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Imagine, there's no heaven 
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Post Re: --
Well said guys! I have been meaning to get back to Niall's posts with similar thoughts, but you have both answered for me.

Thanks!

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Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:48 pm
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Post Re: --
OK, I'll try and get through as much as possible as quickly as possible.

Irish:
Quote:
I'm not exactly sure what you are getting at here, but I'm going to jump in and take a guess. Are you stating atheists are no more likely to determine their own moral grounds free from dogma and doctrine than theists?


Nope. But that is something I'd agree with.

What I was trying to say was that if you argue that because atheists do not believe in a morality that is ultimately true, they are more likely to be flexible when it comes to negotiating with those who they do not agree with on moral matters, then an implication of that argument is that atheists would sooner compromise with NAMBALA types or other deviants.

I was responding to the sentiment you expressed when you stated:

Quote:
If there were no falsely defined ultimate truth then there would be opportunity for discussion on the subject matter.


What I am saying is that an implication of this would be that if you had two people in a room, an atheist and a theist, and both believed that genocide was wrong, because the theist (falsely?) believed that it was ultimately wrong to commit genocide, he would be less likely to compromise with the people who were carrying out the genocide, than the atheist would.

You seemed to only notice the negative implication of a morality that incorporates religion, namely that because some religious people believe that an action is wrong in the eyes of God, then achieving a compromise with these people will be difficult and the absence of a belief in ultimate morality would lead to less conflict. I'm just pointing out that, for me, and for many others, discussion, compromise and avoiding conflict are not always good things.

Quote:
And religions prey on these minds, holding them up as some kind of goal to which the religious faithful should strive

A concrete example would be nice here.

No problem. Two examples of large numbers of vulnerable people sought and attained by religious zealots are: (1) children with unstable backgrounds and insecure futures, and (2) felons, largely drug and alcohol addicts. The rate of Christian and Muslim conversion in the prison systems is skyrocketing. The felon is lauded as the soul to be saved; the one who faltered once but now will follow the path of the church; the person whose life without god was a failure, but now is saved and a valuable member to society.




And this is a bad thing? I'm sorry but trying to help people is not some sort of evil. We can only do our best for each-other. If you happen to think that teaching criminals, drug addicts or kids about God will help them, then you should do it!

Regarding the quotations you posted from the JP2 speech, I really don't see what is so bad about anything he said. Perhaps I'm missing something, but if you volunteer to join any organisation and agree to follow the rules, then don't, then you really have to ask yourself what you're doing there. There is room for dialogue within the church, but it isn't a case of anything goes. There are rules set down around how dialogue should be conducted.

Quote:
Consider that limbo was only just recently reversed (heh, that's such a legal term) by the church. If those helpless babes, who never did a thing wrong, couldn't make it to heaven, how could our imperfect souls get there?


Eck! This one annoys me whenever I encouter it. Limbo was not reversed. It never was an offical teaching. When it was stated that souls were in limbo, it simply meant that we could not speak of their status. The assumption that certain theologians made, and which was commonly adopted by the masses, was that such souls ventured off into some sort special realm where they enjoyed a state of perfect natural happiness, not supernatural mind, just natural. Now what recently happened, was not that this belief has been noted as being contrary to catholic teaching. It is a heretical belief.

Nearly out of time, so I'm rushing here.


SG

Quote:
Let's consider the point, now. Is it logically impossible to change one's mind? Of course not. I do it all the time! It is not equivalent to making a square circle.


We change our mind in response to the input of new information. If you had all the information to begin with, would you change your mind, or could you?

Quote:
You are defining omnipotence as the ability to do anything logically possible FOR GOD to do, not the ability to do anything that is logically possible.


This is infinity plus one stuff. And really it doesn't belong here. It's not something I personally want to discuss at the moment. I'm stupidly busy. Sorry. But maybe it you start a new thread elsewhere, somebody will bite.

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Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:43 am
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Post Re: --
Niall: What I was trying to say was that if you argue that because atheists do not believe in a morality that is ultimately true, they are more likely to be flexible when it comes to negotiating with those who they do not agree with on moral matters, then an implication of that argument is that atheists would sooner compromise with NAMBALA types or other deviants.

I assume you mean NAMBLA. I agree that the idea of morality being malleable would lead to discussions about age-of-consent, and how it is determined. Therefore, anyone who develops their own moral code, be they theist or atheist, is more likely to be open to the questions NAMBLA raise. I, however, would not agree that those people would, necessarily, come to personal moral conclusions that would be unhealthy to juveniles or society at large. Nor do I think engaging these discussions would make individuals more likely to "be flexible" with necessary laws instituted to protect juveniles. (I recognize that even the idea of what constitutes "protection" of juveniles and what constitutes inhibiting their free sexual expression will need to be discussed with regard to this topic.) I'm o.k. with engaging the discussion; I encourage it. And I think the U.S. has a pretty good legal system (albeit there is always room for significant improvement) that works at navigating that discussion--as, I am sure, do other countries. I think much of the rhetoric surrounding religion inhibits that discussion. (Of course, all of this assumes your issue with NAMBLA is the 'minors having sex' issue and not the 'male on male sex' issue.)

BTW, Niall, when was pedophilia decided by religion (Catholicism) to be an "ultimate wrong"?

Niall: What I am saying is that an implication of this would be that if you had two people in a room, an atheist and a theist, and both believed that genocide was wrong, because the theist (falsely?) believed that it was ultimately wrong to commit genocide, he would be less likely to compromise with the people who were carrying out the genocide, than the atheist would.

And how does a theist know that genocide is "ultimately wrong"? Is it because murder is wrong? How does the theist know murder is wrong? Because her god tells her so; or the Bible (substitute any holy book) tells her so; or her church (substitute any holy congregation) tells her so; or her belief in the soul, both her own and her theoretical victims', tells her so? And what makes you think that an atheist (or anyone not willing to subscribe to a religious-inspired ultimate truth) isn't able to build an equal social and moral abhorrence to murder or genocide?

So now let me use your theist and atheist in this scenario:

What about abortion?

If the theist says abortion is morally wrong because god says so, or her church says so, or because the fetus has a soul, there is no more discussion to be had. How does the atheist respond to this? She doesn't believe the theist's god even exists, she therefore doesn't recognize any special authority in the theist's church, nor does she believe the fetus has a soul. The theist's "ultimate truth" is really not an ultimate truth; it's an ultimate truth for her, specifically. (Consider this along with garicker's well-founded claim that there is no one God, or one Religion, and I would progress this to no one "ultimate truth." And now we have hundreds of "ultimate truths" fighting it out, reducing moral arguments down to "my god said so.")

Now take a discussion between two people, be they theist are atheist who are not relying on ultimate truth. They can discuss the issue of abortion, its uses in society, its implications and effects, without ever invoking, on either side, an ultimate truth. There is so much to be had in this discussion. Everything from moral issues, to gender issues, to class issues, to race issues, to state interests, to privacy rights, to when and where a person's rights begin and on and on and on. The discussion is astonishingly interesting; it can be invigorating and enlightening to peel one layer of the onion, finding dozens more layers underneath. But that discussion is rarely engaged because what is raging now is a question of religious-inspired morality vs. everyone else's morality.

Niall: You seemed to only notice the negative implication of a morality that incorporates religion, namely that because some religious people believe that an action is wrong in the eyes of God, then achieving a compromise with these people will be difficult and the absence of a belief in ultimate morality would lead to less conflict.

Ummmmm...No. That's absolutely wrong; I'm not really sure from where you are getting this, but I've never stated this. It is true that I think if people developed their own moral systems, free from the religious preaching, they would be more likely to discuss moral issues. These discussions would also, likely, lead to more areas for compromise, IMO.

For me the "negative implication" of a religious-inspired "ultimate morality" is the encouragement of this system to allow morality to be dictated; and, the discouragement of this system to develop personal moral codes. The inability to compromise with people that assume "ultimate morality" positions is only a negative side-effect. My actual problem with "ultimate morality" is in the lack of personal responsibility and effort of such people in deciding their own moral compass. For me then, there is only negative with regard to religious-inspired morality, because the method itself, the building blocks, are corrupt. (This does not mean that no good can ever come of religious-inspired morality, just that the good does not derive from the method.)

Niall: I'm just pointing out that, for me, and for many others, discussion, compromise and avoiding conflict are not always good things.

I can't think of a time where discussion, constructive discussion that seeks progress and solutions, is a bad thing. I think compromise



Wed Feb 14, 2007 4:42 pm
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Post --
Irish, first off, apologies for not replying long ago. I tried twice, but something always went wrong. You\'d think I\'d learn my lesson and use word, wouldn\'t ye?

Anyway, just to clear up. I quit my old job, moved home, started a new course in cognitive psychology and family life was less than blissful for a while there as well. It wasn\'t good busy, but so long as those are the worst kind of problems I have, life won\'t be treating me too badly.

Quote:

I assume you mean NAMBLA.



Ha, sorry. My knowledge of NAMBLA comes mostly from watching an episode of South Park and skimming through a wikipedia article.

Quote:

I agree that the idea of morality being malleable would lead to discussions about age-of-consent, and how it is determined. Therefore, anyone who develops their own moral code, be they theist or atheist, is more likely to be open to the questions NAMBLA raise. I, however, would not agree that those people would, necessarily, come to personal moral conclusions that would be unhealthy to juveniles or society at large. Nor do I think engaging these discussions would make individuals more likely to "be flexible" with necessary laws instituted to protect juveniles.



I would agree that when you develop your own moral code, you will be more open to any and all positions that had been considered deviant by society in the past, and I certainly accept that by developing your own moral code you would not necessarily come to a conclusion that would be unhealthy for the youth of society.

In fact, I\'ve always leaned toward the position that theism or atheism has very little impact on the intensity with which a belief is held or the motivation it places on an individual to act in any given situation. (If that seems to contradict what I\'ve posted earlier, please keep in mind that I was responding to the argument that by virtue of believing in a God, religious people very more likely to engage in extreme negative behaviour. I\'m merely trying to show the flip side of that argument).

Quote:

BTW, Niall, when was pedophilia decided by religion (Catholicism) to be an \"ultimate wrong\"?


Quote:
And how does the theist know its wrong...


I think you misunderstand me. Religions change over time. What is considered Christian morality, or Islamic Morality or Pagan (Yuck, hate the term) morality during one era will not be the same in another. When I said that (an implication of the argument presented earlier in the thread was that) atheists were more likely to compromise on moral matters than theists, I did not mean that this was because of their morality lacked a history. I simply meant that somebody who believes in a constructed morality is more likely to deconstruct that morality than somebody who believes in absolute morality, especially in circumstances where acting on the morality would be inconvenient or even dangerous.

Quote:
And what makes you think that an atheist isn\'t able to build an equal social and moral abhorrence to murder or genocide.


Nothing makes me think this. Remember I\'m not asserting that atheist do not have an equal moral abhorrence to rape, murder or genocide. I\'m saying that this is an implication of the argument that a belief in a God somehow makes one more likely to behave in a negative and extreme manner.

If we say that a belief in a God gives an individual extra motivation to behave in an extreme fashion, then that not only means that a religious individual will become something like a suicide bomber, it also means that they are more likely to dedicate their lives to fighting poverty etc.

The argument that was presented seemed to suggest that if a person believed that something like homosexuality was wrong, then they were more likely to go around shooting homosexuals if they believed in a God than if they did not. All I\'m saying is that the flip side of that argument is that if a person believed that something like genocide was wrong, then they would be less likely to fight against it, if they were an atheist.

Really, the thread has kind of went through a bit of a spiral, so its very easy to get lost.

Quote:
What about abortion.....


Sorry I\'m not quoting you fully, but for some reason, I can\'t only connect to booktalk using proxyhero, which seems to disable my ability to copy and paste.

I think your characterisation of religious positions is a little simplistic. I presume that is for convenience sake. But abortion probably isn\'t a good example.

Abortion may be wrong in the eyes of most religions, but the same can be said of things like adultery or homosexuality. In spite of this fact, there are few religious people on the streets protesting the fact that cheating husbands have not been put in prison!

The problem with abortion is that life is an imperfect concept. I am oppossed to the legalisation of abortion not because I believe it is wrong, but because I believe it involves destroying the life of another human being. I\'d no sooner support it than I would the Jewish Holocaust.

I believe in ultimate morality but that does not mean that I would not other individuals the opportunity to live their lives according to different moral codes.

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Quote:
I can\'t see a time when constructive discussion would be a bad thing.


There\'s a famous quote from a developmental child psychologist (the name escapes me) who once shouted that \"Children have no time for relativism\".

Look at Iraq. Now we could probably have great discussions about the criteria of just wars, the best systems of government, the causes of class conflict and everything under the sun. If we could reveal the truth of these matters, then we would be excellently placed to help the people of Iraq.

But you know what, that discussion would be pretty long. In fact, we\'d probably be dead before we finished it. Sometimes, you have to act. And sometimes, it\'s best not to deconstruct morality.

If you see a thief running down the road having stolen a woman\'s handbag, it\'s not the time to debate whether or not there is such a thing as private property.

In relation to the religious preying on the minds of the vulnerable, I understand you better now, though it\'s probably best to emphasise the difference between religion preying on an individual\'s needs, than saying that the religious prey on the minds of the vulnerable. I really don\'t think that its helpful to describe Good Samaritans as predators. Vectors, at a stretch.

As for your thoughts on AA, well the research tends to support your position. It is better than nothing, but there are better treatments available out there.

Quote:
There is room for dialogue amoung the Pope and the Magesterium, anyone else is overridden by their \"opinions and beliefs.\"


:) Like that.

There is something very frustrating about being a Catholic, and that\'s the fact that change happens at a glacial pace. But you cannot deny that change happens. The Catholic church of 2007 is a very different creature to the church of 1807.

As for being overriden by the PTB, well, the best example I can think of for understanding the way the RCC works in these situation is the case of Hans Kung. Kung believes that we should have female priests, and he doesn\'t believe in papal infallability. These are hardly orthodox views, and because of them, his licence to teach as a Catholic theologian has been removed. However, he remains a Catholic Priest in \"good standing\". In fact, he remains a much admired theologian within the church. Kung will most likely end his days as a priest in \"good standing\", and he will most likely continue to further his views on things like female priests and papal infallibility. And maybe, in fifty years after he\'s passed on, his positions will become part of orthodox mainstream catholicism. When you engage in dialogue within the church, you don\'t just engage with your peers, but with the past and the future. It can be frustrating, but fools rush in....

Anyway, this post will come across a little scattered. Apologies if it is a little hard to follow, but I\'m tired, it is late, life is mad and the thread itself is a little all over the place. Regardless, it\'s always a pleasure.





Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:15 pm
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Post Re: Morality
If I had the powers of a god I could make a round square, simply redefine the definition of square to mean round. ::80

Anyway, maybe it's just me but my moral principles are not "malleable" in any sense, especially for myself. And my opinions of right and wrong are pretty much set in stone. From my personal experience I have more conviction than any theist I have ever encountered.

Most of my morals are based off of the code of conduct established in karate, but honesty and good behavior was instilled in me by my family and religion had nothing to do with it.

I have never smoked or done illegal drugs, these were personal moral choices that were non-negotiable for me and I have never wavered. Even though my reasoning was personal I had a better ability to resist than most of my friends, including the theists.

In short I do not believe that religion offers any special benefits, (an extreme personality will remain an extreme personality) but religion does offer plenty of reasons to act badly.

This is something that atheist reasoning is devoid of; there are no pre-set excuses for immoral behavior.

It is true that a selfish atheist could come up with their own reasoning, but it would be difficult for them to justify that to others.

My other morals are equally firm but are based off of an understanding of human nature, my desire for personal freedom and a will to help my fellow man, these traits seem to be lacking from biblical morality.

Now I cannot and would not assume to speak for all atheists but the ones I know are less likely to compromise on their basic morality than most theists I have met.

I cannot really account for that except for a level of character.

It might be partly due to the fact that atheists must fight regularly for our choice of lifestyle and most of us do not shy away from such encounters. Atheists are used to making our opinions known without compromise. And when atheists come to our conclusions on morality it is through a decision made for personal and logical reasons, not just because someone told us it was so. (This is at least true of the atheists I know)

Later




Thu Mar 15, 2007 9:05 pm
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Post Hans Kung
Speaking of Hans Kung.

For something more in line with God Delusion, here's a repeat from yours truly:

For theological brilliance and religious scholarship I highly recommend Hans Kung's Does God Exist: An Answer For Today. It is a massive tome, but you can get it cheap on Amazon and at most libraries. Kung leaves few stones unturned in answering the question in his title: Descartes, Pascal, Augustine, Aquinas, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Kuhn, Popper, Spinoza, Einstein, Whitehead, Russell, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Jung, Adler, Frankl, Buber, Erikson, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bloch, Kant, Buddhism, Judaism, Barth, Rahner, Tillich, and William James. Yes, it is over 800 pages, but it is full of treasures for the Atheist, Agnostic and Theist of all stripes. He is painstakingly sympathetic in laying out the accuracy and truth of each position he covers; especially those he disagrees with. It is an education in world religions, philosophy of religion, and history of the modern intellectual pursuit of the "God question"; I'll let you guess how Kung answers it.

Kung has written voluminously on theology and literature, philosophy, natural sciences, art, medical ethics, world religions, economics, and the search for a global ethic. He has been censored by the Catholic Church and is no longer able to serve in any capacity of the Priesthood...of which he was a major player in the develop of Vatican II and an early comrade and lifelong foe of Pope Benedict.

I know it is a large suggestion, but I think it really represents the challenge involved with taking seriously the vast amount of information and voices brought to the discussion concerning what in the world we mean by the word God...and how best to approach the subject. I never fail to pick it up and find myself riveted to wherever I happen to open it: Descartes' mathematical certainty, Hegel's phenomenology of spirit, Freud's future of an illusion, Marx's opium of the people, Wittegstein's language games, James' will to believe, Buddhism's nirvana, Nietzsche's nihilism, and Jesus as the Son of God....thought provoking, inisghtful, illuminating and always something to learn from.

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 3/16/07 11:13 am



Fri Mar 16, 2007 9:25 am
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Post Re: --
Niall, no worries on delayed responses; there's no rush. Hope things are better at home.

As you said, this thread has certainly gotten turned around a bit and, because you have been the only person responding to several different arguments, I think you are confusing my position with other peoples' positions. I am hoping to clarify things a bit.

I think my criticism against "ultimate" or religious-inspired morality has become to you a criticism of its sometimes (even often) conservative effects. So, for instance, you think I criticize ultimate morality in the R.C. Church because it automatically makes a true believer hate the sin of homosexuality, or premarital sex and on and on. Therefore, you wish to demonstrate that, at times, ultimate morality can have positive effects. (One that I can easily see is the R.C. stance on capital punishment.) However, the effect of ultimate morality is not where my criticism lies. I abhor the method itself. I detest that morality, in anyway, is dictated, as decisive, by fallible men, institutions and dogma. So whether that morality has positive or negative effects is of no consequence, because the system itself



Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:34 pm
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Post Re: Hans Kung
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He has been censored by the Catholic Church and is no longer able to serve in any capacity of the Priesthood...of which he was a major player in the develop of Vatican II and an early comrade and lifelong foe of Pope Benedict.


Jezz Dissident, you aren't half predictable. I mention Kung in passing, then BAM! You've got a Kung bio with links posted.

It's a pity that it's a bad bio though. Kung is still a priest. The only sanction taken against him is that he had his licence to teach Catholic Theology taken away from him. He continues to teach theology. He met Pope Benedict after he was elected, and the two are on pretty amicable terms.

Shit. Have to reply to you later Irish. Gotta go play at Paddy's day mass.

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Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:10 am
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Post Re: --
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Niall, no worries on delayed responses; there's no rush. Hope things are better at home.


Cheers, things sorted themselves out thankfully.

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However, the effect of ultimate morality is not where my criticism lies. I abhor the method itself. I detest that morality, in anyway, is dictated, as decisive, by fallible men, institutions and dogma. So whether that morality has positive or negative effects is of no consequence, because the system itself



Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:13 pm
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Post Re: AA
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Niall
Really, got any interesting links. I'm familiar with some papers showing that is not particularly effective in comparison to other therapies, but I'm also familiar with one particular 'study' (I remember it was by an American consumer rights publication.) that showed that users rated it just as highly. Indeed one of the most striking things that survey found was that consumers found almost all forms of therapy, including AA, equally effective, in contrast to the more objective studies.


In regards to the AA subject... Niall, you are correct that almost all forms of therapies and quitting attempts have a similar success rate, that includes quitting with no assistance.

The reason that many of us find AA to be deplorable is because it is a religious organization in disguise. According to AA accepting a higher power is critical to success in the program. AA can fail a person who is otherwise successful on these criteria alone.

Furthermore AA is using our (secular) government to further its agenda. In many DUI and other alcohol related cases a judge can, and often does make AA a part of the convicted individual's sentence.

In effect forcing religion on these citizens who are supposed to be living in a secular country, to me this is deceptive, illegal and offensive.

Penn and Teller did a great show about AA on their cable show Bull S**t.

Later




Mon Mar 19, 2007 10:20 am
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Post Re: --
Good call, Niall. I think you're right; we probably are working from two different concepts, which would explain the confusion in our discussion. So I'm going to work on some definitions. I started out in this discussion keeping "ultimate morality" in quotes and often preceded it by religious-inspired. Really I should have used the term religious-dictated. But that was cumbersome and I thought I had made it clear what I was speaking of, so I cut out the religious-inspired and just started talking about ultimate morality vs. personal morality. My true criticism lies in dictated morality, largely religious-dictated morality, which is why my argument often focused on religiously observant people who do not explore their own moral choices. The "ultimate morality" I speak of is morality dictated by a religious institution as ultimately right or wrong. This type of morality breeds ignorance and unadulterated compliance, and is dangerous.

Now you state that those who do not allow their morality to be dictated to them by religious institutions can still develop an "ultimate morality." I don't disagree. I can't see any situation where there is gray in rape. My only caveat is I think those who explore their own morality would seriously limit the instances which they consider to be "ultimately" wrong compared to those who allow their morality to be dictated to them. Institutionalized morality must have clear, decisive proclamations, and this does not allow the individual to explore the gray in these many different issues. So, for instance, the Catholic Church believes capital punishment is wrong in every instance. I too believe capital punishment is wrong, but I am willing to explore individual cases to see if that personal moral choice applies in every circumstance.

And this is what I have been discussing all along. That religious-dictated morality castrates the individual's personal moral exploration, substituting institutionalized or religiously-dictated morality for what should be personally constructed morality. A question of morality should only be right and wrong to an individual because she feels/thinks/has determined it is right or wrong for her. (Note moral is different than legal.) Religious-dictated morality, specifically the Catholic Church, does not allow the individual, if she wishes to be a "good Catholic," to make those decisions for herself. (I am not limiting this criticism to the Catholic Church, but that is where most of my personal experience comes from, as does yours



Tue Mar 20, 2007 11:29 am
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