Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Thoughts on Catholics on the Internet

cardinal-jorge-bergoglio-cardinal-timothy-dolan

In the past couple of weeks, I've seen some of the bishops (sometimes even the Pope) attacked on the internet—some by blogs, some by commentators in Facebook or on the blogs themselves. It's not a matter of "I disagree with the bishop's tactics." It's more of a case of "Anyone who does not enforce Catholic teaching the way I think it ought to be enforced is a secret heretic modernist." That's a view that frustrates me because the bishops being attacked are not lax bishops turning a blind eye to real problems. The bishops being attacked are the ones leading the fight to defend the faith.

As I see it, there are certain problems with the assumptions of these people who are attacking the bishops. They seem to assume:

  1. That they have correctly understood what the bishop in question intended by his statement.
  2. That their view on what should be done is actually compatible with the Catholic teaching.
  3. That their preferred response is the only response a bishop can choose to use.

The problem is, if the person is wrong on #1, he or she is wrongly judging the words or actions of the bishop in question. If the person is wrong on #2, he or she cannot be considered a legitimate judge on what is authentically Catholic. If the person is wrong on #3, he or she is basically quibbling over ways and means when there is more than one possible solution to a problem. Let's look at each of these.

Does the Person Objecting Correctly Understand What Was Said/Done?

Personally I think this is the case where many Catholics run into trouble. With a Church where the members speak many different languages and come from many different situations, it is easy to apply a meaning which was never intended by the speaker based on one's personal experiences. Words can be ambiguous and there is no way that even the most precise individual can express himself without someone misunderstanding. And that's not considering the possibility that a mainstream media source hasn't misinterpreted the speaker or deliberately twisted words to support one's own position or demonize an opponent. Add in the possibility that a person is a less than precise in his speech and there is a large chance that, when the words spoken by a bishop or the Pope sounds funny, the cause is really a misunderstanding on the part of the reader or the listener.

Some might say, "Well he has the obligation to be clear." True. But we also have the obligation to understand what the speaker intended before judging him. Sometimes the bishop in question might think he's being clearer than he is. I've certainly been in situations where I've been misinterpreted because I thought I was clearly expressing myself, but was using a bit of jargon or ambiguity that could be interpreted with a meaning I did not intend.

Does the Person Objecting Accurately Understand What the Faith Requires?

Sometimes individual Catholics do misunderstand what the Church teaches. Some err by thinking the Church mandates or forbids something she does not. Others think that a teaching is merely optional and can be ignored. When this turns out to be the case, it is the individual Catholic that is in the wrong—not the bishop he or she feels offended by.

This isn't a fault exclusive to one side of the political spectrum. I've seen the fuzzy thinking Catholic who is upset when the bishop insists that people in his diocese follow Church teaching. I've also seen the vindictive Catholic who expects a harsh response—like excommunicating people where excommunication is not considered an appropriate penalty.

I think that political ideology can sometimes interfere. Some people judge the Church by their political preferences . . . if the Church goes against the political preference, it is considered in error. But the fact is, politics must be governed by the teaching of the Church. When the political party supports something incompatible with Catholic teaching, it is the political party which is in error.

Are There More Options than the Person Objecting Realizes?

Sometimes neither the offended Catholic nor the bishop is acting against Church teaching. Instead, they have different views on how to handle an issue—both of which might be options depending on the circumstances. In such a case, objecting to the bishop's tactics are more a case of quibbling over what way is better. To accuse the bishop of being "weak" in such a case lacks charity, and fails to recognize that the responsibility falls with the bishop to act as the successor of the Apostles. We might not sin in thinking another way might be more effective, but if our response to the bishop is disrespectful, that's basically a tantrum: "No! I don't wanna be merciful to those dissenters! I want them booted out you big dummy!"

(Speaking personally, when the early days of this blog were anti-USCCB, this was the error I fell into).

What Has to Be Asked

Basically, to avoid these three areas of needless conflict with the bishop, each Catholic has to ask him or herself the following:

  1. Do I properly understand what the speaker intends to say? Or is there a possibility that I have misinterpreted what was said?
  2. Do I fully understand the Catholic teaching on the subject? Or am I getting my information from a source which is in dispute with the Magisterium?
  3. Do I fully understand the range of acceptable responses that the bishop has? Is it possible that he is not abusing his authority by being more lenient than I would like?

Unless we can answer these questions, we cannot accurately judge the situation as being against the teaching of the Church.

OK, But What If I have Done All That and Still Think the Bishop is in the Wrong?

Well, if it is established beyond any doubt that an individual bishop is teaching error, then fraternal correction may be required. But the point to remember here is, we are not acting in the position of a superior correcting an inferior guilty of wrongdoing. We simply don't have that authority. This is where we need to remember St. Thomas Aquinas, when he wrote on this topic in the Summa Theologica:

Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 5:1): "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father." Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church. (II-IIa Q. 33 A.4)

That gentleness and respect called for is something I don't see on the internet. I see people calling a bishop an idiot, incompetent and/or a heretic whenever he acts in a way the individual doesn't like his stand . . . which is wrong even if the bishop is in error.

Conclusion

But the problem is, more often than not, the fault is in the perception of the person who objects. That's what frustrates me the most. When I read a blog article from a Catholic bashing Cardinal Dolan because his feeling bound by the Congregation of Saints, the wishes of Fulton J. Sheen and his surviving family is seen as bad will; when I read an article where Catholic commentators bash a bishop who says Ted Cruz ought not to have brought up a partisan support for Israel to a group which has members that haven't fared well with that nation . . . I see people who are failing in regards to one or more of these three principles.

Maybe that's why I feel compelled to repeat the Catechism of the Catholic Church so frequently on the subject of Rash Judgment:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

  Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

I think this is what my frustration boils down to: Where is the attempt at the favorable interpretation? Where is the asking how the bishop understands his words? Where is the correction with love? Yes, some things are wrong and when someone teaches it is OK to violate Church teaching, that is one of them. But is there any attempt made any more on deciding if the bishop is guilty before condemning him?

Lately, the answer increasingly seems to be, "Not very often."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflections on Faith and Suffering in the Book of Job

Of all the books in the Old Testament, I believe the Book of Job is my favorite. It details the struggles of a person to make sense out of suffering—in fact the destruction of everything Job found dear--and his faith in God.

The basic synopsis of the Book can be summed up as follows:

The devil claims that Job is only a faithful follower because he is materially blessed. God permits the devil to afflict Job, first by destroying his property, then his family, then his health. His friends (and with friends like these, who needs enemies?) assume that Job is suffering because he sinned and he needs to repent. Job knows he did not sin, but feels betrayed by how he is treated when he tried to live a holy life. Finally God shows up in the middle of the debate and demonstrates that both Job and his friends are operating from false premises which lead them to false conclusions. God then restores to Job the blessings he lost.

The premises used in the Book of Job run as follows.

Job's detractors, wanting to defend the goodness of God, reasoned:

  • God punishes the guilty
  • You're being punished
  • Therefore, you're guilty

Job's counter argument, wanting to emphasize his innocence, was:

  • God is afflicting me
  • I don't deserve it
  • Therefore God is not treating me as I deserve, and I want to know why

Both of these seem to be irreconcilable. If Job speaks the truth, then his detractor's premises must be false. If his detractors speak the truth then Job's premises must be false. Up to this point, we're left with a dilemma. Either Job is a bad man or God is not just. That's where the opponents of Christianity smirk. "Well, which is it?" they ask.

God's response shows both Job and his detractors have missed the point:

  • You cannot judge what is beyond your ability to understand
  • What I do is beyond your ability to understand
  • Therefore, you cannot judge what I do.

Job's detractors argued under the assumption that they had all the facts in concluding Job was guilty. Job's also argued under the assumption that he had all the facts, that because he did not behave in a way that deserved these acts as a punishment, he should not be experiencing these acts. God's response was to show how both ways of thinking were wrong.

But, this way of thinking is not a product of ancient times. Many people undergo loss and suffering. When they do face this suffering, some ask "Where is God in all of this? Why did He let this happen?" Because they cannot find an answer, some begin to doubt some aspect of God . . . or even whether He exists.

The common lament is, "If God exists/is all powerful/is good, how can He allow X to happen?"

That's probably why a common modern approach to God argues that, to avoid contradiction, we have to admit that God has one of the following weaknesses:

  1. God is not all powerful
  2. God is not all knowing
  3. God is not all good

Some argue this way to try to justify dissent. Others to justify their unbelief. But when one reads Job, it becomes clear that God is All powerful, all knowing and all good. However, WE are not. Therefore, to accuse God of one of those charges reflects the false belief that finite human reason is sufficient and anything outside of what we can understand is unjust.

But when we think this way, we are actually thinking "If I were God, I would stop this!" The problem is, we are not God. We do not have all the knowledge required to truthfully say this way is better than how God handled it! That brings us back to God's response to Job. We can't judge what we don't understand. That's where Faith comes in. If we believe God is all knowing, all powerful and perfectly good, then when some misfortune strikes, we have to trust that God is not acting out of negligence . . . even if we don't understand why He permits some things to happen.

God, being all knowing, all powerful and all good knows all the ramifications of His choosing to act or not to act. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:

272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” It is in Christ’s Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe.”

I think this is important to remember. On Good Friday, the friends and family of Jesus were no doubt thinking, "How could God allow this to happen?" But the fact of the matter is, this happened for us and our salvation even though people present at that moment in time could not realize this.

It is important for all of us to remember this when we suffer a hardship, or lose a loved one. Jesus suffered on the cross and died for us. Suffering is not necessarily a sign of punishment. It is certainly not a sign of God's absence or weakness. When we face suffering and loss, we must remember God is still in control and He does love us. We must not assume we know all there is to know and turn away from God in our pain and grief.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Unpopular Speech is not Hate Speech

One popular tactic in the American Kulturkampf (yes, it's here—no longer a case of if) is the argument that the freedom of speech and religion only mean you can't be arrested for saying it. People who use this argument claim that a person can't be arrested for saying something is wrong, but they still can be fired, sued, fined or re educated for doing so.

It scares me that people are falling for this spurious reasoning. Effectively, it is saying that if an employer dislikes your morals, he can fire you over them . . . BUT only for certain moral stands: The Christian employee can be forced out because he thinks homosexual acts are wrong, but the secular employee can't be fired by the Christian employer for thinking them right.

What it boils down to is that America is willing to tolerate restrictions on unpopular speech. If the powers that be (political, media, cultural) don't like a position, the person holding it can be ostracized for holding it. But if a business or religious based school or hospital tries to operate according to their beliefs, they can be forced to tolerate behavior they believe is wrong.

Guess which one is accused of forcing their views on others?

Basically, the whole tactic allows the media, government and political elites to decide what speech and belief is legitimate and what is not. That's not free speech. That's censorship worthy of the former Eastern Bloc. Whether or not you remain free after you speak depends on whether the elites approve of what you said.

But legitimate limits on free speech come into play when the speech causes harm. I'm not allowed to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. I'm not free to plan a felony. I'm not free to incite a riot. Nobody disputes that these are legitimate limits on the freedom of speech.

But the fact is, the Christian moral teaching is not hate filled and is not discriminatory—it is unpopular because it tells people that some behaviors are wrong and people don't want to hear that they are doing wrong and have to change.

To Discriminate, properly speaking, is to:

make an unjust distinction in the treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.

But if God exists and He has condemned behavior that is contrary to how people should live, then informing people that this behavior is wrong is not discrimination any more than the Cal Trans worker with a sign saying "Bridge Out" is discriminating against which road you can choose to use. It's informing people of reality before they suffer harm.

The Christian who understands the obligations of the faith knows he or she cannot hate a person who sins. Correction must be given when a person does wrong and endangers his or her soul:

You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life. (Ezekiel 33:7–9).

(In this verse, God is speaking to the Prophet Ezekiel on the obligation to warn people endangering their souls).

The problem is, many people assume that opposition to a behavior must be based on the hatred of the person who does the wrong act.

Certainly a Christian can sinfully hate someone who does wrong. A Christian can misuse speech to cause harm if he actively promotes violence. Nobody denies this . . . but the fact is, those Christians who do these things (and that number is much smaller than the rhetoric would have you believe) are opposed by most other Christians who fully understand their faith and are aware of this twisting of the Christian faith. So to use the examples of extremists to attack the Christian belief in general is basically no different than to use the fact that some members of an ethnic group are felons to denounce all members of that ethnic group.

The important thing to remember is that America has lost sight of the fact that there is a major difference between Unpopular Speech and Hate Speech. Unfortunately, people nowadays believe that the use of coercion is a legitimate tactic to silence a person who says something they dislike.

So long as people are willing to accept this tactic, we cannot hope to become a free nation again.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Berserker Internet Catholics (A Rant)

guilty-guilty-guilty

Unfortunately, Some Catholics take this approach to other orthodox Catholics who have a different opinion on ways and means.

One of the most exasperating things I see on the internet are those Catholics who are convinced of their own righteousness, denouncing anyone who behaves other than they would prefer as acting in bad will. It never occurs to them that even within the realm of orthodox Catholicism, there are some areas where believers can have legitimate differences when it comes to ways and means of being faithful.

I'm really weary seeing the internet postings of the Catholic who clearly is uninformed on an issue, but feels determined to repeat the sentence on a website quoting Denzinger with no knowledge of the context. I'm tired of the internet postings of the Catholic who is assuming bad will on the part of the Catholic they disagree with.

I'm tired of Catholics who claim to be champions of orthodoxy who never seem to read the Catechism:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

— of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

— of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

— of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

  Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

Yeah, I know about the fact that there are Catholics who are in disobedience to the Catholic teaching. I also know these Catholics have existed since the 1st century AD. That doesn't mean that the bishop who uses something other than a mail fisted approach is a secret modernist. I also know that conservative Catholics can also fall into heresy and schism, and be just as outraged as the liberal Catholics when reprimanded.

The thing is, we have to remember that the ones with the authority to bind and loose in the Church are the successors to the Apostles: The Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. When we think that a bishop is handling things in a way that concerns us, we do have the obligation to make sure we understand his intention before attempting the charitable and humble appeal for a change.

Otherwise, what makes us any different than the liberal Catholics we look at in disdain.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:46–48).

Remember: to presume bad without understanding what was intended will entirely falls short of this requirement. From what I am seeing with Berserker Internet Catholics, there's no attempt to give what is said a favorable impression. There's no attempt to ask how the Catholic in question intended what he said. There's no attempt to correct with love.

Basically, when we do this, we're making a judgment without all the facts—something which only a fool does.

So come on, people. We're called to witness to the teaching of the Church—which includes our willingness to be charitable, loving and submitting to the teachings of the Church.

If we won't, how the hell can we expect others to?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Because of Belief? Or In SPITE of Belief?

One popular attack on Christian moral belief is to point out that a person who belongs to a religion has done terrible things. Therefore, the religion is the cause of these acts. The problem is, the attack makes the presumption, but does not look for other causes which may be the most probable cause. In other words, would the person still do terrible things if he belonged to a different religion or no religion at all?

For example, I once knew an atheist who saw the phenomenon of lynching African Americans in the American South as evidence of the evil caused by religion—the South was the "Bible Belt" after all and the Southerners supported lynching. Therefore Christianity is to blame, right?

My response was to point out that Christians of other regions of the world did not behave in a similar way and in fact even some Christians in the region opposed such behavior. I also pointed out that in the South, African Americans were viewed as being less human than whites whereas elsewhere in the world, even if they were not treated as equals they were not treated so unjustly. So it struck me that the cause of such behavior was not Christianity but the views in the South that felt non-whites could never be allowed to rise to the level of whites.

In other words, there was flawed reasoning involved in saying "Christianity" was to blame. The more probable cause was the vicious racism that was born out of legalized slavery and resentment that it was overturned. It's a view that one didn't have to be Christian to hold.

The technical term for this is vicious custom, where people living in a region of the world adopt behavior that goes against the religious beliefs but is held to be "normal." This is how we see things exist like the French custom of openly accepting the taking and keeping of mistresses even though the Church explicitly condemns sexual relations outside of marriage.

Other behavior includes the Spanish mistreatment of natives in the New World, Catholics from the South trying to "explain away" the Papal condemnation of slavery etc. These are all cases where the actual teaching was set aside to justify a behavior that was condemned. In none of these cases could we say that the Church taught doing these things was morally good.

Yes, you will find Catholics advocating behavior that the Church calls evil. But it is wrong to hold that the Church is to blame for their doing so. We can make a modern case today of Catholics who ignore the Church teaching on abortion. Because the Church has made clear that abortion is always evil and never to be permitted, those Catholics who say or do otherwise are acting in spite of and not because of their beliefs.

Basically the only connection between the Catholic Church and the behavior of a Catholic doing it was the individual. As a syllogism:

  1. Mr. Jones is a Catholic ([A] is a part of [B])
  2. Mr. Jones is a Racist ([A] is a part of [C])
  3. Therefore Catholics are racists (Therefore [B] is a part of [C])

The problem is, the fact that Mr. Jones is related to both groups says nothing about the Catholic Church in relation to racism. We can use our original example of Southerners and lynching to show why such reasoning is false:

Undistributed Middle

 

The same format works for the common "Christians are homophobic because that man is a Christian and a homophobe."

That's why it's wrong to judge a religion by the behavior of an individual before it is determined that the individual is acting because of his religious beliefs and is not perverting them.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Analogy on the Importance of Baptism

Preliminary Note: The use of the analogy of citizenship in this article has nothing at all to do with the current issue of illegal immigration and children from Central America. Comments attempting to argue immigration issues in this article will simply not be approved.

Introduction

I have encountered some people—some believers, some not—who object to the Catholic view of Baptism and the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. They ask how is it fair that humanity has to be punished for the sin of Adam and Eve? Others object to our view of Baptism because they think that only a person who can rationally accept the faith can be baptized, and thinking that baptism of children is required implies all children must go to hell.

It sounds arbitrary because I think some people have not understood the story of the Fall and what the sin entailed. Nor do they understand how it impacts each one of us. So I propose this analogy for people to consider.

The Analogy

(Remember . . .every analogy is weak at some point. So it's best to look at the general story as opposed to trying to tie each point to a specific point of theology)

Consider a married couple being gifted with citizenship in a nation. Because of this citizenship, they have access to all the rights, privileges--and the responsibilities that go with them in terms of obeying the laws. They would pass on this citizenship

But instead of carrying out their responsibilities, the couple commits treason against the nation. The result is they are stripped of their citizenship and exiled. What happens to their children?

Well, if children had been born before the couple committed treason, obviously they would have remained citizens because the sins of the parents would not fall on them. If only one of the parents had committed treason, the children born later would still be citizens.

But because both individuals committed treason and lost their citizenship before having any children, any children born to them after this fact have no claim to citizenship. This is not the fault of the ruler. This is the fault of the parents. You cannot give what you do not possess. Since neither parent possesses citizenship, none of their children can possibly be born citizens.

The result is, because this couple committed treason and lost their citizenship, there is literally nothing they can do to make their children citizens. It seems hopeless for any of them.

But, the ruler is aware of their plight and does not want to leave them in some refugee camp. But He simply can't just say, "Well, your treason doesn't matter. I'll just pretend that it didn't happen." So he needs to set up a plan that allows all of them a way to regain citizenship that they lost (the married couple) or never had to begin with (their children). It is a plan that this ruler would carry out at the cost of his son . . . and both were willing to do this for us.

When this plan was carried out, it became possible to become citizens again . . . but not automatically and not with a general grant. Each individual who has reached the age of reason has to make the decision to become a citizen on their own, promising to be faithful to their country. Parents may apply for their children not yet at the age of reason to become citizens, promising to raise them to live in accordance with the rights and responsibilities of the nation.

Unfortunately, some have forgotten the fact that the induction ceremony for citizenship was not an option and not a symbol. It is the means the ruler set in place as the ordinary way to become a citizen. Some believe that as long as you have good intentions, the act of becoming a citizen is not necessary. Others think that parents should not apply for their children's citizenship. Why not just let them decide whether or not to decide when they become adults? So as not to prejudice them, they tell their children nothing about this choice. After all, if this ruler is just and merciful, it won't matter with such a small thing, will it?

Yes this ruler is just and merciful . . . he makes citizenship free to all who seek it.He also sends members of his kingdom to go out and make known the importance of becoming citizens and living according to the laws of the kingdom. See, this ruler knows that a calamity is coming that will sweep the neighboring lands and his kingdom will be the only place which is safe. That is when the ruler will determine who may enter.

Those who accepted citizenship and followed the laws (or would have if they had only known what they needed to do) will be admitted. Those who reject his authority or his laws cannot enter—in fact they would probably refuse to enter the country. Certainly the ruler cannot be faulted for excluding people from his kingdom who refuse to accept his citizenship and his laws. He offers it to everyone, but some will refuse to cooperate, just as the first couple did.

The Evaluation

God is that ruler. Heaven is His kingdom. The plan allowing people to enter His kingdom that cost the death of His Son was the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the way to citizenship His teachings are His laws and His emissaries are His Church. The calamity is the end of the world.

Now when you consider that, the knowing refusal to accept God or His Plan or His Baptism or His Laws or His Church is not a thing of no importance . . . it is the rejection of God, the refusal to accept His reaching out to us to save us.

God will judge us with Love and Mercy and Justice. But the person who refuses to accept God's Love and Mercy will face what's left . . . His justice. God doesn't withdraw it. The sinner refuses it in this case. Since Heaven is the place of God's love and mercy, where can the person who refuses it go? God will not force it on the person.

The only place left is the place outside Heaven . . . the ruins. Hell. Hell isn't a final failing grade for people who aren't "nice enough." It's the choice of the person who knowingly refuses God.

That's why the Church can say God is Love and Mercy—and say Hell exists, and not contradict herself.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fallacious Thinking on Religious Indifferentism

I came across a claim on a gaming forum this morning. Basically the context is the poster was making a statement that there are no absolute values, and that all religious values are equally valid or invalid. This claim said there were no more or less value to the "myths" of traditional religion than there were to his/her own. Ordinarily, I would write it off as a fallacy not worth bothering with, but the truth is, many people do think this way.

The basic view of indifferentism that is expressed today is given in two views:

  1. So long as you're trying to do good, what you believe doesn't matter.
  2. There's no more proof for the belief in God than for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Both of these views start with the same fallacy: Begging the Question, which assumes to be proved true that which actually needs to be proven. So if a person wants to claim that Christianity is no more or no less valid than Pastafarianism or other belief, that's not something that is already proved. That's something that needs to be proven before they can move on to making their conclusion.

See, a person who thinks that all religions are manmade constructs or a person who thinks that all religions that make you feel good are good enough doesn't answer the question of how they know their belief. How does the person who thinks all religions are a construct of human beings know that none of them have any supernatural basis? They don't. They are making an assumption that no religion can have a supernatural basis.

Likewise, the person who thinks it doesn't matter what religion a person holds as long as the religion makes a person happy. If God exists, then if He establishes a way to follow Him, then it matters very much whether or not one follows that way.

Unfortunately many people make a decision on the universal validity or invalidity of religion based on their perception of what suits their worldview. The atheist presupposes that no religion can be true. The religiously indifferent presupposes that religion is nothing more than "being nice to each other." What is not asked is: What if my presupposition isn't true?

A few months ago I wrote on Pascal's Wager. I think it makes sense that people of good will consider the consequences of backing the wrong horse when it comes to seeking to follow the truth. If atheism is irrelevant if true and dangerous if false, then it makes a lot more sense to investigate the claims of religion to see if they are true then it does to investigate the claims of atheism.

The person of good will can't just stop in thinking "this is close enough." The search for truth is ongoing . . . eliminating false ideas, going deeper into true ones and trying to live by the truth. The person who holds to a worldview should consider why he or she holds that worldview . . . even the Christian. If God exists, and is not some indifferent architect, then what one does in relation to Him does matter.

That's why we can't presume that God does not exist or is indifferent and we can stop searching for the truth.