How Many Votes Does the Pope Have?

The future of health care reform might depend upon the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With all the (justified) Sturm und Drang about the invertebrate Democratic response to the Massachusetts debacle, one key question has flown under the radar:  where is the US Conference of Catholic Bishops?

I am still hopeful that House Progressives will come around on enacting the Senate bill, and fixing the difficulties through reconciliation (EJ Dionne beautifully summarizes the state of play here).  But that still leaves out the crucial question of whether there is a House majority for enacting the Senate bill even with the progressives.

Remember that the House bill passed only after it enacted the Stupak Amendment, which would essentially forbid any insurer on the exchange from covering abortion.  The Senate bill rejected this language, opting for a somewhat more moderate compromise that allowed each state to decide whether its exchange would allow abortions.

Bart Stupak himself has said that he will not vote for the Senate bill without his language.   How many other anti-abortion Democrats will refuse to support the bill without Stupak’s language?  Even if Stupak is the only Democrat to break on this, it would force the Democrats to replace his vote with someone who voted “no” originally. 

There are a few candidates: Tennesse’s Bart Gordon, who is retiring. North Carolina’s Larry Kissell and Florida’s Suzanne Kosmas are in swing districts and probably were allowed to vote no for political purposes.  Their votes might be needed next time.  Nancy Pelosi will find one vote in there, but if Stupak has, say, 10 Democrats who will vote no, then the bill is cooked.  And that’s where the Catholic bishops come in.

The Catholic church has a strong tradition of social justice work and commitment to the poor and working class.  Does this tradition still matter?  Or are the bishops so focused on abortion that nothing else matters?  The Senate bill is a good compromise, very similar to the original compromise for Medicaid.  Will the bishops throw over 30 million of the uninsured?

I have looked at their web site: the Conference has been very quiet on the issue.  Its chair of “pro-life issues”, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, condemned earlier versions of the Senate bill, but has said nothing on the final bill.  Since the Senate bill passed just before Christmas, the Conference has called on parishes to write their representatives and demand no federal funds for abortions, but that is an empty call, because the House Democratic leadership claimed that they had done that even before Stupak.  And more recently, they said that the health care reform issue must continue, although they have also said that if the bill does not adequately forbid federal funding of abortions, then Congress should reject it.

I am hopeful that the bishops, like so many on the Hill, are just trying to get the best language that they can.  If they are satisfied, they can give anti-abortion Democrats the political cover to vote for this bill.  If they aren’t, they can kill this thing — and millions of the uninsured.  That would give quite a new spin to the phrase “pro-life.”

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

34 thoughts on “How Many Votes Does the Pope Have?”

  1. I take it from your post that you are able to remember a time, possibly as recent as a couple of decades ago, when the Catholic Church cared a whit about domestic policy issues other than banning absolutely all forms of abortion and making sure everyone knows gays are evil. Unfortunately, and amazingly, you seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that some vestiges of this era still remain. Given the obvious truth that, at least so far as anything related to politics or policy is concerned, the Catholic Church manifestly no longer cares about the poor, the sick, the hungry, or the oppressed, about the nicest thing I can say about their political agenda is that they haven't tried to abolish divorce yet. I'm pretty sure it can't be long.

  2. Jonathan, are we supposed to think that the bishops haven't seen your post from Friday? You've described an approach which would allow for the bishop's concerns to be addressed, and if the Senate and the House would both address them, the support would come.

    Warren, I have a feeling that you're the sort of person who's obsessed with abortion and gay rights, and thus believe that everyone else is.

  3. Thomas- It seems to me that people who push for laws preventing doctors from performing necessary proceedures or fight to pass constitutional amendments banning same sex marriages are the folks who are really obsessed. The obsession seems to be keeping other people living in some kind of box. I have a feeling that controling other peoples' lives gives this sort of person a perverse satisfaction.

    Notice how both of these issues are related to sex? And too, notice that the folks in the church being discussed choose to take an oath of celebacy? Not to get too psycho analytical here but I have a feeling there might be a patern. Certainly an unnatural and perhaps an unhealthy lifestyle.

  4. Well, we all know that the church does not pay any attention to the big picture, the big legal cases and so on and so on. Personally the 6th catholic of the Supreme Joke was a total abomination, but this is no change from the first court. The fact that the church pays no taxes on enormously profitable land. The fact that the church contracts for more tenement housing then anyone else in the world and then pays no taxes on either the public services that they received nor on the enormous revenues they receive.

    Now that they have saved the church by coming clean in Ireland about the fact that they dumped their little child rapists in the United States, Canada and the worst in Alaska. Funny 5 years and not one trial in Ireland for child rape. Don't see anyone asking for the names of the "alleged" child rapist dumped in the US. Would be funny for a follow up to see how the catholics on the new Supreme Joke will never pick up one of "those" cases in case it offends (Kennedy did flat lie in the 1960 campaign, all catholics are required to follow the church's teachings over the state's) the dude in the $5000 dress and the Prada shoes. Roe vs Wade has at least two and possibly three aids looking for a case to drag out tattered and torn to show the Pop that they are good little asses just like him.

    Why did you see that Chinese junk being loaded up with cast offs near the Vatican in Rome? The contributions can be sent to the church's money launderer in Panama.

  5. Thomas, although I certainly have strong feelings on the subjects, I'm actually not obsessed with either abortion rights or gay rights: I'm just a bit obsessed with what I see as a profound transformation of the role of the Catholic Church in our society in recent decades, in a way that has become quite toxic.

    I've frequently seen the Church and its representatives take strong, sometimes extremely strong, stands on abortion and on gay rights in recent years, and only on those issues – not on any others. The actions of the Catholic Church on abortion and gay rights in recent years include excommunications not merely of politicians but even of congregants who vote for them, and threats to close orphanages in Massachusetts and in DC. The Catholic Bishops lobbied hard in Congress to make sure no abortions were funded, but have been completely uninterested in how the insurance of poor Americans might be subsidized, or more broadly with the whole notion of insuring thirty-odd million Americans who currently go uncovered.

    What used to be known as the Social Gospel has essentially disappeared, and certainly is not an issue on which vehement actions are taken. When I was a kid twenty-some years ago, the Catholic Church of course stood for some conservative ideas of family values, but it also stood proudly for peace and for human rights, not only in the Soviet bloc but also in our allies. The involvement of the Church in public life in the 1980s was characterized by the Sanctuary movement and by priests marching with Cesar Chavez and the UFW. The Church was loudly concerned with how society could help the homeless, the hungry, and the ill. But a lot of those ideas were tied up with the left wing of the Church, especially the Liberation Theology movement, and John Paul II was determined to stamp it out, with the able assistance of one Josef Ratzinger, then head of the Inquisition. In my hometown of Seattle, Ratzinger removed the Catholic Archbishop from his post and sent him to contemplate his errors in a monastery in Montana – he's still there more than two decades later – all because he was too liberal. Over the last three three decades, John Paul II and his anointed successor have successfully reshaped the Church in their own profoundly conservative image, a church that will gladly ignore every other issue facing our society to focus on legislating other peoples' private lives.

  6. The Catholic church is never going to support the bill without the Stupak amendment. They rightly recognize that it is a much more grevious sin to support the murder of innocent children than it is to enable the "murder" of healthcare for a debatable 30 million "poor and working class". This is an easy one from the Catholic church's perspective. It's the lesser of two evils (although I personally wouldn't call the second an "evil"). The Catholic church has a much stronger and long-standing tradition of protecting the right of unborn children to exist than it does of protecting entitlements for the "poor and working class". Take a look at the recent Manhattan Declaration document, which is essentially an ecumenical document between Catholics and Protestants, setting aside their major theological differences to support their united stance against abortion and to protect the sanctity of marriage as the most important social issues facing our society. So I'm quite certain Dems will find no support from the Catholic church.

  7. It seems to me that if you really think abortion is murder, (And I'd agree with that proposition, if only after the fetal brain is well developed.) then it really DOES have to take this kind of precedence.

  8. There was a case in Brazil last year of a 9-year old girl who got an abortion after being repeatedly raped by her stepdad. The girl and all medical personel invovled in the abortion were excommunicated. The step-dad, who I remind you RAPED A 9-YEAR OLD, wasn't.

    So yeah, the bishops have a singular focus on abortion, morality be damned.

  9. "The Catholic church has a strong tradition of social justice work and commitment to the poor and working class. Does this tradition still matter? Or are the bishops so focused on abortion that nothing else matters? The Senate bill is a good compromise, very similar to the original compromise for Medicaid. Will the bishops throw over 30 million of the uninsured?"

    Let me put it this way – has *anybody* in the USA been threatened with the withholding of sacraments, for waging a fraudulent and unjust war? Mass murder? Torture? Aiding and abetting child molestation?

    "Bart Stupak himself has said that he will not vote for the Senate bill without his language. How many other anti-abortion Democrats will refuse to support the bill without Stupak’s language? Even if Stupak is the only Democrat to break on this, it would force the Democrats to replace his vote with someone who voted “no” originally. "

    Another way to put it is – of the 'anti-abortion Democrats', how many would take almost any opportunity to sink the knife into a Democratic president? Or, perhaps more parsimoniously, how many would *not* sink the knife into a Democratic president?

    Right now I imagine that any one-step-away-from-becoming-GOP Rep is seriously tempted to take that step; Obama doesn't frighten anybody on the right at this point. If I were a GOP recruiter in the House it'd probably be an easy job.

  10. Sometimes, I find it hard to understand why people find the world's largest and (arguably) oldest criminal organization to be worthy of anything resembling respectful discussion. The Catholic Church is clearly in the business of gaining power and money through the marketing of the Big Lie, no more and no less. It's true that many otherwise decent people have succumbed to its sickening product, but shouldn't we focus on a cure, rather than further enabling it?

  11. Let's take a little poll…how many of those above who bash the Catholic church would consider themselves atheists (in the loose sense of believing there is no god)?? How many don't believe in moral absolutes? The group that concerns me are those who are atheists but then turn around and somehow postulate that they believe in some moral absolutes. I call that "living on borrowed capital". Without a god, who's to say that abortion, rape, war, torture, slavery, or anything else is absolutely right or wrong? So eb may wonder why any should care about what the Catholic church has to say, but I wonder why anyone should care about what those who don't believe in some sort of supreme god have to say.

    I find it ironic too that liberals are always demanding for the separation of church and state and redefining that separation in a way that is totally inconsistent with the founding fathers of this country, and yet this post started out with seeking the Catholic church's help in passing healthcare. The irony.

  12. Bux,

    (1) It's offensive and ignorant to assert that morality requires God.

    (2) For myself, I'm upset at the hypocrisy, at the way the Church claims broad moral authority but serves narrow interests.

  13. RE the latter point, if the Church were explicitly a narrowly focused pressure group like Focus On The Family, noone would complain. It's the false claim to represent broad moral interests that vexes.

  14. Without a god, who’s to say that abortion, rape, war, torture, slavery, or anything else is absolutely right or wrong?

    We are. We use our brains. Or we make arbitrary decisions, which is no different than making an arbitrary decision to believe that a particular book, as interpreted by some elect, has all the answers.

  15. Ok Warren, your problem is that you're confusing a supreme being with a human institution. At least according to the Judeo-Christian assertion, God is a perfect and holy being in whom no hypocrisy exists, but the human created institution of the church is fallible and hypocritical at times. It's the difference between religion (a human institution) and the reality of god. The only "broad moral authority" that the church can claim comes from God. It is not the church's authority, it is God's. This is where you are mistaken.

    And Bernard, when you say "we are", who is we? Who uses their brains? Did Nazi Germany use their brains? Did Americans use their brains during slavery. Those practices were once accepted in a time and place and now they are not. So who is the "we" that gets to decide. Is it popular opinion? What happens when popular opinion changes?

  16. Bux, have you ever met a Judeo-Christian?

    As a Jewish atheist, with years of education, I assure you that the Jewish vision of God is far more complicated, and less positive, than yours appears to be.

  17. Bux, I haven't blamed Torquemada, slaveholders, or many other monsters on their Gods (or on yours), and I'll thank you not to blame Atheism for Hitler, who was in any case no model of rationality.

  18. What the hell is a Jewish atheist? Sounds like an oxymoron to me. Either you believe God exists or you don't. Are you asserting some sort of cultural Judaism? If so, how does cultural Judaism divorce itself from a deity? I don't need years of education to figure out that one. But thanks for ignoring my questions about where moral absolutes come from Warren.

  19. Anybody who thinks that “Jewish atheism” is an oxymoron, i.e., that Judaism is nothing more than a system of religious belief, needs to learn a lot more about Judaism before delivering judgements about what “Judeo-Christian” beliefs are. With enough education about Judaism, such a person might learn to stop using the term “Judeo-Christian”.

  20. Warren,

    Don't feed the troll. You have something to say; the troll doesn't. When you respond to the troll, you have nothing to say.

    To address your point, I don't think that the Church has changed much on its social gospel, except to sharply reject Marxist variants. The hierarchy–including Ratzinger–still sounds uncomfortable with what the Europeans call "liberalism," although a few American bishops seem to have accepted the Gospel according to William F. Buckley. But although the Church is still pretty good on social issues, it doesn't view them as particularly important–hearts and flowers stuff: pie in the sky by and by when you die. The manly urgent stuff that needs action is abortion and gays.

  21. That's it Joey S., perpetuate ignorance. You have nothing to say but what you want to hear yourself saying. Ignorance is ignoring what someone who doesn't agree with you has to say. At least Warren is not a coward.

    And Seth, I never said Judaism is nothing more than a system of religious beliefs. I just don't know how it can be divorced from that system of beliefs. And if you don't think there's any shared values and history between the Jewish worldview and Christian worldview (hence the phrase "Judeo-Christian) then you need a serious history lesson.

  22. Professor: Without the poor, the Church would be out of business,which may explain more than the official explanation why the Church tells the poor and uneducated, those most susceptible to its message not to use contraception, resulting in countless children being born into poverty in a never ending cycle. Really strong on social justice? Only if you ignore the Church's responsibility for perpetuating poverty.

  23. For attempting to bolster his argument (if one can call it that) by telling us that he does not see how Judaism can be divorced from certain religious beliefs, Bux deserves a photo in the dictionary margin next to "argument from ignorance".

    I cannot think of a more deserving candidate. Even from his scant utterings in this thread, it is clear that what Bux does not know and understand about Judaism could fill a scroll. Hmm, let's see if we can discover something about this marvelous beast, "Judaeo-Christianity". So, Bux, presumably you label yourself a Christian. (Personally, I'd label you a Red State Shintoist, but call yourself whatever makes you happy.) And as a Christian, you presumably keep, or at least try to keep, the Ten Commandments. From the Jewish perspective, the questions would be, "Why would you do that? Why do you imagine, wrongly, that they even apply to you?" Indeed, with respect to the keeping holy of the sabbath day, the question would be, "Why do you imagine, wrongly, that you are even permitted to do that?" (Happily, unless you are a 7th Day Adventist, it is unlikely that you trangress this important Jewish law, because you are almost certainly in error as to the day the sabbath falls on; an error difficult to make if one knows what the word "sabbath" means.) BTW, from the Jewish perspective there are divine commandments that you, as a non-Jew, are obligated to observe. (As is every non-Jew; your specific status as Christian is basically meaningless. As long as Christians aren't proselytising or pogromising, Judaism simply isn't very interested in their religion at all.) But there aren't 10 of those commandments, and you won't find them in Exodus.

    I mean, c'mon, Bux, this is all pretty basic stuff. I'm not Jewish myself, and even I know those things. Perhaps that's why I also know that the term "Judaeo-Christian" is merely a (not particularly successful) dodge to persuade American Jews to support Christianist-Republican politics and a (very successful) dodge to allow right-wing American Christians to assure themselves they couldn't possibly be anti-semites.

  24. Did Nazi Germany use their brains? Did Americans use their brains during slavery.

    No. But what does that prove? German anti-Semitism had long and deep roots in European Christianity – one of your proposed sources of moral teachings. Slavery too was approved of by religious leaders. Indeed, there are those today who insist it is permitted by the Bible. During the Jim Crow era, white Christian churches in the South were hardly in the forefront of the battle for civil rights. In other words, I see no evidence that religious teaching outstrips reason as a good source of moral guidance.

  25. Bernard, you're missing the point. You are assuming a priori that anti-semitism and slavery are wrong and then trying to explain how these beliefs/practices originated from Christianity. How do you know that anti-semitism and slavery are wrong? On what authority do you appeal to for claiming anti-semitism/slavery wrong? And by the way, I was not appealing to European Christianity (or Christianity in general) as the source of right and wrong. I was appealing to a deity. Christianity is just a man-made institution to try and explain God. Man made institutions are necessarily fallible. God is not. Some of your history is sketchy too. Let's don't forget that Hitler largely drew upon atheistic ideas to support his mass slaughter, as did marxism. These atheistic worldviews are responsible for mass murder on a far larger level than Christianity ever was.

    Now onto you Mrs. Tilton. Since I apparently hold a place in the dictionary as "argument from ignorance", you'll sit right beside me in "argument from ad hominem attacks". Red State Shintoist? That's some deep shit. Don't get me wrong, I like to throw in some ad hominem attacks every now and again just like the next hothead, but let's don't pretend you're participating in a logical discussion. And with your ideas of Jewish superiority, you're clearly a bigot (there, a tit-for-tat in ad hominems). You miss the point too in that you are still not answering my question of how cultural Judaism can divorce itself from a deity. Isn't the idea of a monotheistic god the very foundation of Judaism. What could be more fundamental? And wow, I never realized how much the term "Judea-Christian" pissed off you liberals. Thanks for clueing me in.

  26. Christianity is just a man-made institution to try and explain God. Man made institutions are necessarily fallible. God is not.

    Assuming that you apply this same reasoning to all religions – and it's usually a safe bet that anyone who unblushingly uses the term "Judeo-Christian" is at least nominally a Christian, so I'm guessing that you do – this then become circular reasoning, and completely useless. You gave defined "God" as being infallible, and said that efforts to determine God's message are necessarily flawed. But if – as you seem to concede – there is no perfect message from God, what's the point of God's infallibility?

    In any case, it's interesting that you said God is not fallible. But you should probably be aware that this is not a universally held opinion; in Judaism, and so far as I'm aware in all religions of similar antiquity, God or the Gods are distinctly fallible. I invite you to reread Genesis some time if you think it portrays a God who never makes, or for that matter never admits, errors.

    Hitler largely drew upon atheistic ideas to support his mass slaughter

    Hitler and the entire Nazi movement drew deeply on all sorts of mystical, even theistic, ideas. In any case, what's the point of your going Godwin like this? You've already said that religions cannot be blamed for the actions of their adherents – and yet you then claim that other malefactors adhere to atheistic beliefs and that these beliefs should be held liable?

    These atheistic worldviews are responsible for mass murder on a far larger level than Christianity ever was

    This may be true (for certain values of "these atheistic worldviews"); I haven't seen a scorecard. But surely you must be aware of Christianity's bloody history, from the Albigensians to the Hundred Years' War to the near-genocide conducted throughout Latin America in the name of the Faith? Do you really think that the people responsible for these and other atrocities wouldn't have equaled the terrible toll of the twentieth century had they been given the technology and the wealth – and, for that matter, the population sizes – that made such horrific achievements possible?

    Isn’t the idea of a monotheistic god the very foundation of Judaism. What could be more fundamental? And wow, I never realized how much the term “Judea-Christian” pissed off you liberals.

    I suggest you make friends with some Jews (somehow) and discuss these issues. In particular, the term "Judeo-Christian" is offensive not for political reasons but for because it in essence assumes a continuity between Judaism and Christianity that very few Jews accept, and it implies a supplanting of Judaism by Christianity that no Jews accept. Somehow, you never hear about Christeo-Islam, or even Christeo-Mormonism. Furthermore, the very concepts of God and morality are actually quite different between Christianity and Judaism. Christians believe in a perfect, loving God, and that the reason for acting according to rules of morality is to determine your place in the afterlife. None of these beliefs are necessarily accepted in Judaism. Christians believe that people should convert to Christianity (essentially no Jew thinks people should be encouraged to convert to Judaism) and many Christians believe that it is impossible to be a truly good person, and deserving of divine reward, without being Christian, another view with no widely accepted parallel in Judaism.

    Leaving theology and related issues aside, implicit (or maybe explicit) in most of your comments is the idea that morality without deity is impossible. I invite you to study a little philosophy sometime. Read some Spinoza, and maybe some Kant (who was according to Wikipedia apparently not an Atheist, but whose reasoning can be very powerful in building morality from first principles and without recourse to argument by authority).

  27. Warren, you misrepresent Christianity on a number of levels (e.g., "the reason for acting according to rules of morality is to determine your place in the afterlife", the idea that God admits mistakes in Genesis, etc.). I might suggest you make some Christian friends and spend some time understanding their worldview before you presume to speak for them. Further, you assume that I have no intimate ties to any Jewish people and that I have not seriously engaged in understanding Jewish theology (you're wrong on both assumptions). As far as Spinoza and Kant, I've read Kant extensively (though admittedly not Spinoza). Kant represents a kind of positivism that severely limits the source of knowledge to only that which can be measured empirically. There are many things that you accept in your everyday that you know cannot be proven empirically: 1) astheitical value (e.g., this painting is better than that one), 2) meta-physical realities (rejecting the notion that the world didn't begin yesterday with an appearance of history), 3) logical propositions that are pre-requisites to empirical thinking, and most fascinating 4) science itself. All of these cannot be demonstrated empirically. Kant would thus find no value. Kant is a bad example. But putting Kant aside, explain to me further how you see moral absolutes possible without a deity.

    Jumping back to your first paragraph, I most certainly I'm not making a tautological argument. I'm not claiming that there is "no perfect message from God". According to my worldview, that perfect message would be the Bible. I'm simply saying that all humans are potentially fallible in interpreting this infallible message. Thus, I subscribe to the "let's don't take the Pope's word for it" philosophy. You say "what's the point of God's infallibility". The point is that I am suggesting that there is a real external being from me which I refer to as "God" who really does exist and has the quality of being infallible, whether you or I like it or not. Asking "what's the point" is like asking "what's the point of my affinity for sailing". The point is that it is a quality of God.

  28. Mrs. Tilton:

    From the sixth international? calling Bux a red stater. Ironic how your colors match Frau Tilton. Your little riff on Judaism is a perfect example of a little knowledge……although the attempt to educate Bux about the Seven Commandments of the Children of Noach (Shivah Mitvot Bna'i Noach) is impressive. You are quite mistaken about the Jewish religion's laws regarding Christians. Judaic law distinguishes between ovdei cochavim ('star worshipers') and ovdei avodah zarah, which literally means those who worship a 'strange worship.' Certain of the Jewish laws regarding relationships between Jews and ovdei cochavim differ from laws between Jews and ovdei avodah zarah. Regarding God's perfection, Judaism does believe that God is perfect. If you any doubt read the Rambam (Maimonides) (the Moreh Nevuchin 'Guide to the Perplexed' I believe). Regarding the Judaism and politics, NB Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, generally regarded by knowledgeable Jews as the Gadol Hador (thee Rabbi of his generation), who found time while learning Talmud all day to receive a PHD in philosophy from the U of Berlin. All his world views were based on his knowledge of Jewish law. Rabbi Soloveitchik vehemently opposed Communism, which is based upon the same philosophy that inspires "Social Democrats" like you-that the individual in society is not to be respected as an end onto him or herself, but only as a means to someone else's ends. As you fancy yourself knowledgeable about Judaism, maybe you should reread the Akedat Yitchak, the story of God's asking Abraham to sacrifice Issac. Assured that Abraham has the faith, God tells him not to sacrifice Issac, which I would interpret as God not wanting human sacrifice. How ironic that man continues to demand it.

    I was going to tell you "Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here," which would be consistent with your view of me as the ugly (American) troll, but then again why deprive myself of a good laugh.


    The Jewish atheist troll

  29. I’m not claiming that there is “no perfect message from God”. According to my worldview, that perfect message would be the Bible.

    And yet you say "Christianity is just a man-made institution to try and explain God. Man made institutions are necessarily fallible." If Christianity, based on an infallible text from an infallible deity, is flawed and has been used to excuse horrific crimes, is it really possible to derive moral guidance from its allegedly perfect Bible? If this perfect God's perfect morality cannot be perfectly understood, and if others who claim to follow it are manifestly immoral, what purpose does it serve?

    And you say the Bible comes from a perfect God, and is itself perfect. So, do you ever blaspheme? Do you keep kosher? Do you stone adulterers? Do you spend your time looking for the various tribes that were my people's neighbors three thousand years ago and whom I am, and I guess you've decided you are, solemnly enjoined to extirpate? How do you feel about the rules that explicitly allow and regulate slavery, albeit not quite in any form practiced in the last couple of thousand years? About concubinage? About the differences between the two accounts of the Creation? And, since you feel so strongly about the perfection of this text, how's your Hebrew? Your Greek? Your Aramaic? If I were in the possession of a perfect text from a perfect God, it would seem downright hubristic not to study it in the original …

    Further, you assume that I have no intimate ties to any Jewish people

    Who apparently are fine with your ignorant pronouncements about Judeo-Christian beliefs.

    and that I have not seriously engaged in understanding Jewish theology (you’re wrong on both assumptions).

    And yet you say that God is perfect, and imply that it's impossible to be a good person without believing in God, neither of which is consistent with much of Jewish theology.

    But putting Kant aside, explain to me further how you see moral absolutes possible without a deity.

    Well, not putting Kant aside (but putting your "absolutes" aside; when did they enter the discussion?), the Categorical Imperative has always seemed a pretty good place to start towards building God-free guidelines for moral behavior. Indeed, it could be said that a lot of evolution — including evolutionary psychology, which includes attempts to explain human morality and even human religiosity from first principles on the basis not of God but of long-term, arguably enlightened self-interest — is just the realization in flesh of the Categorical Imperative: what world will result if everyone really does follow certain guidelines?

  30. The categorical imperative is hog-wash. Who determines it to be an imperative. What may seem an imperative to me may not seem an imperative to you. So you think self-interest determines morality? Whose self-interest? It may be in my self-interest to rob a bank. Does my self-interest not count then? You used a very telling phrase "God-free guidelines". I'm not interested in guidelines. I'm interested in absolutes. Do you believe in absolutes are not? If not, then don't tell me it's wrong to rob a bank. It might not be in the suggested guidelines of your categorical imperative, but it's in mine.

    I'm glad you recognize the importance of reading the Bible in its original language, a practice taught to me in my theological training. Your Biblical hermeneutics in the rest of your first paragraph leaves much to be desired, however.

    And man, you're really stuck on that whole Judeo-Christian thing aren't you. Dude, get over it. If you don't think Jews and Christians have anything to share then it shouldn't bug you.

    You might take up with Joel Levine in the above comments the whole issue of whether God is perfect in Judaism, since clearly nothing I can espouse about Judaism will hold weight with you given your obsession with the "Judeo-Christian" phrase. Clearly Joel thinks the God of Judaism is perfect.

  31. So Bux is the product of a Catholic theological school – interesting argument techniques they learn there. But even the graduate of a theological school may have trouble saying how robbing banks can be a categorical imperative in Kant's sense of a rule that can sensibly be applied to everybody. How can it be right for everyone to rob banks?

    We are to believe that God is good (and His rules are all good) because the Bible says so, and we should believe the Bible because it is the word of God, so God is good because God says so. That's an absolute all right, but not absolutely persuasive. Of course it's not intended to persuade, it's an argument from authority: believe because God says it's wrong not to believe. A perfect circle.

    Frankly, I prefer Kant. At least he existed.

    BTW Mr Levine, I think you are too sensitive. I think the troll referred to many posts ago was Bux. I guess the thread has given up on Catholic institutions coming out in favor of social justice over sexual repression.

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