the eccentricities of Catholicism and Protestantism
>The Mormon joke was hilarious!
I'll tell Anna Marie you liked it. I am reminded of a
time at American Atheist General Headquarters in Austin
when several of us were working together in the print
shop, and Jon Murray was discussing his views on the merits
of certain types of beer. Alfred Matthews, the printer,
made some statement about a beer he liked. Jon then
said, "I thought you people didn't drink." Alfred was a
Alfred said, "We just sorta sip."
>I don't know why but it does seem to be a fact thatThe overt reasoning behind the Protestant Reformation
>the Roman Catholic Church is less nutty that many of
>the Protestant denominations. Partly I suppose it is
>due to the Baptists' insisting on literal
>interpretations of everything, while the Catholics do
>not. Also the Catholics for some reason never paid so
>much attention to the Old Testament as the Protestants
>do, especially the Baptists again -- of whom there are
>so many in the south.
(if not the real reason) was that the Catholic Church
did not, in fact, have the apostolic mandate and
therefore did not have teaching authority on doctrine.
Something had to fill that vacuum, and the logical
answer was the Bible, both Old Testament and New,
as a guide to Christian doctrine. That's why the more
successful Protestant denominations tend towards
Biblical literalism. If you have a long tradition that
an established church hierarchy is inspired by the
Holy Spirit on matters of doctrine, as the Catholic
and Eastern Orthodox Churches have, Biblical literalism
is less important.
>From my reading in history, in the 19th Century theA lot of this hearkens back to the real reason for
>Catholic Church seemed to be hopelessly reactionary,
>so their present disposition seems odd. I wonder if
>they've become more liberal in the 20th century
>because they are the one Christian sect that has a
>large following in the Third World.
>Also if one only concentrated on the Catholic Church's
>attitude towards Marxism, one might not find that the
>institution has improved much in the last 150 years.
>it's really in other things that they are rather more
the Protestant Reformation--a rebellion by the new
bourgeoisie against the feudal ideology supported by
the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church condemned
price gouging, usury, and not paying workers a
living wage, and these doctrines restricted the profits
and expansion of the bourgeoisie. At the time when
the bourgeoisie was objectively a progressive class,
the Catholic Church was playing an objectively reactionary
role, and this was certainly the case in its support of
waning feudal power in Italy and Spain in the 19th
Now that the progressive potential of the bourgeoisie
is all but exhausted, some of the Catholic social
doctrines that, in fact, date from regulation of
medieval guilds, sound more like socialism to many
people in modern times.
One can understand why Catholicism would thrive in
Third World countries that were colonized by the
major Catholic imperialist powers (Spain, Portugal,
and France), but it is strange that Protestantism
did not do as well in the countries colonized by the
British. There are hardly any Protestants in India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh, and not all that many in
the parts of Africa colonized by the British.
I know that the Jesuits, in particular, tried whereever
possible to acommodate local customs when trying to
convert people. For example, there was little pressure
exerted on Japanese converts to give up worship of the
emporer or on Chinese converts to give up ancestor
worship, even though these practices are technically
incompatable with Catholicism. Protestant missionaries,
having to rely more on Biblical literalism than church
authority, would probably have been less tolerant of
local customs that were contrary to the Bible. It's
also possible that the greater tolerance of graven
images by the Catholics may have made it an easier
religion to understand by peoples who had been used to
>The Nuns' definition of Hell as separation from GodWas it that he had to write deliberately obscurely
>reminds me of the discussion of the subject by the
>medieval Arab-Islamic philosopher Ibn Sina (known in
>the west as Avicenna). He wrote that the
>philosophically minded person who is concerned with
>things of a higher nature than his own creature
>comforts is able to take leave of the body without
>great difficulty. On the other hand for a more low
>brow, carnal type of person, taking leave of the body
>-- the only source for such base pleasures -- is,
>Of course more orthodox Muslim sources were content to
>present Heaven and Hell more graphically, and as such
>they were more impressive than the rather unappealing
>life of an angel sitting on a cloud playing a harp for
>all eternity. In Islam one gets pretty, buxom wives
>(sex in Islam was never considered dirty or impious,
>therefore there was no reason to exclude it from
>paradise) and reclines on couches in the shade of
>trees in a garden underneath which rivers flow . . .
>etc. Hell was graphic too, a place of fire and
>faeces. Of course there always were the more
>philosophical types who either regarded such things as
>symbolic. Ibn Sina took that "symbolism" arguement to
>something of an extreme, but then the Arab Islamic
>philosophers really represent a kind of
>proto-bourgeois thought that emerged for several
>centuries only to disappear around the 12th century of
>the Common era.
>After them, the great Mystics were overtly more
>orthodox than the philosophers were, but interpreted
>religion in sometimes really off the wall fashions.
>Ibn Arabi (died 1240) was the greatest mystic and also
>highly progressive, at least philosophically if not
>socially, and his mystic ideas constituted a real
>reinterpretation of Islam that would make it much
>better suited for a post-feudal world had his ideas
>become more widely accepted.
>Alas, although Ibn Arabi became highly renowned, his
>writings are difficult to grasp (because he was always
>subject to persecution) so he is honoured as a great
>holy man, but not really understood much.
to avoid breaking some law or being accused of
>Literalism today serves as a kind of bulwark keepingIf I ate with Protestants, my religion was always
>imperialism out, but it also keeps the Islamic
>societies from moving out. This is an unfortunate
>situation that awaits the end of imperialism for its
>solution, I'm afraid.
>On Tennessee religion, I also remember how I would
>visit my friends' homes to have dinner with them and
>almost always would start eating as soon as everyone
>was served -- forgetting that somebody first had to
>"say grace." I suppose they all knew I was some sort
>of yankee heathen.
given away by having made the sign of the cross before