Showing posts with label relativism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label relativism. Show all posts

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Replacing the Quest For Truth With the Rejections of What We Dislike

In this age of the smartphone, we get reports of events quickly. That might be a good thing except for one problem: Many things reported are not reported accurately but people tend to believe the first accounts that they hear… especially if it goes along with what they want to hear. An inaccurate news source that fits a preferred narrative is believed and a truthful challenge to it is considered false.

I see this happening in reports about the Pope. The false narrative is that “the Pope is a liberal.” Both Catholics that want him to be a liberal because they erroneously think that the Church should change, and Catholics that want him to be a liberal because they are hostile to his changes in discipline and want an excuse to deny his authority. Both factions accept false reports about what the Pope says if it fits their needs but not true reports that don’t fit.

We tend to approach politics in a similar manner. We’re willing to believe the worst possible reports about a politicians and parties we dislike and consider the negative stories about a politician we like as lies. If a news source from “the other side” criticizes one of their own, we treat it as “proof” that our platform is 100% right.

This is not a call to uncritically accept everything from all sources. We need to be aware of biases and harmful ideologies in what we read. The problem is, we tend to only apply scrutiny to sources that say something we dislike. We only give a source credibility when it suits us and reject what that source says when it doesn’t. We seldom apply it to the sources that always say what we want to hear. 

Since Christianity involves loving God and doing what is right in His sight while rejecting evil, thinking in that way is extremely dangerous. Why? Because we become like the Pharisees who were convinced of their own righteousness, blind to the fact that they too needed to change. 

As Catholics, we recognize that Christ is God, and He gave the Church the authority to teach in His name. But once we do recognize it, we are without excuse if we refuse to obey, or look for excuses to argue that the Church lacks authority in areas we dislike. The Church is quite clear on this. As the Code of Canon Law tells us:
can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

can. 754† All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.
This is not merely on the say-so of the Church. We believe it on the say-so of Christ. He established His Church (Matthew 16:18), gave it binding authority (Matthew 16:19, 18:18, 28:18-20, John 20:23) and made clear that there were consequences for rejecting His Church (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). Treating an act of teaching by the magisterium as if it were opinion or error is a dangerous action. Because we are rejecting Christ in our disobedience.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Deus Vult Illud? On Selective Obedience

More: Roper, the answer’s ‘no’. (Firmly.) And will be ‘no’ so long as you’re a heretic.

Roper: (firing) That’s a word I don’t like, Sir Thomas!

More: It’s not a likeable word. (Coming to life.) It’s not a likeable thing!

Bolt, Robert (2013-12-04). A Man For All Seasons (Modern Classics) (Kindle Locations 568-570). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Introduction

I had a strange encounter on Twitter with racists who argued that their racism was in keeping with being Christian, and even Catholic. Their arguments involved a superficial understanding of Scripture and history. It misuses the meaning of the Hebrew חָרַם (hārām) to treat God’s sentence carried out on certain cities because of their abominable practices as if they justified racial separation and keeping undesirable races (like Middle Eastern refugees) out of their lands. These people seemed ignorant of the actions of the Church to reach out to people of all races and nations to bring them into the faith. Of course this behavior is disgusting. I really get angered when people misrepresent the Catholic faith to justify their odious views, ignoring what the Church says when it goes against them, and citing things out of context to make it seem like they are being faithful when actually they are seeking to sanctify their own preferences.

But then I thought about something. While racism is the obvious example of misusing Church teaching to justify evil, it is by no means the only example. Whenever we try to portray our own sinful activity as justified—either by misrepresenting Scripture or Church teaching, or by trying to set God against Church teaching—we are still doing the same thing. It’s just that we find our own behavior less odious than theirs. The problem is, they also think of their actions as if nothing was wrong with them. Here’s where we behave just as wrongly as the racists, even though our own sins are not as obviously repugnant as that of the White Separatists. 

Defining the Issue

At this point, I should make clear this is the other side of what I normally talk about. In some past articles, I have warned against accusing people of sins they have no intention of committing, on the basis of assuming that a disagreement on how to be faithful to the Church meant being unfaithful to the Church. In this case, I am talking about those who disagree with a Church teaching and try to portray their disobedience as being faithful to a higher authority. For example, anti-Francis Catholics try to appeal to earlier writings to argue they are being faithful to the Church and the Pope is not. Other Catholics who don’t like Church teaching on issues like contraception, abortion, homosexuality, or divorce/remarriage try to appeal to selective verses in the Bible, arguing that they must dissent from the Church to be faithful to Him.

Obedience and Authority

For a Catholic to take those positions shows ignorance of what we believe the Church is and what her relationship to God is, or refusal to accept that belief. Because we believe Jesus is God, we cannot try to divide Jesus from God in the Old Testament. God is God eternally, and God does not change, which means God is Trinity eternally. So God does not change His mind on what is good and what is evil. We need to recognize that God designed His laws for a purpose. We need to understand the differences between the moral law, dietary law, and cultic law. We also need to understand the concept of Divine Accommodation: God choosing one group of people (the Israelites) gradually moving them away from the barbarism of their neighbors towards holiness in preparation of the salvation of the world through God the Son, Jesus Christ.

We also need to realize that what we know of Hell was taught by Jesus. Yes, God does desire all men to be saved. But He also created man with free will, and with that free will, man could choose to reject God and choose evil. Jesus constantly warned His disciples that it was not just agreeing with God, but doing His will, that was required of us. Jesus’ death and resurrection was what made our salvation possible. However, Catholics also believe Jesus established His Church under Peter and his successors. We believe Jesus gave that Church the authority to bind and loose. We believe that rejecting His Church is rejecting Him (Luke 10:16). We believe that Jesus is with His Church always (Matthew 28:20). 

This means we can’t set Jesus against His Church, or the earlier magisterium against the magisterium today. We believe that God protects His Church from teaching error. When she teaches X is wrong, it is because X is wrong. However, some confuse the teaching of the Church with the behavior of the individual members in the Church, or confuse teachings and disciplines of the Church with the governance of the Papal States. It does no good to point to a tenth century Pope behaving badly when the issue is what the Pope teaches as binding on the faithful. We don’t believe that whatever the Pope happens to do is sanctified simply because the Pope did it. However, when the Pope condemns something as being contrary to the faith, we do need to give assent.

Disobedience and Dissent

Once we grasp that (and if we don’t grasp that, we will make all sorts of errors), we need to realize that when we reject what God teaches, or what the Church teaches with God’s authority, we are rejecting God. That is sin. The Church can decide in different times what is needed to defend the faith. She can speak strictly or gently as needed. When she decides on one way for approaching sinners in a certain era, she is not blocked from taking the opposite tack later if it is needed. We can’t decide for ourselves what the Church should do. We can’t decide for ourselves how important or unimportant a sin is. 

So, if we choose to selectively cite Scripture or Church teaching to justify our disobedience, we are still rejecting the Church, and as Our Lord said, that means we are rejecting Him. While some humans may be deceived by this dishonest application, God is not deceived. The worse behavior of some does not mean our own dissent is ok in God’s eyes. We will still have to answer for our own actions, regardless of how much worse others act.

This is true regardless of whether one is a racist, an abortionist, a radical traditionalist, or a “Spirit of Vatican II” Catholic.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Thoughts on Growing Radicalism and Our Responsibilities

I’ve been seeing some articles recently about college professors and entertainers—who are self-professedly liberal—expressing a growing concern that college students today are becoming more extreme. These individuals have expressed a concern over the need to self-censor themselves because the students will not consider(or even hear) any views other than their own, and in fact, tend to become hostile to hearing ideas which conflict with their own. We Christians should not hold an attitude of schadenfreude however. If today’s students are so intolerant of even liberals of previous generations, then we should take seriously how will they then deal with us who have to say to one of their cherished views that, “No, this is wrong and must be condemned."

Personally, I am reminded of the French Revolution. An extremely partisan affair that once called for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," it grew more and more extreme, turning on those who once were the radical leaders until nobody felt safe and the Revolution was eventually destroyed because those acting for the “good of the people” eventually saw these people as an enemy. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," turned out not to have so much liberty, equality or fraternity if you did not share the views of those in charge.

Kill those who disagree

Watching this from the perspective of being a Catholic, I see parallels between them and now. Not so barbaric of course. We don’t have the guillotines and the constant death sentences to live in fear of. But we are seeing the growing radicalization of a generation which considers anything which is not in line with what they see to be “fair” to be “fascist,” and carried out in malice. Under such a viewpoint, the Catholic Church is the enemy of the generation who must be co-opted or destroyed—and either one is an acceptable option.

So, the question is this—is there a limit which will be the breaking point before society revolts against the revolutionaries? Or will we continue to see things get worse and worse here until they are throwing us into prisons as enemies of the state in fact instead of just in rhetoric? Ultimately, from the Christian perspective, it cannot triumph forever. We know God will ultimately triumph over evil. But that doesn’t mean we can just sit in our bunkers and wait for the rest of the world to go to hell in a hand basket. We have to take concern over the fate of these individuals. True, we don’t want them to destroy us. But more importantly, we don’t want them to damn themselves. Our Lord uses the parable of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to find the one lost sheep and return him to the fold. We have to follow His example.

Now, obviously, we cannot take a humanistic view that, if we work hard enough, we will correct all errors on our own. God gave His Church the mission and authority to bring the Gospel to all nations and people—but that does not mean they will listen to us. But on the other side of the coin, we have to take an active role so that God’s will may be carried out through us. We can neither argue that it is impossible to change our opponents nor argue that because our opponents have not changed that it means the magisterium has failed in her role. The former is shirking, the latter is shifting the blame, denying that our own actions and inactions may have a role to play in the opposition to the Christian mission.

Regardless of whether society becomes even more extreme or whether it bottoms out and starts rising again, we have a role to play. We have to prepare for persecution in some form, whether it be mild harassment or whether it be martyrdom or (most likely) it is somewhere in between. We also have to keep in mind our role in times of hostility. Even when Christians were persecuted, the Church continued to carry out her mission. Persecution hinders the mission in some ways, but does not make it impossible. We can witness by our lives that Christianity is not the demonized institution it is made out to be, but is the relationship between God and man. Our task is to be God’s means of reaching out to others so that they might be saved.

Our task is clear, regardless of who the radicals are and what ideology they embrace. We are called to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, even when it is difficult—and it will get more difficult.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bellwether of Persecution

I thought this was america

bellwether |ˈbelˌweT͟Hərnounthe leading sheep of a flock, with a bell on its neck.• an indicator or predictor of something: college campuses are often the bellwether of change

I remember my youth in school and what was taught to us about America. How we were a free country and that the government couldn’t do, or force us to do, bad things. We were told how people came to America to escape places that treated them unjustly. As I grew older, I realized that this was a “rose colored glasses” view of things. That our country could and did wrong over the past 200 years. But throughout my transition from growth to adulthood, it was still recognized that the Declaration of Independence was still meaningful when it said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We were told that the Bill of Rights were essential rights to all people and that our Founding Fathers were determined to protect the people from the abuses from a government, acknowledging that there were certain things that the government had no right to do.

Right now, America has a system where laws which were based on this understanding are subject to being reviewed by courts that are free to throw out those laws which the judges happen to disagree with. The term used is “finding the law unconstitutional,” but too often, this is a code word for an arbitrary decision that reflects the political views of the judges without concern with actual concern for justice or law. This is the case when a few judges have ruled that the understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman is “unconstitutional.” Based on these rulings, people with religious beliefs that forbid them from participating in what they think is morally wrong can be forced to choose between their business and their beliefs—something the government had previously been seen as having no right to do.

Take a recent case of a Washington florist. The judge ruled that the florist’s religious beliefs, which forbade her from providing flowers to a same sex “wedding,” was illegal from the time that Washington legalized it. Think I’m using unreasonable rhetoric? Think again. Look at what the judge (Alexander C. Ekstrom) said:

"Stutzman is not a minister, nor is Arlene’s Flowers a religious organization when they sell flowers to the general public,” Ekstrom wrote. “Stutzman cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly licensed business.”

The judge has baldly stated what we have been warning of for years—that a person with religious convictions can be forced to choose between business and faith (Stultzman has decided to stop doing any weddings).  Basically, what we have is this: if a law is passed defending our religious freedoms, it is ruled as unconstitutional. When a law is passed which infringes on our religious liberties, it is seen as acceptable and those who invoke their first amendment freedoms are told that it doesn’t apply—the courts continually reducing who has religious freedom to the point that a church itself can (thus far) be protected from government interference, but the institutions that church runs or the individual practitioner is not.

Decisions like this make much more chilling a recent event where lawmakers urged Archbishop Cordileone to change his policy insisting that teachers in Catholic institutions actually act—Catholic. With legal precedence like this, we can expect the judges to be more likely to side with the laws infringing on our religious freedoms. 

While such things are more benign than in other countries and other times in how they try to coerce compliance with religious beliefs they oppose, these rulings are in the same spirit as the persecutions of the past. Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints describes for us the case of St. Sadoth:

The second year of the persecution, king Sapor coming to Seleucia, Sadoth was apprehended, with several of his clergy, some ecclesiastics of the neighborhood, and certain monks and nuns belonging to his church, to the amount of one hundred and twenty-eight persons. They were thrown into dungeons, where, during five months’ confinement, they suffered incredible misery and torments. They were thrice called out, and put to the rack or question; their legs were straight bound with cords, which were drawn with so much violence, that their bones breaking, were heard to crack like sticks in a fagot. Amidst these tortures the officers cried out to them: “Adore the sun, and obey the king, if you would save your lives.” Sadoth answered in the name of all, that the sun was but a creature, the work of God, made for the use of mankind; that they would pay supreme adoration to none but the Creator of heaven and earth, and never be unfaithful to him; that it was indeed in their power to take away their lives, but that this would be the greatest favor they could do them; wherefore he conjured them not to spare them, or delay their execution. The officers said: “Obey! or know that your death is certain, and immediate.” The martyrs all cried out with one voice: “We shall not die, but live and reign eternally with God and his Son Jesus Christ. Wherefore inflict death as soon as you please; for we repeat it to you that we will not adore the sun, nor obey the unjust edicts.”

Whether the governments would have us worship the sun, burn incense to the emperor or give our acceptance of “same sex marriage,” we must not obey what is unjust or forces us to go against what God commands. It may only cause us overt persecution or it may cause us hardship, perhaps legal action, but we need to be prepared for being called on to make the choice—for God, or against God. It might not happen to you or personally, but Our Lord did warn us that we must accept this:

The World’s Hatred. 18 If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,* because they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’ (John 15:18-25)

And so, we must prepare for darker times, which continue to come faster than I expect. We must prepare to continue to carry out our mission. As Cardinal George said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” None of us want to die in prison, let alone the public square for the faith. But if it does happen by death or by lawsuit or by imprisonment, we must respond in love, blessing and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) and seeking to convert them. This is true, whether persecution comes from unjust judges interpreting unjust laws or whether it comes at the hands of fanatics like ISIS.

Friday, December 5, 2014

TFTD: So Now They Change their Demands and Target the Church Directly

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So, first they told us that while the Church had to tolerate what she thought was wrong in institutions affiliated with her and in businesses run by individual Catholics, but she at least had the right to determine who had the right to work or the Church directly.  But the article, "Investigation expected after gay choir director fired from Catholic church files complaint | WGN-TV,” shows us that now the Church can be targeted for legal retribution when she takes action against a member of a Church liturgical ministry acts in public rejection of Church moral teaching.

In this case, the music minister announced publicly that he was going to be taking part in a so-called “same sex marriage.” This is to make a public rejection of the Church teaching on marriage, and if the Church gives the impression she is indifferent to such behavior, it causes scandal because people might wrongly think the Church believes it is morally acceptable.

So, in response to this decision, the parish terminated his employment. Now he has filed a “discrimination” complaint against the Church.

The Church makes a distinction between reaching out to the sinner (which she must do) and accepting sin as good (which she must not do). When a person sins in his or her private life, the response is usually to reach out quietly to the sinner with the aim of bringing them to salvation. I’m sure there are people who work directly for the Church who are guilty of even mortal sin. It is spiritually harmful for them to be in that state, and people who seek to work for the Church need to recognize that they are called to live a life of Christian witness and the living in sin mars that witness. But the Church tends to work with such people with the sacraments and spiritual direction, reminding them of the need to live the way God calls them to live.

But once the person openly and publicly flaunts their rejection of the Church teaching, that becomes a serious matter. The Church is forced into a situation that either requires them to take action or cause scandal by giving the appearance that it accepts evil acts as good. Because Mr. Collette publicly announced he would be taking part in a so-called “same sex marriage,” the Holy Family Parish and the Archdiocese of Chicago chose to act, rather than give the impression that the action was morally acceptable.

What this case boils down to is a case of the State determining what religious and moral beliefs can be valued. Whatever religious beliefs the state does not approve of it can use coercion to change. In this case, the coercion is the use of the EEOC laws and regulations, treating the Church as a secular business—believing that holding members of the Church who work directly for the Church cannot be terminated for openly violating the teachings of the Church.

But the whole concept of religious freedom is that the state can neither coerce support of a state religion, nor force a religious institution to do what it believes to be morally wrong. So, if the EEOC is allowed to take action forbidding the Church from insisting her employees comply with Church teaching, or at least not publicly flaunt defiance of it, the result will be that the state is allowed to decide which religious beliefs can be enforced.

We’re in for darker times here.

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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Relativism: The Enemy of Freedom

Those who oppose the teachings of the Church tend to do so because the teaching of the Church interfere with the notion that, "I can do whatever the hell I want . . . so long as I don't hurt anybody . . . anybody important I mean . . . and by important, I mean by my own standards, not yours . . . just @#$& off and quit imposing your views on me!"

Of course, the problem is "important by my own standards" is a vague, subjective term that, if accepted, means that someone else can decide that you are not important by their standards, and suddenly you're crammed in a boxcar or a gulag if they gain power over you.

But that's the problem with relativism. if values are relative to the person who applies the standard, and nobody has the right to judge another person's values, then to condemn another person for doing something we dislike is "judgmental," because he or she isn't hurting anybody important . . . by their own standards.

When it comes down to it, relativism isn't very freeing at all. it's used to justify MY freedom from YOU, but not YOUR freedom from ME. . .

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That's basically a case of "might makes right." If you have the power (physical, financial, political) to impose your will, you can do what you want. If you don't, you're out of luck until the wheel spins and you're on top.

History is full of examples of people in power rejecting objective values which conflict with their own standards. The results tend to show up in history books described in terms of disgust and horror.

So, what's the alternative? The alternative is the acknowledgement that objective good and evil acts exist, where one is to do the former and avoid the latter. If we think Nazism or Racism or other things are wrong, we need to look at what makes them wrong in comparison to similar actions, and then make sure that we avoid the thing that makes them wrong. Otherwise, you get ridiculous situations like, "I'm not acting like a Nazi? Do you see me mistreating JEWS? I'm only mistreating DISSIDENTS!"

In other words, objective morality tells us that it is not the fact that the Nazis mistreated Jews that made it wrong (but that it would be OK to treat others that way) but the fact that the action mistreated the Jews that made it wrong. If the Nazis' treatment of the Jews was wrong, it stands to reason that treating others in the same way must also be condemned.

That's an objective value--don't mistreat people. Of course then we have to make distinctions. Is incarcerating a felon "mistreating" him? If not, how do we distinguish the proper treatment from the mistreatment? When is the use of force just and when is it unjust? But the fact that there are many considerations does not change the fact that there are right ways and wrong ways to handle a case.

If we depend on relativism, only the person who decides can choose what is just and unjust. In such a case, we can only coax and persuade the person to change to how we would like them to behave--or use force. But if we recognize the existence of objective truth, we can appeal to justice and right and show the individual that what they are doing is wrong, even if it seems right to them.

That's basically why objective truth and objective morality defend freedom, while relativism actually endangers it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

True For You But Not Me?

A relative shared a link on Facebook. The article itself wasn't too important, but it had a quote in it that got me thinking. The quote was:

All of us have a terrible tendency toward unwarranted certainty -- certain we are right, certain others are wrong, certain that if our ideas were only adopted all would be sweetness and light to the end of time.

When we find the truth, we often decide that what really matters is that everybody else honor the truth that we have discovered. And when we discover that others don't honor our truths -- that they have truths of their own -- we turn against them in confusion and even horror.

Now, in fairness to the author, he was trying to emphasize the Pope's speaking on the need for love in truth -- very true.  But the problem with this quote is it shows a fundamental misunderstanding on what truth is.

Aristotle once defined truth as "To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.”

This is too often forgotten. To say "that's true for you," is oxymoronic (and as philosopher Peter Kreeft once mischievously put it, "it's also moronic"). Speaking the truth is to speak in a way that accurately corresponds with reality.

Now truth can be objective (always true regardless of whoever perceives it) or subjective (true for someone who experiences certain conditions but not for someone who not for those who don't experience those conditions).

An example of objective truth is the definition of a triangle. A plane figure with three straight sides and three angles totalling 180°. If you don't have that, you don't have a triangle. If it has 4 sides or if the angles total 190° it is not true to call it a triangle. This is the case regardless of perception or experience.

An example of subjective truth is for a person to say, "my foot hurts."  It's true because that person dropped a cinder block on it. It wouldn't be true for a person who did not drop a heavy object on it or a person with neuropathy.

Once you recognize this, the quote from the article becomes problematic. People may believe different things about how reality works, but if a person believes something contrary to reality,  his or her belief is not true.

For example, either some form of divinity exists or does not.  If there is no form of divinity, then atheists are right and others are wrong. However, if some form of divinity exists, atheists are wrong and the question becomes, in what way does divinity exist.

There are many legitimate either-or questions that must exclude other concepts. Pantheism vs. Monotheism for example. But the point is, the reality is objective truth regardless of what people think. If the reality is that God exists, is triune and the second part of the Trinity established His Church on Peter and his successors (Catholicism) then those who believe otherwise believe falsely -- whether sincerely or insincerely.

Thus the article only partially undetstands Pope Francis. In context, the Pope said:

Here we begin to see how love requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey. If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.

If love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realizes that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way, in union with the beloved. In this sense, Saint Gregory the Great could write that "amor ipse notitia est", love is itself a kind of knowledge possessed of its own logic.[20] It is a relational way of viewing the world, which then becomes a form of shared knowledge, vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists. William of Saint-Thierry, in the Middle Ages, follows this tradition when he comments on the verse of the Song of Songs where the lover says to the beloved, "Your eyes are doves" (Song 1:15).[21] The two eyes, says William, are faith-filled reason and love, which then become one in rising to the contemplation of God, when our understanding becomes "an understanding of enlightened love". (Lumen Fidei #27)

It's because people fail to grasp that both are needed that we run into error... either a merciless truth or a love that lacks the strength to say "this is wrong. "

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thought for the Day: Inconsistent and Illogical Denial of Absolutes

Ever notice how some people claim there are no moral absolutes, but reject a claim that some things (like racism, genocide, rape or murder) can ever be justified?  The problem is these two positions are absolutely contradictory.  To say that there are no moral absolutes is to say that nothing is wrong all the time.  But to say that some things are always wrong means there is something about an action itself which makes it wrong regardless of the circumstances.

If we can know it is always wrong, it means we can look at understanding what it is about the act that makes it wrong and apply it to understand moral standards on our obligations to other persons.

That means those activists who stand up for a cause against injustice, yet deny morality when it comes to their own behavior are behaving inconsistently.  After all, they are insisting others follow absolutes while they will not follow absolutes in their own lives.

To put it in a syllogism:

  • If [no Moral absolutes exist], then [everything is permissible]. (if A then B)
  • Not [everything is permissible] (Not B)
  • Therefore not [no moral absolutes exist].  (Therefore Not A)

Since "not [no moral absolutes exist]" is another way of saying that moral values DO exist (the negative is required to keep the syllogism consistent) we have a syllogism where the premises are true and the argument is valid.  It means the statement "moral absolutes exist" is proven to be true.

Christianity, in particular Catholicism, offers explanations on why the moral obligations must be drawn where they are.  If a person should happen to reject these explanations, they are obligated to offer their own explanation as to why the line should be drawn differently.

But because they can neither create the justification for a different dividing line, nor refute the Christian arguments of morality, the usual result is to just go ahead with the illogical claim that there are no moral absolutes.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hypocrisy of Modern Moral Relativism

There's an old saying.  What's mine is mine.  What's yours is up for grabs.  The person who coined it was obviously a cynic, but the saying does capture the hypocrisy of the modern moral relativism.  Put basically, champions so-called "tolerance" demand that their views be accepted that even if a person disapproves of a view, he or she should respect the right of the individual to live in accordance with that view without being judged for it.

BUT, this champion of "tolerance" will not practice what he or she preaches.  This person will not accept the right of the individual who believes in Christian morality to live in accordance with that view.  On the contrary, he or she will quite harshly judge and condemn these views, trying to suppress them.

In other words, this so-called champion of "tolerance" is not tolerant at all.  Rather, he or she is trying to force through changes in morality while arguing that those following traditional Christian morality are forcing their views on others.

Since the modern moral relativist is arguing tolerance as a virtue.  He or she is obligated to live according to that virtue if this person is to avoid the charge of hypocrisy.  If, as they argue, people with unpopular stances should be permitted to hold these views and that we should all treat these views as equally acceptable; then it follows that they should practice what they preach, by tolerating the holders of traditional Christian morality when they are now unpopular with the political and media elites in this country.

Moreover, if they have a right to speak openly about what they disagree with on other views and expect to be treated civilly in doing so, then it is quite reasonable for those who hold conflicting views should also be treated with respect when they are open with what they disagree with.

But this is what they do not do.  Instead of tolerating the traditional Christians who speak out to defend their views, instead of treating them with respect when it comes to disputes on what is right, what we see is savage attacks and insults.  We see demonization of opponents.

Thus we see the proponents of modern moral relativism do not practice the tolerance they demand their opponents follow.

What becomes apparent from this fact is that the issue is not an issue of fairness at all.  It is an issue of trying to forcibly changing morality through intimidation and coercion, refusing to tolerate their opponents seeking to defend their views, and then blaming their opponents for the tactics they themselves are using (such as "forcing beliefs on others").

Since the definition of hypocrisy is, "the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more laudable beliefs than is the case," and the practitioner of modern relativism claims the standards of "tolerance" while refusing to grant any to views they oppose, it stands to reason that such a person is a hypocrite.

To avoid the charge of hypocrisy, such persons must immediately cease their slanderous attacks on the traditional Christian values and start… tolerating them.  They must recognize that they must give the same free and open practice of Christianity in the public square that they insist be given to their own beloved causes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reflections on Truth, Christian Morality and Challenges by Relativism

Relativism: the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

Absolute: a value or principle regarded as universally valid or able to be viewed without relation to other things.

Absolute Relativism?

Among some who reject Christian teaching, whether as a whole or in part, there is an argument offered that there is no absolute truth.  Therefore there is nothing to require us to behave in a certain way, as everything depends on perspective.  The problem is, people who argue this way create a self-contradicting argument.  The claim that there is no absolute truth, by the nature of its claim, assumes this claim is absolutely true – which cannot exist according to the claim.  The claim that everything depends on perspective assumes something which is true beyond all perspective.

The argument is faced by this dilemma:

  • If [There is no absolute truth] is true in all times, places and circumstances then there is an absolute truth.
  • If [There is no absolute truth] is not true in all times, places and circumstances, it means the claim is not absolute and there can be absolute truths.

The point is, everybody believes in some absolute truth (even if it is the claim that "there are no absolutes"). If they truly did not, they could not dispute anything.  The fact that we recognize that something is wrong indicates we believe there is something which is always true.  Once we recognize that, we can question this kind of skeptic, "Why must we accept your claim to the absolute truth?  What is the basis for it?"  Once we have a recognition that absolute truth does exist (in some form), we can inquire what is the truth when there are different claims as to what the truth is.

Now this is a crude form of relativism which subconsciously assumes what it tries to refute.  Mostly it is claimed in such a bold statement by people who have more enthusiasm for their position than reasoned consideration (in other words, don't assume all relativists think this way).  However, even more restricted forms of Relativism hold to assumptions that cause problems for those who assert them.

Moral Relativism

Let's look at a popular claim made by some who reject Christian moral teaching: That there are no moral absolutes.  Some supporters of this claim think it gives them an escape route because the claim is a claim to truth outside of morality – it gives them an opportunity to make an absolute statement that is not a self contradiction.

We can however show that such a view is not actually believed in an absolute way by the proponents by the behavior of these proponents.

  1. If there are [No Moral Absolutes] then [everything is permitted] (If A then B).
  2. Not [everything is permitted] (Not B)
  3. Therefore there are not [No Moral Absolutes].  (Therefore not A)

The major premise points out that if there are no moral absolutes, then everything can be legitimately done in at least some circumstances.  That would mean in some circumstances it is permissible to rape or commit genocide or to own slaves.  If these things are never permissible, then we have shown that there are at least some moral absolutes.

Once we have shown this, it becomes clear that the dispute with Christian moral values is not a denial of moral absolutes, but rather a claim that some Christian moral values (usually concerning sexual morality) should not be binding.  That claim, however, must not be accepted at face value (that's a logical fallacy called ipse dixit [literally ‘he himself said it’]).  Just as Christianity offers justifications on why its moral teachings are true, those who reject Christian morality must also offer justifications on why their claims on morality are true.

Common Logical Fallacies Used in the Attack on Christian Morality

However, that is exactly what is not done.  We either see the ipse dixit claim, giving us no rational cause to accept, or else we see them offering tu quoque or ad hominem fallacies.

For example, when Catholics speak against the current restrictions on religious freedom in America, some reply by bringing up medieval history when some believed that a minority religion could be restricted.  That would be a tu quoque (literally 'You also!') attack, because a person behaving inconsistently does not mean what is said is false or that the past behavior of some justifies the current behavior of others).  If you think it was unjustified then, it is certainly something that cannot be argued to be justified now.

An example of the ad hominem (literally, 'against the person') would be the people who use terms like "homophobic" or "war on women" or "extreme right (left) wing" and the like.  It attacks the person making an argument and tries to indicate that the person has a repugnant quality, therefore what he says can be rejected.  For example, if I attempted to argue that "People who support moral relativism are a bunch of stupid liberals," this would be an example of the ad hominem attack, because that label does not disprove the argument.

What it comes down to is that the current attacks on Christian morality are not based on a rational, logical argument but rather a set of assumptions which, when examined cannot stand.  Thus these arguments cannot be said to refute Christian morality because the premises are not true and you cannot have a proven conclusion if the premises of the argument are not true.

Conclusion

Of course, it does not mean that because an argument is fallacious that a conclusion is automatically false (for example.  "All 2s are blue.  All 3s are brown.  Therefore 2+3 is 5" has false premises , but 2+3 is 5).  However, showing these attacks against Christian morality do not prove what they claim allows us to say that the justification for Christian morality still stands, and perhaps people should consider what those justifications are instead of claiming ipse dixit that Christian morality is false.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

TFTD: Bigotry By The 'Tolerant'

Anyone ever notice that the most intolerant people out there are the people who champion tolerance? 

When it comes to dealing with views they dislike, they are perfectly willing to spew invective demonizing their opponents and seeking to prevent themselves from operating any sort of "public" ministry (such as hospitals and orphanages) because of their "intolerance," even though tolerate itself means:

1 allow the existence or occurrence of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.

2 endure (someone or something unpleasant) with forbearance.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

We have a denial that there are any sort of absolute moral right and wrong.  Therefore opposition to certain acts are claimed to be arbitrary and imposing beliefs on others – which is seen as morally wrong….

Wait… what?

If there is no sort of moral absolute in terms of right or wrong, then there is nothing right about being tolerant and nothing wrong about being intolerant.  Indeed, under the rhetoric of "tolerance," and protecting people from those who are "pushing their views on others," they are in fact intolerant and pushing their views on others.

America should wake up and realize that a major religion which has often praised America for the religious freedom which allowed her to practice her faith unhindered now feels she must prepare for a growing wave of religious intolerance in America.  This growing wave is not from fundamentalist anti-Catholics, but from the policies of the United States government.

Archbishop Dolan writes:

The federal Department of Justice has ratcheted up its attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an act of bigotry.  As you know, in March, the Department stopped defending DOMA against constitutional challenges, and the Conference spoke out against that decision.  But in July, the Department started filing briefs actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.  If the label of ―bigot sticks to us—especially in court—because of our teaching on marriage, we’ll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result.

So let's cut to the chase here.  If tolerance is the rule of the game, you'll tolerate us as we try to bring to the attention of the world the teachings of Christ making sober, reasoned appeals as to why our view is correct.  If you believe we are morally wrong in our stance, then you are just as obligated to show the objective basis for your position as we are for ours.

The person who refuses to do either is certainly behaving hypocritically.  The government which refuses to do either is behaving in a tyrannical manner.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Downward Spiral: Thoughts on the Rejection of the Conscience Clause

"As I went over the water, The water went over me."

— Old Nursery Rhyme

Conscience Tug-of-War in Washington | Daily News | NCRegister.com

The recent decision in Washington State to require all pharmacists to fill all prescriptions regardless of conscience is a troubling one.  Yes, in part it has to do with the state making it compulsory to act against one's conscience or suffer loss.  There is another part, which seems to be unmentioned, which troubles me, and that is the changing legalizations of certain drugs mean that nobody is safe from the changing whims of the law.  In the past, the distribution of abortifacients were illegal, and in fact against they ran afoul of the original Hippocratic Oath:

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

Now it is legal to distribute them, and the pharmacist or doctor who holds to the old standard is forced to either choose between his conscience and his livelihood — a decision a just society has no right to demand of him.  Now we see that the physician who holds to the requirements of conscience are forced to do things which in the past nobody would dream of asking him to do.

The problem is: Who decides when the moral requirements may change and who may decide what is good and what is evil?

If morality is objective, is outside of us, then we must realize that we have no right to decree changes to morality and that a society is good or evil depending on whether it follows objective morality or not.  With this view in mind, we recognize that morality judges society, not the other way around.

However, if morality is merely opinion, then there is nothing to bind people, and the whims of each generation dictate how we may treat others.  Once, African Americans counted for 3/5 of a person and could be owned as property.  There was a time when this was seen as morally acceptable by a portion of the American population who were not African Americans.  If popular opinion dictates morality, how can we say that a later generation would be wrong to go back to that mentality?

If society and culture determine what is moral, then the person who rejects the popular morality is always in the wrong.  Some might agree with this, but do you realize that under such a view, Bull Connor was right and Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong?  Such a view is the exact opposite of what we know and believe today — recognizing that treating people as inferior because of their race is contrary to their rights to be treated as a human being.

If it is government leaders who can decide what is lawful and what is not, rejecting previous views of morality then we must recognize that we have nothing to say to the dictators of the world except that we personally find the behavior repugnant… to which the dictator can say, "Who are you to force your views on me?"

If morals are elastic and changeable then there is nothing right in being tolerant and nothing wrong in being intolerant.

Conclusion

Consider it well.  If the moral beliefs of the past can be superseded by the morals of the present, then how can we protest if the morals of the future supersede the morals of the present?  The person who believes in racial justice today may find himself in a position where he or she is told to discriminate against certain races in the future, and an appeal to what was once held can be rejected on the grounds that "things have changed."

It is only when one considers the source of what makes a thing right or wrong that we can be protected from the tyranny of the majority or the tyranny of the state.  Those government leaders and advocates for change need to address the question "On what basis" a value is to be seen as good or evil.  Laws should only be made which recognize this.

Otherwise none of us are safe from the whims of society, or the demands of a tyrant.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thought for the Day: Why We Should Oppose the idea of Rights Being from the State

On another site, there was a debate on abortion, and an individual claimed that there are no intrinsic rights, only rights provided by the state.  Therefore the state could legalize abortion because the unborn was not a human person.

Interesting… but terrifying.  Why?

Because under this kind of reasoning we would see…

  1. In Nazi Germany the right to exterminate "lesser peoples" would have been allowable… after all, they decided Jews and Slavs were non-persons, and rights come from the state.
  2. In the South, Bull Connor would have done no wrong in enforcing segregation laws, as the State Government considered they had no rights
  3. Apartheid in South Africa would not have been wrong because the government decided non-whites had no rights
  4. There would be nothing wrong with Medieval Spain oppressing Jews and Muslims with the Inquisition, as the government decided they had no rights.
  5. The Bill of Attainder (punish a person by decree of law without trial) would be legal… because it is the government law [This is forbidden by the Constitution of the United States btw, but was legal in England in that era]
  6. The overthrow of the Constitution and the imposition of Sharia Law would be permissible as the state provides the rights.

I could list many other examples, but this idea is a dangerous one and ought to be opposed.  Most people would recognize that the above examples did or could happen, and they are generally viewed with revulsion.  Yet the key to these barbaric examples is the idea that rights are from the government, and not from any other source.

Thus there is nothing good about being democratic and nothing bad about being totalitarian if we accept this standard.  Merely that some governments would be more careful with rights and others would be more free with them.  However, if we accept that rights merely come from the government, then there is nothing to appeal to if we don't like a totalitarian government.

I think I will close this with a quote of Benito Mussolini:

Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. (From his essay Diuturna)

—Benito Mussolini

If there are no absolutes, no moral norms… if the state decides what is a right and what is not, then there is no basis to complain when a government does things we would call unjust.

It is only when one accepts the moral absolutes which those who oppose abortion invoke that there is a basis to opposing the examples of injustice given.