Sunday, August 15, 2004

A Question for Catholics

Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. The gist of the doctrine is that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life.

It is obvious that this assumption cannot be any sort of translation through space: heaven is not a spatial location above the earth. So what is it? It would have to be some process of dematerialization, though not in the manner of a matter transmitter. A matter transmitter is a sort of transducer: it converts a solid object into material particles small enough to be transmitted to a receiver which then reassembles the particles into a solid object analogously as a modem (modulator-demodulator)converts digital information into analog signals transmittable along a phone line, which at the other end another modem converts back into digital information. But in either case we have a matter/energy to matter/energy conversion, not a matter/energy to spirit conversion.

Similar questions arise with the ascensions of Jesus Christ and Muhammad into heaven. Are the notions of assumption/ascension coherently conceivable, or are they pure superstitious nonsense to be rejected by all reasonable people?

Note that I am not asking for a proof of the truth of these doctrines, but only for an explanation of their coherent conceivability. By that I mean their conceivability without obvious logical contradiction.

My position is resolutely anti-fideist: If a doctrine is demonstrably incoherent, one ought not believe it. Credo quia absurdum is often attributed to Tertullian. According to Nietzsche, what Tertullian should have said is: Credo quia absurdus sum.