Friday, June 4, 2010

Reason, Faith and 'What Folks Know, that Just Ain't So'

One of those spiritual one-liners you hear now and again goes something like this: God has adopted children, but no grandchildren.

That's generally used as a starting point for a discussion of how children don't necessarily follow what their parents believed. Sort of like me. I was born in a quite nice mainstream Protestant family: and converted to Catholicism.

In my case, it wasn't so much rejecting my parents' faith, as learning where it came from - and getting closer to the source. I've written about that before.

Then, there are folks like the chap who left a comment in another blog. The post had mentioned Father Kleinschmidt's then-upcoming 60th anniversary as a priest. Here's that comment:
"Lee said...

"I am a nephew of Fr. Kleinschmidt's and grew up in Sauk Centre.

"I find it so sad that in the 21st Century we are still believing in this myth. It has been almost 500 years since the beginning of the Enlightenment and this is still going on.

"The real danger of religion is not your belief as such, but the stubborn and immovable mindset that baptizes interests as authorized by God -- the merits of which interests then become absolute, and therefore immune from rational debate.

"June 4, 2010 9:53 AM"
(Comment on "Coming Next: Memorial Day Weekend," Sauk Centre Journal Blog (May 26, 2010))
I've run into enough 'deeply religious' folks who have - I trust unintentionally - helped keep that 'sophisticated' idea alive:
"...The real danger of religion is not your belief as such, but the stubborn and immovable mindset that baptizes interests as authorized by God -- the merits of which interests then become absolute, and therefore immune from rational debate."
(Sauk Centre Journal Blog, Comment on May 26, 2010 post)
One reason I'm as careful as I am to check with official Catholic documents like the Catechism of the Catholic Church is to avoid taking my preferences and claiming that they've got the authority of the Catholic Church behind them. I've had a few wake-up calls, doing that: and had to jettison some pet ideas of mine in the process.

Like the "clockwork universe" idea. I mention that one quite a lot. Partly because it hurt, tossing that idea aside; partly because I like the sound and associations of the phrase "clockwork universe."

Relatives of a Priest: No Special Position

I'm a little sad that Lee chose to make a public comment about the "myth" that Father Kleinschmidt has dedicated his life to. I'm pretty sure that the nephew of that priest means "myth" in the colloquial American sense of the word - something that's not true. I've discussed myth, metaphor, and what I perceive as a deficit in contemporary Western culture, before.

Each of us has free will. We can decide that God exists, and matters. We can decide that God is some kind of plot. We can even decide that we are God. I wouldn't recommend the second or third alternative: but we're free to decide. And what our parents and relatives believe is no guarantee of what decision we make.

What 'Everybody Knows' Ain't Always So

You've heard this, or something like it, before: "It's not what we know that hurts us. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so." I've quoted Twain (or Billings, Ward, Hubbard, Rogers, or whoever came up with that famous one-liner.)

Fulton Sheen (0r maybe someone else) is supposed to have said that very few people hate the Catholic Church. They hate the thing they believe the Catholic Church is. I think there's something to that.

Folks who know what Thomism is might be surprised to learn that their beliefs are supposed to make them unreasonable. Or maybe not so surprised, if they've spent much time in America. Or, I suspect, Western civilization.

Those who believe that religion is really bad because it's all about emotions like hate, and those who are convinced that their own faith is really good because it's all about emotions like love often agree on one thing: that religious beliefs - faith - have nothing at all to do with logic and reason. In their case, that may be true.

Bottom line? One reason I became a Catholic was that I didn't have to put my frontal cortex in 'sleep mode' when I went to church. I've written about that before, too.

'Just the Facts'

I wouldn't try to change the mind of a zealot.

Born-again atheists, Bible-thumping fundamentalists, and their Catholic analogs seem impervious to ideas that aren't on their 'preferred' list.

All I do is present what is true, to the best of my ability to discern, point to where an interested person might find more information, and leave it at that.

Time and the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment, by the way, seems to have been a set of 18th-19th century phenomena that spilled into the 20th.

Maybe 17th century, too. It might be possible to claim that the Enlightenment was born in the same year as Thomas Hobbs: 1588. That's rather early, and the source I linked to didn't make that claim - but it's the earliest year I found in a quick look around.

That's 422 years ago, so maybe Thomas Hobb's birth is what the priest's nephew had in mind when he said the Enlightenment had been around for 500 years.

Fordham University has a pretty good link page of resources relating to the Enlightenment. But Fordham 's a Jesuit university: and not everyone would be comfortable about using that set of resources.

Related posts:More, about Catholic Belief and the Enlightenment:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.