Believing them and following their dictates is not a matter of individual conscience.


I realize some American Catholics in certain churches argue that, but no Catholic in an official position and few true believer Catholics would agree. You must accept the mystery of Transubstantiation, you must accept the mystery of the Trinity, you must accept the Virgin birth and the Immaculate Conception, and you must accept the teaching of the infallible Pope on matters of faith and morals. You do not have a choice. You may disagree with some of that teaching, "commit sins" and then confess them and get absolution, "get around" some of the Pope's moral imperatives but you must believe and honor them, bottom line, or you are not a Catholic.


I understand that teachings do evolve over time; and even this rather conservative Vatican is fewer hard line than some of its predecessors.


Still this Pope could nominate Eugenio Pacelli for Sainthood. That is the man who as Pope Pius 12 demanded that workers' parties in Germany support Hitler or not vote (they were overwhelmingly Catholic but they and their priests obeyed). Pacelli did not create Hitler but it can be argued that he insured his success and helped insulate him from worldwide censure for his treatment of Jews.


Now if you had not given up this thread you would urge that many Catholics hid Jews, priests and nuns died in Camps for opposing Hitler and others were assassinated. That Pacelli himself saved about 80% of Rome's Jews. So it is never simple.


But the fact of obedience to the central tenants of age-old doctrine is what defines a Catholic. Someone else is a Christian who may be drawn to some aspects of Catholic ritual or history

but is not a true Catholic.


One who believes in the Redemptive Power of Jesus (whatever that is) and who looks for personal illumination and transcendence is a Christian. But Catholicism long ago rejected the personal connection of the layperson with "The Christ" and substituted an elaborate system of intercessors in fact (priests to pope), and in fancy (the saints). Catholicism does not deny that certain lay people may have "illuminations" but does not encourage them, as some Protestant sects do.


None of what I've written is to put down individual Catholics or Christians or to suggest any other religion takes a comforting stance about what we really do here. Most religions are censorious about same-sex activity, and generally disapprove of sex outside of marriage where procreation is always prevented (Protestants and Jews may use contraceptives as a matter of personal conscience but most believers would still feel where the sex is heterosexual in a marriage, the sex is justified because there is a chance of children and also because hetero marriage is seen as a beautiful and desirable state in itself with sex as celebratory of that beauty.)


I don't know of any organized religion, which is prepared to honor same sex love, as all honor heterosexual love ("tolerance" for a different "life style" and the "acceptance of the humanity of inverts with the idea that after all, all humans are sinners" are very much something else).


Some Eastern religions are more understanding about sexual drives and somewhat more flexible or realistic about what humans get up to as a result of being trapped on this plane in these bodies. But none that I know of would ever endorse "escorting" and very few when it comes to it really and frankly endorse same sex love where it is given physical expression.


In general the defense of what happens here is best put in a civil and scientific framework. The idea of the individual's primacy and rights, as opposed to the rights and primacy of the state, places the responsibility for what we do on our shoulders. We may have some laws that all obey (murder, theft are wrong) and we may have to pay taxes (some of us with the understanding that the use of taxation for social purposes is not all bad). But what we decide about our bodies, and how we express our sexuality and the feelings they evoke is always a personal and private matter not to be legislated by church or state.


Secondly, homosexuality has been shown increasingly to be a naturally occurring phenomenon both among other species and in all human cultures that have been investigated. Research suggests that human sexual adaptations have many quirks, shift over a lifetime and are not as rigid as "gay identity politicians" like to think. But that all the same, same sex interaction occurs naturally and seems to have had its own place in the evolution of human beings (and of other species as well).


That means that a certain percentage (usually small) of the population will be mostly or entirely gay everywhere. That means what those people do both for pleasure and for love is "natural" and legitimate.


In terms of using escorts, the issues are very complex as anyone reading hoo boy for a couple of months will appreciate. But if we accept therapists of all kinds, then good-looking men who help others achieve enjoyable sexual release hardly seem criminal or immoral. Nor do men who use escorts for release seem immoral.


As for your suggesting that some statements in this thread were inaccurate, I can assure you that none of mine are, beyond some possible odd spellings. The work on "the historical Jesus" and the "first Christians" is extensive, intense and interesting. It proves nothing. But it raises questions about the basis of all organized Christianity. Doctrines that rely on documents that are confusing, written long after the fact, tendentious and contradictory, written in a language Jesus and his circle did not speak (Greek) by non-Jews (Jesus and his circle were Jews) are dubious to say the least. I am not only talking about the Gospels (and yes there is some argument that number 2, "Matthew" might have come from a Jewish community, but it is awfully reliant on the first, "Mark" which is clearly not Jewish and furthermore has an ending -- the Resurrection section -- that was obviously written later and by someone else) but about the decrees of Popes creating "Jesus'" teaching 1900 and more years after he walked the earth (I assume there actually was someone referred to by Greek speakers as "Jesus"; not every historian finds that a clearly established fact).


As I said in my first ramble, I don't mean any of this as critical of you personally. But some of your positions are really not "Catholic" except in a non-institutional, highly personal even quixotic way. More power to you and your "Catholic"

friends, I say. I just find your continued insistence that you are truly Catholic confusing.



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Guest Konga

>Religion is

>about what human beings do

>when they believe themselves to

>be in the presence of



That may be it's purpose up in the ivory tower, but down here in the caves (where it all began), we use it to be less afraid of both the figurative and literal darkness. It provides some satisfaction in explaining the things our primitive minds can't grasp. Things like eathquakes, the finality of death, and the moon. It has also proven useful for keeping the dimmer, more troublesome cavedwellers in an even greater darkness. Frankly, we've gotten more use out of it than the wheel.


Seriously, I think it's our innate fear of the unknown that has led us down the path of religion. And in spite of it's many shortcomings, not to mention the evolution of our reasoning, we're still too scared to give it up. It's the blind belief that whichever god we worship knows what the hell he's doing. Faith (and it's many manifestations/religions) is all we'll ever be armed with to combat the possible realization that chaos actually governs all.

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