Friday, December 10, 2010

Religion isn't For Blind Sheep?

I skipped the recent 'Tony Blair' debate.

I figured I had better things to do with my time. Like read the Bible, study the Catechism: or, for that matter, watch paint dry.

Why would I voluntarily miss finding out what an atheist thinks? It's related to my interests and experiences.

I find the intellectual side of my faith quite engaging. I've also done time in American academia.

What 'Everybody Knows' May Not be So

While in the halls of ivy I learned that, according to self-described 'very intelligent' people, religion is for people who - at best - don't know any better. And that, as a corollary, people who take their faith seriously are, well, somewhat deficient.

I take my faith seriously, so by 'very intelligent' standards, I'm one of those folks who aren't very enlightened.

Works for me.

I'm not very insulted, since since that assumption puts me on a par with folks like St. Catherine of Siena, Copernicus, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Annoyed, maybe.

Debate, Blair, and Wasting Time: Another Blogger's Take

Here's part of what brought all that to mind:
"...Blair probably should not have even bothered and instead should have gone to mass that night or spent an evening helping out at a shelter or visiting someone who was lonely and sick in a hospital. That would have said a lot more about his faith than wasting a lot of words on a pompous ass whose main intellectual arsenal is sneering and using sarcasm.

"This perennial debate between atheists and the religious has no end in sight. It seems to sell tickets and for a certain type of intellectual it is like watching boxing without the blood.

"But the debate is useless for one simple reason: most atheists do not have a clue what religion is about. They see religious people as blind sheep following a series of incomprehensible rules and dogmas and then scoff at their lack of enlightenment. They find the flaw in the painting and say it is all now ruined. Atheists are utopians [sic] who believe a perfect society can be built if only religion was not in the way.

"As far as I can see, those Godless societies have not done too well, unless you consider North Korea a success...."
(Charles Lewis, Commentary,
Well, what does Mr. Lewis know? He's obviously one of those religious people, and 'everybody knows' what they're like.

Sarcasm, Monsters, and Nietzsche's Famous One-Liners

Re-reading that last sentence, I see that I was, arguably, sarcastic.
That's something I need to be careful about. And I've got a nifty quote to back up that assumption:
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
(Friedrich Nietzche (1878)1)
Nietzche?! I do not accept his philosophy. On the other hand, he was good at writing memorable one-liners.

And Nietzschian 'wisdom' has been carefully preserved: in part, I suspect, because he's 'very intelligent:'
"Two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity"
(Friedrich Nietzche (1888)1)
Like I said: good with one-liners; but not someone whose philosophy I accept.

Atheists, Religion, and Illusion

Mr. Lewis explains his assertion that atheists "do not have a clue what religion is about." This is a generalization, but my experience suggests that it's fairly close to the mark in many cases:
"...Atheists are under the ridiculous illusion that religious people think that all they have to do is call out to God and help will be on the way. If it were so, Jesus never would have gone up on the cross. The crucifixion is not a contradiction and the anti-religious cannot get their heads around that. Faith is not the avoidance of trouble, it is facing it head on and then finding holiness...."
(Charles Lewis, Commentary,
I'd qualify that to read "Catholic faith is not the avoidance of trouble...." I've mentioned the prosperity gospel before. Not that being Catholic is all fasts and suffering and feeling like something the cat dragged in. And that's another topic.

After a while someone who does have a clue as to what Christianity is about starts to notice patterns in what the 'very intelligent' set assumes. I've quoted this before:
"...No. He really wrote that. And then he makes all the usual category mistakes ('God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, does whatever he wants and that makes me mad. I can't see God doing magic tricks for me, so that means he's not there. The universe has knowable laws, so there is no Legislator. It offends my pride that God has hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.') and similar stupid pet tricks...."
(Catholic and Enjoying It!)
I've used that quote before, in "Science, Faith, and Auto Mechanics," when another high-profile blurt of nonsense was passing through the media. (August 19, 2010)

Gandhi, Christians, and Christ

I've written this before, but I think it bears repeating: not all Christians are dolts. I've also repeated this quote:
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
(attr. Gandhi)
I've had my emphatically un-Christlike moments. I try, however, to avoid building my faith around them. Yet another topic.

I think it's possible that the folks who consider themselves to be the best and brightest in the land may have assumed that the likes of Tony Alamo, Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps are typical Christian leaders. That would, I think, help explain what Mr. Lewis describes as an atheist's view of religious people: and of religion in general.

Sheep, Yes: Blind, No

As a practicing Catholic, I'm expected to follow Jesus. But not blindly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't take long to get to the importance of reading - studying - Sacred Scripture. (Catechism, 131-133) Ignorance is not a virtue, not for Catholics anyway. The Catechism puts "education" in a list of needs, along with food and clothing. (Catechism, 1908)

It was the intellectual rigor of Vatican II documents that helped convince me that I needed to become a Catholic - and that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:

1 The Friedrich Nietzche quotes are from page 552 of Familiar Quotations, John Bartlett, 16th edition, Justin Kaplan, general editor. "Whoever fights" is from Human, All Too Human (1878); "Two great" from The Twilight of the Idols (1888). Again: I don't have much use for Nietzche's philosophy, but he had a knack for writing memorable one-liners. Or aphorisms, to be a bit more highbrow.
A tip of the hat to catholicspirit, on Twitter, for the heads-up on's Commentary.


Brigid said...

Late night posting? "I'm not very insulted., since since that"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Late night posting. Still, just one typo isn't ba-a-a-ad. Fixed it, and thanks!

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