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Flannery O’Connor’s Portrait In ‘Prayer’

The great Flannery O’Connor.  A newly discovered journal of prayers gives a rare glimpse of the deeply Catholic writer and artist as a young woman.

Author Flannery O'Connor in 1962. A recently discovered journal she wrote during her time at the University of Iowa in 1946 and 1947. (AP)

Author Flannery O’Connor in 1962. A recently discovered journal she wrote during her time at the University of Iowa in 1946 and 1947. (AP)

American great Flannery O’Connor wrote dark, hard novels and stories that at their most Gothic, even cynical, remained somehow backlit by her Catholic faith.  In “Wise Blood” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and more, there is dark humor, sarcasm, violence.  A dryness toward the very idea of God.  But there was a moment when a young Flannery O’Connor first left the South that she turned to God in astonishing prayer.  Kept a journal of conversations with the divine.  Beseeched the almighty to let her be a great writer. Up next On Point:  When Flannery O’Connor talked to God.

– Tom Ashbrook


W.A. Sessions, professor of English emeritus at Georgia State University, editor of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Prayer Journal.” Author of “Henry Howard, the Poet Early of Surrey,” “Francis Bacon,” and “A Shattering Of Glass.”

Paul Elie, senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Author of “The LIfe You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage” and “Reinventing Bach.”

Carlene Bauer, author of “Frances and Bernard” and “Not That Kind of Girl.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Virginia Quarterly Review: God’s Grandeur: The Prayer Journal of Flannery O’Connor — “We know what O’Connor wanted for her fiction, but it is less clear what she wanted for her soul, because she does not confess to it other than obliquely. In the letters, when she advises Hester on prayer, she does admit to some extravagant petitioning. ‘It’s only trying to see straight and it’s the least you can set yourself to do, the least you can ask for,’ she writes. ‘You ask God to let you see straight and write straight. I read somewhere that the more you asked God, the more impossible what you asked, the greater glory you were giving Him. This is something I don’t fail to practice, although not with the right motives.’ But she does not tell Hester what impossible things she demands.”

Slate: The Prayers of Flannery O’Connor – ” I’m jealous of Flannery O’Connor, though she’s been dead nearly 50 years. I envy her not only because she was brilliant, the maker of astoundingly original and subversive works of art, but because she believed in God. She believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. She believed in the Redemption, and Life Everlasting. She believed, with an unerring rigor, in the supernatural, and that God’s grace could open up upon us at our most dire moments and, if we accepted its gift, make us—fleetingly at least—better beings.”

The Atlantic: The Passion of Flannery O’Connor — “Iowa was where spiky, brainy Mary Flannery O’Connor from Milledgeville, Georgia, became Flannery O’Connor, writer. Arriving in 1945 as a postgraduate student at the University of Iowa, she promptly homed in on the creative-writing classes run by the poet Paul Engle. Women were a minority at the time: by 1946, more than half of Engle’s pupils were returning servicemen, many of them writing stories about their experiences during the war. On the surface, as O’Connor’s biographer, Brad Gooch, tells it in Flannery, she was a quiet but significant classroom presence: “’She scared the boys to death with her irony,’ remembered one visiting lecturer, Andrew Lytle.”

Read An Excerpt From “A Prayer Journal” By Flannery O’Connor

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  • Mike_Card

    She was, after all, a fiction writer…

  • X-Christian

    Looking for Love in all the wrong places!

    This document, full of rapturous self-pity, abjection and abnegation, records all that is wrong with religion.

    It is a love letter to a dangerous delusion, one uniquely designed to rip apart the concept of love itself. What is this God that demands such self-hatred of our integrity!?

    Her love is wasted entirely on this. It is a disgrace to the human mind and a waste of a beautiful personality. I ache for her loved ones.

    What a heartbreak to read of her longing for love and blessings from a the very deity that negates her first with a ‘blessing’ of fear and self-loathing!

    What a disgusting tract.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      I’m curious, you name yourself “X-Christian”. Are you now “pro” something else ?

      • fun bobby

        apparently he is unaware of that mother Teresa quote

        • X-Christian

          Are you referring to the Atheist ‘Mother’ Teresa?

          “When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me … and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” – Mother Teresa

          She was a non-believer, a perpetrator of poverty, a self-denying enigma who stole from poor Haitians and gave to herself to build poverty dumps all over the world where medicine was denied to poor people and women were discouraged from birth control.

          • J__o__h__n

            She might have been a failed theist, but I wouldn’t call that fraud an atheist.

          • X-Christian

            She was so deluded that she didn’t know she was a fraud or an atheist.

            But she was both. Her hundreds of letters show that she had absolutely no faith – no ‘belief’ – that God was there.

            We define atheism as the lack of belief in a god. This fits Mother Teresa completely.

          • fun bobby

            the other quote

      • X-Christian

        Yes. I am ‘pro’ countless things:
        Compassion, empathy, brotherly love, kinship, solidarity, kindness, among other things.

        Perhaps it was my own Christian self of years ago which prompted me to respond.

        In my opinion, the untruths and outrageous claims of religion are the most insidious evil dumbing down our society today.

        The casual acceptance of these ancient lies is thankfully coming to an end.

    • fun bobby

      instead she could be as content as you?

      • X-Christian

        I care about people. Is that wrong?

        • fun bobby

          how is that working for you?

          • X-Christian


          • fun bobby

            you come off as bitter and resentful and clearly devote a bit of time to railing against all things you perceive to be religious

          • X-Christian

            I’m not bitter. I’m disgusted. Religion poisons everything.

            Not a day goes by without reading of yet another killing at the direction of a deluded person.

            If the supporters of Al Queda had someone like me to contend with all the time maybe some of them would think before blowing things up – maybe some would give up Islam. That’s why they would kill atheists like me first.

            I’m disgusted about children in Zaire being killed by their Catholic parents because they believe they are witches.

            I’m disgusted at Pat Robertson who uses the Gospel of Matthew – and lies about earthquakes at the crucifixion of Jesus – for telling poor Haitians that they are to blame for their earthquake.

            Faith-based garbage infiltrating our schools is not help either.

            I’m not bitter. I’m disgusted.

          • fun bobby

            close enough.
            I did hear Dr Robertsons theory on Haiti once, one does have to laugh a little on that.

          • X-Christian

            Pat Robertson is not a Christian extremist.

            He is just following the Bible’s own description of how God communicates with earthquakes:

            “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus,
            saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly,
            saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” – (matthew 27:54)

          • fun bobby

            its pretty hard to deny that Haiti is a godforsaken shithole. have you ever been?

          • X-Christian

            Yes, Haiti sucks.

            But ‘godforsaken’? I would just say ‘without a god’, like everywhere else.

            I was in Haiti for 2 hours as part of a trip to the Dominican Republic. Few countries have had worse governments. Duvalier raped that country and destroyed its resources – he stole from the poor and gave millions to …guess who?
            Mother Teresa!

            See? Religion is up to no good wherever it gets going.

          • fun bobby

            you have been saying she was an atheist

          • X-Christian

            Yes, and we have good reason to believe she was. She wrote hundreds of letters to the Vatican confirming as much.

            But she took money.
            What she did with that money is well known. Look into it.

          • X-Christian

            How is your lack of kindness and compassion working for you?

            Do you care that Flannery O’Conner found Hell to be terrifying? Do you care that people like her – many of whom are children – lie awake in terror of the lies their priests tell them about Hell?

            You are like so many Christians – cold hearted, bloodless and cruel to the bone.

          • fun bobby

            I am doing pretty great. I don’t know why you would say I am unkind or not compassionate.
            that last line is where the bitter and resentful tone comes through

          • X-Christian

            You are the one who looks bitter and resentful to me.

            You don’t seem to be bothered in the slightest that Flannery O’Conner spends an entire paragraph expressing her mortal fear of Hell. Imagine a grown woman in such frightening distress?!
            Don’t you want to reach back in time and alleviate her worry – let her know that it is Bullshit!? Don’t you care about a person who is in such terror?

            I pointed out that she is the victim of a delusion (Catholicism) which treats her awfully – yet You don’t seem to care at all. That is cruel.

          • fun bobby

            I don’t know flannery very well and I have never read any of her work. if she is supporting herself as an author then it must be a pretty good trade off for her. You might not want to get yourself in a bind every time someone writes some dramatic prose. No one is forcing her to be a catholic if she lives in America she can believe whatever she wants.

          • X-Christian

            We should see her religious journal entry as an artifact from a time when people had no choice but to continue the automatic and reflexive indoctrination of Gods and demons onto children.

            Those days are thankfully fading.

    • J__o__h__n

      She didn’t kill anyone, destroy any art, enact any laws or knock on my door with a pamphlet so this isn’t all that is wrong with religion.

      • X-Christian

        I’m going to do an edit.

  • fun bobby

    this ought to bring out the fervent NPR athiests

    • Leonard Bast

      . . . and the fervent NPR theists.

    • adks12020

      You know what, you may be right. I’m an atheist but am fascinated by religion. It’s a very interesting topic that I read about a lot.

      • fun bobby

        they toss one of these out every week or two.

      • geraldfnord

        A ‘formal system’ can be beautiful, terrifying, pathetic, and disgusting, sometimes all at once…without any bearing as to its truth or falsity or relationship to consensus-reality.

        For me, the kicker was when I read the better part of Augustus’ justification of the doctrine of Infant Damnation, the one rooted in basic Orthodox soteriology. (The worse part was when he appealed to the tradition of infant baptism, and pointed to infants’ crying and fussing as an indication of original sin—humans can get traditions wrong, or misconstrue their reasons, and sinless feline and canine infants wail equivalently all the time).

    • X-Christian

      And why shouldn’t it?

      The ancient, solipsistic, self-centered attitude that assumes a personal God is waiting to hear your words is a set up for all sorts of tragic failure and broken hearts.

      Fine enough for a person in a desperate moment to reach for a God. Sure, say a prayer if it helps you.

      But generally this sort of thing should be frowned upon in our age. Priests, pastors, rabbis – all have failed miserably to explain the benefits of this self-loathing nonsense.

      Prayer is delusional thinking.
      It is therefor dangerous and the less we can do of it the better.

      • fun bobby

        any sources for your bitter proclamations?

        • X-Christian

          You tell me where your sources are first.

          Where is your evidence that God exists?
          Where is your evidence which God is the true god?
          Where is your evidence that faith is good?
          Where is your evidence that Satan, Hell and Sin are real and that we should all be terrified of them?

          Isn’t it disgraceful that religious institutions can claim so many uncontested things and not pay taxes for the untold psychological and physical damage they do?

          Of course I’m bitter. But I’m glad it is dying off.

          • fun bobby

            I think your response is something the internet jockeys call JAQing off. I do it myself sometimes.

            A. all around and everywhere
            B. God is( I could care less what you call Him), see A.
            C. I have tried both
            D. I don’t think there is anything to fear. perhaps fear itself. Have I ever said any of those things are “real”?
            E. You are really upset about the tax status of charity organizations? You put some more silly and unsupported claims in this question, at this point one would not be surprised if you fail to back up those as well. Atheists can form charitable organizations.
            F. what’s dying off? your bitterness?

          • X-Christian

            You don’t care what is real and what is BS.

            I get it now. That’s why you seem so cruel to me.

            Your bible says Hell is real. It is the reason you have a Savior. God made Hell so you would be sure to follow his laws – otherwise the whole thing is completely incoherent.

            You have two choices:
            1. Accept Jesus with the Hell thing.
            2. Decide that is not necessary.

            You have already chosen #2 because you dismiss Hell as a problem.
            AS I HAVE.

            Next you have to decide if you can stand by and watch people victimize themselves and each other because they choose #1.

            If you don’t care about what is true – so be it.
            But don’t tell me I am the cruel or bitter one. I care about people and I think it is cruel to let them think Hell is real.

          • fun bobby

            I am sorry I was not trying to be cruel to you. everyone has to decide for themselves what they believe and its not as limited a dichotomy as you propose. I think heaven and hell exist on Earth and are states of mind more than anything else. I never said your were cruel just bitter.

          • X-Christian

            No need to apologize.
            But There is a dichotomy you need to deal with:

            There either is a god or there is NOT a god.

            If you care about what is true regarding god you need to follow the demonstrable evidence.

            If you don’t care about what is true regarding god you are stuck with ‘faith’ – the trapdoor that gets you into the dark ages where nothing can be determined as true or false. Nothing.

          • fun bobby

            you have got faith mixed up with dogma

          • X-Christian

            Faith is saying something is true without a good reason to say it is true.

            My word for that is something else entirely.

      • Coastghost

        Modern psychology offers no “logos of the psyche” of compelling credibility, and modern psychiatry, with its pseudo-scientific pretenses and its state-sponsored powers to remand citizens to psychiatric prisons, is at least as dangerous today as the Inquisition was in the late medieval period.
        Even apart from broadly Christian accounts (Pascal, Swift, Vico, Dostoevsky, O’Connor, e.g.), rationalism is an epistemic delusion afflicting modernity, so I wouldn’t be so sure of the complexion and nature and reality if I were you: you could yet wind up as a protagonist in an O’Connor story. (Cf. “The Lame Shall Enter First” and The Violent Bear It Away, two tellings roughly of the same tale.)

        • anamaria23

          How should those not in touch with reality such as in schizophrenic exacerbations and torments be best treated?

          • Coastghost

            Questions for which I have no good answers, but then I claim no ability to diagnose schizophrenia, and I’m not yet persuaded any professional psychiatrist can do so unambiguously, either.
            In the absence of detectable neuropathy, a good deal of what gets diagnosed as “schizophrenia” apparently consists of little more than social maladaptation: brain physiology apparently is seldom implicated in professional psychiatric diagnoses.

          • X-Christian

            Science is the proper realm for pursuing such questions.
            Not religion.

          • Coastghost

            Careful you don’t slip into uncritical scientism, either. (You may care to consult Pierre Duhem and/or Paul Feyerabend.)

          • X-Christian

            Well, religion is certainly no antidote to insanity or dangerous toys.

          • Coastghost

            While science institutionally may make no such claim for itself, some of its zealous devotees seem perfectly willing to accord therapeutic capability where none may in fact exist.
            On another hand: applied technology has given us nuclear weaponry and (by other measures) anthropogenic climate change, et cetera. –thus with all due irony and facetiousness may we invoke an “acclamation of modernity”: “Applied technology giveth and applied technology taketh away: blessed be the name of applied technology.”

          • X-Christian

            Maybe but…

            Science works. It is how we learned that the earth is round, how to fight disease properly and countless benefits.

            Your acclamation isn’t fair because science has given us far more than it has taken away thus far.

            The enlightenment – which was also part of the scientific movement – is also our best hope against the evils side of technology. The US Constitution has within its enlightenment ideals the not yet fully realized possibility of a government by the people which can hope to regulate its industries and manage the difficulties of technology, privacy and equality.

            See? Atheists can be idealists without resorting to fascism. Theists really can’t say the same.

          • Coastghost

            Disparate responses, one by one:
            Well, but you have to give raw temporality its due: “science works” . . . at the end of the day, as well as it does: well before the end of the day, though, science according to its lights will have ventured into numerous dead-ends that initially seemed hypothetically promising and maybe even theoretically compelling, only to have to be tossed out. “Science works” usually only when it’s provisionally complete, and then only until further notice.
            I’m a large fan of air conditioning but I cannot predict whether its advent will have contributed significantly to global meteorological mayhem well after I’ve returned to dust.
            The Enlightenment gave us Lavoisier, but it also gave us the machine that efficiently detached his head from his neck. (Arguably, the Enlightenment also provided the political rationale for applying the guillotine to M Lavoisier.)
            History informs me that idealism is the preface to pessimism, cynicism, and nihilism, thus I have no abiding faith to place in idealism.
            To slur all theists with the charge of fascism is surely no more responsible than damning all pre-1945 physicists because of their contributions to the advent of nuclear weaponry: I’m no fan of nuclear weapons, having almost been struck by one once, but physicists cannot all be credited for their manufacture or use.

          • X-Christian

            Like I said, reality is challenging.

            Technology is challenging.
            But religion or supernatural ‘revelation’ is certainly no answer to it. I see plenty of reason to expect that humanity will keep chugging along with enormous screwups and some advances and somehow maybe it will work out.

            Lots to think about. Can’t see a use for an imaginary god though. That would just make things much more complicated and we’d all be even worse off.

            Shrug off religion and maybe there can be hope.

          • mjb881

            I too , do not want an ‘imaginary god’, thankfully there is a real one

          • X-Christian

            Quite a claim!
            Where is your evidence?

          • mjb881

            mmmm, well not so called trial and error ‘scientific’ evidence for sure. since science demands all things ‘only’ material.
            since science excludes non material, how do you suppose evidence would look like
            i see the moon and sunrise, wether i believe the cartesian or the ptolomyic solar system==they look the same
            …..just as Wittgenstein pointed out
            …we can use science but not for meaning
            we can love but we can’t prove it

          • X-Christian

            Can’t prove love??? Nonsense!
            Love can be proven in a hundred ways because it can be demonstrated. Are there some mysteries about love – sure. But love can be easily demonstrated! Ever watch a father jump into the sea to save his daughter? Ever see a dog run into a burning house to find his master?
            Love shows up on neurological tests as well. Don’t be ridiculous.

            Back to God:
            So let me get this straight.

            You make an amazing, outrageous, enormous claim:
            “GOD Exists, He is all-powerful and I know He is there!”

            And you can’t show me anything?
            Nothing? Not a shred? NOT A SPECK? NOT A frickin’ SPECK??

            Delusions are hard to face.

          • anamaria23

            You say that “psychiatric prisons” are as dangerous as the Inquisition. You say you have no answer. Perhaps the “answer” currently employed is not to your liking, but it can most often relieve suffering for all entwined in the behavior of the afflicted. Generations ago, there was no known treatment. Presently, there are not enough resources to use what we know.

          • X-Christian

            The first step in any mental health treatment is to discard delusions.

            It would be no help to a schizophrenic to say, “Please take your medicine and get some rest”

            and then add,

            “but first, lets go into that church so you can eat Jesus who just turned into a cracker for you.”

          • fun bobby

            cigarettes are a good treatment but there is some evidence that suggests to cure schizophrenia they should be allowed to work it out unmedicated

          • anamaria23

            Even if they harm someone or themselves in the process?

        • X-Christian

          You need to read about the Inquisition.
          You don’t seem to understand what you are comparing Psychiatry to.

          Atheists are reacting to a claim that a god exists – we propose no claims.

          If the best you can do is say reality without a god is difficult my response is to say, ‘what else is new’?

          That doesn’t mean a God exists. It is no argument for it. And it offers no reason to believe in a god, nor does it point to which god is the true god.

          I remain a happy atheist.

          • Coastghost

            Asserting “God does not exist” is to claim the faculty for knowing such to be the case. Arguably, contemporary cosmology and astrophysics render the assertion of atheism wholly untenable: the baryonic matter you, I, and all of visible creation consists of constitutes no more than 5% of the known universe by volume.
            If I were you, I’d convert to happy agnosticism.

          • X-Christian

            I have said this several times:


            I accept that a god may exist.
            But I do not BELIEVE in it.

            I do not understand why Theists cannot grasp this!

            Atheist = I do not believe in a god.
            That is all. I do NOT claim that god does not exist.

            But until you show me evidence that a god is real – whether it is one god or 10 gods – I cannot believe this claim at all.

            Agnosticism = “I do not KNOW if there is a God”

            But the Agnostic is still willing to go to church and pretend to ‘believe’.
            I object to Agnosticism because it allows the pretension that belief can be faked and that there is a value in faking belief.

            If you have enough guts to say you are an agnostic you should have the guts to admit you do not believe.

            I repeat once more…I DO NOT CLAIM that God does not exist. He May.
            But I do not believe it.

          • Coastghost

            All good points and well taken. (Atheism, you appreciate, has accumulated its own baggage.)

  • Ed75

    These pages are a mature Catholic reflection – as she says, to her Dear God, whom she wants to love more. And she prays to love Mary more. She sounds in her cadence a little like St. Terese of Lisieux, I’m sure she had read her autobiography. One can do the good out of fear, that is a legitimate, rational motive (looking at the Philippines one sees what can happen), but it is not the perfect motive, which is pure love of God, which is what she prays for.
    It’s also clear that like other Catholic writers (one might include Shakespeare and Sonnet 22 or 23), she hopes her writing is evangelical, announcing the Good News, to others, which her writing did indeed.

    • X-Christian

      Prayers usually have a dark, humiliating side and I don’t see how that can be good for people. It seems like an ancient psychological game one plays with oneself.

      I would feel very differently about this if prayers were actually ever answered – but that generally appears to not be the case.

      “I am not worthy” is the typical marker of the self-denying whirlwind of rapturous abnegation to follow.

      The Atheist Mother Teresa of Calcutta gained nothing from this posture – if gaining a closeness to God was the objective – though it appears from her hundreds of letters to the Popes that she tried desperately to connect with God in this way:

      “I call, I cling, I want … and there is no One to answer … no One on Whom I can cling … no, No One. Alone … Where is my Faith …” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

      • fun bobby

        my prayers are always answered. there is nothing dark or humiliating in prayer if you do it correctly. just because the papists are silly does not mean God does not exist

      • geraldfnord

        This assumes that Mother Teresa’s opinion of her degree of closeness to God were accurate, and I’d guess that both of us would have strong adoubts about the accuracy of her opinions on other matters. And perhaps I’m being ‘more atheist than thou’ (well, ‘her’, really), but a person who calls out into the void and is subject to doubts that there were nothing there is someone a lot more theistic than my sort of atheist…saying that you have a God-shaped hole (perhaps like Power Girl’s costume) implies a particular shape for God, and a man who repeatedly hears the silence when his girlfriend doesn’t call is a man who at root thinks he still has a girlfriend.

        • X-Christian

          Mother Teresa wrote hundreds of letters to the Vatican like these over many years.

          If she had a job at Walmart and talked like this about her job the manager would have fired her.

          But the Vatican cynically kept bucking her up because she was a cash machine pulling in money for the Church. She was a wretched fraud when you get down to it and contributed to others getting sucked into the same delusion.

          The one PROVEN thing that cures poverty is the emancipation of women. Yet ‘Mother’ Teresa was against women’s liberation and especially CONTRACEPTION as a lifelong project!

          Think of how much more poverty resulted from her ‘help’ in that cause!
          Utterly Disgraceful.

      • mjb881

        mmm well think of it this way: if one diminishes oneself, then some one else is in charge–good thing in my opinion,,,,all I have to do is obey and be faithful
        to think i am the master is too big a burden, glad I am not, Greek Tragedy showed us all we need to know about the alternative

        • X-Christian

          She wanted to quit but the church wouldn’t let her.

          • mjb881

            ??? !!! she had 30 years of ‘dark night of the soul” [at her own request to Jesus, e.g. to feel some of his suffering at Gesemene -spel?] but she could not quit quite simply because she loved, so quitting was a none entity

          • X-Christian

            Have you read her letters??!
            I have! You would not believe her atheism!
            If she was in any other line of work she would be fired!

            She felt, “No faith”, “No love”, “No God”.

            And she believed in poverty. Not for her – she got the best treatments for her own illnesses! But she forced the worst treatment on the poor people in her slummy ‘hospitals for the dying’.

            You do your own investigation! I’m not gonna argue about the fraudulent Teresa.

    • J__o__h__n

      Who provoked god for the Philippines? I don’t think you assigned blame yet.

      • geraldfnord

        They’ve got some very apt transexxuals and transvestites, as many a Navy man won’t admit to knowing. Perhaps God were angry at them for existing, or for raising their prices to good Americans.

      • Ed75

        Well, they were playing around with legalization of divorce, contraception, and even abortion, though it is still in progress. It serves as a warning to us all, as all disasters do: come to one’s senses, repent and be reconciled with God, or at least live a decent moral life, for the time is short.

    • X-Christian

      Flannery believed in Hell. That makes her the victim of an ancient lie.

      As Catholicism fades in the West we should study the incoherent delusional thinking that even its brightest adherents were sucked into – that a loving God has placed a terrifying Hell somewhere in the dark to color and coerce her thinking!

      A phantom trapdoor of eternal torture. The psychological torment! The obvious fear of it she expresses!

      Religion is a trash heap of very ancient superstitious and just plain bad ideas about what is good.

      • geraldfnord

        Yes, but once you assume that some are destined for Hell, you can

        0.) …say to yourself, ‘Why bother treating them well, considering what God thinks of them?’, or
        1.) …decide that you can now be a Great Guy by torturing them in their thousands, even if it means that but one of them might avoid the eternal fire thereby.

        In either case, and they are mutually reinforcing, you can go ahead and do what you felt like doing in the first place, but feel yourself approved-of by your parents or the alpha of your hominid band…and isn’t that what we _really_ need?

        • X-Christian

          I don’t believe in Hell.

          People who do are deluded. There is no need for delusion in a world so troubled already.

          • mjb881

            I find it amazing that, given the 20th century and its horror-for all to see…….how anyone can not believe in Evil; and thus posit Hell as an extension
            Rwanda’s slaughter has no explanation but evil, it is way beyond any human motivation ……etc

          • X-Christian

            Of course I believe in morality.

            All humans know what morality is and we don’t need an imaginary sky fairy to sort that out for us.

            Thanks for bringing up Rwanda, the most Catholic country in Africa – 800,000 people slaughtered by catholics.

            Great example of how evil always lies dormant in the religious superstition.

            Father Athanase Seromba was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the International Criminal
            Tribunal for Rwanda for his role in the massacre of 2000 Tutsis. The court
            heard that Seromba lured the Tutsis to the church, where they believed they
            would find refuge. When they arrived, he ordered bulldozers to crush the
            refugees within and Hutu militias to kill any survivors.

            Tell me how Father Seromba’s morality is different from mine! I wouldn’t hurt a fly and I have no reason to kill people who have done nothing to me!

          • mjb881

            well what is the basis of morality? who agrees to it,,,,,,,you just wrote ‘evil’ concerning rwanda—so if you accept evil [not to mention how do you' prove' it]
            then why not accept God [what kind of god is another question]
            priest, there are good and bad, people all have a choice, all

          • X-Christian

            Yes of course there is evil. Hurting people unnecessarily is evil and there are degrees of evil.

            God is not needed for this conversation about evil and good.

            Marcus Aurelius did not need a god to have this conversation in 120 C.E. and neither did Socrates.

            Morality is clearly something the vast majority of humans are born with. We know what is fair and unfair at an early age and it is really that simple.

            You know why you do not rape someone and I know why I don’t steal. We are born with an affinity for fairness, solidarity with our brothers and sisters and our tribe, and a natural instinct for the golden rule of reciprocity (do unto others as you would have done unto you) and no god is needed for any of it.

            We are born to reproduce and die.

            But we are enhanced with extraordinary qualities – who knows maybe god made us that way. But according to science it all works without a god. I don’t believe one exists.

          • mjb881

            yes inborn moral code; and yes the Greeks hit mans high mark for the intellect [Plato, Sophocles, Euclid]…but no purely human imagination has adequately explained the horrors that have occurred . nothing to human facility
            makes no sense w/o a cause…but all that aside, there is no proof in terms of modern materialism [science] but Wittgenstein has closed the door on science ‘understanding’ anything, except as tool, useful not meaningful.
            No human explanation adequate to the experience of the world [Hitler, Rwanda] exists, [unless we enter the religious imaginations of Dante, Bach, Michelangelo, Acquinas] in the sense go giving meaning to these events, depravities….
            in the end we all see a closed door, and the tiny light thru the bottom from the other side, we all can choose to open, and also to enter
            all will choose in the end

          • X-Christian

            Again, Religion is no remedy to the depravities of humanity.

            Belief in gods, holy orders and their dictates fixes nothing.

            200 years of Hitlerian scale slaughter was perpetrated by Popes: it was a holocaust at the express direction of God Himself – The Crusades.

            We only need to look at Bosnia-Hertzogovnia in the 1990s to see Catholics killing at the direction of their catholic leadership.

            When are religious people going to realize that if their ways were superior there would be no body count in Christianity AT ALL?!

          • mjb881

            no doubt Catholics go to hell, and heaven like all the rest, Hitler was a Catholic [although his actions excommunicated him pro forma]
            but ‘being’ is the key, Catholic means universal, and free will is for all……
            war is result of sin, we fail our responsibilities for sure—WWII was the worst [hitler, stalin] we caused the Cambodian Poi Pot [via Nixon's bombing in Cambodia which destroyed the govt. and poi pot took over]
            what happened in the camps has no explanation, no human cause, except the acediency to evil …and that is both social and personal sin
            Jesus state this world is Satan’s, the goal is not success but salvation
            I am unaware of any ‘successful’ philosophy, civilization, etc that had no body count………….fallen world all around …i agree

          • X-Christian

            I have to reject the argument that in order to fight evil we must adhere to the ancient fossilized philosophies of religion which often bring it about.

            Example: whatever happened to “Christendom”?
            Well, it blew itself up! Today we call it World War One.

            The problem with Jesus is that his injunctions are absolutely contradictory. “Love they neighbor” is a direct contradiction to “I come NOT to abolish the Law but to fulfill.” (in other words, keep judging and stoning some of your neighbors)

            “The Prodigal Son” is a direct contradiction to “Give no thought for the morrow”

            And the heart of Monotheism – the evil idea of “original sin” in one quick move destroys the very concept of morality by creating a ‘sin’ without volition!

            By the way, Hitler was not excommunicated from the Church. The Nazi SS were confessing catholics and were not excommunicated either.
            Goebbels was the only one to be excommunicated by the church – and it was because he married a Protestant! Quite disgraceful.

          • X-Christian

            I should add that it took MAN MADE LAWS to bring justice to Rwanda. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

            Wow! To bring Catholic Priests with blood on their hands into such a conversation in defense of human morality is quite a shock, frankly.

      • mjb881

        those who do not believe in God, will believe in anything—————now that IS superstition

        • X-Christian

          I believe in…Love, Compassion, empathy and solidarity with humanity.
          This is somehow ….superstitious?

          • mjb881

            well, how do you define love, on what basis? solidarity with whom? is empathy adequate as a rule , and if so for whom?
            [Hitler, et al]
            one has to define the basis of these things, so who/how does one do that?
            …we fall into the Naturalistic fallacy w/o a
            pre ordained guidepost so to speak
            [natural law? ……..only if you can see Nature as Created by some Other, otherwise nature as a word has no meaning except what we call it-and how do we know? this is the fall into the irrational, using ‘reason’ so to speak

          • X-Christian

            First of all, if you have no evidence for god you lose.

            Second, evolution provided everything we walk around with, head to toes. We evolved solidarity and love and compassion – and if you don’t believe it just look at children who never heard of God. They care about everybody. Most of us never lose that.

            Evolution is where we get everything. Even the desire to think a god exists when he doesn’t.

          • mjb881

            well, how do you explain something rather than nothing
            or the vast history of evil if most do not lose solidarity? [for example the Hutu's who killed the 800,000 in Rwanda]
            how do you explain the 20th century?
            and so on—even if you refuse any non material discussion, what is the basis of a belief in solidarity etc?

          • X-Christian

            I have no clue why there is something rather than nothing.

            According to physicist Laurence Krauss there may be no such thing as ‘nothing’ and it is likely that there never was.

            I am an Atheist.
            I do NOT claim that god does not exist.
            Maybe one is out there, I don’t know. I’m open to convincing evidence or at least a convincing demonstration to show that it is there in some way.

            I also cannot prove there is no unicorn in space somewhere – but I think it is very unlikely and I do not believe in unicorns as a result.

            But you have all your work ahead of you to show me that any god could be Yahweh, Jesus, Zeus or any other.

            I’m waiting!

  • Ed75

    If you want to see how a Catholic thinks, though admittedly she is pre-Vatican II, she is a perfect place to start.

    • X-Christian

      As one who was once a Catholic I can attest to that.

      It is also a demonstration of how other religious people think. Prayer has always been a sort of begging for things one cannot seem to find in reality.

      If you want proof that the whole thing is a delusional way of life just ponder the prayers to Allah, Vishnu, Jesus, Yahweh and a hundred other gods every day. Ponder how identical they are. Ponder how those who pray are so convinced they have spoken to something real.

      Ponder how they then thoroughly object to the other’s gods.

      It is delusional. And not good for people.

      • geraldfnord

        As before, I agree with you—atheists but do monotheists one better, or perhaps three or four better for Christians, but I think caution were in order, lest the spaces vacated by gods be assumed by monsters (or ‘…by our barbarian gods be assumed by even _more_ barbarous gods’). There is an analogy I have in the past made with intestinal flora, commensals that aren’t completely useless and in whose absence you might find yourself colonised by things to which we’re not well-adapted at all.

        • X-Christian

          Well, look. Reality is challenging.

          But starting without silly delusions about gods seems at least the wiser, more sensible foundation.

          Lucky for us we live in the only country on earth that has a godless constitution.
          Long live the US constitution.

      • Ed75

        On the other hand, Jesus asked the disciples ‘Who do they say that I am?’ And they said a prophet, Elijah, John the Baptist. People know God by different names, and see him partially, and sometimes incorrectly. But God hears everyone’s prayers.

        More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.

        • X-Christian

          Sounds good. All Gods are really just one god…hmmm.
          As Hemingway said: “It is pretty to think so”

          But then why are all the gods working so hard against one another?

          - Matthew 10:34, “Jesus said, ‘I come not to bring peace, but to
          bring a sword.”

          Qu’ran 8;7 “Allah wished to
          confirm the truth by His words, ‘Wipe the infidels out to the last.”

          Torah: Deut 1:7 “…We will go up and fight, according to all that
          Jehovah our God commanded us. And ye girded on every man his weapons of war.”

          It is hard to see these ‘revelations’ as useful to humanity. The gods are really just invisible friends to tribes and specific cultures.

          And if you grant that one of them is true you can only assert it without reason. The miracles and prayers of one religion must be granted for all of them – and they cannot all be the truth.

          • Ed75

            Well, I wouldn’t say that all gods are one God – but that there is ultimately only one God. But people of other religions, trying to find God, if in good faith, are heard.
            From the Catholic point of view, the Catholic Church contains the fullness of the truth, other religions contain ‘glimpses of that light that enlightens all men’ Vatican II. Indeed, they are not all true.
            And people of diferent faiths that are of good will often coexist well – even many Christians and Muslims in Africa before the extremists. The sword Jesus is speaking of is the truth – the truth will be proclaimed, and some will accept, or be able to accept it, and some won’t, and there will be conflict, even within families.

          • X-Christian

            “God” is much more simply explained as a nearly universal feature of the human brain; the infant’s biological, neurological, deeply evolved impulse to look for a parent.

            This infantilization has never been outgrown in religious people who have been trained over generations to call it ‘god’ and to lean on it.

            The studies of Michael Shermer and Dan Dennett are conclusive that this is why people believe in gods.

            After all, which is more likely: One God created all people? Or people created HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Gods?

            The evidence points to only one answer. This is why I say people need to grow up. I mean it quite literally.

          • Ed75

            That is kind of an extension of Freud’s argument: God is wish fulfillment, with biological backing.
            From a Catholic point of view, one would say that the purpose of man is to love, serve, and adore God in this world and to live with him in the next. And that this is God’s plan for man. Considering the unity of creation, it makes sense that man is psychologically and even biologically to some degree attuned to seek and adore God. In this way parents, while critical in themselves, also provide a first model of God and obedience for the child.
            One might say, with man’s innate striving for God, as seen in every human society, that even if there were no God, man would create him, and different ones, but man’s desire for God from a Catholic point of view is quite natural and expected and not proof of his non-existence.

          • X-Christian

            As a former Catholic, I once believed in a similar analysis as the one you propose. It sounds so benign and generally helpful. But it isn’t.

            It is true that desire for gods is not proof that they do not exist.

            But all you have done is decieve yourself into a typical rationale for religion.

            Yet Christianity provides no rationale at its core as it makes breathtaking claims for itself. The preachings of Jesus and his followers are often deeply immoral and the negative consequences permeate society in countless ways.

            The price of religion is overwhelmingly high. The argument for ‘unreason’ is an argument for sleepwalking – it has consequences which will destroy us.

          • Ed75

            Just for argument’s sake, what would be one teaching of Jesus or the Church that you find damaging or harmful?

          • X-Christian

            The damaging teachings of Jesus are many. I cannot limit it to only one:

            1. The concept of original sin destroys morality. A ‘sin’ without volition destroys the meaning of morality. You are born sick and told to make yourself well – in other words doomed to Hell or else.
            And following Jesus may not be enough to save you if you are not careful! (Gallatians 3:10)

            2. Love He whom you must Fear. (Luke 1:50) This is Stockholm syndrome, a slave/master relationship – the roots of sado-masochism, mental illness and thought control. (Phillipians 2:12-13)

            3. Never plan for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)(Luke 14:33)

            4. Do not resist evil. Allow evil people to do as they please in all circumstances (Matthew 5:39)

            5. Always submit to authority no matter how perverse they are (1 Peter 2:18)(Mark 12:17)

            6. No matter how evil your deeds and no matter how much pain they inflict on other people the Lord will give you a loophole so you will not be responsible. (1 John 2:1-29)

            7. Reject and abandon confused people (Matthew 10:14)

            8. Surrender your critical faculties. Don’t think for yourself (Matthew 18:3)

            9. Never grow up. Surrender like an infant and appeal to your most childlike understandings of things (Matthew 18:3)

            10. Die for your Lord. It will cure you of the sickness which the Lord gave you when you were born (Matthew 16:24-25)

            11. Hate your mother, father or children if they are confused by any of these preachings (Luke 14:26)

            12. Love me because I committed suicide for you though you had no say in this matter (1 John 3:16)

            13. Someday I will return to kill everyone who does not understand all of my commands and the world will end (2 Peter 3:10)

            14. Only say you do not want responsibility for your evil crimes – and you are free.(1 Peter 2:24)

            15. Hate your life and cut off your body parts if necessary to follow my commands exactly to the letter. Otherwise you shall be sent to Hell. (Matthew 5:30)

            16. JESUS AND YAHWEH ARE THE SAME. There is no clear commandment to limit the judgement and stoning laws of Leviticus.

          • Ed75

            Thanks for the lengthy reply! I’ll read it over and get back to you.

          • Ed75

            Well, here’s a start:

            1. The concept of original sin destroys
            morality. A ‘sin’ without volition destroys the meaning of morality. You are born sick and told to make yourself well – in other words doomed to Hell or
            else. And following Jesus may not be enough to save you if you are not careful! (Gallatians 3:10)
            There are indeed two kinds
            of sin, Original Sin, passed on to us by Adam as members of the one body, and individual sin, which we commit. We were indeed born sick, still very good but significantly damaged, but we aren’t told to make ourselves well. We are offered Baptism and the application of the grace applied to us by the Church from the grace won by Jesus’ Passion and death and of the saints. This grace is also available to us in the Sacrament of Confession, and in the other Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. We are still left, in this world, with the effects of Original Sin and even a tendency toward sin. We still have to be
            careful because this is a gift we have to choose, we have free will and can
            choose to reject God at any time. And we have responsibilities, summed up in the phrase of trying to do God’s will for us.

            Galatians 3:10 is an odd citation to use, it means that if a person relies on the Law and the following of the Law only for salvation, that person is doomed to failure, since it can’t be done. Rather, Paul urges, Salvation comes not from following the Law, which led us to understand our sinfulness, but from the grace of Jesus (which as a side effect gives us
            the grace to actually follow the Law).

            2. Love He whom you must Fear. (Luke 1:50)
            This is Stockholm syndrome, a slave/master relationship – the roots of
            sado-masochism, mental illness and thought control. (Phillipians 2:12-13)

            In Christianity one’s relationship to God is emphatically not a master/slave relationship. (Islam is indeed a master/slave relationship.) Jesus said ‘I call you friends’. The ‘Fear of the Lord’, which is the start of wisdom, is
            misunderstood as servile fear, it is more profound respect. Indeed, in
            Philippians above, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, because it is of ultimate importance. (This also argues against the once saved / always saved idea of some Protestant denominations.) In the same verse St. Paul writes
            ‘for it is God who works in you’,
            so we’re not doing it alone nor without help. God wants and wills our
            salvation, but we have to cooperate.

            3. Never plan for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)(Luke

            The thing about Catholicism -and life in general – is that it’s not either/or, but
            both/and. In this verse Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow (he didn’t
            say not to plan), because ‘the evil of the day is sufficient thereof’. And
            because God cares for us. But there are other verses – for example the parable of the talents – where wise stewardship is also praised. We do both.

            4. Do not resist evil. Allow evil people to do as they please in all circumstances (Matthew 5:39)

            On the country, the mission of Jesus is to overcome evil, and we do so in him. This is part of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the end part. The quote above is a little off, it’s not ‘let them do as they please’ but ‘turn the other cheek’, it means take no revenge and harbor no hatred. Again, it’s a situation of both/and – while we don’t seek revenge, we resist evil – see St. Paul’s phrase to ‘Fight the good fight’.)The Sermon on
            the Mount is how to live like a saint, perfection. It’s also how the Holy Spirit urges us to act if we live with him. Jesus’ life is the perfect example of the Beatitudes, even this last saying, which he followed during his
            Passion and Death, when he defeated evil.
            More later.

          • X-Christian

            Thanks for engaging in this.

            I appreciate your responses.

            I was a Catholic for 44 years. It was initially heartbreaking for me to re-read the gospels and grapple with the implications of the teachings of Jesus in light of my growing atheism.

            1. Original Sin obliterates the very free will you refer to. According to Jesus himself we are indeed born doomed to Hell. See John 6:53-54 and Mark
            16:16. Jesus says one must “Eat of his Body” and “Be baptized AND believe” or “be condemned to Hell”. A condemned man headed for the gallows is not being offered free will – it is something else – it is coercion! The beatitudes and doing good works appear to be irrelevant to avoiding Hell according to Jesus Himself.

            But belief is not a guarantee either. I pointed to Galatians 3:10 because of its absolutism – even with the loophole (or rather the blessing) of ‘grace’, I don’t see how one can keep the law at all with its contradictory injunctions. Just as importantly the credibility of such a Lawmaker is at the heart of that problem.

            2. Fear.

            Jesus is absolutely terrifying,

            “He that does not believe is condemned to Hell.” (Mark 16:16)

            Jesus loves fear, “And his mercy is on them that FEAR him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:50)

            However, John KNOWS that something must be wrong and tries to correct it.

            “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

            I think Jesus wants you to be very afraid of God – and of Him – and I don’t see an alternative. “Grace” then is just an ancient name for Stockholm syndrome, a surrendering to fear in hope that you will be released from it.

            3.”Take no thought for the morrow” is the predominant lesson.
            “For tomorrow has evil enough of its own” implies that no amount of planning can ward off that evil;

            No amount of prayer. No amount of work. No amount of thought!
            It is one of the least hopeful, most dismal statements Jesus makes in the gospels.
            Regarding the parables of stewardship – there is an outrageous contradiction. Yet the worst of the servants who Jesus most admonishes is the very one who took no thought for the morrow!!

            “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”(Matthew 25:30)

            Either/or versus both/and doesn’t seem to settle this.

            4. “Offer the other cheek” does mean “let the evil ones attack you as they wish.” That is exactly what it means.

            The hope would be that the evil one will see the error and cruelty of his ways.

            Unfortunately, we know that psychopaths (a categorical distinction unknown in Jesus’ time) will not discover the error of their ways no matter how much ‘evil’ they do. After you offer the other cheek they will go on to kill your whole family.

            In doing so, you have not obstructed evil – but aided it.
            Jesus would have called the psychopath possessed of the devil and tried to cast the devil out. But mere humans are not capable of this. And frankly, I don’t believe Jesus was capable of it either.

            There were many terrible things that Jesus did not understand and he says so, “Why can’t you decide for
            yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57) Perhaps he met some psychopaths?

            Turning the other cheek may be wise on rare occasions. But it cannot be wise all the time and it is often immoral to do so.

          • Ed75

            Well, I haven’t had time to get to the other questions yet. You are almost unique in my experience of dealing with atheists – most have problems with the Church, which they don’t understand, or with certain church teachings, which they don’t like and don’t understand, but most have no problem with Jesus himself. You have issue with Jesus himself, which is very interesting.

          • Ed75

            Well, I haven’t had time to get to the other questions yet. You are almost unique in my experience of dealing with atheists – most have problems with the Church, which they don’t understand, or with certain church teachings, which they don’t like and don’t understand, but most have no problem with Jesus himself. You have issue with Jesus himself, which is very interesting.

            One could say, in light of your ‘growing atheism’, that an atheist can not understand Jesus, it’s not possible. One can only understand with the help of the Holy Spirit, whom one has to invite into one’s life.

            Looking at the first question for now, you are quoting from the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, and you sure know the Bible well. Jesus does say this to Nicodemus, but in the parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew it is clear that people who did good – and never found Jesus – are acceptable by Him also. Again, the human reality is complex, multi-faceted. I think he speaks this way to Nicodemus because Nicodemus is part of the Sanhedrin, a Jewish leader, and the religious leaders have to be told about the new sacrament of Baptism.

            I do think people have a free choice – they can choose to live with God, or to live without God. That at bottom is the ultimate free choice we have.

            Pope Benedict said in a homily that a church from the outside looks cold and uninviting, but on the inside you can see the light through the stained glass and it’s very beautiful. It’s the same with the Bible and Jesus, from inside the Church it’s all very beautiful. I would invite you to come back and soon, things are getting very dangerous.

            Ed Helmrich
            Larchmont, NY

          • X-Christian

            I understand. But however tempting the beauty, we need to be honest.

            We build in our minds a beautiful, wonderful Jesus. He is love itself and forgiveness because we remember His words as He is being nailed to the cross: “Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.”

            How could a compassionate, empathetic person object to such heartbreaking forgiveness? As an atheist I certainly do not find anything wrong in such a beautiful sentiment and my heart breaks also.

            We humans have evolved with great compassion for one another – we would not have survived all these thousands of years without it.

            But I only ask myself how can the same Jesus of love be such an enduring example of coldness and racism to the woman who is not Jewish – he calls her ‘a dog’

            “It is not right to take the
            children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. — Jesus, (Matthew 15:26)

            In other words, “Get lost. I’m only
            here to help the Jews.”

            If you think that’s a distortion of
            scripture, it isn’t. Jesus comes right out and says it: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house
            of Israel” — Jesus, (Matthew 15:24)

            I do believe Jesus probably existed and was an important moral teacher of a sort. The Gospels are probably accurate on some things – but we can’t know which.

            He was certainly a man with flaws. For these reasons and others, it is His ‘divinity’ I cannot bring myself to believe.

          • X-Christian

            Considering that Hell and Heaven are in the balance it seems God has not given us enough information through Jesus.

            Jesus implores his followers that they must follow the commandments. But then he adds, “Thou shalt not defraud.”(Mark 10:19)

            I agree that defrauding is bad. But his mistake is to wander away from the 10 commandments and invoke a command from LEVITICUS! This invites the question – ‘According to Jesus, How much of Leviticus should be followed as commandments themselves ?!

            Defrauding is not one of the 10 commandments! – it only appears in Leviticus.

            Leviticus 19:13 says : “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor,” an Old Testament law but not among the Ten Commandments.

            Jesus, in this way, leaves the worst horrors of Leviticus (stoning homosexuals, etc) to be part of God’s message also. It is very careless.

          • X-Christian

            Thank you for engaging in this. I appreciate it.

          • X-Christian

            As you say, it may be that the holy spirit is needed in order to understand Jesus. I once understood Jesus very well.

            Jesus is part of my life story. He was my door to a God. I have strong sentimental feelings toward Jesus.

            But His divinity? Too implausible.

            If Jesus wants me – I haven’t ruled it out. If He exists He knows what I need to see from Him much better than I do. He should be capable of doing something about it if He wants.

          • X-Christian

            Pope Benedict was correct. But it applies to all religions.
            The in group is always dearly rewarded, but this does not validate the respective beliefs.

          • Ed75

            I heard two ideas that might help you. One involved the last temptation of Christ in the desert: Satan said ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from this height, because it is written ‘The Angels will bear you up lest you hurt your foot on a stone’’ (paraphrase). Jesus replied ‘Scripture also says ‘Do not put God to the test’’ (paraphrase). Satan quotes Scripture, but out of context, so the meaning is wrong. (In this case, the full phrase is ‘If you love the Lord … if you follow his commands … if you do His will, the angels will protect you…’. So we see that Scripture can be quoted out of context and have an incorrect meaning. It’s a principle of Scripture that any phrase be read in the context of all the rest of Scripture. This addresses some of the things you mentioned.

            On another occasion a speaker said that (Curtis Martin) ‘This whole thing is about a love affair between oneself and God, arrived at through an encounter with Jesus Christ’. He was commenting on the verse ‘For this is eternal life … to know God and the one whom He sent, Jesus Christ’. The word ‘know’ here is not intellectual knowledge, but the word used between Adam and Eve, a ‘life-giving, life-long, intimate relationship’, in this case, with God. And, without this relationship and encounter, the details of the Church and morality don’t make sense. That idea seems to me to account for some of your criticisms also. Seek that relationship, ask for it in prayer. (The first words of the Catechism speaks of this relationship.)

          • X-Christian

            Thanks, Ed. I understand that Satan takes things out of context. But truly, the context does not add anything.

            You said,
            “the full phrase is ‘If you love the Lord … if you follow his commands … if you do His will, the angels will protect you…’. ”

            But what do you mean by “protection”?

            Please name all the instances where we can show that “loving the Lord, following his commands and doing his will” actually protected anyone.

            It didn’t protect victims of pedophile priests.
            It didn’t protect the mothers or fathers of those victims.
            It didn’t protect the grandparents of those victims.

            All of those people suffered badly in addition to the victims yet many of them “loved the Lord, followed His commands and did His will” by bringing them up in the church with love.

            God did not protect anyone in that horror. You know I could name thousands of examples where God did not protect people who followed “His commands and His will and His Love.”

            Unless you can explain this I’m afraid what you are describing can only be delusional.

          • Ed75

            Of course if God is an imagination, that denies any real and tangible intervention in creation by God, i.e. miracles, etc. If just one of them can be shown, the imagination idea falls.

          • X-Christian

            There is no reason to believe any of the miracles of Jesus.

            If you grant that even one of them is true you must also grant that Mohammed’s miracles are true and Allah’s and Vishnu’s and Yahweh’s.

            You would immediately have to conclude that all the miracles confirm that all of the religions are confirmed – as true.

            Fortunately, none of them are true.

          • Ed75

            An interesting line of argument. I don’t know how many miracles are found in other religious texts, and their source would be an interesting theological study. (In one text Jesus or Paul speak of false prophets who do miracles, and not to follow them.)
            It seems to me that Christianity – Catholicism in particular – is unique. Buddha would say ‘I was a sinner, but I reformed’. Muhammed would say ‘I am a prophet of God’. Confucius would say ‘I was a sinner, but I reformed’. Moses would even say ‘I am a servant of the Lord’. But only Jesus says ‘I am’, and ‘before Abraham was, I am’, only Jesus claims to be God himself.
            The miracles of Jesus and that time are called the Deposit of Faith, given to man as evidence of who Jesus is and as the foundation of all later development. Any miracles after the death of the last apostle (John), the time of the closing of the deposit of faith, to be verified, have to be approved by the Church. The many apparitions of Mary around the world fall into this category, the Vatican is right now investigating the beautiful apparitions at Mejugorge (started 1981).

          • X-Christian

            H.L. Mencken wrote a list of the thousands of Gods in history. I am not at all impressed with Jesus’ “I am” assertion.

            Look, I loved being a Catholic at one time. I loved praying with my grandmother when I was little and I admit some of the fun of Christmas isn’t the same now that I have a non-believer’s approach to the holiday. I still have my rosary in a drawer for sentimental reasons.

            But I am very happy to have let go of all the unsubstantiated claims and wishful pronouncements that Catholics throw around as if they are facts. It is rather infuriating sometimes. You just threw a bunch of them my way.

            “I am” is not impressive once you realize that every believer of every other faith has a similar emotional ‘glue’ to explain why their God is superior and much more important than yours! Muslim are not impressed with Jesus – why? Because they were indoctrinated in the same way Christians, Hindus and Jews are.

            The parental emotional pull is very strong. Religion knows how to play that card very well – it has had 2000 years to perfect it.

            But there is NO evidence that any particular faith is the correct one. And it is very unimpressive that the ‘Blessed Mother’ only appears to Catholics! Mohammed only appears to Muslims! Vishnu appears to Hindus!
            Give that a moment of thought.

            Now consider that if you had been brought up in any other country your faith would have been completely different.

            Had you been born in Indonesia you would be muslim – India, Hindu – China Buddhist – England, Anglican, – You would be arguing 100% in favor of a different god and why that god’s miracles are absolutely perfectly explainable and true!

            Apparitions of Mary are silly nonsense.

          • X-Christian

            You argue for unreason.
            And the quality of your thinking is paying a price.

            If you grant that even one of Jesus’ miracles is true you must grant that other miracles in other religions are true also.

            The only evidence we know for certain is that God appears to not intervene in human affairs in any way He claimed He would according to ancient texts.

    • mjb881

      I agree, but Vatican II makes no difference

  • Coastghost

    Beautiful voice, first time I’ve heard a recording. Hearing her read “Good Country People” would be a treat!

  • Coastghost

    Clearly, her profundity cannot be restricted to her prose.

    • mjb881

      yes, but to her art

  • Coastghost

    Would any of the guests know offhand whether Cousin Flannery was acquainted with her contemporary French filmmaker Robert Bresson? Some obvious and less than obvious affinities: with many Bresson commentators remarking on his “Jansenism” courtesy of Pascal, how about O’Connor (she had a copy of Pascal’s Pensees in her library, but I haven’t read enough critical lit to learn how she might have incorporated the Pascalian perspective, apart from passing polemics hinting at anti-rationalism)? (I’ve never learned whether Bresson was much aware of O’Connor, either.)

    • mjb881

      nice question, but she was deep into Acquinas [read the Summa] and would not make that mistake….she surly was closer to Augustine than Thomas, but well within the catholic tradition—the epiphanys are moment where grace offers conversion, what theology calls charisms, and the stories move along almost waiting for the shatter…all within the context of the story
      even the little boy who drowns himself in the River, to get away from his , dark , life [a dark figure awaits him on the shore so he swims deeper into the currents] -the drowning is beside the point, the boys intention is salvation,,,,,,,,,

  • ToyYoda

    “Please God, please God, let me be great.” How is this any different than people who pray to God to be rich? Both are asking God for material advantages. I find this to be hypocritical relationship with God.

    • Coastghost

      You’d have to have an appreciation for sacramental theology. O’Connor addresses this several times in her essay collection Mystery and Manners.

      • ToyYoda

        Seems like an interesting read. I will check it out, thanks for the reference.

    • geraldfnord

      I’m not spiritual, but I think you’re being unfair: one might wish to be ‘great’ but not (necessarily) materially successful. The desire to be ‘great’ does usually includes ‘…and celebrated for it’ which were another sort of greed, but it doesn’t have to do, and I can see a religious person’s claiming that their artistic greatness were due to God, and so achieving it were ‘ad maiorem Gloriam Dei’.

      • ToyYoda

        Material wasn’t the right word, but self-aggrandizement whatever the form that takes: wealth, accolades, accomplishment and whether that is public or private. Her prayer to God to be great seems childish and selfish. You can pray for many things, you know, like wishing your dad will have a peaceful and painless death from his maladies.

        (Perhaps she did pray for that, but it wasn’t indicated in the segment.)

  • J__o__h__n

    Is her fiction worth reading? I wouldn’t want to judge her artistic merit based on private writing, but this journal is not interesting to me and I imagine that god would have found the begging and humility a chore to listen to.

    • Joseph_Wisconsin

      Yes, her fiction is worth reading. A Good Man Is Hard To Find is maybe the best short story I have ever read, and I’ve read a lot by many authors.

    • fun bobby

      it was too dull to read lol

  • fun bobby


    what do you want me to pray for her? how can I be thankful for someone I know nothing about? why are you thankful for her? God puts everyone here for a reason and takes them when its their time. its not a bad thing or something to be afraid or angry about. If we are going to cure a terminal illness in the end stages we might have to pray together, will you pray with me? That is a disease of the chosen people, perhaps you should consult a rabbi.
    I don’t know about special, most people believe in a higher power, but my relationship with God does bring me peace and joy. I hope your lack of belief brings you the same.

    • X-Christian

      She is not jewish. We are french Canadian Catholic. She is a 2nd cousin of mine. And nothing – nothing will save her. Every Tay-Sach’s baby dies and it has always been that way since the beginning of time. It is exceedingly rare.

      But No matter HOW MUCH faith anyone has – or has ever had – 100% of all Tay Sachs babies always die. And She will die.

      You are probably a nice person…but
      look at what your are talking about:

      Jesus said, “And WHATEVER
      you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
      If you ask anything of me in my name, I WILL DO IT.” (John 14:13-14)



      - Tay-Sachs disease has killed 100%
      of children who ever had it.

      Parents are crying for help from
      Jesus for this prayer to be answered.
      The answer is always no for 2000 years.

      Most Atheists are nice people too.
      Guess what? We
      hate dishonesty especially about prayers.

      Jesus, and faith in his promises, only adds to the cruelties of life. That is just a fact.

      • fun bobby

        not really or else more people would be bitter like you

        • X-Christian

          Nobody gets bitter at being told the truth.
          I can handle the truth. Lies are what make people bitter.

          Which do you prefer?

          $5000 in cash right now or
          a promise of $5000 that will never arrive?

          Think about it.

          • mjb881

            cash now, truth in small doses

  • harverdphd

    This is a pointless debate.

  • mjb881

    not sure anyone below knows philosophy or Catholicism…….
    prayer is not to change God but to change us…………..Flannery praying to the person of God is normal prayer, prayers are answered; but in God’s terms not ours ….
    she is the best American writer since Faulkner, and like Hawthorne goes deep,,the gothic , so called, style is to wake us to the story, just as Hawthorn’s prose was written so you can not
    read fast….

    • X-Christian

      What is your evidence that prayers are answered? I challenge that.
      Mark Twain (atheist) was better than Flannery. Reverence for religion is a burden. It ruins honesty.

      • mjb881

        not sure what you mean about Twain, but prayers get answers, we pray and receive what God wants to give not what we want to have…….not evidence but witness
        evidence is based on materialism, deo facto answering the questions before they are asked, as materialism assumes only what is physical…Wittgenstein went through all this scientism stuff
        honesty? mmmm how can you tell……….at any rate Catholicism is a logical absurdity but at least it has logic, scientism does not–it is stuck in the naturalistic fallacy
        still if faith were evidential, it would not be faith
        ….it is a choice

        • X-Christian

          No no. I can’t let you get away with that. Jesus is either a liar or he is mistaken – but don’t tell me he answers prayers.

          “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, THAT WILL I DO, that the
          Father may be glorified….” (John 14:13)

          “And WHATEVER YOU ASK in prayer, you will receive, if you
          have faith.” (Matthew 21:2)

          “And all things, WHATSOEVER ye shall ask in prayer,
          believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

          “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ASK WHAT YE WILL, and it shall be done unto you.”
          (John 15:7)

          “Therefore I say unto you, what
          things so EVER YE DESIRE, when ye pray, believe
          that ye receive them, and YE SHALL HAVE THEM.” (Mark 11:24)

          “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and YE SHALL RECEIVE, that your joy may be full.” (John

          HOWEVER — There is no reliable record of a prayer:

          Reversing the loss of a leg, arm, finger or toe
          Reversing a single case of Polio Aggressive Child Leukemia
          A single case of Tay-sachs Disease
          A single case of Lupus
          A single case of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease
          A single case of Smallpox
          A case of the Plague
          Reversing the death of anyone outside of a bible story
          Reversing blindness outside of a bible story
          Stopping a natural disaster outside of a bible story
          Reversing skin diseases outside of a bible story
          Reversing the spread of Nuclear Weapons
          Reversing a stroke
          Reversing MRSA Bacterial Evolution
          ending child rape
          ending hunger
          curing the common cold

          Interestingly, science and human law based on empiricism is making progress on almost all of those fronts.

          Religion is a dangerous delusion.

          • mjb881

            well, always there is a context to language—God can not grant what is bad for that person, because all His being is generous and self giving…if I want something unknowingly bad for me, all the prayers in the world will not give it to me…..but God may allow me to somehow understand why it was not good
            there is no philosophical answer to is there God [Anslem's great proof requires agreement on some stuff]
            if there was proof, I wld guess there wld be no free will………..but the question of what type go god, etc etc
            the Catholic belief in an active God, a Trinity which Jesus is a person of same,
            bringing us along the road….etc…
            if you only are disposed to wish for what you want, or what you feel is good, you are trapped in circumlocution
            for example you want world peace-but on what basis; or want no death
            it seems to me a certainly that if there is a God, he has decided it is better to have a fallen world than a perfect one, somehow the result will be better than the process…….it is in this way we are called to obedience, not out of some intellectual rigor [on its own, and no one is more rigorous than Acquinas] ; because in fact we have to learn, and evidently the ‘hard’ way……and somehow in all this we are divided up into sheep and wolves……
            philosophy talks about ‘being’
            theology talks about nature of God,
            within philosophy there has to be agreement on what exists, is Nature something real or appearence,
            there is a nice philosophy book called
            “Appearance and Reality” [about 1920 ?]
            and it covers all these non god things, but, importantly Bradley, the philosopher, did nothing concerning evil—and free will
            he was good philosopher, but caught in the position of the rationalist [materialist] who only saw fit what they could see-evidentuary things…….thus cutting himself off [and this is very modern all round] from the idea being is more than material-in fact what being is,
            is the thing that happens which makes appearance happen [even in physics the
            Bohr experiment has light act like material on one experiment then wave with a slight shift of the filter]
            absurdity can be a stance, but how would you base it? it can not be based in reason-as absurdity can be its opposite………….but if you accept reason then one can look at creation [or whatever you want to call 'it'] has some order, and given evil there must thus be some sort of ‘reason’ that it happens….
            some final result [like Calculus, it approximates every instant on a graph, each a 'guess' but the result is the moon landing-it works thru a series of guesses or approximations]
            in the same way we could posit a guess, based on reason as real, and ascertain some proximate cause and thus goal
            past that one has to go to belief etc
            reason makes us think, thinking requires that we ‘believe’ there is some sort of order, that can be found…however vague
            Plato did this, modern thought is good at science, a tool used for good and bad,
            so the question still tilts to evaluation-and as Wittgenstein shows-that is outside the realm of science
            science can do stuff, not understand it
            ……………..thus meaning, being, God are the provinces of philosophy and theology where stuff is very tricky,where words fail and meaning still exists

          • X-Christian

            Sorry. That is nonsense.

            Jesus promises to do ‘EXACTLY’ what you ask of him as in ‘WHATEVER’ you ask.

            I showed you 7 places where Jesus says this.

            Second, Jesus has NEVER ONCE granted millions of specific prayers in all of human history.

            I carefully listed prayers for which the answer has ALWAYS been ‘NO’ for 2000 years!

            Do you understand what a 100% failure rate implies?

            All your philosophical rope-a-dope isn’t going to get you off that hook!

            Prayers are NOT answered. Shake off this delusion!

          • mjb881

            lastly…..if [of course I say Yes] Jesus is God [Trinity--but God]
            and he gave a criminal what he desired he would be sending him to hell, No! God will grant what is good—and try to bring us to that understanding of what is good
            God will not be mocked, he is not an automatic request machine—He is always active in the good for us, we on the other hand rarely know what is good,
            ….I wish you peace

          • X-Christian

            I never claimed God was an “automatic request machine” as you put it.

            God did that. Multiple times.

            Further, I can’t let it go when you say “God will grant what is good”. Where on earth is your evidence for this? Would it not be good to allow a child to be healed of Tay-sachs disease. Even one time in 2000 years?

            One thing needs to be faced. I gave you a very careful list of specific prayers which have never once been answered in the affirmative in all of human history.

            “Whatever you ask, I will do it” says Jesus. (John 14:13)

            I regret to inform you of the dire, irrefutable fact; The answer Jesus has given to every single Tay-sachs baby in history is the same…it is as if they never prayed at all.

            Assertions about what God loves, or what ‘God’ cares about are completely, utterly unfounded.

            If you feel you need these beliefs, I wish you all the best. Please do not spread them however. It is nothing but heartbreak.

          • mjb881

            once more, the context of those words count. on death of child, etc…first death is not ‘evil’; and again it has to be said [by believers] that somehow God decided that a fallen world is worth keeping …………whatever the ‘fall’ was
            [symbolized by adam and eve], He has chosen to work within [thus Jesus becoming man, the Incarnation] this world–
            in the end love can’t be forced, and this world is where we learn love, or evil….and our choice must be to be free to choose either state [life or death in theological terms]
            yes all kinds of horrors occur, but that is part of Gods warning he will not be mocked—in other words there are consequence to our choices

            evident to all in history, esp 20th century
            the choice to believe in god, is never logical,, it comes from the ‘will’ not the mind or spirit. each of us will choose with the inherent results demonstrated day in day out
            i just do not see any answers in Atheism [etc..] they are all inadequate to the questions posed………..
            monotheism makes sense in its logic
            [to a point]
            men are outraged by injustice, a good thing, thus seek meaning, I just am unaware of anything else that is adequate to the task………

          • X-Christian

            I care about what is true. I want my beliefs to based on what is real, not wishful.

            For example: I am told that the Louis Farrakahn Nation of Islam is very useful at helping kids get off drugs. I have no reason to doubt it. But that does not mean his preachings are true. The Nation of Islam is a crackpot organization based on nonsense.

            If God cannot be demonstrated to be real then there is no reason to believe in it.

            The atheist says, “God may exist” but he won’t believe it until such time that evidence appears.

            You see, Faith is not to be trusted because ‘faith’ does not lead you to what is true.

            If we rely on ‘faith’ alone we have no specific reason to be Christian, Muslim or Jewish. You are completely at the mercy of whatever religion your parents were and following ‘faith’ is exactly as arbitrary as that.

            Humans are outraged by injustice because we are born, thanks to evolution, with a natural inclination to ‘fairness’. We would not have made it all these millions of years without it!
            We see the same sense of fairness in other animals on earth (who evolved it as a survival mechanism) and we are animals so it is no surprise to biologists or scientists in this field.

            You said, “belief in god is not logical” and you are correct. Which is why this temptation should be resisted. Suspension of critical faculties is exactly what leads people to fly planes into buildings for their ‘god’.

            The atheists, most of whom were Christian or Jewish once, have learned to be wary of this stuff.

            Atheists like Gene Roddenberry, Mark Twain, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Carl Sagan,…all of these joyous atheists have the most open minds yet they found no evidence of God.

            I too, have found nothing but Joy without gods.

            The life rich with philosophy, science, culture, art and music is far richer without the religious dream of death and personal wish lists.

            I feel bad for those who fail to consider the riches of real life while they swoon over that which is probably non-existent. Yes, that is delusional.

            It seems to me that you already have one foot in philosophy anyway. Are you aware you Christian dogma doesn’t allow it?

  • jayay

    In response to an email I just heard (listening from the webcast of KUOW),
    Why is it so much harder for non- or ex-believers to generate empathy for believers than the converse?
    One reason could be –as Flannery O’Connor so eloquently, if implicitly, states– that for believers, doubt is a more or less constant option. We have to continually choose otherwise, in acknowledment of our limitations, just beginning with the epistemological sphere.
    …On the other side, believers need to outgrow the kind of pious arrogance for which we are so lamentably known. That is globally, profoundly contrary to the faith which we (…counting Protestants here) profess.

    • X-Christian

      I have nothing BUT empathy for believers.
      They are tragic victims of a cult of self-denial and death.

      • jayay

        Maybe not, but anyway, you’re cordially invied to listen to this, from the CBC show, Ideas.

        Ostensibly soaring rhetoric is no substitute for content.

        • X-Christian

          Thanks for the link. It is an excellent program – i enjoyed it.

          Regardless of the usefulness or richness of myth, the question is: Does God exist? Or not?

          If God exists I’ll need more than the arguments of C.S.Lewis to convince me.
          And beyond that is the question of what that god would want from us.
          Theists always have the answers, they just ignore the implications and trapdoors.

          • jayay

            No, thank You for your conspicuously civil reply. More so than my last, I think. Duly noted, and appreciated.
            The distinct nature of the ontological claims of theism, and Christianity in particular, irreducibly put them outside the pale of, um, conventional epistemology. Cf. St. Paul’s contention that ‘spiritual things are spiritually discerned.’ Or, to be cynical about it, theism is a closed system …and to be more cynical yet, theism and empiricism are mutually closed systems. It really does involve a quasi (at least)-Kierkegaardian ‘leap of faith’ …or, if you prefer, down the rabbit hole. But for those who are variously brave, foolhardy, or blessed enough to undertake something as audacious as this, the addition of an entire dimension can in fact animate, if not inform, the rest of one’s cosmological landscape in ways too diverse and profound to enumerate here.

            One thing I’ve managed to learn is that for this to work over the longer term, a sense of mystery, or, to phrase it that little bit differently, of our epistemological limitations, is absolutely crucial. I know these theists who think they have everything figured out. They have effectively made idols of their own necessarily, relentlessly circumscribed understanding. ‘Now we see through a glass darkly.’ Please receive my apologies for these people’s arrogance. For whatever that’s worth. And thank you again for your remarkably civil and articulate contributions to this thing.

  • patrick oleary

    as an Irishman in Boston – I love this story-
    though not widely read in Ireland —
    I find it poignant to hear of her struggles – for faith-
    not unlike her Irish Ancestors…

  • DominicWilliam

    Great show and topic. I’m a long time listener to On Point, and consort of the Wiseblood Books Publishing. What a great coincidence that this show joined me last night painting with the owls.

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