Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

 


ASSESSING THE ASCETIC VIEW - DOES GOD WANT YOU TO REFUSE TO INDULGE YOURSELF AND LIVE IN A STATE OF HARSH DISCIPLINE?

John the Baptist who ate honey and insects and lived in a cave in the desert is a prime example of an ascetic. Is that a twisted abnormal thing to do?

Many say, “God would not have given us the capacity for pleasure if pleasure is wrong. He is our maker. He gave us skin that enjoys being touched, the feel of nice clothes or the afternoon summer breeze. He gave us eyes that enjoy the pleasure of beautiful things. The list could go on. To maintain that the Lord is a sadist is to contradict reason and what the very eyes he made for us to admire with behold.”
But it assumes what it wants to prove. Why can't a God give you great capacity for happiness and pleasure so that you have the choice of abandoning them for him? The failure of the argument makes the connecting of God to happiness extraordinary and shallow.

God makes babies. So, he sends them to families that are bonded in evil. To corrupt them? “No”, the theologian replies, “It is in order that they might grow into holy persons despite the bad environment. They are sent into the well of evil in order that they might come out of it with amazing holiness.” We learn from this that God can bestow the power to enjoy the flesh so that we might renounce it. We learn from this that God only wants good works that are difficult to perform.

But if he is asking that of the babies maybe he is not asking that of me? That is a very convenient assumption! So you can let them have the hard lot while you reap the benefits and have a calm life?

Some will reason: “Happiness must not be sinful. If it is then how can it be a sin to do harm? Then we would be as well off sinning and going to Hell forever than being free from sin.”

The argument for asceticism does not say happiness is sinful but that breaking your vow to give it up is the sin. Yet the implication is that happiness is a sort of threat if not a sin.

If you are not supposed to consider what you can get out of anything the argument of those people fails. In Hell you suffer but not for love but in Heaven you suffer for love. We are not as well off going to Hell as Heaven in the moral sense. But pain wise they may not differ.

“God would not want us to suffer too much for he loves us. It must hurt him to see us suffer.”

If suffering is necessary to be able to love then he would not love us unless he commanded us to suffer greatly. He may hate seeing us suffer but he has no choice when love cannot happen without it.

The replies to rabid Puritanism are quite naïve when you think about them.

The Catholic magazine, The Brief of St Anthony of Padua (Vol 44, No 4) stated that Christianity is not a religion of killjoy and that the reason God gives pleasure is that it is meant to help us carry out our duties. And it says this is the reason it is wrong to seek pleasure in itself. You must work for the duty and use the pleasure for that end. So it is your duty to go to Mass on Sunday even if you have never missed Mass before no matter how much pleasure you will gain from missing Mass. This tells us that rules matter and not feelings. And the rules are entitled to be cruel too when feelings don’t matter. Duty is a hateful word. It implies something that you must do whether you want to or not and something that is sterile and scary. Pleasure will not be possible when engaged in just for the sake of fulfilling a duty. If pleasure is just for helping you to do your duty then it follows that the less pleasure the better of a person you are. It is not the pleasure that is wanted but the duty and the pleasure is just exploited for the sake of the duty. So you are supposed to hate every minute of the pleasure or just think of the duty.

If you have a duty and enjoyment of pleasure motivates you to do the duty, there seems to be nothing wrong with that. But is that not manipulative of God to have made us like that? It means part of us is like, "If I didn't have that fun in doing the duty I wouldn't bother. Its about the fun not what I should do morally."

DOES INCARNATION DISPROVE ASCETICISM?

The Christian Church argues that God became man once. They believe that Jesus Christ was true God and true man - fully God and yet fully man at the same time.

If God took a body that was capable of pleasure then God must have valued human pleasure greatly. But God enfleshed could endure constant torment and make it look like nothing was wrong. Jesus said that the Pharisees ought not to walk around with sad pale faces when they were fasting but to look as if they were happy.

If the incarnation would mean that God approved of pleasure it would be clear that it could not have happened.

God may have been forced to allow himself to have some happiness in a human body not because it was good but to draw people to himself by going among them at a level that was just right for them to build on. Happiness would have been a necessary evil in such a case.

And the teaching of the Bible is that Jesus' was accustomed to torment and misery. It even says he endured a horrific death on the cross.

Conclusion

Belief in God should be discouraged. It justifies extreme religious sadism.

BOOKS CONSULTED

A CATECHISM OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, CTS, London, 1985
A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, VOL 6, PART II, KANT, Frederick Copleston SJ, Doubleday/Image, New York 1964
AQUINAS, FC Copleston, Penguin Books, London, 1991
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, Friedrich Nietzsche, Penguin, London, 1990
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, Association for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, Dublin, 1960
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, Veritas, London, 1995
CHARITY, MEDITATIONS FOR A MONTH, Richard F Clarke SJ, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1973
CHRISTIANITY FOR THE TOUGH-MINDED, Edited by John Warwick Montgomery, Bethany Fellowship, Minnesota, 1973
CRISIS OF MORAL AUTHORITY, Don Cupitt, SCM Press, London, 1995
EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, VOL 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995
ECUMENICAL JIHAD, Peter Kreeft, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1996
GOD IS NOT GREAT, THE CASE AGAINST RELIGION, Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic Books, London, 2007
THE GREAT MEANS OF SALVATION AND OF PERFECTION, St Alphonsus De Ligouri, Redemptorist Fathers, Brooklyn, 1988
HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Monarch, East Sussex, 1995
HONEST TO GOD, John AT Robinson, SCM, London, 1963
HOW DOES GOD LOVE ME? Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1986
IN DEFENCE OF THE FAITH, Dave Hunt, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1996
MADAME GUYON, MARTYR OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, Phyllis Thompson, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1986
MORAL PHILOSOPHY, Joseph Rickaby SJ, Stonyhurst Philosophy Series, Longmans Green and Co, London, 1912
NEW COLOUR PIETA, Divine Mercy Publications, Skerries, Co Dublin, 1994
OXFORD DICTIONARY OF PHILOSOPHY, Simon Blackburn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996
PRACTICAL ETHICS, Peter Singer, Cambridge University Press, England, 1994
PSYCHOLOGY, George A Miller, Penguin, London, 1991
RADIO REPLIES, 1, Frs Rumble & Carty, Radio Replies Press, St Paul, Minnesota, 1938
RADIO REPLIES, 2, Frs Rumble & Carty, Radio Replies Press, St Paul, Minnesota, 1940
RADIO REPLIES, 3, Frs Rumble & Carty, Radio Replies Press, St Paul, Minnesota, 1942
REASON AND BELIEF, Brand Blanschard, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1974
REASONS FOR HOPE, Ed Jeffrey A Mirus, Christendom College Press, Virginia, 1982
THE ATONEMENT: MYSTERY OF RECONCILIATION, Kevin McNamara, Archbishop of Dublin, Veritas, Dublin, 1987
SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD, Jonathan Edwards, Sword of the Lord, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, undated
THE BIBLE TELLS US SO, R B Kuiper, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1978
THE BRIEF OF ST ANTHONY OF PADUA (Vol 44, No 4)
THE GREAT MEANS OF SALVATION AND OF PERFECTION, St Alphonsus De Ligouri, Redemptorist Fathers, Brooklyn, 1988
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST, Thomas A Kempis, Translated by Ronald Knox and Michael Oakley, Universe, Burns & Oates, London, 1963
THE LIFE OF ALL LIVING, Fulton J Sheen, Image Books, New York, 1979
THE NEW WALK, Captain Reginald Wallis, The Christian Press, Pembridge Villas, England, undated
THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD, Brother Lawrence, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1981
THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, CS Lewis, Fontana, London, 1972
THE PUZZLE OF GOD, Peter Vardy, Collins, London, 1990
THE SATANIC BIBLE, Anton Szandor LaVey, Avon Books, New York, 1969
THE SPIRITUAL GUIDE, Michael Molinos, Christian Books, Gardiner Maine, 1982
THE STUDENT’S CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, Rev Charles Hart BA, Burns & Oates, London, 1961
UNBLIND FAITH, Michael J Langford, SCM, London, 1982