Thursday, June 11, 2009

Their Human Nature and Ours

Cardinal Cormack Murphy-O'Connor,

This is about the Cardinal who supposedly said that Atheists are not Human. I contend that he was really just saying that the atheist Understanding of being human is inadequate, while atheists aer trying to turn it into a big hary deal to prove that Christians dehumanize atheists.

You can listen to him here:

Hermit (our Hermit)

He quite clearly says at the end that if you don't accept the belief that man was made by God then "you are not fully human"...not "your understanding of humanity lacks something" but "you are not fully human."

He doesn't say "if you don't accept..." anything but I agree his last snippet was a statement to the effect "they are less human." But I think it's pretty clear he mean within the context of the atheist understanding of being human, not they literally are less human. But I know that atheist will never never never give him the benefit of a doubt. I think he just phrased it badly because it was the tail end summary he was rushing to Finnish and he only meant within in their understanding they are less human, meaning their understanding is. The sort of person the atheist invisions is not fully human because they leaving out the dimension of the divine.

But that would be interpreting him in the best light and the atheists have interest in doing that because they are not concerned with what really did mean. They are only concerned with millage out of it.

I am quoted as saying:

"No the only argument he made was atheists leave out the imago dei dimension. that's the context. He did not say anything else. He is talking about that. He says they are only into themselves he's talking about just understanding themselves as the limit on being human excluding the divine."
Our Hermi says:

And that's still grossly insulting and unfair to atheists. Even if we accept that the last bit about people like me not being "fully humans a slip of the tongue this whole attitude of smug superiority is really galling. It misrepresents the appreciation that atheists, humanists and secularists (he seems to be lumping them all together here) have for humanity.

No it's not! why would it be? That's just absurd. But let's look at the two view to see what's really being said. First, the Cardinal is coming out of a rich heritage of 2000 years of intellectualizing bout the nature of humanity. The Catholic concept of humanity is much more complex and well developed than just the idea of a soul an an after life. Click on the link and see how long the article and how many blue words to follow as side links and you will see how vast this thinking about humanity is. Here is just a small sample:

According to the common definition of the School, Man is a rational animal. This signifies no more than that, in the system of classification and definition shown in the Arbor Porphyriana, man is a substance, corporeal, living, sentient, and rational. It is a logical definition, having reference to a metaphysical entity. It has been said that man's animality is distinct in nature from his rationality, though they are inseparably joined, during life, in one common personality. "Animality" is an abstraction as is "rationality". As such, neither has any substantial existence of its own. To be exact we should have to write: "Man's animality is rational"; for his "rationality" is certainly not something superadded to his "animality". Man is one in essence. In the Scholastic synthesis, it is a manifest illogism to hypostasize the abstract conceptions that are necessary for the intelligent apprehension of complete phenomena. A similar confusion of expression may be noticed in the statement that man is a "compound of body and soul". This is misleading. Man is not a body plus a soul — which would make of him two individuals; but a body that is what it is (namely, a human body) by reason of its union with the soul. As a special application of the general doctrine of matter and form which is as well a theory of science as of intrinsic causality, the "soul" is envisaged as the substantial form of the matter which, so informed, is a human "body". The union between the two is a "substantial" one. It cannot be maintained, in the Thomistic system, that the "substantial union is a relation by which two substances are so disposed that they form one". In the general theory, neither "matter" nor "form", but only the composite, is a substance. In the case of man, though the "soul" be proved a reality capable of separate existence, the "body" can in no sense be called a substance in its own right. It exists only as determined by a form; and if that form is not a human soul, then the "body" is not a human body. It is in this sense that the Scholastic phrase "incomplete substance", applied to body and soul alike, is to be understood. Though strictly speaking self-contradictory, the phrase expresses in a convenient form the abiding reciprocity of relation between these two "principles of substantial being".

about half those words are blue.Meaning there are other articles about them, so it's a pretty complex study.

Now to translate into my own warped Protestant version: To be human is to be a creature of God. To be human is to be a contingency participating being through the aegis of the eternal necessary aspect of Being. Our mind constitute "spirit" and through God's sustaining action it will live on after the death of our bodies, which may be reconstituted in a new but improved tripartite union; body, soul, spirit. "Soul" is a symbol for our lives in relation to God. We don't have souls, we are souls. The importance of this point is that life itself is measured in terms of proximity to God, emotional, spiritual, moral proximity. We are created in image of God meaning our intellectual and moral capacities mirror those of the divine. This means that each human being is a moral end in himself. Humans are not be used as a mean to an end. We are the end and we are each and equal and valuable end. Christ died n the cross for everyone of us. So even the worst murdering drunken scum bag in the gutter is a valuable jewel and the loss of his soul (life and relationship with God) is an eternal tragedy. This reality forms the basis for a Christin concept of the sanctity of life. This is especially true in terms of human life, but all life by extension as all life is connected through the ecological dimension, and all life is a web of contingent beings created by God.

The best source I can recommend for understanding a Christian concept of humanity would be Reinhold Niebuhr's book The Nature and Destiny of Man vol I: Human Nature. This is no dray formal recitation of doctrines. It's a dynamic look at humanity in relation to God written on the eve of world war II and focuses upon Neitzsche's concept of humanity and its' affects upon the Nazis and the demonic fury of nineteenth century romantic sources of Nazism. Vol I is the book that gave me my view on the nature of Genesis creation myth. This text is the one that influenced me to understand that story not in the context of literal history but as a Hebrew take on pagan creation myths. This is one of my all time favorite books. This book might make my short list of greatest books ever.

The Atheist view, on the other hand, while dressed up and given a happy face any number of ways is still just this: We are worm food. Of course they would never say that. They dress it up, put elaborate ball gowns and glass slippers on it and take it to the ball, but it's still just worm food. We are only sacs of chemicals with electricity flowing through them. They try to jack it up by re valuing it, try to attach values to it commensurate with the imago dei and the idea of the soul but it's just worm food in the final analysis. To me the atheist view is far more insulting even with the happy face. The worst thing is many atheists use a reductionist methodology (or pretend they do and really just a reductionist mentality) and reduce everything a theist says to just its most basic physical components. So there's no soul, no God, no spirit, no atonement, no sin, no after life, we are not loved, we are not contingent, we are just worm food, sacs of chemicals and electricity and that's all. Yet when it comes to their value as individuals, usually measured by what they want to do for pleasure, then that's a whole different story. No longer are they content to just be worm food, they are excellent, intelligent, wondrous amazing brilliant mysterious worm food that thinks and feels and is so unique it's only here for a short time then tis' gone forever int he stomach's of worms.

Even though some atheist may argue that there emergent properties that elevate humanity beyond the level of worm food ultimately that's all we aspire to in the atheist scheme of things. They have to transpose value from Christian memories and moral frameworks that ultimately come from the Bible or other religious bases. Even if atheists don't believe this, from that Cardinal's perspective compared to the elevated and rich view of man in Catholicism that's probably the way he thinks atheist think and it not an insult it's what he thinks. The are not willing to hear him in a positive light. they are not to give him the benefit of a doubt. They want to hear him in the the worst possible way because they hate him. They despise him. They hated him long before he said anything. Just knowing he's religious means they hate him. They don't care what he thinks, he could be in love with atheists for all they care. They care about only the propaganda value not the fats.

I said:

"I am so totally convened that atheists have problems understanding things. I see it all the time."

Hermi says:

In this case I think you're the one who's having trouble understanding. If you tell people they are "less than human" or even that their understanding of their own humanity is "less than human" they tend to get angry. Reacting angrily to a disgusting comment like that isn't hateful. Defending a disgusting, hateful comment like that by pretending it's the listener's fault for allegedly being too stupid to understand the plain language of what this man said is what's hateful.

Of course you are begging the question because he didn't say that. It's a misinterpretation but one you want and one you don't want to clear up.

Tell me Hermi that it would make you happy to know he didn't mean it? Do you really what he really meant?

Ps the title is a parody of the famous Marxist fourth international speech "their Torstsky and ours" which has been repeated over and over in different forms: their Lenin and ours, their Trotsky and Ours, their Barnes and o


A Hermit said...

First of all its Hermit" not "Hermi"'re not off to a good start when you take that smug, condescending approach. (and don't blame it on the dyslexia,

Secondly, I clearly heard what the paedophile-promoting Cardinal said, and while I'm willing to grant that he may have misspoken I think there's some validity to the idea of the 'Freudian slip'; he may not have meant to say it out loud, but something of his real attitude may have been revealed there. I have to hear anything about the Cardinal trying to clarify his comments, by the way...I would think he would want to do that if his meaning was being so badly misconstrued.

Thirdly, it is insulting to reduce the views of atheists in general toward humanity to "worm food" as you do here. There may well be some who take that approach but you know goddamn well I am not one of them, and I am by no means exceptional in that regard. This is just another example of that smugness I was talking about; only your view of humanity is to be given any credence or value...why? Just because you say it's superior?

Sorry, but I'm not inclined to be sympathetic to the idea that a senior Church official who was so insensitive to human suffering that he would protect a child molestor (and enable him to continue his crimes) has a more complete understanding of what it means to be human than I do.

I have (years ago) read some Niebuhr, by the way, maybe you should read some Conte-Sponville, or Robert Buckman, or just read post at the video link I gave you earlier before being so smugly dismissive of all atheist or humanist attitudes to humanity and the human condition.

Finally, my biggest objection in this whole matter was your characterization of atheists who objected to being described by the Cardinal as "less than human" as behaving like a "hate group" for objecting to the Cardinal's words. Even if you think he misspoke you can't blame the targets of his comments for being upset with what was, at least on the face of it, a highly offensive characterization of them and their beliefs. Given that the Cardinal has not, to my knowledge, offered an apology or an explanation I don't see why atheists should be expected to do anything other than take him at his word.

Considering your own tendency to lash out in anger at every perceived slight against you I should think you would be a little more sympathetic to others who might have a similar reaction to what they perceived as a shot at their very humanity.

A Hermit said...

A pertinent cartoon:

Jesus and Mo

A Hermit said...

You can hear the whole interview here.

The Cardinal is on just before halfway through. The bit about atheists is right at the start of his segment. Still doesn't sound anything but smug and arrogant to me; even putting the most generous spin on his intended meaning all he's doing is painting a demeaning caricature, not just of atheists, but of secularists.

A Hermit said...

Are you going to post my reply or not?

J.L. Hinman said...

sorry I took so long. Tied up in other things.

A Hermit said...

Thanks, didn't mean to sound impatient, but they're deleting all my comments at cadre right now (I objected to being called a liar and a coward...was that wrong of me...?!) so I may have been feeling a little paranoid...;-)

J.L. Hinman said...

Thanks, didn't mean to sound impatient, but they're deleting all my comments at cadre right now (I objected to being called a liar and a coward...was that wrong of me...?!) so I may have been feeling a little paranoid...;-)

June 13, 2009 12:49 PM

what did they say you are laying about and afraid of?

I don't think you are those things. I'm going to have a talk with them.

A Hermit said...

No big deal Joe; I'm just an atheist whose views are less than fully human...right? ;-)

J.L. Hinman said...

No big deal Joe; I'm just an atheist whose views are less than fully human...right? ;-)

now you are wising up.

no, I hate all people equally.