Sexual Celibacy and Hume’s Empirical Law

There are two interesting items over at HuffPo Religion that allow me to revisit — if only briefly — some previous posts.  In the first, Angelina Bonavoglia reports that Cardinal William Levada, a major Vatican player who is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, blames celibacy for the sexual abuse scandals that are rocking the church:

Responding to a visiting [a PBS reporter’s] questions about the clergy sex abuse scandal, Levada at one point said: “I think the causes we will see go back to changes in society that the church and priests were not prepared for, particularly changes involving how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution.”

That is a stunning and extremely noteworthy admission, for several reasons. If we take Levada at his word and go the next step, it meant that as a result of the sexual revolution, there were Catholic priests who became involved in all kinds of sexual acting out, from pedophilia (though that is a psychiatric condition with its own etiology) to sex with minors to the sexual exploitation of young — and not so young — vulnerable adults.

So it is.  As I explained in this post, the single most powerful evolutionary drive — after the instinct to survive — is sexual reproduction.  It will be denied only under the most unusual circumstances, and even then very rarely.  Add sexualized culture to the mix, and it is volatile.  Hopefully, this admission leads to doctrinal change.

In the second story, Al Webb reports that a top British judge has ruled that attempting to use one’s religious beliefs to defend against otherwise unlawful activities is unacceptable.  In and of itself, this ruling is not surprising — the same rule generally applies in the United States.  What is surprising is what the judge said to support his ruling:

A top British judge has ruled that Christian beliefs have no standing under secular law because they lack evidence and cannot be proven.

Gary McFarlane protested that he was fired because offering sex therapy to same-gender couples violates his Christian principles.

But [the judge, who is aptly named “Laws”] said “religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence.” He added that to use the law to protect “a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified.”

No religious belief, said the judge, can be protected under the law “however long its tradition, however rich its culture.”

It sounds like this judge has been reading lots of David Hume, the British empirical philosopher.  The judge got it wrong, however.

Faith is indeed subjective but is entirely communicable — humans have doing it for many thousands of years.  What is lacking for the faithful is any empirical or material confirmation that supernatural agents (gods or spirits) actually exist.  As I noted in this post, this explains why religious people are so desperate for material affirmation of their otherwise non-verifiable beliefs.

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