Sunday, February 28, 2010

Religion and Philosophy

Does it ever occur to you to be entirely random? Does such a notion defeat the point: plan to be random? Part of me wonders if that's what happened when people started dreaming along lines of what we now understand as 'religion'. I think there was a measure of spontaneity involved in the philosophic meanderings on reality that easily makes a lateral step into religion.

Mind you, this begs the question of which came first: religion or philosophy. But I don't see the two as separate. I think they are conjoined twins. A person can't hold religious views without adopting the particular philosophical biases that undergird them. For example, Christianity sprang out of Hellenistic and Stoic philosophies. That is, the undercurrent of thought in Christianity is primarily Platonic. Christianity, as it were, is founded on Platonic thought.

Many is the objector to that notion, believe me. But there's no denying the parallel between Plato's perfect and derivative forms theory within Christianity. The core doctrine of Christianity, the incarnation of God in the man of Jesus, is exactly that: God, the perfect being, takes on the skin of a man, an imperfect and derivative (image and likeness) being. Yes, the notion of imago dei pre-existed the neo-Platonic Christian teaching of the incarnation. Yes, the Hebrew peoples saw humanity as directly linked to God. But this overlap doesn't invalidate my point, it affirms it: religious and philosophical querries are inseparable; they reinforce and build on each other.

So, Plato, being the philosophically savvy individual that he was, looks at the world around him and comes up with a speculation for what, why, and how things are. Hundreds of years later, the Jewish peoples host that same idea, but couch it in the notion of God dwelling with his people. The same ideas were birthed in the stories of Horus, Mithra, and Vishnu, to name a few. There is a common element amongst these religious views: the idea that the perfection that is God willingly reduces to the imperfection of man to show man how to behave and play well with others.

Great! But some burning little questions now heat my mind: what's to say that God simply isn't just a product of philosophy? That is, when human reason meets its limitations but intuits there may be more, is the notion of 'God' just a dumping ground, so to speak, for future speculations? Speculations that might carry with them more of the collective human experience; more of the newer, more refined attempts to understand what we haven't understood before? Might 'God' just be a linguistic application we employ to say "I don't know" but at the same time keep an empathic connection with our fellow creatures?

It's an interesting idea to think about. For me, at least. You can take it or leave it as you see fit. For now, however, I'm not so sure that 'religion' and 'philosophy' are creatures of a different kind. I think they're versions of the same thing: a cultural narrative.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight

And never bring a child to a Sumo wrestling fight.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Some Thoughts

"We are more often treacherous through weakness than through calculation." ~Francois De La Rochefoucauld

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." ~André Gide
"Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth." ~Ludwig Börne

"One day, someone showed me a glass of water that was half full. And he said, "Is it half full or half empty?" So I drank the water. No more problem." ~Alejandro Jodorowsky

"If a placebo has an effect, is it any less real than the real thing?" ~Nathaniel LeTonnerre

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into." ~Author Unknown

"The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish." ~Evelyn Waugh

"The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different." ~Aldous Huxley

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought." ~Matsuo Bashō

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mr. Deity and the Really Hard Time

I'm a big fan of Mr. Deity. I find myself howling in laughter most episodes. You really have to experience Mr. Deity for yourself, however. One caveat, though: his humour is ironic and playfully cynical. So if you're super-sensitive about your religious beliefs, brace yourself to be offended.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day. Stupid.

Another one of those dumb-ass cosmopolitan celebrations that amount to almost nothing. If I wanted a superficial parade of sentimentality, I'd go watch 14 year olds oggling their first boyfriend/girlfriend.

Why make an official day out of trite sentiments and overwrought platitudes? Stupidity.

And for those single folk out there, I extend you my sympathy, though it comes with a caveat: you're not incomplete because you don't have a partner to share the social Mary-Kay application of Valentine's day. You're whole on your own, and you don't need to take on the false shame and guilt the popular media and marketters are broadcasting to you.

Just have a happy day, every day. Valentine's day can stick it up it's proverbial ass.

Current and Future Reads

Every once-in-a-while I share my current reading list. This time, however, since my reading list consists largely in essays I'm printing out from webspots I enjoy, I only have one book to picture for you. Karen Armstrong's A Case For God.

Armstrong, in my opinion, is a top-rank scholar who manifestly outstrips the two-dimensional academics of some of the atheists "A Case for God" rebutts (Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett).

Note: I left Christopher Hitchens out of the roster of Armstrong's addressees because I'm curious to see how she deals with him. Hitchens is, by my estimation, by far the better scholar, better thinker, and more personable of all of the popular "New Atheists". That said, Hitchens' anti-theistic essay, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything suffers from a peculiar flaw: it isn't as long, or in-depth as I was hoping it would be. Nevertheless, as contrarian literature goes, Hitchens' piece was quite enjoyable, extremely insightful, and well beyond the reach and scope of his fellow atheist authors (as listed above).

For future reading, I'm hoping to get my hands on a couple of books. First, Robert M. Price's, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.

Price's style is easy, his scholarship vast, and his insights penetrating. From his online essays, one can easily learn the content and scope of a bachelaureate degree in a matter of days. For the conservative Christian, however, Price will come across as oppositional and 'lost'. There is, sadly, nothing left to talk about with a person who aligns their personal religio-political views with a presupposed notion of the truth (in this case, mainline conservative theology). Still, for the sincere academic, Price is a jewel. I look forward to his book.

Second, I'm hoping to continue my research into the reasons for, and nature of unbelief and disbelief by picking up a copy of John Loftus book, "Why i Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity".

Loftus was trained by evangelicalism's all-hallowed debate hero William Lane Craig. Craig, according to Loftus' blog, Debunking Christianity, is quoted as saying, "the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine." A very interesting recommendation, I say, and one worth checking into.

That is it: that is my reading list for now and later. Stay tuned for coming articles...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

God and Morality

A while back, over at Pilgrim Not Wanderer, Edward posted an interesting article entitled Humanism, Morality and Belief in God. Here was my response to that article:

"I think the idea of the poster (which is a poor representation of the humanist position) is simply that morality, as such, proceeds from people.

The popular notion among fundamentalists is that morality proceeds from God to the imago dei. This view can only be upheld propositionally because it cannot be verified evidentially.

However, human solidarity and propagation could not have been maintained if people were not moral creatures regardless of religion. We simply are moral, no matter what religious matrix we impose on ourselves.

Plato sums up the question of morals and God quite well when he has Socrates ask: 'Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God?' I'm sure you know this as the Euthyphro Dilemma, and it is a key question in humanist ethics."

Obviously it is a little silly to suggest that if there is a God, then that God has nothing to do with morality. For who could reasonably support the notion that the ground for being itself (i.e., God) would have no impact or influence on the way people have been, continue to be, and will be? Even if we rationalise by way of a deistic God, that God is still impeachable because that God set the motion of our moral mechanisms going. If those moral mechanisms are somehow deficient in their motions, isn't the God who made them still to blame for his/her/it's design flaws?

Nevertheless, if a person holds the point of view that God doesn't exist, then morality proceeds from a seemingly instinctive desire to self-organise, self-perpetuate, and maintain solidarity and altruism. Morality simply obtains to the human condition. Morality without God is morality in, with, and for the human community.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Is Religion?

An erudite reader commented in a recent article that he was calling me (and another commenter) out on the term 'religion'. It was not an aggressive manoeuver, but a considerate action meant to help clarify conversation. Rather than leave it within the context of that exchange, however, I thought it appropriate to bring this subject up-front and centre, since it is a defining issue in so many people's lives.

So, what exactly is religion?

Anyone can look around and note the various rituals, genuflections, processes, and events that religious people regularly attend to. But to note religion simply as a set of rituals and practices not only undercuts the driving importance of religious devotion, but it also relies on superficial observations of those things that are external to the religious anyway.

For example, everyone knows that Christians have a cultus for the sacraments, but that is where a good deal of understanding stops. It would require a little more effort to investigate the history, meaning, and respective differences in the sacraments, and further, the differences between varying communities of Christians. More effort would be required again to appreciate the aesthetic application of the sacraments to the religious life, and the nostalgic desire for transcendence that believers seek when they partake of the sacraments.

All this is to say that by observing that the religious have definite practices, we cannot then conclude that 'religion' is what we've observed: rituals, genuflections, proceses, and special events. Such a definition loops back on itself, and gets us nowhere. How much sense does it make to suggest that because we've observed people going to church and praying that religion is therefore going to church and praying? It doesn't make sense at all. All we have concluded with that kind of definition is that religion is what religious people do. The same logic is made memorable in the movie Forrest Gump: "Stupid is as stupid does." It may be the case that religion is what religious people do, but no-one is the wiser for such a definition.

Our work is still ahead of us. Thankfully, many people have proposed definitions of 'religion' that cut a little deeper than a wistful glance at Merriam-Webster. Here (thank you to Dr. Irving Hexham) are some of those definitions:
  • William James: "the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto."
  • Alfred North Whitehead: "what the individual does with his own solitariness."
  • George Hegel: "the knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its nature as absolute mind."

James' definition approaches an appreciable definition of 'religion' but comes short; it only observes that people believe stuff and order their lives accordingly. I can observe the invisible quality of friendship just as much as I can observe the religious believing in an "unseen order". But observing friends being friends, or the religious being religious does not answer what 'religion' is anymore than noting that "stupid is as stupid does", as was mentioned earlier.

Whitehead's definition seems to dismiss the point altogether. People masturbate in solitude, but that hardly makes masturbation a religion. What one does when no-one is looking (i.e., in solitude) exorcises the very obvious fact that religion is a public phenomenon, a social event, a world-wide extroversion of beliefs. In this sense, solitude can be argued to work against religion; a social assent to a set of beliefs is quite the opposite to what one does in solitude, for what one does in solitude quite obviously lacks participation in public affiliations.

Hegel seems to want to relegate religion to a purely abstract realisation of the mind. That is, a singular, limited and mortal mind apprehending the fact that its essence, its very being, is unrestrained or unlimited; i.e., absolute. I think Hegel's definition anticipates his dialectic system more than a working definition of 'religion' proper. One thing Hegel's definition does intimate, however, is transcendence. This is helpful insomuch as it will aide in attempting a definition of religion later in this essay. For now, however, it is appropriate to note that one of Hegel's driving points was that the recognition of a boundary implies the possibility of going beyond it (which is the literal meaning of 'transcend', to go beyond). As such, for Hegel, religion is the implicit recognition that because a perceiving mind is finite, there must therefore be infinite, or absolute mind.

Where Hegel breaks down is in the practicability of his definition. Religion focuses on what is beyond the human condition, what is supernatural, and how those things can be invoked in human affairs. To state that a finite mind apprehending an absolute mind is 'religion' only tells us that religion is a recognition of a quality of being beyond our natural senses. That much is already assumed by the religious, though in far less philosophical terms. So Hegel's definition doesn't get us much further than to remind us that religion deals with the transcendent.

It seems we need to examine the original question again: what is religion? We have noted a few examples of what religion is not. Religion is not merely a list of things religious people do. Religion is not simply a lifestyle adjustment to an unseen order. Religion is not what you do when you're alone. And religion is not just an intellectual recognition of contrasts in reality.

Religion, it would seem, is quite hard to define. I think this is true in part because of its inherently vague grammatical application. Austin Cline notes that,

"Definitions of religion tend to suffer from one of two problems: they are either too narrow and exclude many belief systems which most agree are religious, or they are too vague and ambiguous, suggesting that just about any and everything is a religion."

Saying 'cancer' is an umbrella term that connotes some form of auto-immune disorder. Similarly, 'religion' is a catch-all phrase that connotes the dispositions of certain groups of people toward a set of propositions concerning the supernatural. Then again, certain religious people (those who claim a 'religion') are not supernaturalists so much as they are idealists (e.g., some forms of Buddhism are described as atheistic; Mahayanic Buddhism comes to mind). Thus the word 'religion' can run us adrift of helpful understanding.

Some people consider the word 'religion' to be notional. It does not denote anything actual, or real. Jonathan Z. Smith writes in Imagining Religion:

“...while there is a staggering amount of data, phenomena, of human experiences and expressions that might be characterized in one culture or another, by one criterion or another, as religion — there is no data for religion. Religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study. It is created for the scholar’s analytic purposes by his imaginative acts of comparison and generalization. Religion has no existence apart from the academy.”*

Smith's observation on the classification and definition of religion is keen and helpful. 'Religion' is a blanket term used to quickly, and easily categorize an area of experience and activity obvious in all human cultures. Given Smith's observation, using the term 'religion' at once expresses a common understanding without drawing attention to any one particular faith-claim (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Bahá'í, et al.). But for the purposes of conversation, small qualifications are certainly needed. I would do poorly to speak with a Muslim about religion while not clarifying whether I am speaking in the context of his/her religion.

If the term 'religion' is a bit of a chimera made understandable by its attachment to academic generalizations, then whatever definition I give will necessarily enjoy the same attachment. Be that as it may, here is what I understand 'religion' is: the practice of specific, systematized cultural beliefs usually, but not necessarily, attended by the enjoyment of liturgical rites that anticipate communication with the supernatural, and invite an aesthetic experience of transcendence in the believing subject (person).

My definition is practical only in one sense: it finds a place in the academy Smith refered to earlier. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone can adequately define such a term as 'religion' without getting hung up on definitions that are too wide, and therefore fail to regard differences in varying religious claims; or definitions that are too narrow, and therefore inadequately refer to specific faith-claims.

Religion is a cultural motif. It is an on-going narrative that necessarily changes as the cultural climate changes. Some critics would argue that religion should determine culture (e.g., certain Christian academics feel this is an important action for Christians to undertake, and it is certainly a sentiment that runs quite deep within evangelicalism and American right-wing politics). Others argue that religion should be utterly removed from culture altogether by way of science, another blanket term (e.g., Sam Harris). Both positions on the nature of 'religion' in our on-going cultural narratives miss the point altogether: they are interdependent; we cannot force a religionless culture without removing culture and religion altogether. Both our culture and our religions provide an overarching story of our human experiences, aspirations, failures, growths and setbacks, and future history.

'Religion', as difficult a term it is to parse, is, despite its connotative nature, a very useful word that both binds and separates people, intimates a shared understanding, and provides many fascinating hours of stimulating contemplation.

*Smith's quote can be found in this article.


Warning: This article contains explicit language. If you have virgin eyes, look away now.

What's all this "believe" shit about? Believe what? I think the Olympic marketting scheme has become a fast and dirty way of implanting a useless mantra into people's minds. Now, for someone like me to turn around and question, "you believe in what, exactly?" I end up looking like a jerk because I haven't bought into the stupid empty-headedness that accompanies commercialized athleticism.

I'm not frustrated with anyone in particular. Don't take my mini-rant personally. I'm frustrated by the active nihilism in pop-culture being taken as meaningful, and hopeful. It's fucking ridiculous, absurd, insulting to my intelligence, and not worth believing in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Speck, Meet Log

When does it become acceptable to change your mind? I've been thinking about this recently.

Obviously, there are a great many things a person can change his mind about. No-one would really be concerned if I changed my mind about wanting old cheddar when I had stated previously that I wanted medium cheddar. There would be very little outrage, if any, if I waffled over reading Ayn Rand or Leo Tolstoy, and then finally decided on Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Obviously these are morally neutral scenarios unless imposed upon by contexts I haven't listed here (e.g., avoiding college assignments on Rand and Tolstoy, and opting for a personal interest in Dostoevsky).

Even more so, if I were to change my mind and, say, reject existentialism in favour of solipsism, people might be curious as to why, but I'd wager there wouldn't be an outcry, or a feverish reaction to my decision. At best, I could reasonably guess that people would question my reasons, politely disagree, and we would move on amiably with our lives.

The same affability does not extend, however, to issues concerning family, friends, psychological boundaries, schooling, politics, lifestyle, religion, or even diet. These particular affiliations, dispositions, and alliances seem to balance precariously on most people's breaking points. That is, if I were to change my mind about eating a low fat diet to eating a high fat diet, I would have to endure the criticisms of most of mainstream culture. Suddenly, what I put in my mouth would become many people's moral issue de jour. Were I to balk at libertarianism, I would find myself in the favour of the world's majority; most people believe implicitly that they want to be regulated because that is what is marketted to them. If I were to change my mind, however, and advocate minarchism, or even anarchism, I would then be reprobate and immature (as was recently expressed to me).

Issues of religion, politics, sexual habits, diet, and parenting techniques certainly have the potential to be morally charged topics. However, I can't help but wonder if people shouldn't set aside their personal agendas, their inconsiderate crusading tactics, their implicit need to proselytize without invitation, in order to first listen. People naturally incline towards others who are like them. But when one of us changes minds on an issue, affiliation, or what-have-you, shouldn't the first moral issue that arises be the one that would prompt the need to crusade against the change? That is, shouldn't each of us first take up our own indignations as the first moral issue before moving on to examine the motivations of another's change? Christ summed this up well when he stated,
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

Concerning Government

Enough said.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Never Erring Story P. III

Apparently Gregory finds my posts on Catholic doctrine to be misguided, and not worth his time until I correctly define the doctrines I'm contending with. At the same time, in poor debate form, Gregory offers no definitions of his own, so, in some crude, horizontal twist of ultramontanism, I'm supposed to just believe him because he said so. How very Catholic.

More, it seems that Gregory thinks my wife, Imogen, is a voice-piece for my concerns: "Since she decided to weigh in on our discussion, I assumed you two must be working as a unit, and the adjective ['vitriol'] applied on both sides." Still, Gregory did "apologise" if this is not the case. But I can't help thinking that the maxim 'too little too late' applies nicely here. For why would Gregory even assume that my wife and I are incapable of thinking apart from each other? What measure of presumption leads a person to such a conclusion? And after admitting that he "...didn't have time to read all the way through. Read enough to get annoyed again, though", too! Fine measuring stick, Gregory: get annoyed at an article you haven't fully read, assume later that my wife and I are occupying the same voice, and then mete out a response? Poor form, my friend. Poor form.

Let me be clear about Imogen's position, since you seem not to have understood from her writings themselves: she quite literally does not care what definitions Catholicism wants to place on notions of impeccability, inerrancy, infallibility. That's her last concern, if it even is at all. She is not, never has been, and does not foresee ever being a Catholic, so she is not bound to whatever spin Catholicism wants to place on the words they choose.

What Imogen is concerned with is the lived-out reality of the Catholic Church, the people it effects, and the fact that billions of people are held in sway under a superstructure that enforces manditory beliefs. She's concerned about the intellectual tyranny of Catholicism, to put it in brief. She's concerned that the Catholic Magisterium finds it a viable line of thinking to set out statements that are not only binding on 1.1 billion believers, but that there seems to be no recognition that in the face of 5.6 billion other people there may be a chance that Catholicism could have missed some understanding while it prattles endlessly about its absolutist doctrines.

What I am concerned about is the fact that no matter how much the Catholic church is brought to task by concerned parties, if they are non-Catholics, they apparently don't understand. I'm sure that's probably true in a number of cases. However, I am equally sure it is not the case for everyone who has what they perceive as legitimate concerns.

This is where I charge Catholics, loosely, with gnosticism. To be clear, however, Catholics are not one of the historical groups of Gnostics. Catholics practice gnosticism by being a self-selected group that deny understanding to non-Catholics to the point that they are willing to assert that they have "the fulness of the faith", the "one true faith." The formal implications, of course, being that all other non-Catholics are somehow deficient, under the captivity of lies, or unable to enjoy the same richness of faith and understanding unless somehow initiated (e.g., R.C.I.A.) into the rank-and-file of Catholics.

Nevermind that other churches are considered 'valid' (as if that hat-tipping concession really means anything useful at all); they are not as elevated, as close to God, as 'full' or 'near to the truth' as Catholics are. What kind of neurotic hubris goes before such snobbish bullshit, anyway? "Yes, you're Christians. But you're not as high a quality Christian as you would be if you bore the indelible stamp of our papally approved doctrines."

Nevertheless, from the time I started debating with Catholics, I've never witnessed a case where the non-Catholic is validated as understanding this-or-that Catholic proposition. As soon as a Catholic is pushed into a corner by force of another's concerns, the old Catholic stand-by is "you don't understand; your definitions are wrong; you can't understand because you're not Catholic." In other words, I'm concerned that the rampant in-group/out-group mentality of the Catholic Church is belief by social pressure, not necessarily by a clear conscience and a willing conviciton.

More, the fact that Catholic beliefs are conscripted renders the beliefs of Catholics largely "belief in belief", to borrow Daniel C. Dennett's term. I'm sure many Catholics sincerely believe Jesus was real, that he rose from the dead, and all that basic dogma. However, enforcing much more than that (e.g., the assumption of Mary, Extra Ecclesium nulla salus, The Communion of the Saints, et al.) is a coercion of belief. That is, a Catholic cannot truly be Catholic unless s/he willingly takes on the convictions of a brace of dead people that declared this-that-or-another proposition true because they believed it (i.e., Tradition). This degenerative reasoning process is, as I've pointed out before, performative logic (what is said constitutes the thing referred to; or, what is said becomes its own proof, or point of reference).

So, the first and most important error in Catholicism is not that it declares certain of its doctrines free of error, but that it conscripts belief from a largely naive population of well-meaning Christians. The second error is that one of those conscripted beliefs is that Catholics are to believe in the belief that the Catholic Church never errs in matters of faith and morals. That, properly speaking, is not belief, but propaganda and pretence.

Of course, people are free to not become Catholics (now) but they are still considered second-class Christians, which is the third error in the teachings of Catholicism, and it effectively equals bigotry. The same charge of bigotry can be levelled against almost all Christian denominations, so Catholicism is, in this instance, not uniquely isolated. However, Catholicism makes it a point to absolve itself of this error by immodestly claiming its inerrancy in matters of faith and morals, so it opens itself up to freethinking criticism, and cannot escape the attention given to this issue no matter how proficient it is at back-pedaling, splitting hairs, and jumping between literal and figurative meanings when it suits its interests, or serves its purposes.

Yes, we can modify the statement "without errors in matters of faith and morals" to read, as Ed suggested, "The Catholic Church has never, can never, and will never err in HER OFFICIAL TEACHING ON matters pertaining to faith and morals," but that does next to nothing to alleviate the spuriousness of such a claim. As Ed continued to note, the Catholic Church considers certain teachings to have a special status. But so what? So they are claimed to have a special status. This simply implies the notion of a hierarchy of truths in Catholicism, which is purely notional and not demonstrable as actual.

And the fact that truths are ranked by some pre-determined levels of certainty (hierarchy of truths) requires that the stated case that there is a hierarchy of truth would form the ultimate truth about truth, the ultimate certainty about certainty. That is another reason for that particular teaching to be held in suspicion: truths of that magnitude, that is, truths that are so truly true that they are undeniable would be self-evident, one might reasonably assume. Kind of like noting that everyone dies: it's simply obvious and undeniable. The immaculate conception of Mary? Not so much. It's simply propositional, and then somewhere along the line of Catholic hermeneutic convolutions it becomes performative. I don't buy that kind of rigorous nonsense, no matter how neatly packaged in fancy rhetoric it is.

Which brings us back to Gregory's desire for me to define the terms I take difference with: impeccability and infallibility. And unless I use the Catholic doctrinal definitions, what I have to say is not worth his time. Why? Because unless I do that, I am apparently setting up a straw man argument. Very well then, here are your church's definitions:
  1. Infallibility: "In general, exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals."
  2. Impeccability: On this point, I admit that I confused infallibility with impeccability (sinlessness) when I was criticizing the errors of the Catholic church, even after I made note that they are often confused. I suppose that is a truth now proved. What is more, I cannot find any reliable sources (at this point) that lay out a concise Catholic definition of impeccability. So, I offer Wikipedia's definition.

Nevertheless, my contentions about the claim that the "Catholic Church, in her official teachings, has never, can never, and will never err" remain. Especially concerning "can never" and "will never", for unless such sophistry is divine prophesy, the Catholic church simply has no place to spout such trumpery.

What is more, I reject and utterly refuse the notion of impeccability being a quality of Mary, as do some Catholic theologians. It is a quirky irony that Catholicism condemned Pelagianism (people in co-operation with divinely revealed truths can live without sin), but allowed that Mary was able, through her co-operative will, to avoid sinning. Why condemn the one, but allow the other? And even if we consider the official teaching of the Magisterium that Mary was 'preserved' from sin by a special dolloping of grace, even at the time of her conception, we are left with the question, 'Why would he kill his son to save the rest of us, when it is at least anecdotally clear that he could've just tweaked the grace-factor in everyone's favour to begin with?' It seems from that that either God is a sadist, or the Catholic Church is wrong. In this case, I'm willing to wager on the latter.

In the end, however Gregory decides to respond, he still has his work ahead of him. My criticisms are still the same despite the confusion in terms I admitted. In fact, they are more pressing for the occasion. Catholicism, as I have observed, has erred, continues to, and will probably carry-on erring as long as it holds to the mixed up teachings it currently enjoys.