Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What the World Needs Now, is Philosophy, Sweet Philosophy

One of the main draws to Catholicism for me was how reasonable it is; what we teach and what we believe about God, the world, the Scriptures, justice, sexuality, etc. is just plain reasonable to me, and I see a world that is becoming largely devoid of reason. Sure, I didn't always think this way, but through research, prayer, dialog, and contemplating the alternatives, I continue to be drawn deeper into the truths of the faith and find them brilliant, as well as perfectly reasonable.

When Benedict XVI spoke about the necessity of faith and reason at Regensburg, the world fixated on a quote he used from a medieval Byzantine emperor, showcasing his point that the world is becoming increasingly fundamentalist in two opposing directions; fundamentalism in religion strips reason away, and we see that in Christians who proclaim that “God hates fags” or that the world is 6,000 years old and that there was no such thing as dinosaurs; we can see it in Islam with the barbarity of ISIS, or in Hinduism with the many gang rapes occurring in India, or in Israel where Orthodox Jews are burning down churches, vandalizing monasteries, and demanding Muslims and Christians to leave the Holy Land. On the other side, we see militant atheism and militant secularism, removing from life any belief in eternal consequences, living life for the moment, refusing to acknowledge simple truths (such as there being two genders); instead of engaging in discussion with other points of view in order to discern the truth, they insist that either they’ve discovered all the truth they need regarding the afterlife, or the other group insists that there ARE no truths to discern, that truth is in the eye of the beholder.

The Catholic faith (and our Orthodox brethren) embrace faith and reason; as St. John Paul II said in his encyclical of the same name, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” The Catholic Church has a proud heritage in the sciences, such as helping to develop the Big Bang Theory (Fr Georges LemaĆ®tre), working with space exploration (there are over 30 craters on the moon named after Catholic priest-scientists), and developing the field of genetics (Augustinian friar and abbot Gregor Mendel). St. Albert the Great, a Dominican priest from the thirteenth century, founded Germany’s oldest university and in the thirty-eight volumes of his collected writings he wrote extensively on logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, Scripture, and love. St. Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine abbess from Germany, wrote many volumes on theology, Scripture, natural medicine for curing ailments, and botany (as well as writing music, prayers, sermons, poems, and developing an artificial language).

Reason – science – is not foreign to Christianity, but since the “enlightenment”, atheist philosophers have put it into the minds of Westerners that the greatest scientific achievements occurred once universities and laboratories were ripped out of the hands of churchmen; that’s just not true – during the golden age of the medieval period, great strides in these fields were developed by devout Catholics – clergy, Religious, and laity – because it was all in order to discover God through his Creation, as well as what he let us understand through our reason. Sadly, once Western Christianity was severed by the Reformation and many colleges and universities became secular, a wedge was driven between faith and reason, a wedge that continues to grow wider and wider with each passing generation. We now live in a country where a significant portion of our youth in college had no religious upbringing and they see religion mainly as an impediment to progress and learning. Sadly, for many, their exposure to Reformation theology and its limitation to the Bible alone has caused them to reject Christianity as an unenlightened religion; they see the philosophy contained in Buddhism or the peaceful meditation of the New Age as more appealing that Christianity; it is a sad testimony to what has happened to Western intellectual thought since our divisions of the 1500s.

In my mind, you cannot have faith without reason – when faith becomes unreasonable, you get fundamentalism – and when your faith is fundamentalism, you breed atheism; it’s very simple. A return to philosophy and theology, and a rediscovery of the rich scientific achievements made by the Catholic world, is in order, especially when having to discuss things with atheists who only want to listen to scientific arguments. It’s not all science, of course – faith and grace are incredibly vital – but in order to get the discussion going, you meet people where they are. Archbishop Sheen showed us how dynamic our evangelization is if we’re schooled in rhetoric and philosophy. Being Christian is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ and from there we grow in love for our neighbor and in desire for virtue; many have discounted formal theology and schooling (especially since so many have betrayed the Church in the name of education and theology), but knowing the faith is vital. “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).

Believing in God is reasonable. The Catholic faith is reasonable. Relativism is not reasonable. Atheism is not reasonable. Abortion, "gender fluid", androgyny, and feminism are not reasonable. Philosophy, theology, Scripture study - all guided by the Catholic Church - are the most reasonable things that I've ever come across in my entire life.