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A secular (atheist) philosopher and a layman Christian debate ethics and morality — Part 3 by Wade W. Stooksberry II and Franklin J. Hogue

This is Part 3 and the final part of the debate between Mr. Franklin J. Hogue, a local attorney and self-avowed atheist, and W. Wade Stooksberry II, a self-avowed “lowly lay Christian.”  Wade is one half (with his wife Trena) of . For their part, Mr. Hogue and his wife, Laura, have been law partners, forming , where they practice criminal defense.

Part 2 of this dialogue or debate ended with Franklin J. Hogue stating:

“When you say that “[F]or something to be true, it must correspond to reality,” how must it correspond? How does “cat,” for example, correspond to the domesticated feline I’m watching out the window stalk my bluebird nest? You have committed yourself to the “correspondence theory of truth,” so now let’s see what you mean by it; more later, duty calls.”

W. Wade Stooksberry II: I appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to continue our correspondence, Frank. And I am actively enjoying it.

With all due respect, however, I feel I must continually redirect you back to the point of the discussion. Now, I’m all for letting a conversation go where it will, down paths of diversion and digression. But before we begin to start mincing things down to the fineness of “what does ‘cat’ mean?” — which embarks on semiotics and semantics — I wonder if you might take a moment to address, in general terms so the lay reader can understand, how one derives meaning and purpose in life, within a universe that is thought to be mindless, random, and without meaning or purpose?

You intimate that meaning is derived from, or “determined by”, relationships. Isn’t that rather ad hoc, and incomplete? It’s not that I disagree with the concept. But as a theist, I understand that it is a relationship with the Living God that informs all other relationships (Mt. 22: 37-40). How can interactions between mindless matter, in a universe that is the product of mindless processes, be said to have any meaning? I can understand full well why the atheist is reduced to questioning what “‘meaning’ means” (or “‘is’ is” — wink). I was once myself — remember?

Could it be that we all know full well, on some level — perhaps “deep down” — that the universe DOES have meaning and purpose. That it is, indeed, INFUSED with it — down to every nano-particle of sub-atomic “quantum foam”? And that is because its Creator designed it to be so, from the unlimited resources of His infinite love and wisdom and imagination and power? And that is why the modern secularist is riven from the source of meaning, and inhabits the world — to borrow from the late great Walker Percy — “like the Flying Dutchman”? A ghost adrift in a machine, incoherently talking about the “meaning of relationships” in a universe where meaning itself is but a subjective fabrication? A man who may be able to determine whose image in on a denarius, but has no way to ascertain whose image on on HIMSELF? (e.g., Mark 12:14-17)

Speaking of Percy — a favorite of mine — I suspect you are familiar with his works investigating semiotics, in which he brings his own keen intellect, sharp with, and brilliant writing style to bear upon it. I mention it because of your “cat” comment (btw — my wife says one week with one in a jail cell would be sufficient to arrive at the conclusion that “cat” is true. On a variety of levels…). I think it may be that the “trueness” of the WORD “cat” has everything to do with “The Delta Principle,” a theory which introduces a tertiary mode to a physical world of binary interactions (i.e., “cause and effect”). The great illustration is the “Helen Keller phenomenon.” I’ll try to describe it, at the risk of doing a grave injustice. Young Helen experienced a “binary” form of language until her work with Anne Sullivan. That is, like an intelligent animal, she learned to associate certain “signs” — words spelled out in her hand, in sign language — with certain objects or events. Sign “ball” to Helen (or Rover), and her response was on the order of “Where? What ball?” Sign “eat,” or “food,” and her mouth might begin to water.

The breakthrough, the paradigm shift, was when she realized that “water” spelled into her hand meant “the category of cool, wet liquid gushing into my other hand.” Not “water? Where?” But “water — yes, I understand what you’re saying. What do you want to say about water?” And she proceeded to learn — to KNOW — the names of many things that day, and wound up becoming the beloved and celebrated person and writer and thinker we know her as.

It is a “triadic” experience, because the binary cause-and-effect experience of “signal and response” (“ball? Where?”) which can be explained in terms of the interaction of matter (sound waves triggering auditory stimulus in sensory organs composed of complex material structures, generating neurological responses along nerve pathways which lead to certain areas of a complex biological processor, triggering programmed responses through electro-chemical reactions, etc., etc.), is supplanted and transcended by the action of UNDERSTANDING, which is not an incidence of cause-and-effect. And its location is not in the hardware of biochemical machinery, but in something that is transcendent of that machinery — the mind.

That triadic experience is occurring, incidentally, as you read this message. You are transforming electronically transmitted symbols into an understanding of the thoughts which generated them. Hopefully — and if I am successful in expressing what I mean, and intend to say — with an ACCURATE understanding. Language is what separates us from the other creatures. It is extremely important. No wonder Jesus, in His pre-carnate condition, is referred to as “The Logos” — “The WORD.” See? I’m not averse to exploring a little side tangent…

Franklin J. Hogue: it’s never a tangent to demand clarity and clarity demands that when we use words to convey ideas that we agree upon the meaning of those words. Yes, language is “extremely important.” Human language is by far the most powerful tool invented by any species of beings on earth.

“Tool” is an important metaphor here. Language is what we use to cope with the world — to cure disease, put a man on the moon, give comfort and joy to those we love. While highly complex in our present time, it is not mystical, not in the sense that language hooks up in some magical way with the non-linguistic world “in itself.” There is nothing more to be known about a thing or an idea other than what sentences are true of it. And what’s true is what is good to believe, or act upon, and good for some definable expressible purpose.

What separates us from the other creatures is the complexity of our language, not the existence of it.

The meaning of a human life turns on what one does with that life, along with all those events that happen to us over which we have no control (neither of us chose our parents, our time of birth, or a myriad other features of our lives that help define us). You believe that meaning comes from something outside the life we live, something that itself is not subject to time, place, chance, and all the rest. You have chosen to identify that something as God. I have no beef with that, so long as your subsequent identity with that belief, your attempt to align your life with it (Him), remains your personal quest to provide meaning to your life. I would no more deny that personal pursuit to you, nor denigrate it, than I would expect you to deny or malign another’s personal pursuit of perfection and meaning, so long as it doesn’t encroach upon you.

My persistent return to the soundness of the ideas you express is important to our conversation. Quoting Bible passages, by contrast, is not. After all, your belief that an assertion is true because it’s found in the Bible requires you first to defend a more fundamental assertion about the Bible itself. You will not be able to defend that more fundamental assertion; instead, you will end up saying that you simply choose to believe it, whether it’s defensible or not. That’s ok, of course, but it’s a conversation-stopper. Peace.

WWS: What separates us from animals, in regard to language, is categorical, Frank. There is no doubt that animals have highly sophisticated means of conveying information to one another. Listen to the chorus of screeches, shrieks, and squeals among squirrels and birds when a cat is spotted. “Danger! Alarm!,” they seem to be saying. For all I know, they may be exchanging pertinent facts: “Gray tabby — apprx. 5 squirrel lengths from oak tree.…”

One thing I’ll wager has never been exchanged between squirrels: “just kidding.” Or “yeah — reminds me of the time that big tuxedo cat got poor ol’ Louie. I tried to warn him…”. Or “why is it that we live in a world where cats exist? What is the meaning of it all?.…”

And that’s where we enter the world of the triadic. Only humans tell each other stories about things that don’t exist, in order to explain more fully the things that do. Only humans are able to understand and discuss abstractions — i.e., “the meaning of life is….” Only humans lie.

This “knowledge” and “understanding” — where do they reside? Is it located in a neuron, somewhere in that three pounds of grey matter? Or is it more “holographic” in nature, the way some scientist now theorize that our reality itself is a sort of hologram — a shadowy 4D projection of a hyperdimensional, more “really really” reality outside of this one? And is the fact that you write something with agreed upon, recognizable symbols; and I register those symbols and understand your meaning — i.e., that you are talking ABOUT meaning — does that phenomenon indicate a bridge between those “higher” and “lower” realities? With music and film being perhaps the most powerful form of that phenomenon?

It is, after all, an epistemological question. What (or where) is the SOURCE of knowledge? For the reasons I am trying to touch on in our discussion, I don’t accept that the source of knowledge is limited to our limited spatial-temporal reality. Like space-times’ origins, knowledge comes from outside our time domain.

And I’ll make no apology for quoting the Bible in a discussion instigated by a writer who slanders it on a weekly (I almost said “weakly,” LOL) basis, or in any other circumstance. Your assertion that the Bible cannot be defended is groundless. Perhaps we should, in the interest of furthering this conversation, turn to that subject. I maintain that The Bible is “an integrated message system from outside our time domain.” And that it validates itself as such in many ways — including the setting forth of events centuries before they occur, many of which have been verified. This includes the birth and ministry of Jesus Christ.

To that end, I provide the first of (perhaps) many examples. In Numbers 21, we have recorded the curious incident of “The Bronze Serpent.” The Israelites grumble against “God and Moses.” God’s response is to send “fiery serpents” among the people, and many are bitten and die. So the people beg Moses to intercede for them, because they have sinned. And he does, and God instructs him to fashion a serpent made of bronze (both the serpent and bronze being emblematic of sin in Jewish culture), and put it on top of a pole. “And so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

A rather bizarre tale. One offered without further explanation. The narrative immediately moves on to describing where the Jews next encamped. Nor is there a word of explanation offered elsewhere in the OT (what Bill Cummings loves to refer to as “The Tanakh”), nor is the incident even mentioned again. There is a reference to Hezekiah having the bronze serpent destroyed, centuries later — it had apparently become a sort of totem, or fetish (2 Kings 18:4).

But we don’t understand the real predictive pattern, and significance, of the story until the Gospel of John. There, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the “new birth”: that unless a man be “born of the spirit”, he cannot enter into “the Kingdom of God”. And as Jesus is explaining this spiritual rebirth, he cites the incident at Mount Hor (the bronze serpent episode), and says “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15)

And now we understand the true significance. The Bronze Serpent was a symbol of sin. And everyone who looked upon it was saved. Jesus Christ BECAME sin, when He was lifted up on that rough cross. And anyone who looks upon Him, in faith, is saved from their own sin. That was the reason God became a man. Not just to be a worthy teacher, or good example. But to save us from the penalty, the predisposition, and ultimately, even the very presence of sin. And the very next verse is possibly the most famous in all The Bible — John 3:16. I will presume you are familiar.

Now: I find it a little difficult to believe, that a bunch of ragtag Jewish religious zealots — common men, fishermen and such, even (hated) tax collectors — came up with such a sublime explanation of, and connection between, these two events. I believe it is an incidence of a macro-code, with which the Scriptures are replete. Along with embedded micro-codes, utilizing the gematrimetric properties of Hebrew and Greek. All of which make the Scriptures more than just a colorful book of ancient fables, history, and verse. It is a “coded information system from outside our time domain.”

FJH: “Knowledge comes from outside our time domain” makes no sense. If it makes sense to you, I ask you to explain, elucidate, illustrate, and defend the notion. It’s not a sensible notion to me, so, if it is to you, then the burden is upon you to clarify its meaning.

What we count as “knowledge” are true sentences. True sentences are simply sentences that are good to believe for some expressible assignable reason. “True” applies to sentences, sentences are elements of language, language is a human creation. Thus, truth is a human creation, and a quite useful one, too. After all, we want to believe and act upon only true sentences, do we not? There is nothing magical or mystical about knowledge or truth. It is not other-worldly, it is not in need of a connection between one domain and some other domain that’s “outside our time domain,” whatever that means.

As for the Bible and its defense, let me be precise in what cannot be defended. It’s this: That it is “inerrant,” or “infallible,” or something other than a variety of types of literature — legend, myth, history, poetry, proverb, parable, lament, diatribe, exhortation, etc. — all written by human beings, none of whom was channeling “God” as he dictate or inspired the words thus written. To believe otherwise, is an article of faith, a conclusion one chooses without regard to proof, logic, or evidentiary support. I don’t in any way wish to deny you the belief; I simply say that when you put it out in the marketplace of ideas, that it will not stand up as an article of knowledge.

Micro- and macro-code? Rag-tag religious zealots, fishermen, common men, and even tax collectors can be quite creative, especially given little distraction, lots of free time, and a milieu imbued with magic and mystery, supernatural and the miraculous. After all, most of the biblical writings were not written by any one single person, but a collection of many over time, edited, altered, and not a single original version of which exists.

WWS: “ ‘Knowledge comes from outside our time domain’ makes no sense. If it makes sense to you, I ask you to explain, elucidate, illustrate, and defend the notion. It’s not a sensible notion to me, so, if it is to you, then the burden is upon you to clarify its meaning.”

I’ll try, Frank — while being mindful of George McDonald’s caveat: “To give truth to him who loves it not, is to only give him more multiplied reasons for misinterpretation.” ( ^ ;

I’m going back to the logical need for an “uncaused cause.” And the fundamental question of whether that “cause” is mindless, unguided, and random; or whether it has mind, will, intelligence, and purpose. The evidence is entirely on the side of the latter. The fact that the universe is exquisitely ordered, to the point at which infinitesimal changes to any one of dozens of parameters — e.g., the strong and weak force, gravity, electromagnetism, etc. — would preclude its existence in any coherent form where stars, planets, etc, could exist; and continuing through with the minutely narrow parameters within which life is possible, and the blaringly obvious design of the DNA molecule which carries the INFORMATION for it.

It all speaks to a Mind that is the CAUSE for our space-time environment, which I continue to stress, is bounded in terms of age and size, begging the existence of something “beyond” it.

It is this Mind that is the source of knowledge in our universe and among ourselves. As Einstein put it, when he was discovering the principles of Relativity, as applied to gravity, time, and matter — he said it was like “reading the mind of God.” Now, ol’ Al[bert Einstein] was hardly a theist — certainly not a Christian — but he was on the right track with that statement.

The atheist, on the other hand, has to contend with the undeniable order of the universe. I submit the onus is on him, to explain how order and design could arise in a world of random functions. And how it happens that a brain of unsurpassed complexity could arise by mindless, unguided, random processes, that could come to a “knowledge” of the complex processes of the universe (while denying the need for an Intelligence to design them!).

No, sir — “knowledge comes from outside our time domain” is all that DOES make sense. Unless you can provide a cohesive response to the objections made in regard to a materialistic, a-theistic worldview. If so — you’d be the first.

FJH: “Logical need for an ‘uncaused cause”? No such “logical need” exists; you have added it, unnecessarily and fallaciously. (And, you’re making an old argument, often called the cosmological argument for the existence of God, first worked out in detail by Aquinas, who borrowed greatly from Aristotle.)

1. You assume that everything must have a cause, but you obviously make an exception to that rule for one thing — God — by simply declaring that God is uncaused, that God has no origin. I suppose you’d say in response that we cannot tolerate an infinite regress, we must stop the chain somewhere, so — and here’s the decision point, an entirely arbitrary one (especially since you’ve abandoned your Bible for this argument and have instead resorted to logic, as you admit). You simply STOP and then decide to make up an uncaused cause and call it “God.”

2. Another assumption you’re making is that “causation,” a useful idea applied to events in space-time, also applies to the entire universe itself. Make an argument, if you can, that the idea of “causation” should apply at all. Remember when I asked you “Is English true?” Your answer should have been: “The question is meaningless; English is neither true nor false; you have posed a meaningless question.” The same could be said here with your cosmological argument.

3. The best point you can establish by your cosmological argument, finally, is deism, since you’ve abandoned your Bible, for now, to venture into logic, again, as you admit. You have to add to your deism your faith to turn this watchmaker god of yours into the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, incarnate in Jesus the Christ. A watchmaker god couldn’t care less about whether you avoid shellfish, set aside a day for worshiping him, or avoid envying your neighbor’s wife. So, your cosmological argument for the existence of “god” is not the same as your Biblical argument for the existence of “God.” Not by a long shot.

Finally, the McDonald quote was an unnecessary move. You’re saying, in effect, “I’ll try to explain it to you, Frank, but you don’t love the truth as I do, so my answer will be lost on you.” I suppose the winking emoticon– ( ^ ; –means you’re saying it in jest. Peace.

WWS: “In jest”? Yes… somewhat. I just happen to like that quote. Quite a lot. It also happens to be applicable to your response, Frank, I’m afraid.

Now don’t get me wrong. The great Ravi Zacharias, from whom I borrowed the MacDonald quote, is also fond of quoting a proverb from his native India: “There is no use giving a man a rose to smell, once you’ve cut off his nose.” That is not my intention here. I think we’ve had a civil, even amiable conversation so far, and I intend to keep it that way. I am merely trying to make a point, not cause offense.

“Everything that has a beginning must have a cause…” but we’ll make an exception for the universe itself (otherwise, we must admit the existence of God)?

You declare “there is no such ‘logical need’ for an ‘uncaused cause’ ” — because you declare it? Otherwise, it becomes very inconvenient for the argument against the existence of God? This is precisely how atheism is propped up — but just such ad hoc declarations. And then further ad hoc navel gazing theorizing — “multiple universes”, and so forth.

And then you try to defend the lack of logic involved here, by (a) disputing the claim for an “uncaused cause,” on the ground that it is a “logical,” not “Biblical,” claim, and (b) declaring that “Is English true” is a nonsensical question?

I wish that you could see the Laputan sophistry of such arguments. Let’s get beyond the academic minutia of who is credited with what argument, or whether the cat is in the box when the box is closed. Can we agree that there is a universe, and that it is governed by very real, very strict, physical laws? Must we test whether that statement is a “truth sentence,” by stepping off the roof of the BB&T building, to see if gravity really exists? “After you…” ( ^ ;

Why muddy the water by bringing The Bible into a consideration of the Primal Cause? Even assuming it is true — and I do — it wasn’t written until a minimum of 2,500 years after the events recounted in its opening pages, by its own account. And the protest about mixing logic and faith (or logic and The Bible) is entirely spurious. Don’t you know God invented logic? Along with space, and time? That the very reason we can learn, and know, about the properties of his creation is because He is a God of order, design, reason, and information? As I’ve  said — that is why science flourished in the Christianized West, and was “stillborn” elsewhere. Only in the West was there a theological underpinning for the advancement of science — a God who has made Himself known in His revelation to man in the written word — The Bible — and in the “Book of Nature.” And through His Son, Jesus Christ. A God of reason and order who is good, just, and “the same yesterday, today, and forever” — not the unknowable or fanciful gods of paganism, or the capricious god of Islam.

Now — shall we put such nonsense aside, and return to a consideration of the reality with we’re presented? Indeed, there must be an “uncaused cause.” Indeed, there cannot be an “infinite regression,” else we could never have arrived at the present moment. And there cannot be an “infinite cycle of expanding/contracting universes,” as there would be a loss of energy with each cycle — and at any rate, an “uncaused cause” would still be required. The “multiverse” idea (posited by some) is merely desperate and childish, a religious concept that requires far more faith than does YHWH.

Which brings us back a few squares. After all, when you’ve taken a wrong turn, the fastest way to get back on track is by going backward to the turning point. We’re still at the need for a “uncaused cause.” A thing cannot make itself, and the universe is no exception. The question, again, is: “does this ‘uncaused cause’ have Mind, Intelligence, Will?” Or is it mindless, unguided, random; without will or meaning or purpose?

You say “that is an argument for Deism, not the Biblical YHWH”. Fine. Yes, duly conceded. Let’s start there. Let’s say that the Uncaused Cause — an eternal entity, for which there is no comparison or analog within our bounded spatial-temporal environment — has a Mind, Intelligence, Will (volition). Now, the next question is: what is the character/nature of this entity? What can we know of it? Has it communicated to us? Etc., etc., etc.

And here I offer two choices. One is the Biblical account. You know — God created a universe as an environment for a creature who could love Him through the exercise of his free will. The creature chose badly, God cursed His creation (“for man’s SAKE”…!), and death, disease, and the dreary litany of man’s inhumanity to man entered the world as a result. But God entered into His own creation, as one of His creatures (man — the Man, the “Last Adam,” Jesus Christ) in order to rescue and redeem us from our fallen condition, by satisfying His own immutable justice, out of His love for us. And we are once again offered the opportunity to commune with Him, and enjoy His mode of existence, throughout eternity (that is, beyond space and time), once again by the exercise of our free will.

— OR —

There is a God. There is a world which is characterized by death, disease, misery, childhood cancer and rape and torture, poverty, Gulags, Gas Chambers, toil, dreariness, loneliness, alienation, mass shootings, gang warfare, madmen with nuclear missles, presidents with whacky haircuts, and the whole wretched catalog of events that appear daily as in The Telegraph (Macon).

But God is either too incompetent or impotent to do anything about it; or else too indifferent. Ergo, he is either a useless demigod, and is deserving of contempt rather than worship; or he is a malevolent cosmic monster deserving of our fear and loathing.

Or He is our Abba Father, and is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory. So, again — which is it, my friend?

A random, mindless universe; an accidental dance of atoms without meaning or purpose, in which “all things are permitted” — including the Gulag and the Gas Chamber?

Or a grotesque jerk of a Deity who made a universe for us to suffer in, and couldn’t care less?

Or a God of Love, reason, and order — infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, who created a space-time environment for the purpose making creatures who could love Him — and each other — of their own free will? And who is “working all things to the good for those that love Him” according to His infinite plan, which includes our sharing His mode of existence throughout eternity? I yield the floor…


Moderator’s comment:

I agree with Mr. Hogue that Mr. Stooksberry made the old argument referred as the Cosmological argument for the existence of God. And yes it was formulated by Aristotle and adapted to Christianity by the logic and the forceful arguments of the scholasticism of Saint Thomas Aquinas. But because the argument is old and because it has been derided by the intelligentsia, does not mean the argument has been adequately rebutted. In fact, it is the opposite side of the same coin of the random universe. Both arguments are theories, not proven facts of natural laws. Even in biology, adaptation and survival in fact were also deduced by Aristotle, and Darwin himself admitted his greatest teacher were not the famous naturalists — Lamarck, Linnaeus, or Cuvier — but “old Aristotle.” 

Thus the Cosmological argument, which many scientists find compelling, is still valid. Mr. Hogue, though compares the “old” argument to the question: “Is English true?” and posits: “Your answer should have been: ‘The question is meaningless; English is neither true nor false; you have posed a meaningless question.’ The same could be said here with your cosmological argument.” 

But I as moderator I must interject in this instance. I believe that English is true because it exists and we are speaking it! What may be said in the English language may or may not be true, but that is the responsibility and doing of the speaker, not of the existence or truthfulness of the language. Mr. Hogue is correct that proving the existence of a deist god is not the same as proving the existence of the God of the Old Testament, and Mr. Stooksberry kindly conceded that. And yet, Saint Thomas Aquinas was also aware of this, but it did not stop him in using both logic and reason as well as faith in his adaptation of the teleological argument as well as in proselytizing to Jews and Muslims. He used the arguments of faith for potential Jewish converts and logic for Arabs and saracens. Mr. Hogue has done the best job I’ve ever read in attempting to disprove the existence of God by logic and arguments. Others, such as the secular humanists have foolishly placed their faith in man, foolishly given the history of the species. 

Although neither side mentioned pointedly the place of faith behind their arguments, I believe one must have either faith in God or faith in man for life to have any sort of meaning. The most sincere of the more recent philosophical sects, the Existentialists, place their faith in man — but only with great reluctance. But then what are they to do with their existence? Will facing this dilemma, why not exist, and if so why not help their fellowmen while they are on the earth — a melancholy existence most of them admitted. Others, such as Jean Paul Sartre, became socialists, and became apologists for left-wing tyrants. I must admit I give little credit to William James, John Dewey and the pragmatists in ethics, morality or even metaphysics, and as such I’ve difficulty conceiving of Mr. Hogue as being a self-avowed pragmatist, subject to the non-idealistic teachings of that school. I give him better credit! But if pragmatism aids him in his good works, in the existential universe as well as in the terrestrial Christian world, he is a good man, who Dante in his Catholic epic would nevertheless, place in the Vestibule of the Inferno, if not in Limbo (the First Circle). In the Protestant epic of John Milton, Christians can only hope they had been of the chosen, “the elected,” to reach celestial paradise of faith. That is if any theology is still present in contemporary, feel-good Protestant churches. 

If history is to judge, Mr. Stooksberry would be correct that it has been the Judeo-Christian world of Western civilization that, despite all the bad chapters of religious wars and periods of injustices, has brought the most progress, freedom (including the ending of slavery) and happiness to the world. Judeo-Christianity has given solace and comfort to millions and has helped preserve liberty by reducing the need to for the State to use its power to preserve law and order and peace, as I’ve discussed elsewhere. While it has been the atheistic world of collectivism and the left — Nazism (National Socialism) and communism — that has brought the most desolation and destruction, as the death of over 100 million people in the 20th century alone can testify — and even good atheists, such as Mr. Hogue, must admit to those incontrovertible facts.

Once again I congratulate both Mr. Stooksberry and Mr. Hogue for their amicable debate and the intellectual honesty in which it was conducted — Miguel A. Faria, MD.

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This article was originally published on February 11, 2018 on

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  1. ” ‘The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality’, or a variation on that was stated by John F. Kennedy and attributed by him to Dante. However, in the Divine comedy, those who ‘non furon ribelli né fur fedeli’ — neither rebelled against nor were faithful to God — are located directly inside the gate of Hell, a region neither hot nor cold (Inferno, canto 3); the lowest part of Hell, a frigid lake of ice, was for traitors.” See,

    Pope Boniface “destined to hell” must be seen in the proper perspective and context, and he was not the only pope or churchman in the various circles of hell. Dante was very much involved in secular politics as well as theology. Although he was a Guelph and should have sided with the church and the popes, in the power struggle between the Holy Roman emperor and the Popes, Dante was a champion of the emperors and always sided with the empire and the Ghibellines. So it stands to reason that Boniface, corrupt as he was, was also a major opponents of the emperors, and was intensely hated by Dante, almost as an anti-Christ. If there was ever a reason for regicide, Philip the Fair (Boniface’s chief opponent), along with Henry VIII of England, would have been great candidates— truly evil men, worse than Boniface or any of the popes! So Dante must be judged highly as a theologian, where he was very gifted, or as an epic poet, where he was supreme. But on the political side, he must be judged as a politician who was an ardent supporter of the emperors and highly critical of any pope who wielded temporal powers. Some of the people in hell for committing sodomy were treated kindly by Dante, especially his friends and acquaintances, who were on the same political side as him (White Guelphs). As much as I admire Dante, it must be recognized that he judged his political opponents very harshly and on a difficult scale as his friends and allies— although they were all in hell, albeit in different circles. in short, in those savage Medieval and Renaissance (yes Italian Renaissance!) days, I cut the popes some slack when they exerted temporal powers, for example with Julian II, Boniface VIII, Innocent III and even Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), recognizing their malfeasance and sins.😎

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