Friday, May 23, 2014

Two Attitudes. Two Questions. Two Considerations

Two Attitudes

I have noticed two common attitudes towards religion who try to avoid thinking about it.

The first is the attitude of indifferentism. Indifferentism is basically the attitude that all religions are pretty similar and the differences between them are minor quibbles that don't matter as long as we are all "nice" to each other. (Never mind the fact that what qualifies as being "nice" differs from religion to religion).

The second is the attitude of skepticism. Skepticism also looks at all the religions and sees the differences. The attitude of the skeptic is to look at all the differences and say, "we can't know which one, if any, is true so it doesn't matter if we just opt out of choosing."

These two attitudes—two sides of the same coin—make a universal conclusion out of the differences. Either they are insignificant or insurmountable and therefore religion doesn't matter. Accept or reject religion as you like.

Two Questions

I think these two attitudes can be addressed by two questions. For the Indifferent, the question is:

How do you know they're all equally valid?

For the skeptic, the question is:

How do you know they're all equally unimportant?

Two Considerations

The fact that there are different religions and that they say different things is not a matter of indifference. If there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, then one cannot reasonably say that it doesn't matter what way is chosen. Indifference is a positive laxness that does not think that the differences mean anything. Therefore one is as good as another. But just because the indifferent person sees the differences as unimportant doesn't mean that the differences are unimportant. In the world of law, thinking differences are unimportant and ignoring them can get a person in trouble if the person enforcing the law discovers you chose the wrong understanding of what is right.

This also applies to following God—if God has made known how He wants His followers to follow Him, choosing any old way to act is acting wrongly. Consider the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16, or the rebelling of Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12). This was not a matter of indifference to God.

Dr. Peter Kreeft has used this example. Imagine a mountain with many roads going upwards. How do you know they all reach the top? The wrong path will not get you to the desired destination. So if one path is the path God has made (John 14:6) and the others are manmade, then the indifferent attitude that holds that one path is as good as another is a dangerous one indeed.

The skeptic takes an attitude of negative laxness. It too looks at the differences in the claims but, unlike the indifferent, the skeptic sees the contradictions and concludes that we can't know if any of them are true so we can safely ignore all of them. But when you think about it, does that attitude really make sense?

If you should go to a foreign country and are not sure what the traffic laws are, it would be foolish to head out on the road while thinking it doesn't matter if you choose to follow none of them. You would soon be before a judge. You couldn't plead "I didn't know so I thought it wasn't important!" The judge would ask why you didn't bother to at least try to seek out the rules.


Now you may ask me, "with all the competing views, how can I begin to find the right path?" (Now if you ask me personally, I'll try to save you some time and say, "It's the Catholic Church." But since I presume you meant, "How do I search for the right path…?" read on). The answer is, you need to seek out what is true—which means discerning what is true as opposed to what pleases you or what you want to be true.

A lot of people stop at "What gives me pleasure" and never asks whether what feels good is actually good. People get caught up in destructive relationships, alcohol, drugs, etc. They can't see beyond the pleasure and thus can't see that they are not searching for what is truth. Self delusion and fear of losing what is safe can often lead to never beginning the search.

The truth can be described as, to say of what is, that it is; and to say of what is not, that it is not is to speak the truth. So that's the first step. Looking for what is true by seeing if it is what it claims to be. When a claim is made whether about atheism, pantheism, paganism, monotheistic faiths and Christian denominations, the question "Is it true?" must be asked concerning the claims by the group and the claims made about the group (remember, people often speak falsely about what they don't know).

A search may take a long time. God calls a person on His time, not at your convenience. (And yes, I absolutely believe God exists and loves you personally regardless of whether or not you know Him yet). But the fact that a person has not yet encountered God doesn't give him or her the right to quit searching and just say, "Close enough, I'll just settle for this."

Just remember that it is never right to say "It doesn't matter which one I pick or even if I pick none of them." If you honestly seek the truth and pray to God to lead you to Him, you will eventually meet Him.

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