Time to read your Catechism!

May 30, 2006 | By | 7 Replies More

While attending a book fair at the age of 17, I bought a Catechism published in 1850 1850 catechism excerpts.pdf Back then, I found it sycophantic, scientifically backward and full of veiled threats. Fast forward 33 years . . . I now find it sycophantic, scientifically backward and full of veiled threats (p. 47, 60).

I’m sharing scanned images of this Catechism here because it still makes an interesting read. It shows that the tricks used by today’s fundamentalists are not new. And even 150 years ago (well prior to the civil war) religious leaders knew (instinctively if not consciously) the value of terror. How do we know that God is such a great guy? Well (see p. 66), he could have executed Adam and Eve, but he didn’t. [Hey, wait! I could have killed dozens of people today, but I didn’t. Am I a great guy too?]

Notice that God didn’t kill Adam and Eve. He spared them (and us), but “put enmities between” all men and women. God, the anti-marriage counselor.

Reading this Catechism illustrates that anywhere the light of disciplined science shines, fundamentalist religion doesn’t have enough sense to scurry. Check out the Intelligent Design arguments on page 43. Michael Behe and his pals offer us nothing new except packaging.

Other tidbits: Blue is the most pleasing color (p. 47). God could crush us by playing with air pressure (p. 47). Air has the function of pumping water out of the ocean (p. 48). The sun and moon were not created until the “fourth day” (how did God know it was the fourth day without the sun?) to prevent idolatry (p. 51). If the stars were further from us, they would be “useless” (p. 52). Ants teach us “the tenderness that parents should have for their children and the care they should take of their education” (p. 57).



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Category: Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Some of the spectacularly ridiculous assertions from that catechism that caught my attention include:

    "We know that the books of the Old and New Testament are inspired, authentic and genuine…by the teaching of the Catholic church, whose infallibility is proved by incontestable miracles." (Can there be ANY moral authority less worthy of support than one that is convinced of its own infallibility?)

    "How many traditions are there? There are two traditions, the Jewish and the Christian traditions." (Apparently, the Catholic church has never heard of the rich variety of other traditions, both religious and non-religious, that occupy our planet.)

    "Which are the two great sources of the truths of religion? The two great sources of the truths of religion are the Scriptures and Tradition." (Only people overwhelmed with self-righteousness could pen such bombastic drivel.)

    "Does light come to us with great velocity? Light travels with incomprehensible velocity…." (Actually, light travels with a known velocity: 299,792,458 meters per second.)

    "Why does God make light travel with such velocity, and in every direction? God makes light travel with such velocity and in every direction, in order that an infinity of objects may be seen at the same instant by a great number of persons…." (Actually, the known Universe does not contain "an infinity of objects;" the number is very, very big, but it is not "an infinity." Also, Einstein's theory of special relativity — a theory confirmed many times by experiment — demonstrates that there is no simultaneity; i.e., objects *cannot* be seen at the same instant by a great number of persons. Indeed, the phrase "same instant" is virtually meaningless. See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativity.)

    That catachism is a stunning example of the self-serving self-delusions of the Catholic church. It is truly frightening that this institution once had the power to burn people at the stake for disagreeing with its doctrine, and actually did so for many centuries. With the power to inflict such terrorism for such a long time, is it be any surprise that its "tradition" became so widespread?

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    This 1850 Catechism was published in an "innocent" time, when literalist believers simply said what they thought. No slick PR (like with the current Intelligent Design movement) and no sugar coating. In a way, it's refreshing to hear it straight for a change: We are people who are not swayed by evidence, so if you don't like it, go to hell.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    An innocent time, indeed — before Darwin; before Pasteur; before Curie, Hubble and Einstein; before Lincoln and FDR; before Edison, Bell and Ford…before virtually all of the legendary modern thinkers and inventors. In a way, this helps me understand what it must have been like when the Enlightenment swept across the Western world. For more than fifteen centuries, the Western world lived in an virtually unchanged "innocent" time, in which the church defined what was right and wrong, and everyone who disagreed was a blaspheming heretic. Then reason and logic came onto the Western stage and began tearing through traditional beliefs like an axe through tissue paper. The only defense against the onslaught has been for traditionalists to build vast ramparts of denial: bulwarks of self-delusion against the rising tide of science that threatens to submerge their long-held beliefs. For people wedded to centuries-old "infallible" beliefs, it must have been terrifying.

  4. Edgar Montrose says:

    So why are people now dead-set on going back to those centuries-old "infallible" beliefs, despite having free, open, unprecedented access to virtually all human scientific, logical, social, medical, and psychological knowledge at the press of an key? Never in history have we known more, or had freer access to that knowledge. It boggles my mind that people would reject all that in favor of superstitions, delusions, misinterpretations, and utter nonsense.

    Is it possible that humans, as a species, have reached beyond their own grasp? Is it possible that "average" humans are so totally overwhelmed by the universe, or more specifically by our understanding of it, that they cower in fear and take steps to repress that knowledge? I'm not a historian, but I believe that there are precedents for this.

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    Edgar raises a provocative question. Why, indeed, do so many people cling so rigidly to centuries-old beliefs, even when such beliefs are nonsensical? One interesting theory is that religion is a hard-to-fake sign of commitment to one's community. By standing up and publicly proclaiming one's belief in nonsense, one makes a powerful display of commitment to all of one's friends who have likewise stood up and proclaimed their belief in the same nonsense. For anyone in the group to suddenly declare that the communal belief is nonsense would be tantamount to treason. Likewise, failing to raise one's children 'within the faith,' when others in the group are doing so, would likewise be seen as treasonous. Moreover, communities of Believers are so closely connected that such treason would unlikely be forgotten quickly.

    With all of this in mind, it is perhaps not too surprising to see so many people clingly rigidly to centuries-old beliefs, even if (or, perhaps, because) such beliefs are nonsensical.

    For a much more extensive discussion of religion as a hard-to-fake sign of commitment, here is a recent article:

  6. Edgar Montrose says:

    It is perhaps fitting, grumpypilgrim, that while I was reading your 9:16 post an advertisement for Harley Davidson came on the radio. As a motorcyclist myself, but NOT a Harley rider, I am amused (and sometimes frightened) at the religious ferocity with which Harley lovers defend their preference for image over performance — in very much the same way that believers defend religion over science. Could it all be that simple? Could it all be boiled down to nothing more than the need for a feeling of "belonging", to a fear of being "alone" or "unimportant"?

    The cynic in me calls that "pathetic". The realist in me doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Edgar: My intuition is that you are spot on with your observation. It appears to me that humans rally around consumer goods and religious dogma alike as we rally around flags. A consequence of this is that things can be meaningless (or even oxymoronic) yet still important. Important for what? Important as a locus–a "place" or a "seed" for group cohesion which, in the individual, manifests itself as a need to "belong." The substance of your comment is something that has been haunting me for the past decade. In my mind, then, it's often not really about the motorcycle, the flag the tattoo or the virgin birth. Rather, it's about a deep human need to seek collaboration, a need that appears (to me) to constitute a key component to overall Darwinian fitness.

    I know that all of us will have much more to say about this topic in future posts.

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