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Culture War Roundup for the week of July 17, 2023

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I had quite the throwback culture war experience this past weekend. While at a family gathering, my dad was cornered by an in-law and quizzed about my “agnosticism”.

He was asked if he had led me to this lack of faith, and was then informed that it’s the patriarch’s responsibility to “get his family into heaven” – a neat little double-duty insult of both himself and me.

I tend to be a very laid-back guy in meatspace, but found myself livid. I’ve been in this family for close to a decade, and the sheer cowardice and arrogance of this exchange was breathtaking. To circle around to one of my direct family members instead of having the cajones to challenge me directly was ridiculous (and in hindsight, what I should have really expected from these people).

We’ve been existing in what I thought was a reasonable detente. As a victorious participant in the Atheism culture war, I’ve been kinda-sorta prepared to have these skirmishes with my wife’s catholic family for a long time. The unspoken agreement was that I go to church for holidays, let you splash water on my children, and don’t bring up anyone’s hypocrisy/the church’s corruption, rampant pedophilia/the inherent idiocy in believing in god.

In exchange, I get to stay balls deep in my excellent wife and should be left alone.

I’ll be the first to admit the excesses of Atheism’s victory laps and see how “live and let live” can slide down the slope into a children’s drag show. But this indirect exchange reminded me that when the culture war pendulum swings back, I should be prepared for the petty tyrants and fools on the religious right to reassert themselves. We’re already starting to see the tendrils of this, even if some of their forces have been replaced with rainbow-skinsuit churches across the US.

For Christian motteziens - No disrespect intended. I'm aware of the hypocrisy of my arrogance in this post, and it's intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek

So how do you want me to interact with this post other than saying "nice blog bro!"? We aren't here to be your therapist.

But yes, the detente is over and was over when the state closed churches and masses for COVID. Even when reopening occured, diktats came down as to how Churches were to administer the Eucharist, which I might remind you is the holiest and most central ritual in Christiandom.

So your father-in-law is for all intents and purposes trying to figure out if you are going to be an asset or liability in the culture war. Are you sending your children to a classical school or a public school?

Tophat, is that you?

You could make this same argument about literally any political wedge, or even tangential events. Oh, they shot Kennedy, guess the Catholic detente must be over. What’s so special about COVID lockdowns to decide that now is the time to strike?

Screwing with the Eucharist is messing with a central pillar of the religion. That is very clearly an invasion of the sacred by the state, in the way an assasination of the head of the state is not.

Why not? Murdering Christians is surely frowned upon. Yet the death of a Christian is not sufficient to end the detente, because there are other factors at play.

So why is that line drawn here, at “screwing with” the Eucharist? Why not at the death penalty? At Roe v. Wade? At every bump and scrape of a religious institution against the world’s competing secular interests?

This is silly.

  1. The assasination of Kennedy was a national tragedy and the killer died before prosecution. Oswald, the 60's equivalent if a tankie, is also wildly unrepresentative of secular America.
  2. Roe v. Wade and other legal decisions Christians don't like are the state making rules for what the state wants to permit. The stated deal with seperation of church and state is that the state and church don't get a privlidged interference in the realm of the other. No established churches, no state telling the faithful how to worship. Christians don't have to get abortions, and its their civil right to protest laws they find unjust. Roe v. Wade fits nicely into the deal.
  3. Curtailing the Eucharist (in Canada, we still can't drink the sacred blood) directly violates the deal. Telling the faithful they can't do a core part of the faith on pain of legal penalty is the state privlidging itself in the realm of the spiritual. The equally unacceptable inverse would be the state establishing a church with mandatory attendence on pain if legal penalty.

There are plausible reasons for opinions on the death penalty or abortion that have nothing to do with religion, even if some of them may be insincere. Not allowing gatherings to take the Eucharist while allowing secular gatherings can only be because of hostility to religion.

But Christian denominations oppose those things, sometimes quite forcefully, without ending some mythical detente. Why should this be different? Why is this the case where they are supposed to sharpen the knives and prepare for the tribulation?

I don't begrudge Christians their distaste for such a rule. I'm asking why such distaste is supposed to be unique.

... because of hostility to religion.

Maybe, but I think you need to show more work here for your conclusion? Eucharist involves taking off a mask and eating something that someone hands to you or places directly in your mouth. Even pre-COVID, I remember thinking this was not particularly sanitary. A secular gathering might not involve taking off a mask at all. The risk profiles are different. And while terrible, the pandemic gave people a stake in others' private sanitation habits. (Whether or not you think that stake thereby gives the general public the right to restrict behavior, the stake exists.)

Yeah, but at the time we had "No, you can't go to Mass (or a service) because singing hymns will spread infection" while at the same time "it is a human right to march in unmasked street protests of hundreds of people and racism is a bigger threat than Covid" for the BLM protests.

So, you know: here's the goose, here's the sauce, why is the gander not here too?

There was quite a while where I could show up to a bar without a mask for a drink but couldn't sing or participate in rituals at a church.

Assuming that I am not lying, is that an injustice?

An injustice? Yeah.

Only because of hostility to religion? I don't think so. Apathy is sufficient.

Christians have always been murdered. That doesn't in itself delegitimize the state for Christians. If Christian murders were selectively under-prosecuted, perhaps it would.

Forbidding people from worship is altogether different. It proves that the free exercise clause has no weight. No one will be held accountable for violating it, and the state is free to violate it again. Already there's movement to do away with priest-penitent privilege, invading upon another critical sacrament for Catholics.

We aren't here to be your therapist.

While @yofuckreddit would probably have been better off making their post a bit less rant-y, sneering at them does not help matters. Please avoid this level of antagonism in the future.

Back when the US had military conscription, did any significant fraction of Christian churches in the US protest against it? WW1, WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War... all of these were wars of choice for the US. We can argue about the morality of the US participation in these wars and whether conscription was justified, but we can just as well argue about the morality of covid lockdowns.

Would the church protest if the US government brought back conscription for the sake of fighting some war of choice?

If Christendom does not protest against its own sons, and the sons of others, being conscripted into wars of choice, then I do not see why it would protest against the much milder infringement on freedom posed by covid lockdowns.

The US catholic bishops were pretty strongly opposed to the Iraq war and one can assume that’d be a better predictor of their future behavior than Vietnam.

That is interesting to find out about. Are Catholics in the US generally more anti-war than Protestants are?

Catholic religious leadership is typically more outspoken and less beholden to a particular party than Protestants are(see also abortion), and has a long history of being opposed to wars of choice(Vietnam opposition had a lot of priests in prominent positions).

So how do you want me to interact with this post other than saying "nice blog bro!"? We aren't here to be your therapist.

I considered skipping posting for precisely this reason but figured it was an angle we don't tackle often. My worst fears are confirmed!

Are you sending your children to a classical school or a public school?

I don't have any good options here. The short answer is I don't know. I draw the line of our compromise at funding anything related to religion, and being the sole breadwinner provides me significant leverage. The public schools where I live now are unacceptable, and if I were to return to my hometown they'd be high-quality public (but my kids would be put through the same social shit I went through as a non-believer).

I considered skipping posting for precisely this reason but figured it was an angle we don't tackle often. My worst fears are confirmed!

I'd be kinder if it wasn't written like a channish nastygram and had some point where I could interact that wasn't quizzing someone twice removed from your in-law's mindstate about his intent and words.

Like, what would you like to talk about? Does this represent increased activity in your life? Do you want advice about how to speak to your in-law? Do you want to talk about Christianity in the public sphere? I need some guidelines on how to help you that isn't a request to sneer at your family.

I don't have any good options here. The short answer is I don't know. I draw the line of our compromise at funding anything related to religion, and being the sole breadwinner provides me significant leverage. The public schools where I live now are unacceptable, and if I were to return to my hometown they'd be high-quality public (but my kids would be put through the same social shit I went through as a non-believer).

Of the religious school models, classical schools are extremely new and attempt to be more implicit than explicit. Religious instruction is saved for the final years of schooling in the school near me and has a different approach than the usual, many do not provide it at all. If you have the opportunity I'd recommend investigating them, the people running them are far from fundamentalist baptists in the worst case, and you might have one that isn't religious at all and may actually be a charter school.

Do you want advice about how to speak to your in-law? Do you want to talk about Christianity in the public sphere? I need some guidelines on how to help you that isn't a request to sneer at your family.

I don't need any help navigating my personal relationships, and this post wasn't intended to be a celebration or validation of my personal beliefs. TheMotte needs some counter-jerk every once in a while and (to be frank) the tenor of much of this thread indicates my instincts were correct on that front! The anecdote is window dressing, no more than that.

I hadn't heard anything about a different model of religious schooling, so I appreciate the information there. I still have a few years before having to make a firm decision, and I'm also having to balance a quality education with ensuring we can comfortably afford it. My wife does the vast majority of activity and school scouting - the kids are actually in Catholic day care as we speak - but I may need to grab the reins on the K-12 front.

Part of the problem is that he made an agreement, he knew he would have to make an agreement, and he went ahead and did it while privately holding that he intended none of it (e.g. about raising the kids as Catholics, and "I may need to grab the reins on the K-12 front").

This would invalidate a civil contract, and I don't know if anyone would say that people pointing out how he broke the law were engaging in "sneering and patronising tone of comments". If I take out a bank loan, know that I have to repay it within a certain period at a certain interest rate, then go "how dare my bank manager send me three letters about how I didn't make any repayments, more fool he I never intended to pay it back even when I signed the contract", how many supporters on "I can't believe the arrogance of that guy, asking you to uphold your commitments!" would I get?

This is all separate from the behaviour of the in-law, and mixing the two is what is causing most of the disagreement. I can agree the in-law was in the wrong while still thinking OP doesn't come out of it smelling of roses, either.

So how do you want me to interact with this post other than saying "nice blog bro!"? We aren't here to be your therapist.

This part is needlessly antagonistic. Plenty of other people found ways to interact without sneering, including those who replied before you. Surely you could have read their responses for inspiration.

As an atheist I deny all responsibility for covid lockdowns.

So how do you want me to interact with this post other than saying "nice blog bro!"? We aren't here to be your therapist.

The rest of your response is...alright, I guess, but this line we could do without. His post is exactly about culture war, and at that, a part of it that is relatively rarely discussed. I found it interesting.

the detente is over and was over when the state closed churches and masses for COVID

Covid policy ended an individual family's "détente" over Christianity? Letting national politics (and they're barely even related specifically to Christianity!) shape your personal relationships with your family seems hopelessly mind-killed.

My mom isn't a fan of Big Tech but I don't give her the silent treatment whenever the EU hands out another fine.

National? The city police were the ones fencing off churches.

And are your local police and politicians a bunch of atheists? I don't suppose mine are.

If I change one word in my comment will you respond to the rest of it?

You ignored the part of mine where I stated that the most central rituals of Christianity were being interfered with and changed by government fiat, so if you fix that we can make something work.

It sounds to me like you're resisting an obvious conclusion: you need religion. The choice is between tradition and its challenging but earnest calls to a better life and the degeneracy of rainbow churches.

You need religion because you boast about your sexual relationship with your wife online.

You need religion because instead of keeping your family business in the family, you make political hay of it to strangers.

Talk to the people you need to talk to, don't just vent helplessly.

Do your in-laws know you're very hostile to their religion an angsty interwebs atheist, a "participant" in the culture war victory over the great evil, or have you hidden that fact from them and instead gone through all the motions with catholic marriage, catholic child raising and baptism, etc.?

If that's the case, maybe they just assumed you weren't very hostile to religion weren't a fraud?

To circle around to one of my direct family members instead of having the cajones to challenge me directly was ridiculous (and in hindsight, what I should have really expected from these people).

you accuse in-laws of not have "the cajones" to challenge you directly when it appears you've lived ~10 years of your life taking the same route of "least conflict" despite a simmering angst just below the surface about this topic

edit: removed unnecessary antagonism by crossing it out

There seems to be a belief in this thread that I've been grinning and happy going to church, talking about how great catholicism is, and having my fingers surreptitiously crossed behind my back.

This is... not the case. It may be difficult to understand, but I can share most of my moral framework with a Christian while simultaneously despising organized religion as a fantastical tool of oppression.

And, this may be even more difficult to understand, but trumpeting my beliefs at every family gathering (especially those that, as we see from this thread, "hype people up") isn't very polite. I have found that routinely spitting in people's faces isn't good practice, personally or professionally. It may make me a coward, but I also don't spend my time trying to crush the idiotic progressive shit I hear from the HR team at work. My atheism-evangelizing days were left behind after 8th-grade graduation.

At the end of the day, I actually love my in-laws quite a bit. Just not this guy, so much.

Do your in-laws know you're very hostile to religion an angsty interwebs athiest or do you just avoid the topic, participate sometimes in catholic ceremonies, etc., i.e., purposefully engage in conduct which is meant to allow other people to assume that you aren't what you are in order to avoid conflict?

it's difficult to communicate an entire situation through short comments on the internet so we're left having to fill in the details; no one is having trouble understanding anything you're talking about, what they're having trouble with is getting an accurate picture of reality given your comments

edit: removed unnecessary antagonism by crossing it out

This thread is already dangerously close to doxxing me, and, even more importantly, being a fucking boring examination of my personal life. Whatever someone wants to think about me after this thread is fine, it's just a niche forum.

if you're worried about doxxing yourself on this niche forum, you could have left out the 3/4ths of your comment which is little more than you sneering at your in-law family and boo-outgrouping their religion (btw they have rampant corruption and pedophilia) and still made a post about being worried about what petty religious tyrants would do if they had power again

it appears most posts don't really have a clue what you even want to discuss and are prodding around trying to find something

But it feels like quite a stretch to claim that you share most of your moral framework with people who believe that the source and ultimate purpose of morality is something you don't even believe exists.

Our frameworks start with far different base assumptions, but branch into similar-looking structures. A few of my avowedly atheist friends could be trivially confused with a devout and un-hypocritical Christian, even down to how much they curse.

Have you not encountered anyone with different beliefs but strongly aligned values? I'm not saying that's common but I wouldn't call it exceedingly rare either...

I definitely see where you're coming from. I'm admittedly an optimist when it comes to "getting along" because I've been able to curate a vast and diverse group of friendships. When it comes to more intimate relationships though, in particular, it can be a dangerous fallacy.

That is the problem with unspoken agreements, though. What you thought you were agreeing to and what they thought they were agreeing to may be two very different things.

I think most of us agree the nosy in-law was out of line, but that may well be one time you do need to speak up and put the foot down about what you do or don't believe, are or are not willing to do, and so on.

don’t bring up anyone’s hypocrisy/the church’s corruption, rampant pedophilia/the inherent idiocy in believing in god.

Dear the motte, boy is my outgroup sure boo. They are so boo, and one time they tried to enact their boo upon me, all I wanted to do was:

stay balls deep in my excellent wife/[their daugher]

Unbelievably low effort post. Reported. Please put this type of thing in the low effort culture war thread.

yofuckreddit

Or keep it there on /r/atheism.

While @yofuckreddit would probably have been better off making their post a bit less rant-y, sneering at them does not help matters. Please avoid this level of antagonism in the future.

Do individuals relations need to be so strongly hyphenated with the zeitgeist. With individual relations, everything is negotiable.

Just talk to them. Make your boundaries known without having an explosion. Tell them in clear words that this behavior is not acceptable. Be ready to erect boundaries if need be. Talk to your wife before you do anything. Ideally, she will take care of it for you.

get his family into heaven

That being said, I struggle to make sense of people who are logical about everything except religion. Not so much about the existence of God or the social technology that is religion. I mean religion as the arbitrary yet oddly specific rituals that can make or break your entry into heaven.

It is one thing to delude yourself for comfort or to believe in the social value of religion. But, to live in a world of Science in 2023 and to think that the specific sub-set of rules outlined by your pastor will get you into "Christian heaven" is some proper hypocrisy. By definition, if these people believe in the power of these specific rituals to get you into heaven, then don't 99% of all living humans go to not-heaven. (hell?). Even if these in-laws are right, then surely a place where 99% of people go after death, can't be THAT bad.

I know, "2005 called, they want their Christopher Hitchens rants back". But still, do these people never reflect on what they believe in ? Even for a moment ?

I mean religion as the arbitrary yet oddly specific rituals that can make or break your entry into heaven.

Such as? I don't really follow. I'll assume we're talking about Christians, in which case either they are protestants, where it's based on belief and trust in Christ, which is not arbitrary, and is justified by revelation, not the say-so of one pastor, or they're Roman Catholic, in which case it's repentance and mortal sin which ultimately determine things, which, again, doesn't seem terribly arbitrary. (Or Eastern Orthodox, which, I'm not as familiar with, but I would think would parallel Roman Catholics.)

Even if these in-laws are right, then surely a place where 99% of people go after death, can't be THAT bad.

Do you really only define the value of something in relation to other things? Or think that most people must, for some reason, do all right? Christians don't (or at least shouldn't), since we believe God literally had to die to get some of humanity out of going to hell.

I was not born in an Abrahmic culture, so forgive my ignorance, but...

At its core, each Abrahmic sect believes that they understand the words of God. I would assume that for a group that claims to understand God's words, surely you would have to be confident before making such a claim. Credit where it is due, Christians are confident. However, they are all confident in their unique truth and just as many of them are confident in the false hood of every other Pagan, Abrahmic and Christian sect.

While there are a few inclusive Christians, most Christians aren't going around saying : "My Christianity has the highest odds of heaven, while it is 50-50 with the others." Most are going around saying : "Join us and go to heaven, everyone else will rot in hell with 100% money-back guarantee." Do note, Most Christians believe that most Christians (not them) are going to hell. (It's esp neat, given that Catholics are almost exactly 50%).

So yes, the entry to heaven is gated by engaging in very localized and specific sub-groups underneath Christianity.

belief and trust in Christ

Another thing that confuses me. How do Christians square off human agency against belief in God and his plan ? If I truly believed in Jesus, why would I ever take my child to a doctor or get treated for a wound. A true believer should allow life to happen to them, because the outcomes are determined by the omni-potent God. So any person who dares to exercise personal agency is not a true believer, and ends up in hell ? (at least from a protestant stand point)

only define the value of something in relation to other things

Yes?

I'm not materialistic, but the hedonistic treadmill, lifestyle creep and trends are real things. Yes, a cute puppey and green mountains do evoke postive-emotions that seem universal and untethered to society. But, life is usually a healthy balance of emotions drawn from either source.

since we believe God literally had to die to get some of humanity out of going to hell.

The increasing lack of omni-potence of the Christian God does not inspire a lot of confidence.

Do note, Most Christians believe that most Christians (not them) are going to hell.

Not exactly true. Catholics have a doctrine of invincible ignorance, whereby non-Catholics can be saved (especially post-Vatican II), and protestants don't generally have a "one true denomination," rather thinking that theirs is the most faithful, and others are Christians, just ones mistaken in some respects.

Another thing that confuses me. How do Christians square off human agency against belief in God and his plan?

Well, two things. First, he tells us to do things, so… Second, God generally works through means. So you're the agent in working out God's plan.

I'm not materialistic, but the hedonistic treadmill, lifestyle creep and trends are real things.

Surely you wouldn't apply this to heaven or hell?

The increasing lack of omni-potence of the Christian God does not inspire a lot of confidence.

Self-imposed restrictions. This is only required because of other requirements God's imposed on himself as to how to treat humans. It's not a lack of power, it's that there are other requirements that have to be kept as well.

How do Christians square off human agency against belief in God and his plan ? If I truly believed in Jesus, why would I ever take my child to a doctor or get treated for a wound. A true believer should allow life to happen to them, because the outcomes are determined by the omni-potent God. So any person who dares to exercise personal agency is not a true believer, and ends up in hell ? (at least from a protestant stand point)

Not sure where you're getting this from. If people have agency, God's plan includes your agency. If people do not have agency, God's plan also includes your lack of agency. Either way you can get your kid treated.

It looks like you're postulating that people do have agency, but any possible use of agency is going against God's plan. Why would this be? Choosing not to treat your son is just as much a choice as choosing to treat them would be. Setting aside how illogical that is, it's annoying when people say things like "I've formed my own conclusions based on about two seconds of thought on the implications of a hasty recollection of your doctrine. Therefore your doctrine must be wrong." No, the only thing wrong here is your idea of what the doctrine actually is.

A true believer should allow life to happen to them, because the outcomes are determined by the omni-potent God.

This position was historically held by quietists and you can read the general principles in the papal encyclical condemning them as heretical: https://www.papalencyclicals.net/Innoc11/i11coel.htm

Even if these in-laws are right, then surely a place where 99% of people go after death, can't be THAT bad.

I can never tell if people who are saying this are just being unserious, or are actually this unfamiliar with the thing that they're trying to criticize.

Hell is the absence of good. It is unpleasant be definition, if you are imagining being in a place and it not being so bad actually then you are by definition not talking about hell. There isn't a bargain to be made here where actually things aren't bad because "that's where all the cool people are" or something.

It doesn't make sense that pretty much everyone goes there but there's no good there. Are all non-Christians evil?

Yes, according to Christianity, and all Christians too (although they're being fixed over time).

According to Christians, everyone is evil. Part of the whole salvation thing is that you give God root access, and he patches you to be capable of being incrementally less evil. One interpretation has it that without the patch, people get steadily more evil from the point at which they learn what evil actually is. Since death doesn't actually end them, this decay continues until they are completely evil, at which point they have achieved the state of Hell. There's no socializing with cool people in hell, because the part that makes people cool is one of the ones that goes away, along with the parts that allow socializing, and the parts that make one "people".

Catholic doctrine isn’t so definitive as you’re likely familiar with from Protestants. While Jesus is the only savior, who is to be saved is not fully defined.

Here’s CCC 847:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

I think that's hard to fit with the supposedly infallible council of Florence damning all heretics and schismatics and jews and pagans, but I'm not Catholic so it's not a big deal to me.

By definition, if these people believe in the power of these specific rituals to get you into heaven, then don't 99% of all living humans go to not-heaven. (hell?). Even if these in-laws are right, then surely a place where 99% of people go after death, can't be THAT bad.

If we’re broad and say Christians can be saved, it’s historically been perhaps 20-40% of world population. That’s not nothing.

Further, as Catholics we believe that Christ descended into Hell after his crucifixion and proclaimed the good news to the just dead.

That modern people have chosen to reject the Church or even the heretical sects, doesn’t speak to whether the Truth of Christ is true.

historically been perhaps 20-40% of world population

See, here is where ethnicity matters. That number drops to 0-2% when looking at the continent of Asia.

Assuming the soul is somewhat immortal, Heaven is going to look whiter than a Cape Cod frat party.

doesn’t speak to whether the Truth of Christ is true.

It is awfully convenient to have your truth be unfalsiable. "I choose to believe what I choose to believe. I have no proof it works, but all of you are going to hell. I cannot be convinced otherwise."
You do you, but you can see how that is a hard sell right ?

That number drops to 0-2% when looking at the continent of Asia.

Nope. 7% of all humans ever born are currently alive and a third of them are Christian.

It is awfully convenient to have your truth be unfalsiable.

It's awfully convenient to summarize literally any counterargument as a claim that religion is unfalsifiable. Let me remind about the conversation so far since you seem to have forgotten:

@screye:

By definition, if these people believe in the power of these specific rituals to get you into heaven, then don't 99% of all living humans go to not-heaven.

@UnterSeeBootRespecter:

That modern people have chosen to reject the Church or even the heretical sects, doesn’t speak to whether the Truth of Christ is true.

@screye:

It is awfully convenient to have your truth be unfalsiable.

@UnterSeeBootRespecter has directly addressed your arguments with the claim that Christianity actually has made its way to plenty of people who weren't Christian in this life, including in the continent of Asia. You've done a great job at sneering rather than addressing any of his actual arguments in your response.

See, here is where ethnicity matters.

Why?

That number drops to 0-2% when looking at the continent of Asia.

So? The Church holds that a non-Christian who has sincerely sought God and lived a good life, and just did not hear the Good Word may still be saved.

Adding to the fact that half of all the humans who ever were lived before Christ, and so may have been reached during the harrowing of Hell...

It is awfully convenient to have your truth be unfalsiable.

We didn't speak on unfalsifiability. Only that rejection by moderns doesn't falsify it.

Christianity's proportionally shifting from European countries toward Africa.

I find people who are unable to fathom how an intelligent person could be a Christian have often never engaged with any Christian apologetics, and often don't even really know any Christians in real life. I think Christianity is false, but I don't think you have to be stupid or willfully ignorant to believe in it.

I can agree that they're not stupid, but willful ignorance? Absolutely.

A God that doesn't do anything else except set up a clockwork universe and then fuck off and never intervenes where anyone can see it isn't an entity worth worshipping.

Cue apologetics about how if God was obvious, then there would be no need for "faith", which is absolutely howl-worthy when you consider how convenient it was that there were clear and obvious miracles right up till the point we could properly document and examine them.

That is willful ignorance, for all that they're drinking their own kool-aid. At some point a rational entity who hasn't fucked their own priors sees that an explanation without a million epicycles that reduced to God doesn't really do anything is better stated as God not existing.

I believe that miracles continue to happen and that the Catholic Church documents the ones with substantial evidence. It’s also on guard against hoaxes and mistakes and rarely declares an event to be a miracle.

I know it sounds hokey to a non-Catholic, but look into the Eucharistic miracles. Especially those examined by pathologists .

I looked into eucharistic miracles a while back. The chain of sources inevitably bottoms out in Catholic publications. While they are often touted as having been examined by pathologists, the only one in which I've ever seen an actual research paper detailing methods and findings (rather than simply an assurance that the miracle has been authenticated by qualified persons) was the miracle of Lanciano, and in that case all that could be confirmed was that it was an actual piece of a human heart, not that it had ever been a host. Nor was it miraculously preserved, but completely desiccated.

which is absolutely howl-worthy when you consider how convenient it was that there were clear and obvious miracles right up till the point we could properly document and examine them.

Well yes, because if they're not documentable, they don't eliminate the need for faith. If they are, then they would, so they don't happen.

I don't even necessarily disagree with you, but this is just a terrible point. It's countered by the very argument it's trying to address.

What exactly changed that anatomically modern humans living in the period 3-1k BC deserved to have glaring and obvious information doled out from the heavens and yet we moderns are so unfortunate? The seas don't part themselves anymore, it's up to us to raise them the old fashioned way by raising global temperatures.

Call me cynical, but I see a glaring decrease in the intensity and magnitude of such interventions as documentation and history keeping improved through the ages. Christians can claim that Jesus was a real person modern Israel, not that he lead an army to overthrow the Romans, because actual Roman scholars would have disagreed.

How exactly does your degree of faith matter, if your omniscient creator knew exactly how much of it you'd have well before you were even born, and whether it would sufficient or not to spare you from a Hell of their making?

A God that doesn't do anything else except set up a clockwork universe and then fuck off and never intervenes where anyone can see it isn't an entity worth worshipping.

The variant that persuaded me actually came from the Atheists, who asserted that a God who attempts to secure your love through threats of eternal torture is a monster. That seemed like a pretty good argument to me, along with the obvious-when-you-think-about-it point that if a God existed, and if he wanted us to know he existed, we'd simply have the unalterable knowledge baked in. Of course, if we knew for a certainty that he existed, then the promise of heaven and the threat of hell would be dispositive, even if Hell is the absence of God and a choice we make, etc, etc. On the other hand, if God existed, and wanted us to choose to love him of our own free will, the only way that works is if we get to choose whether or not to believe in him as well. In that case, leaving his existence plausible but ambiguous makes perfect sense, together with Hell as the absence of God and a choice we make, etc, etc. It fits even better if you presume annihilationism is correct, and the people who reject God get exactly what they're expecting: death, and then non-existence.

In any case, the chain of logic seems simple: God wants to share love with people. It's not love unless it's freely chosen. The choice is permanent, and the choice being offered is better than it not being offered. Certain knowledge of the consequences of the choice corrupt the free nature of the choice. Given those constraints, blinding the choice is the obvious way forward.

On the other hand, if God existed, and wanted us to choose to love him of our own free will, the only way that works is if we get to choose whether or not to believe in him as well.

It seems there are a few pages stuck together here, linking "can choose whether to believe in X" and "can choose whether to love X".

Also, at least in the variety of Christianity I was taught, God doesn't threaten people with eternal torture. He simply gives people what they want for eternity: if that's to be without him, then so be it, and so they end up in a torturous existence by their choice - hell is simply a place where humans, angels, and perhaps others exist without God or the fear of death, which is all they need to create a terrible existence by their own efforts. I'm not a Christian, but like a lot of Christianity, this seems to be to be insightful and plausible in itself. It certainly makes far more sense than an all-benevolent, all-powerful God setting up a realm of eternal torture for fallible beings, and (for some insane reason) hiring a fallen angel to run the place.

That's no God then, that's an Asshole Genie.

Not sure about that: is it being an Asshole Genie to not force someone to love you and want to be around you?

If someone makes a prideful wish, should a genie revise that wish to something smarter?

The asshole genie thing is that God should know very well that rejecting religion and not worshipping God does not actually mean you wish to be away from all that is good in the world - you simply don't believe that the good things are all absolutely reliant on him.

Going "oh so you want to be cast into the outer darkness" is a cheap gotcha rather unbecoming of any deity that claims to be all-loving. "Oh you don't want broccoli? Well I guess I won't feed you at all."

Taking it further, this idea of the nature of Hell necessitates that God either isn't all-powerful so he physically cannot embrace those who rejected him, isn't all-knowing so he doesn't realize that people don't interpret their wishes as he would, or not all-benevolent so he doesn't give a fuck and would rather cast them into Hell out of spite for being wrong about his existence.

a prideful wish

I see it as more "a sensible wish based on the information I have".

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  1. What about the all the times that he made himself glaringly obvious? The whole infinite bread and fishes, walking on water type of deal. A bit rich to claim that we're supposed to live in ambiguity, while also holding that God made himself pretty clear on the matter, sadly before we had camcorders and youtube, or the Scientific Method.
  2. I bundle this line of argument into the whole epicycles upon epicycles deal. Christianity claims mutually inconsistent and contradictory attributes of a singular entity, and then does their best to reconcile the irreconcilable, whereas someone who didn't take the existence of God as axiomatic can simply look at the broader picture and conclude that it doesn't exist.
  3. An omnibenevolent entity wouldn't create a Hell, let alone one that's also omniscient and omnipotent so it knows with perfect certainty where we're going to end up.

What about the all the times that he made himself glaringly obvious? The whole infinite bread and fishes, walking on water type of deal.

Walking on water was only seen by Christ's disciples, who had already chosen to follow him. Would you consider bread and fishes glaringly obvious? I wouldn't.

More generally, Christ was very clear and intentional most of the time about keeping his miracles secret. When he raised people from the dead he generally allowed 1-2 people in to see it, if any. There are a few exceptions, but the general rule is that ambiguity is better for our moral development.

A bit rich to claim that we're supposed to live in ambiguity, while also holding that God made himself pretty clear on the matter

Pretty clear is not perfectly clear. Evidence of God is not a stepwise function. The more evidence you have, the more moral responsibility you have too. Some ambiguity is still present even when the evidence is overwhelming.

Christianity claims mutually inconsistent and contradictory attributes of a singular entity, and then does their best to reconcile the irreconcilable, whereas someone who didn't take the existence of God as axiomatic can simply look at the broader picture and conclude that it doesn't exist.

You make two arguments here:

  1. Christians holds God's existence as axiomatic, which leads them astray

  2. It is evident that God doesn't exist

2 is debatable. 1 is just dirty rhetorical tactics. Christians obviously do not hold the existence of God as axiomatic, or none would ever leave the church. If you can change your mind about an axiom based on evidence then it's not an axiom. Characterizing belief-in-God as axiomatic is just shorthand for "how dare they disagree with me even though I think they're wrong." More importantly, epicycles are a perfectly rational way of explaining a phenomenon given sufficient evidence for that phenomenon. The laws of physics as currently understood contain just as many epicycles, if not more.

An omnibenevolent entity wouldn't create a Hell, let alone one that's also omniscient and omnipotent so it knows with perfect certainty where we're going to end up.

You continue to make this claim without engaging with counterarguments. Even in this thread, @FCfromSSC directly defined hell as "the absence of God" which is quite a bit different from how you characterize it here (as a place God sends people).

It's perfectly consistent for God to value agency above all else, especially since it's agency that gives meaning to moral virtue. It's perfectly consistent to suppose that if God did create people who were incapable of evil, he would not be granting them agency at all.

More generally, Christ was very clear and intentional most of the time about keeping his miracles secret. When he raised people from the dead he generally allowed 1-2 people in to see it, if any. There are a few exceptions, but the general rule is that ambiguity is better for our moral development.

OK. Now do the whole Old Testament.

Christians obviously do not hold the existence of God as axiomatic, or none would ever leave the church.

I'm using axiomatic to include priors with a probability of both 1 and 1-epsilon. Mathematicians regularly employ axioms, yet are open to reconsidering what they consider axiomatic if the downstream consequences are conflicting or nonsensical, they consider adjusting their upstream assumptions.

Who knows how the brain actually encodes Bayesian priors (it actually does do that, as best as we can tell), it might not be possible for a prior in the brain to be literally one or zero, but observational evidence tells me some people get close, and no amount of evidence anyone can feasibly muster can move them.

Frankly speaking that you even consider point 2 to even be up for debate given most reasonable starting priors, is strong evidence of point 1. What exactly would it take to convince you that God doesn't exist?

It's perfectly consistent for God to value agency above all else, especially since it's agency that gives meaning to moral virtue. It's perfectly consistent to suppose that if God did create people who were incapable of evil, he would not be granting them agency at all.

The whole omniscience part makes the concept of "agency" rather dubious doesn't it? Ah yes, I know perfectly well in advance if you're going to take the red pill or the blue pill, sucks that you're with 100% certainty going to take the one I've laced with cyanide. On you kid, L+ratio.

I asked Bing what the general consensus about what Hell actually is is the myriad strains of Christianity. Said consensus apparent doesn't exist.

According to the web search results, there are three common views on hell in Christian theology: Traditionalism, Universalism, and Annihilationism1

Traditionalism is the view that the unredeemed dead suffer for all eternity in flames of fire. This is the most widely recognized view and is often depicted in popular culture. Some biblical texts that support this view are Matthew 25:41, Revelation 14:11, and Revelation 20:101

Universalism is the view that there is no eternal dwelling place for the unredeemed dead. Instead, all people will end up living with God for eternity. This view emphasizes God’s love and mercy and believes that everyone will eventually repent and accept God. Some biblical texts that support this view are John 3:16, Romans 5:18, and 1 Timothy 4:102

Annihilationism is the view that the unredeemed dead will ultimately cease to exist so that only the redeemed will live with God in eternity. This view holds that eternal punishment is incompatible with God’s justice and goodness and that some people will persist in rejecting God. Some biblical texts that support this view are Matthew 10:28, Romans 6:23, and 2 Thessalonians 1:92

I don't see Hell as the "absence of God" as a mainstream position, and given that it clearly seems to me that he's on an extended vacation, if this counts as Hell, then call me a happy sinner.

Besides, the number of epicycles that a theory is allowed to hold before it ought to be rejected is clearly a function of how useful said theory is at predicting experimental results and constraining expectations. The Standard Model of Physics does an awful lot better at predicting the nature and evolution of the universe than the Bible does, so we can tack on Dark Matter or Dark Energy with the clear knowledge that something must be missing in our understanding.

Now do the whole Old Testament.

All the people in the Old Testament are constantly denying God, worshipping idols, etc. even after seeing miracles. Obviously the evidence they saw was still ambiguous or they wouldn't be doing those things.

I'm using axiomatic to include priors with a probability of both 1 and 1-epsilon.

1-epsilon still doesn't address the people that leave the church, it just sounds like it does.

observational evidence tells me some people get close, and no amount of evidence anyone can feasibly muster can move them.

This is a good thing and is how evidence should work. If something is true, it should be difficult to dissuade someone. If someone has seen lots of evidence for something over the course of their life, of course counterbalancing that evidence will also require quite a lot of work, possibly more than anyone can feasibly muster. Being confident in a belief is not the same thing as adopting that belief as an axiom.

Mathematicians regularly employ axioms, yet are open to reconsidering what they consider axiomatic if the downstream consequences are conflicting or nonsensical, they consider adjusting their upstream assumptions.

Either you're wrong or they use a different definition of "axiom" than the commonly accepted one. Like I said, if your axioms depend on evidence, they're not axioms at all. Sounds like their actual axioms are something like "truth must be consistent", and the things you describe as axioms would be better characterized as useful assumptions. There is no such thing as a downstream axiom--it's either an axiom or it's not one.

I don't see Hell as the "absence of God" as a mainstream position

To be honest none of those Bing options really address that; they're more concerned with the ultimate fate of people who get sent to Hell, not the nature of what Hell is. This is obvious enough that I question why you even included that point. I asked Bing "please describe a few commonly-held beliefs regarding the nature of christian hell" and on my first try got a much better response:

Sure, I can describe some of the commonly-held beliefs regarding the nature of Christian hell. According to Wikipedia1, hell in Christianity is the place or state into which, by God’s definitive judgment, unrepentant sinners pass in the general judgment, or, as some Christians believe, immediately after death (particular judgment). Different words are used in the Bible to refer to hell, such as Sheol, Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus. These words may have different meanings and connotations depending on the context and the translation.

Some of the beliefs about hell in Christianity include:

Hell is a place of eternal torments where the wicked suffer physical and spiritual pain in fire and darkness (cf. Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10-15). This is the traditional view held by most Catholics and Protestants for centuries2 Hell is a place of annihilation where the wicked cease to exist after being consumed by fire (cf. Matthew 10:28; Malachi 4:1-3). This is a view held by some Christians who reject the idea of eternal punishment as incompatible with God’s justice and love2

Hell is a place of separation from God where the wicked experience the absence of God’s presence and grace (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Luke 16:19-31). This is a view held by some Christians who emphasize the free will of human beings and their choice to reject God’s offer of salvation

Hell is a place of purification where the wicked undergo a process of cleansing and correction before they can enter heaven (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Matthew 5:25-26). This is a view held by some Catholics who believe in a place called Purgatory where souls are purified from their sins

Hell is a state of mind where the wicked experience their own self-inflicted misery and alienation from God (cf. Luke 12:47-48; Romans 2:5-11). This is a view held by some Christians who believe that heaven and hell are not physical places but spiritual realities that depend on one’s relationship with God

These are some of the main beliefs about hell in Christianity, but there are also variations and nuances among different denominations and individuals. Some Christians may also hold more than one belief or have doubts about the nature of hell. Ultimately, Christians believe that only God knows who will go to hell and what hell is like

So, obviously "hell is the absence of God" is in fact a pretty mainstream position.

Besides, the number of epicycles that a theory is allowed to hold before it ought to be rejected is clearly a function of how useful said theory is at predicting experimental results and constraining expectations. The Standard Model of Physics does an awful lot better at predicting the nature and evolution of the universe than the Bible does, so we can tack on Dark Matter or Dark Energy with the clear knowledge that something must be missing in our understanding.

Yes I know. So now we're back to square one, as I was saying, where your claim is that there's not enough evidence for Christianity. This is a much less interesting criticism than one about epicycles, forgetting that epicycles are how we get things like the laws of physics in the first place.

The whole omniscience part makes the concept of "agency" rather dubious doesn't it? Ah yes, I know perfectly well in advance if you're going to take the red pill or the blue pill, sucks that you're with 100% certainty going to take the one I've laced with cyanide. On you kid, L+ratio.

If you don't know which of the pills is laced with cyanide, that's not exactly your choice, is it? If you do know, then it's still your choice even if the choice-offerer knows what your decision will be before you've made it.

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that a God who attempts to secure your love through threats of eternal torture is a monster

This has been my general approach too. There are few universal 'goods' across all religions. Those are likely good places to start.
Don't betray, murder, rape, lie, steal or be hypocrite. I try my hardest to do all of them. the not lying and not-betraying (even unintentionally) bits are especially hard to keep up all the time.

It's one of the reasons I don't buy people's crap on religion. I have yet meet anyone who consistently does even just these 5. If it's that difficult to follow the LCM (lowest-common-multiple) of all religions together. No way anyone is able to those and all the extras that come depending on which religion you think wins the jackpot.

people who reject God get exactly what they're expecting: death, and then non-existence.

Perks of being Hindu / Buddhist. Release from the eternal cycle of life/death is exactly what Moksha/Nirvana looks like. So by following an Indian-origin religion and rejecting Christianity, a person gets both the incentive (aim for non-existence) and a guarantee of success (non-existence). Thanks Jesus ?

Win-win if you ask me.

What I struggle with is the idea that those who are in heaven can be in paradise with knowledge that maybe their parents, brothers, sisters, spouse, kids, etc. rot in hell. How could anyone find paradise knowing that?

Part of the joy and sorrow of Heaven I anticipate is having no illusions.

This means I will remember the full depths of the public and secret sins I’ve been saved from by Jesus’ sacrifice. I will be made aware of the kinds of sins I would have committed if I hadn’t been sealed by the Holy Spirit and motivated by love instead of spite or greed. I will be left knowing just how righteous God would have been to condemn me away from His presence for eternity.

With no illusions, I will also be able to see the righteousness of the condemnation of all who chose to reject the Way of love-for-all and the damage they willingly cause wherever they may be. If one of the dwellers in misery is a close relative or even a lover, I will mourn them, but I will be disgusted by the depths of the evil they chose and agree they deserve their fate, just as I would have.

This all assumes the particular variant of Christianity I’ve been taught is theologically and cosmologically accurate. I’d like to be pleasantly surprised that all humans throughout history have ended up accepting Jesus’ forgiveness either before or after their death, and Hell ends up holding only the demonic angels who rebelled. I pray nightly that all will have ended up saved. But having watched both Sound of Freedom and the documentary Anne Frank Remembered this month, I don’t have hopes quite that high.

just as I would have

Just as you do. Christianity is not salvation by being sufficiently good enough, but is by the mercy of God in forgiving our sins.

Thanks! Clarification: …but I will be disgusted by the depths of the evil they chose and agree they deserve their fate, a fate I would have shared were it not for grace.

I'm not clear on how this differs from "I could be happy in Heaven despite knowing there are people in Hell because my mind would be rewritten to consider this justice". A divine entity reshaping you like that could make you think of anything as justice. How would you tell the difference between this, and the Hypothetical Reverse God who condemns all Christians making you think you perfectly deserve misery?

...Also, I can't help but notice that this whole "without these specific rituals and beliefs, you suffer forever" business feels a lot more like an idea maximising pressure to spread it than the kind of thing you'd expect from the Almighty. It seems very petty, very suspiciously human, for an entity with the majesty and sheer greatness of God to hold that kind of a grudge.

Who am I to teach God mercy? Well, I don't have a torture-dimension for my enemies, so I have that going for me. I sort of feel like the Almighty should be able to outdo me here, rather than the opposite.

The only necessary belief is that God counts Jesus’ death as fulfilling my death penalty for the harm I’ve caused.

The only necessary “ritual” is that I do not “blaspheme the Holy Spirit.”

The eternal suffering comes from being imprisoned away from the source of all goodness and kindness with all the other hateful people, and malicious powerful spiritual entities imprisoned too.

Boy, all those people with the thick book and the huge churches must be really wasting their time, then.

Necessary is the bare minimum to escape condemnation. It defies belief that you can have misunderstood this when user rolfmoo was talking about the many specific rituals and beliefs he thinks one must hold to enter Heaven and escape fiery damnation. The thick book, huge buildings, many rituals, and ancillary beliefs all serve the minimums, but have additional purposes.

That idea is just alien to me. I couldn’t imagine my sweet daughters suffering in hell and me just saying “yep infinite torment is justified for being born and not choosing to believe in a particular religion with all human frailties.”

CS Lewis (along with many others) does have a solution which is that hell is proverbially locked from the inside. You seem to hint at it as well (ie maybe one can be saved after death). But are we really to believe that it is just to suffer eternally for not accepting a gift that was unclear if true, especially when there are many other religions with their own afterlife? Sorry you picked wrong eternal damnation. I can’t reconcile that with (1) a loving god and (2) a place where I could be happy. The Lewis solution seems at least palatable to me but being raised Protestant sola scriptura still has a heavy pull on me.

Even if these in-laws are right, then surely a place where 99% of people go after death, can't be THAT bad.

There is no logical connection between the number of people doing something and the goodness or badness of the thing they do in absolute terms. Everyone dies, and yet some atheists here are very, very afraid of death, and see its elimination as the preeminent moral imperative.

But still, do these people never reflect on what they believe in ? Even for a moment ?

Many of them doubtless do not. On the other hand, it's hard to distinguish between beliefs that are stupid and beliefs you simply don't understand very well.

Question: did you ever really expect to be left alone, by anyone? Libertarianism is not a stable equilibrium. You must choose what petty tyrant you bow down to, or one will be chosen for you.

Then petty tyrants are a high entropy state that we will need to continuously resist sliding into. Passively ignoring the issue will result in a disapproving schoolmarm deciding how you shall live.

But pointing this out is not a call for libertarians to give up. It is a call to not be complacent.

I'm pretty sure that even Libertarians don't claim it's a stable equilibrium, hence the whole watering the Tree of Liberty with blood deal. You maintain it by coordinating against anyone who tried to undermine it first.

Given that the baptism of your children requires that you ask the Church to accept them as a member and publicly state that you intend to raise them in the Catholic faith, I think your in-laws can be forgiven for bringing this up. Since at least one point you least mimed agreement. I have friends in similar circumstances and I'm also unsympathetic. If you don't want to raise your children religious why get them baptized, if you had been clear with your intentions from the start I don't think you would have this conflict (might have other conflict but not this one!).

I'm entirely uncool with Catholics pressuring people into obviously false statements of faith and baptism, and then acting like that person is a betrayer violating an honest promise when that person honestly states the perfectly clear fact it was all lip service.

You can coerce people into loyalty oaths. Of course that has no bearing on their actual beliefs. It just means they gave into coercion. Some people then act performatively shocked that coerced pledges are worthless.

Is it "obviously false" though?

"Are you going to raise your kids as Catholics?" is a fairly straight forward question, and there is little reason to lie unless you're explicitly trying to get a free-ride off of church resources in which case I'd say they have a right to be annoyed.

I don't think avoiding social ostracism counts as "getting a free ride off of church resources".

It absolutely is "getting a free ride" if the church is offering any sort of perks for membership.

And yes I include things like social functions, play-dates, blue-bag groceries, school supplies, etc.. under the heading "perks"

Is a light-skinned black person who tries to pass for white, in a situation where a lot of people don't like blacks. "getting a free ride"? I would say no.

And if it's a light-skinned black person, at least his parents and siblings are okay with him being black. In the analogous situation with religion, you can have religious beliefs that are completely different from your whole family. It's hard thinking of even a good analogy, but let's say you want to marry a light-skinned black person and you tell your parents that this person is white because you know your parents would otherwise ostracize you. Are you getting a free ride from your parents every time you come home for Thanksgiving dinner, because you know that if you had told the truth, they wouldn't let you in the house?

If that's coercion, then having any requirement for romantic partners is coercion.

"She said must love dogs in her profile, and I had no other choice but to feign a love of dogs, though I am actually a cat person."

"Coercion" and "not getting a free ride off of church resources" are separate arguments, though related.

I'd agree that feigning a love of dogs doesn't count as getting a free ride off of church resources.

I'd agree that feigning a love of dogs doesn't count as getting a free ride off of church resources.

No that a free ride of your partner instead which is arguably worse.

Given that the baptism of your children requires that you ask the Church to accept them as a member and publicly state that you intend to raise them in the Catholic faith

My wife verbalized this at the baptism, I didn't. We planned this out before we got married - it was annoying but they'll get to make their own decisions once they're older.

I'm unsympathetic to you because you knew all this going in. "Yeah, I think it's all horseshit, my fiancée knows I think it's all horseshit, but I'll pretend and she'll go along with my pretence for the sake of peace".

Well sorry bunky, but you didn't make that bargain with the rest of the family. Now you're asking us to shake our heads at "I had no idea some of these idiots really believed this horseshit, why aren't they all tolerant and accepting that I'm lying about every single thing to do with their dumb rituals because I'm banking on my kids being influenced by my attitudes and not my go-along-to-get-along wife's attitudes?" Oh poor widdle you!

Yeah, that is what tends to happen when you encounter people who really believe things. "Can you believe it? I married into a family of doctors, even though I'm a homeopathic practitioner, and one of the in-laws had the gall to ask my father if I was going to give up pseudoscience and that he, as a consultant at a major regional hospital, should talk to me about scientific evidence!"

You think condemning his kid to Hell would have caused less conflict?

Allowing his kid to be baptized was the path of least conflict, so I think it's wholly appropriate to be annoyed when the other party insists on causing more conflict, rather than returning the favor.

Whether or not your spouse is committed to raising your kids Christian is a private conversation. Your spouse mouthing some words because she knows a tradition is important to you is not a substitute for that.

I never said there would less conflict, only different conflict. If you don't want to raise your children religious then why get them baptized? I understand changing ones mind but still I think as a parent in a free-confessional state you have the absolute free choice. Your decision will have consequences and this may lead to conflict, but I think taking a firm stance at initiation would certainly have made their stance public and the future conflict would not have occurred. To stand up in public and pantomime these words, while you might have them not hold weight, I don't think its fair to discredit those who took your pantomime at face value.

Your decision will have consequences and this may lead to conflict, but I think taking a firm stance at initiation would certainly have made their stance public and the future conflict would not have occurred.

A valid theory! My personal opinion is that refusing to allow my children to be baptized would have been much worse, consequence wise. My strategy is to play the long game. I'm confident that my kids will find their own way long term, whether that's being religious and having acceptance from my in-laws or not and having my protection and support.

My strategy is to play the long game.

Yeah, I think you're digging yourself in deeper here 🤦‍♀️ "I have no problem lying, why can't they accept that I'm a liar?" and you wonder why they don't trust you?

Where are you imagining dishonesty on my part? I have made no oaths or promises to Christianity or this family about converting.

About converting, I agree, and that is where your in-law was out of line.

The rest of it? You're telling us you knew the conditions required before going in, you said you agreed out of one side of your mouth while saying 'fuck no' out of the other, and now you want us to stroke your fevered brow about 'how dare they expect me to do what I publicly promised to do'.

"I only said it because I wanted to marry this woman" (except it was you who put it more crudely). That's still being dishonest, just as dishonest as if you promised her father you would take good care of her and any kids you had, then spent all your money on whores, booze and gambling while your family was in want, and your only response there was "oh come on, I never meant that dumb promise, I only said it because he wouldn't have let you marry me otherwise. When you married me you knew I was gonna get drunk and fuck around".

Did your parish not administer baptism properly?

http://www.ibreviary.com/m2/preghiere.php?tipo=Rito&id=103

The celebrant speaks to the parents in these or similar words:

You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

Parents: We do.

The part where you lied about your intent to raise your kids as christians. I get that you think you were just mouthing a bunch of meaningless syllables devoid of semantic content but that's not how your in-laws see it.

I can see where, by my presence at the baptism, there was an implicit agreement and therefore dishonesty.

I have personally known Catholic families that used maximum pressure to coerce false statements of faith out of people and then are horrified when the obvious truth that those pledges are fake is revealed. Using hard pressure to get compliance should predictably result in false statements rather than changing their honest beliefs deep in their heart.

Maybe that's not what happened with OP. Maybe his in laws were honestly blind sided in this one instance. But this is a predictable and in my experience apparently common failure mode for Catholic families. Acting wounded when it turns out that coerced actions are not a reflection of someone's honest beliefs.

Define "coerced" though.

Whether or not your spouse is committed to raising your kids Christian is a private conversation.

From within the Christian worldview, it's not though and that's the disconnect. Christian ,marriage and baptism are necessarily public and community arrangements and within Catholicism, sacramental. Marriage is a living metaphor for the relationship of Jesus and the Church itself.

That doesn't mean everything is everyone's business all the time, but even if you come into the marriage as nonChristian, this is what you are getting into. Christian marraige is not a function of an atomic, private, liberal mindset even if you want it to be.

As I said in the other comment, it's true that OP didn't necessary make a vow to raise his kids Catholic, but he publically entered a union with a person who did and the other members of the Church to an extent have a right and even (in the right context) a duty to assure that commitment.

OP's whole post is "why can't Christians subject their faith to my standard of polite secular tolarance within our family the same way I expect it from our state?" Because Christianity doesn't work that way and isn't a servant of liberalism.

Interestingly, this is a post-Reformation development. Luther pioneered, and the counter-reformation embraced, the practice of requiring marriages to be publically witnessed. Prior to that, secret marriages were allowed (though I assume still privately officiated by a priest?).

(I don't have a source to back this up on hand, and I was only told this once a few months ago, so take the requisite grains of salt)

If you don't want to raise your children religious why get them baptized, if you had been clear with your intentions from the start I don't think you would have this conflict (might have other conflict but not this one!).

To be validly married in the Catholic Church in a mixed marriage, the Catholic party has to promise baptize and raise their children in the faith. Prior to 1970, both parties had to make the promise.

While I think mixed marriages are a very bad idea to begin with, assuming they had a valid Catholic wedding, @yofuckreddit is/was likely aware of this promise of their spouse and respects her enough to not obstruct it. If they are not validly married, I would spend my time pestering his wife about getting that fixed were I their relative, before I moved on to hassling @yofuckreddit himself.

I don't know why one marries someone who thinks their beleifs are idiotic, but love is love I guess.

I don't know why one marries someone who thinks their beleifs are idiotic, but love is love I guess.

It would be beyond rude for me to ridicule my wife in this way, and I have no plans to do so. That is intrinsically part of our "deal".

Well I assumed you don't ridicule her. But I assume she knows you don't believe and think it's 'idiocy' (if in lighter terms). I personal would advise people against marrying people with such fundamental moral epistemology mismatches It seems quite difficult for reasons you describe in your OP.

FWIW, my wife is Catholic, but her family isn't and that alone is hard enough.

What does your wife think about Christianity and about your disagreement with her family? You have not mentioned it, but to me it seems that it might be important when it comes to figuring out the best approach going forward.

The unspoken agreement was that I go to church for holidays, let you splash water on my children

Maybe their idea of the unspoken agreement was different from yours, that is if they even thought of there being an unspoken agreement to begin with. For me, going to church for holidays and letting people splash water on my children would already have probably been too much. I really dislike most rituals. Put that dislike together with my agnosticism and it's just like, no way man. It would be very hard to force myself to go to church and I think that religious people splashing water on my children would make me feel uneasy. To be fair, I have no children so perhaps I am missing part of the picture.

It seems that you have to some extent been living a lie with these people. Well, we all live a lie to some extent, so that is not unusual. I wish you success in dealing with these relationships.

My wife and I are on the same page. We've had essentially no conflict around religion, after discussing it deeply before getting married. We're comfortable communicating about it.

I wish you success in dealing with these relationships.

I sincerely appreciate the sentiment. The good news is, I don't have a significant amount of conflict with my in-laws and this was a minor blip in a largely successful decade. As my wife put it, the host of the gathering (another catholic in-law) would probably have been mortified at this breach of etiquette.

And this here is yet another example of strife caused by the crude mockery that Westerners have made of marriage by treating it as a contract between two individuals instead of as a bond between two families. What your future in-laws will be like makes up a big part of what your married life will be like unless you jettison those links, but even doing that has a cost on you and your spouse. Hence you need to select on this axis too when deciding on your long term life partner and your failure to do that here has meant unnecessary pain.

Now you might well say that you and your wife got married knowing about this fundamental difference and you accepted this as a negative but still believed the combined package of everything meant marriage was still worth it for you two, in which case fair enough but equally then you can hardly claim to be surprised when your in laws behave in ways concordant with the beliefs you knew they held. If you didn't take this into account and just thought that what extended family are like should have zero bearing on whether you and your wife should get married then you just got burned by having false beliefs about human relationships, no different to a dullard who entered a lion's den at the zoo getting ripped to shreds because he thought they were vegetarian.

And before you say that I have no idea about your relationship dynamic with your wife and thus am unqualified to comment about it know that I am not talking to you at all here. You are irrelevant, it is too late for you, you have already married into this household and now have to live with the consequences. My advice can do nothing for you. I am talking to the other readers here who are yet to make the plunge, they can easily save themselves from a lot of future anguish by just making sure the beliefs of their fiance's family are not too wildly divergent from their own instead of following the modern Western mantra of "you're marrying them, not their family".

For whatever it's worth, I completely understand and agree with your last paragraph.

If you didn't take this into account and just thought that what extended family are like should have zero bearing on whether you and your wife should get married then you just got burned by having false beliefs about human relationships, no different to a dullard who entered a lion's den at the zoo getting ripped to shreds because he thought they were vegetarian.

It may not seem like it, but I agree with this as well. I knew what I was getting into, and I think it would take a "dullard" to pretend otherwise.

I do find the tactic of approaching my father instead of me distasteful. I can handle myself, but putting my parents in the uncomfortable position of speaking for me is inexcusable in my book.

I do find the tactic of approaching my father instead of me distasteful. I can handle myself, but putting my parents in the uncomfortable position of speaking for me is inexcusable in my book.

Even from a Christian perspective, it's pretty damn questionable whether they can speak for you in principle. I'm not an expert on Catholic teaching, but I don't think they let you convert people against their will.

This post is an interesting little mirror to this sub's CW leanings. Imagine if the positions were reversed with a left-leaning interlocutor instead of a right-leaning one. Say you told a story where they were making snide passive-aggressive remarks implying you were racist. The response you would have gotten would almost certainly be cheering alongside you. I highly doubt they would be as unanimous in their scorn, claiming this post breaks rules, that your previous compromises means you somehow deserve this, or that snide remark essentially saying "we're not your therapist, bro".

The fact that Christianity's cultural side is inextricably linked to the superstitious side is clearly causing some amount of cognitive dissonance. But instead of resolving it (either by severing the two sides, or by rejecting Christianity entirely if doing so is infeasible), this sub... tries to ignore it as much as possible. This sub pretends it doesn't exist, and then gets really conspicuously oversensitive whenever someone reminds them of it.

This is.... precisely why I posted it. I appreciate you catching it!