Thinking about Alpha Unit’s latest, I love the Catholic religion, and I even call myself a Catholic on Internet surveys, even though I have not yet converted, and may never. I moved to an Hispanic town, and the happening religion here is Catholicism, so I started going to Mass for the Hell of it.
Now, I happen to think that the Church is full of crap on a million things, especially birth control, gays, abortion and immigration. But there is something special about a Mass, and I’ve been going to them lately.
I hate going to just about any Christian Church, and I haven’t gone to the churches of my Protestant religion for many years. Further, I dislike most Protestants. They’re way too uptight, and it’s all about this sickening White middle class morality that I grew up with and came to despise.
Protestantism, to me, is all about how I’m an evil, scummy, disgusting, immoral sinner!
Why? Because I hate. Because I get high on dope. Because I drink booze. Because I’ve spent most of my life trying, often successfully, to screw any nice looking female that moves. Because I fight back when someone attacks me. Because my enemies aren’t always right and I’m not always wrong. Because I’m happy working less than 40 hours a week. Because I’ll live off free money if I can figure out a way to get some flowing my way. Because I support non-state armed struggle (“terrorism”), as opposed to state violence that everyone loves. Because I used to sell dope. Because I like to shoplift a piece of candy now and again.
It’s just guilt, guilt, guilt, and I’m evil, I’m evil, I’m evil. That’s been the message to me from these Protestant shits my whole life. On the contrary, Hispanic Catholics never tell me that. It’s assumed we’re all a bunch of scumbag sinners. Big deal. That’s what the confession booth is for, folks. We’re always trying to do better, but we keep on sinning anyway. It’s a neverending struggle, but as long as you’re trying, you’re a good Catholic. You get to feel guilty, but everyone else feels guilty too, and no one acts like you’re worse than they are.
A religion just made for me!
The Catholic Mass is great. I prefer the Spanish language Mass because Hispanics are so much cooler than White people, plus the music is way better. The White Catholic Mass is what you would expect, a bunch of really uptight White people! Who needs that? I’ve been living with that BS my whole life.
The whole Mass is a great big ritual with a number of steps. The priest waves, you stand up, cross yourselves, mumble something, and kneel down. Then you stop kneeling and sit. There must be 20 or so steps like this. The priest lights some candles, eats something, and drinks some wine. A religion where the Holy Man drinks booze at the ceremony! Yo! My kinda religion, baby!
At a Catholic Mass you do your own thing. There’s people here and there alone, tripping away. They’re off in their own worlds, praying, or crying, or heads down and silent. None of these folks are participating in the ceremony, but no one cares. They’re thinking of something important, maybe something sad. Maybe someone died. Maybe they can’t pay their mortgage. Who knows? There’s lots of stuff to pray for.
The artwork on the walls, the huge Jesus statue and the cathedral itself is good for a visit right there. There are all sorts of ritualistic shrine-type things along the walls. Holy water, flowers, a statue of Mary. The Hispanics go up to these shrine things and pray to them, kiss them, touch them, do all sorts of strange things. But I like that. That’s how a religion should be. Ancient, ritualistic, with genuflections and shrines.
I don’t know how much most of you realize how hacked up Protestantism has become recently. There’s my old-line Church, which I always hated anyway. This Church is practically devoid of religious substance anymore. It’s like it’s had all the lifeblood sucked out of it, except the Protestant “you’re a sinner” thing. It’s been so denatured that I wonder why anyone even goes to the services anymore. What does it stand for? What do they believe?
Probably in response to this boring decaf Protestant Church, a super-caffeinated fundamentalist Church has broken off in the past 30 years or so. Anywhere you have lots of regular White people, you will find legions of these fundamentalist boneheads.
You’ll never even recognize them. With a lot of them, they drink, they smoke, they cuss, they watch porn on the Net, they screw around, they smoke weed, but they’re all Holy Rollers. What the fuck, man? The ones that are nice and tidy often have a seriously sinful past. The Church is full of “I used to be bad” types. Reformed sinners are always the worst.
Anyway, the religion itself is completely insane. They’re all anti-abortion, they hate liberalism, and they’re not too wild about gays. These are nice middle class White types, often with money. They seem hip and cool, they have nice houses, nice clothes and are often well-educated. But every damned word in the Bible is true!
Nowadays, if you meet a White person who is at all religious, they are usually one of these whackjob types. As long as you keep away from their idiot religion, you can talk about anything under the Sun and they seem like normal people. But as soon as you venture into the religious area, it’s clear that they are Pod People.
I know the Catholic Church sucks ideologically, but at least they are tolerant. Plus they don’t try to convert you. I talked to some of them, told them I’m pro-choice, and they just said, “Well, we have pro-choice Catholics, you know. That’s your problem.”
A nun (!) told me, “Well, we don’t agree, but really, that’s between you and God.” I like that! Of course it is! Of course it’s between me and God. Damn, why didn’t I think of that?
The Catholics don’t really have any litmus tests, while the fundies have about a million. Talk to a fundie, even if if you’re a Christian, and pretty soon the fundie makes it clear that you’re actually not really a Christian! Why? Because you just failed one of their million and one litmus tests. The fundies are quite clear that all of the mainline Protestant churches are not Christian.
The Catholic Church is definitely not Christian, though they started the whole thing. A lot of them really hate Catholics, and a number of them are on this, “Catholicism is the source of all the world’s evil” thing, like anti-Semites except substitute the Pope for the Jew. Try to give them some Church history about how the Catholic Church was the first, and their eyes glaze over.
Many, or most, of them, claim to not be practicing Catholicism or Protestantism. Well than what are they practicing? The “original Christian religion,” I guess from 60 AD.
Try to tell them that the oldest Christian church is the Syrian Orthodox, a bunch of evil Catholic scum, and their arguments start twisting like snakes. Try to tell them that the “original Christian Church” was a bunch of Jews and was little more than modified Judaism (with most of them still keeping Kosher I think), and their arguments start doing 180’s. They’re engaged in a Belief system that elides history and common sense.
The fundies love the Old Testament, even though it’s a bunch of Jewish nonsense to me. It’s ok for history, but that’s it.
Jesus showed up to erase the OT and replace it with the New Covenant, the NT. The Law (the OT) was gone. In its place was Mercy (the NT). Israel (the Jews and the OT) was no longer the Church. The Church was the new Israel, and the new Chosen People were the Christians.
Following this Replacement Theology further, Judaism (the OT) has been replaced, and the Jews don’t even get Israel anymore. This is why Replacement Theology is so popular with Arab Christians. From a theological perspective, a good case can be made that Christian Zionism is not only oxymoronic but also heretical.
One cool thing about the Catholics is that they seem to have junked the OT. It’s still part of the religion, but you never hear about. All of the little sermons they hand every Sunday are NT stuff. Even more than that, they always deal specifically specifically with Jesus himself. It’s the four main NT books, and that’s about it.
I’d give the Apostles some theological leeway too. Because those books were just written by guys (apostles) like me. Not Gods, or Gods in Flesh. There’s only one Guy in the NT with God’s phone number, so He’s the only one to pay attention to. The rest are just guys like you and me. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong, but there’s no reason to believe that their every word is Godly.
So Catholicism almost seems to be pure “Jesus-ism,” which is all Christianity ought to be anyway. If you study the very early Christians from the 1st Century, that was the original Christianity. Jesusism. No OT, no apostle BS, no Pope, no Vatican. Just one Guy. Listen to what He says and try to live your life by it.
Thing is, once you strip away everything else and just listen to what Jesus himself actually said and did, Christianity is a pretty cool religion. Jesus was a very tolerant dude. He never said anything about fucking, queers, abortion, drinking or dope, or if he did, it’s not too prominent. He hung out with sinners. He thought greedheads were assholes. He threw money-changers out of the Church.
And he was a nice Jewish boy who adored his Mom and was still living at home at age 33, so even the Jews ought to dig him for that alone if for nothing else.
55 thoughts on “In Praise of Catholicism”
I’m a pure secularist for scientific-thinking reasons, but was raised by an Episcopal mother, and I think her church strikes the right balance between Catholicism and Protestantism. Virtually none of them take OT crap seriously. And you can believe anything you want about abortion or gays. They’re only into sin in the sense that no one’s perfect, so of course we’ll screw up sometimes.
The Episcopal church’s biggest problem is that its members became too educated to believe superstitious nonsense. The Anglican communion’s problem is that it’s big in places like Nigeria that aren’t.
What’s the difference between a Methodist and an Episcopalian? About $50,000/year.
Of course I’m scientific-minded too, but I found that a few decades of agnosticism and atheism was too much for me. It’s completely depressing and hopeless. I don’t even care if my religion is true or not. It gives me something in life that scientific atheism and agnosticism can never hope to replace. Face it, the scientific POV is a drag! A lot of people are going to reject on that grounds alone.
Further defense of the Anglicanism:
A church in New Zealand finally took the Virgin Birth story to its logical conclusion — Joseph always wondered why Mary kept saying “God is good.”
‘We’d all be Christian, but for the Christians.’ (Gandhi)
Some time ago I was sad that Europe lost ancient Greek or Roman religion, but i realized Catholicism and Orthodoxs, with their acceptance of Idol Veneration ( not Idol Worship like Hinduism, but nevertherless Idolatry) contributed to the art of Europe, i like more Catholicism, each of its saints have a rich history like each of the Hindu Gods, so Catholicism don’t have any to envy to Hinduism, i am now more satisfied with Western culture.
I couldn’t agree with you more about the beauty of the Mass or about the craptastic way that English-speaking whites often celebrate it. Go see one in Latin (preferably a sung, “high” Mass) to see white people celebrating it in a beautiful and authentic way.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think they even deal with the later books, such as the letters of the apostles”
At a typical Sunday Mass, the Liturgy of the Word (the part where the Bible is read) has four parts in this order: 1) reading from the OT, 2) Psalm (usually sung), 3) reading from the Epistles (letters), 4) reading from the Gospels (by the Priest with everyone standing up). There are minor exceptions to this rule, but that’s the rule.
3) really does happen each Sunday.
“[Jesus] never said anything about fucking, queers, abortion, drinking or dope.”
This is not true or even approximately true. Jesus repeatedly re-affirmed traditional Jewish morality which did not countenance fornication, homosexuality, abortion, or drunkenness.
One among many examples is in Matthew, chapter 15: “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander . . . defile a man” As you say, we have the confessional for our slip-ups, however. And there is nothing quite like standing in a long line of penitents in a quiet cathedral waiting your turn for absolution. Inspiring in a different way from Mass, but inspiring nonetheless.
The other interesting thing about that passage from St Matthew is that it is in the context of Jesus dumping on Jewish ceremonial/dietary law, which is problematic for the idea that Jesus was a good Jew — He repeatedly dumps on Jewish ceremonial and dietary law. By the standards of His day, He was not such an observant Jew.
Anyway, I hope you keep going to Mass. I came up from atheism myself not too long ago.
Activist: US missionary crosses border into NKorea
I really detest these religiously delusional “worshipers”.
A Catholic has been defined as a person who is more interested in confessing than in controlling his sins. That seems a bit unfair to me, but if there is truth in that definition, then it is a very strong argument against Catholicism. Who needs people who confess and then merrily go back to sinning. They are comparable to a man who unabashedly pleads guilty and then commits crimes again. People who work hard on their moral self-improvement are always preferred to ones who readily admit their moral shortcomings but refuse to do anything about it.
Of course, admitting one’s sinfulness is the first step toward a less sinful life, but if the second step of trying to restrain one’s sins never comes, then the first is useless. If a person admits that he is an alcoholic but then keeps drinking as much as ever, what benefit is derived from this admissions? None. If a slaveowner comes to realize that slavery is wrong but does not free his slaves, what is the value of his realization?
I agree with you, however, on the desirability of concentrating on the Gospels and ignoring the OT. I believe that a lot of Protestants who grew up in Bible-reading homes were turned away from Christianity by the improbable and often embarrassing, if not downright offensive, stories of the OT. Moreover, the OT was written by and for Jews. If, like 99.75% of mankind, you are Gentile, then you should not take the OT seriously. If I had to be locked up and could take only one book with me, either the OT or the Koran, I would without a split-second hesitation take the Koran. At least Allah speaks to all of us, while Jehovah only speaks to his Jewish darlings.
Have a good day. James
I don’t really consider Evangelicals and assorted fundamentalists to be protestants, maybe not even Christians. They’re more a sort of New Age cult run ultimately by zionists but sharing the religious language, stories and images of protestantism, drawing on the Old AND New Testaments, which like it or not ( I don’t much ) is the common language of our N. European/ N. American culture. Add to this the seemingly unique American survival of an 18th Century charismatic revivalist preaching style, television, racism and fascism and you’ve got it. There’s little in common there with the boring (as you noted), harmless old Episcopalian and Presbyterian traditions except the common language. I agree with you about the over-emphasis on the Old Testament in protestantism, but the stories have become such an embedded part of our common culture through hundreds of years of literature, since the printing press, and now television and movies, so it’s hard to avoid. The trouble with these stories is that, while they are memorable and seem to carry a moral, when you put them all together and try to get an overall moral perspective from them, it doesn’t seem to add up to more than if you’ve got God on your side you can do what you like – stick with the biggest bully! Servile hacks are always going on about the richness of the Bible as literature, the unique psychological depth of the characters portrayed. Compared with Homer? Not a patch on Homer. And the tales of Troy and Odysseys’ s journey home carry a much more wholesome, consistent and digestible moral message – loyalty, honour, all the things that seem to have been universal throughout all human societies, not just heroic societies. The Old Testament, by contrast, is a peculiar aberration from most human norms, with it’s endless proliferation of guilts within guilts; you know the sort of thing – am I doing good because I’m good or because I want to do good, or because I want to curry favour with God, who will know the difference anyway? Will he accept my doubt about my motives as proof of my sincerity, or are my doubts about my sincerity just another try at tricking God? blah blah You could go on forever like this, and the Old Testament does. This is just UNWHOLESOME, neurotic and not at all useful. It also strikes me as peculiarly jewish, resurrecting itself again in the mystical language of the Freudians which the elites seem to be trying to foist on us as a new faith for the new millenium. It’s a language of guilt and doubt, and it characterises old bedrock moral certainties like blood and honour as being solely for nazis – ok, the nazis sort of helped that along.
And then,of course, protestants also teach Jesus’s message of love your fellow man and lead by example rather than coercion. Trying to reconcile the two Testaments could make you schizophrenic. Fortunately it just seemed to make N. European culture put religion in its proper place – weddings, funerals and somewhere for your granny to go on a Sunday – and get on with more important things like inventing steam engines and electric power etc. And that’s the REAL essence of protestantism, a political one rather than a religious one – the church in its place, not interfering in politics on behalf of foreign powers and freedom to take or leave it – the fundamentalists are not really in that tradition. And the Roman church was, and still is a powerful and sinister international organisation, which interferes in politics everywhere it can to push deeply reactionary programmes. They put on a good show – they’ve had 2000 years to polish it – and, like the zionists, they are brilliant propagandists, but the Catholic church is frankly evil and we’d all be better off without it. Compare Protestant N. West Europe and N. America with the Catholic Mediterranean and Latin America or the Irish Republic. No, it’s not down to Arabisation.
I agree with James Schipper completely. Robert says ” The Catholics don’t really have any litmus tests…” . But what’s the point of a religion if you don’t have to live up to it? But anyway, they DO have litmus tests – anti-abortion and contraception, and anti-socialism for example. Ok they’re tolerant about murder, genocide, torture, rape, and especially CHILD ABUSE – just keep supporting the church and breed like rabbits and you’re onside.
And though it’s a good thing that catholics don’t give the Old Testament so much attention, they replace it with a fantasy that they just made up themselves – the worship of the Virgin Mary, Saints and their interventions, Angels in all their hierarchies – why not add the Lord of the Rings to it? The Old Testament is the tradition Christ was brought up in and referred to frequently – to that extent it DOES have some bearing on the faith. And then again, we know now that the New Testament Gospels were written by Greeks long after Christ’s death, if he ever lived at all. Whatever, if you’re a believer they you believe that the Jesus stories are true, obviously – that’s the whole point about being a believer – and that the Old Testament, the Torah, has at least some bearing on the Jesus stories. But I don’t see how you can justify believing in stuff that isn’t in either of the Testaments, that you KNOW was just made up later.
The nun that I talked to said that anti-abortion was not a litmus test. You’re free to become a pro-choice Catholic. They don’t really dig it, but they won’t stop you. That makes them better than all the Protestant fundies right there.
About birth control, I understand that most Catholics don’t even obey the Church on that, and the Church I go to never discusses it.
They DO talk about abortion a lot, it’s a big deal with them, but that’s mostly for folks that get really involved in the Church by joining its organizations and going to its functions.
About anti-socialism, I don’t know. Around here, the Catholic Church is probably the most progressive religious institution. The mainline Protestant churches are not really all that liberal, and the fundies are simply reactionary. The Catholic Church here spends much of its time advocating for the poor. I like that!
True, in Latin America, they don’t, but there does seem to be a deep socialist strain in Catholic thinking, even if it was always minoritarian. The Catholic Worker types come to mind.
Furthermore, keep in mind that Catholics are the only Christian religious group that have consistently embraced Communism and socialism in large numbers. Most of the revolutionaries in Latin America and the Philippines are actually practicing Catholics! On the contrary, the number of Protestant revolutionaries seems vanishingly small.
About the angels and Mary and interventions and all of that, the Church I go to never talks about any of that stuff. It’s kind of an interesting folk tradition anyway, and goes back to ancient times. Men have always worshipped angel-like beings, and intercessionary agents are prominent even in Islam, such as Sufism.
I think it’s fascinating that the Latin American Catholics I know still believe in strange miracles occurring as part of daily life down there. It’s like a Twilight Zone religion. Strange guys are always appearing somewhere in Colombia or Ecuador and rescuing people, often women, in dire straights, and then disappearing. On investigation, it turns out to be Jesus!
The Catholics I know down there actually believe this stuff. It’s nutty, but I kind of like it. It’s almost like science fiction or ghost stories. I know a Brazilian Catholic who believes in UFO’s, ESP, and all sorts of strange things, all along with the Catholicism. There’s long been a “magic realism” strain to the Catholicism down there.
The Irish have also often believed in spirits, leprechauns, trolls and other strange folks.
About the Marianist heresy, it’s a tiresome Protestant cliche. I dig it when the Hispanics go up to the Mary statue after Mass and trip out, cross themselves, touch it, and pray. It’s really just ancient paganism, but that’s the only real valid human religion, and it’s our oldest religion. We humans are the same now as our pagan ancestors, despite the cell phones and nanotech, and paganism is just as valid now as it was in 500 BC.
Buddhists have these trippy little shrines in their homes too. I like that shrine stuff. Protestantism got rid of all that because it was “pagan” but they took all the fun out of the religion at the same time.
One thing that amazes me about Catholics is that their religion seems to have hooks in them in a way that is alien to the Protestants I’ve known.
To me, if you don’t like your religion, or something important about your religion, you simply say to hell with it. What I’ve noticed is that very often Catholics cannot or will not do this. Instead, they fight and argue with the Catholic hierarchy over the tenets they find unacceptable.
Why would you even want to remain in a Church that you feel insults you or denigrates you in some way? Maybe it’s very Protestant of me to even ask such a question, I don’t know.
The Catholic Church is like a country. You can hate some of the things your country stands for, but you still love living there, so you campaign for change. You don’t just get up and leave.
Hold on though… This only works in a democratic country.
I like Robert’s point about the continuing significance of paganism.
The Ancient Greeks, for all their love of intellect, lived in a world where, at a moment’s notice, gods could take the form of swans, or intervene to save a city, or snatch away a beautiful boy. For them, the dividing line between the spiritual and the everyday was so indistinct it hardly existed. When I talk about paganism, I’m not thinking of boring old farts like Jupiter. I’m thinking of rather scary entities like Pan, Artemis and Apollo.
I don’t know what it is about Apollo, but whenever he puts in an appearance in Greek literature there’s an almost palpable aura of menace and dread about him. I suppose he’s what is known as an ‘elemental’. For me the most awesome moment in the whole of drama is when a poor woman catches sight of Apollo, and her cry of “Ototototoi! Apollon! Apollon!” (Alas! Apollo! Apollo!) is a like a visceral scream of recognition of something so strange and so terrifying it could destroy her in an instant.
In the last and greatest of his plays, Euripides (surely the dog’s bollocks of dramatists) warned his fellow Greeks that they had to get the balance right between their twin worlds of reason and myth – and look what happened to his beloved Athens towards the end of his life: halted, almost Icarus-like, as it aspired to dazzling heights, and cast down by the gods into the nightmare world of hatred and unreason that was the Pelopponesian war. (Am I being fanciful, or did Herman Melville sound a similar note of warning to his fellow-countrymen in the closing pages of Moby Dick?)
In conclusion, I share your views, Robert, on paganism, and I strongly agree that the Catholic Church, in its rituals and observances, keeps us in touch with our oldest, truest instincts. When the dismal Protestants set out to reform religion they threw the baby out with the bathwater…
Finally – and that’s a promise – I was intrigued by your reference to magic realism, because I’ve always felt that Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s aim is an essentially religious one: to blur the distinction between the commonplace and the miraculous and help us to recapture our lost sense of wonder at the world we live in…
But enough, already! As you guys have just found out to your cost, Jupiter isn’t the only boring old fart round here.
Damn! I’ve spelt Peloponnesian wrong! Someone’s going to have to teach me how I can edit my comments.
Maybe you have explained why so many Catholics will not let go of Catholicism – its ritual aspect satisfies the need to keep in touch with the oldest, truest instincts.
Thank you for your comment, alpha unit. Incidentally, please accept my apologies for the tone and content of an earlier response I sent you on the subject of Barack Obama. I re-read that response and I was absolutely mortified. I seemed to be warning you to be careful about how you expressed your views. I assure you that was not my intention. That would have been so horribly patronising and presumptuous and ‘white liberal-ish’ of me. My excuse: this remarkable blog is encouraging me to re-examine old ideas and face up to the challenge of new ones. Not an easy task for someone who can still remember saying prayers for the King-Emperor at the start of class every morning. So, I’m afraid, as the rusty gears grind into action and a blinding cloud of dust arises, mistakes are going to be made.
You are gracious.
” Older and truer instincts”? Like believing swans can turn into nymphs or fairies at the foot of the garden? Certainly older. You don’t need organised religion to have fantasies, and they don’t affect reality one little bit wherever they come from. Religion is mental illness. Unfortunately it’s a relatively common one, so a whole industry has evolved to prey on these benighted simpletons. The Roman church is just the most organised and persistent predator. How have we got so far into a discussion about the Church of Rome without mentioning that it’s an international pedophile ring? Not polite to mention that? That’s how they get away with it. Would anyone like to deny that the RC church has a universal, world-wide culture of tolerating and covering up-for its considerable percentage of pedophile priests, that this has gone on certainly for decades, probably for centuries, that ALL priests have facilitated it by covering up for it, that ALL catholics have known about it and covered it up until recently? But the pope has shown sensitivity by promising tighter screening to keep homosexuals out of the priesthood. Nice. By all accounts Vatican city is the biggest gay club in the world.
And remember that the pope excommunicated most of the liberation theology priests in Latin America. As I said in my last post, ALL the developments that led to advances in personal and intellectual freedom took part in PROTESTANT countries. Sure, traditional protestantism is full of shit too, but it’s not nearly as bad as the international conspiracy of predatory weirdos that is the RC church, though the fundamentalists are doing a good job in catching up.
And as for fun! What could be more fun than those black protestant churches where they do all that gospel singing? Actually there is a white tradition of gospel singing too, as we see in bluegrass. All much more fun than all the robes and ceremonies.
This is certainly the place to mention the unmentionable.
The whole coverup involving pedophiles is one of the most appalling things I’ve ever heard of. There aren’t words strong enough to condemn these so-called men of God in the Church hierarchy.
I read in a Dutch magazine today that, according to a recent biography published in Italy, Pope John Paul II was a practitioner of self-flagellation. So was Pope Paul VI. Self-chastisement has a long tradition in the Catholic church, but it is entirely absent from protestantism. Self-chastisement is obviously the contrary of self-indulgence and its well-established existence within the Catholic Church demonstrates that not all is self-indulgence within Catholicism.
Lafayette, your indictment of paedophilia in the Roman Church is absolutely unanswerable. Nothing can excuse the behaviour of these “celibate” priests, and maybe they have destroyed everything their church stands for. But as for my belief in “fairies at the bottom of my garden”: do you honestly think that reason explains everything in human life? No shadowy forces prowling round the fringes?
The philosopher Nietzsche, no slouch when it came to using reason rather than superstition to explain the world, came to the conclusion that there were forces both inside and outside us that were quite simply beyond our control. He summed his findings up, famously, in the words: “If you gaze into the abyss, then the abyss will gaze into you”.
Are you confident enough to believe that, armed with your sovereign power of reason, you can gaze into Nietzsche’s abyss and come away from the encounter unscathed? Have you read the Greek play I mentioned?
It is known as The Bacchae, and it tells the story of King Pentheus of Thebes, a rationalist like yourself. Pentheus is so disgusted by the forces of superstition and unreason in his city that he bans the rites of the god Dionysus. But his commitment to reason only serves to arouse the resentment of the god, and the forces of unreason gather power within and around him until he is finally destroyed by them. He is torn to pieces by the very women whose ecstatic rites of worship he tried to forbid in the first place.
Euripides’ warning to his fellow Athenians is obvious. If you continue to anger the elemental powers by proclaiming the ascendancy of your city and your reason (which is the sin of ‘hubris’), then you will be destroyed. And Periclean Athens, mankind’s finest achievement, was destroyed, as I pointed out before, in the bloodbath of the Peloponnesian War.
(Oh happiness! I’ve spelt it right this time.)
Please, read the play – if you haven’t done so already. You may not accept the message, but you will not fail to be moved by the poetry and the power of this major document in the history of human thought.
I just recently got hold of a collection of the complete Euripides plays (9, I think) – on my list of ‘to reads’. I’ll start with the Bacchae.
But no, I don’t think reason explains very much. But then unreason by definition explains nothing at all. Reason can at least give us light, heat, electronic communications, speedy travel etc. and if we keep at it it will give us a lot more, maybe everything one day. The alternative is waiting for God to give us it all – maybe there’s a God, maybe he will, maybe he won’t. Wouldn’t bank on it. It’s even possible that reason might not be sufficient to get us through just the next century – any of us! The current financial messes are a fine example of unreason, and makes me wonder whether the elites of such a system of self-propelling greed are even capable of saving themselves in the face of the coming deadlines of climate catastrophe and peak oil (if true).
But having said all that, I acknowledge that religion has to be weighed up for more than it’s explanatory value. ‘Looking into the abyss’ is the rub. It seems that all human societies have needed some sort of communal ritual to deal with the obvious enormities that ‘puzzle the will’ [Shakespeare], like death, infinity and eternity, and these rituals and the moral stories are as ingrained in our culture ( by thousands of years of trial and error, struggle and compromise) as our laws and political systems. Even as a fan of communism I have to admit that the 20th century has shown some salient examples of what can happen if you try to dispense with all of that complex social evolution and start again from scratch. So yes, religion of some form ( not necessarily obedience to the commands of a sky god) will have a place for a long time to come but, to reverse your metaphor, there’s no imperative to keep all the bathwater with the baby, and the bathwater is some of the most powerful religious organisations and their practices, catholic, protestant, muslim and jew – many of them have become forces of darkness.
Bear in mind that there are now religious Communists. I find it fascinating that they are almost always Catholics. Why is that anyway? I’ve heard that even most of the cadre of the Shining Path, including the leader, Abimael Guzman, were Catholics. There are Catholic priests attending the rebel flock in Colombia, Peru and the Philippines. There were many Catholic revolutionaries in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
There is now a movement of “Christian Marxists” in Cuba, all Catholics of course. They are publishing articles in state journals (yes, the state lets them publish). I find this whole Commie Christianity thing to be fascinating, but I can’t understand why Protestant Commies are as rare as 4 leaf clovers.
Also keep in mind that I believe that some spirits live after death in the sense that they are what I call “active.” They come to us at times if we have good ESP tuning. I also believe in clairvoyance and I know people who have experienced. The spirits of the dying come to visit some of us before we take off and tell us that they are going away. They often show up in dreams.
According to particle physics, we are all connected to each other. It’s been proven that two particles in contact tend to continue to spin in similar patterns the longer they have been in contact. Therefore, I’m still more deeply connected to some of my old gf’s than I would like to be! There’s nothing but death to sever the bond. That right there is some good evidence for “superstitious religion” and shows how science may be able to explain how we can communicate with and influence each other even at long distances.
Are you really satisfied with atheism, LS? I mean, I had decades of it and it’s the biggest drag around. It’s depressing as Hell. Who cares if it’s true. I don’t want to believe it, if only because it’s a drag.
My father’s last words were “It’s gone – it’s gone – there’s a river…” I like to think that even if he was subsequently snuffed out, he at least had a glimpse of a world which had a lasting spiritual meaning.
Lafayette is made of sterner stuff than I am. I need famous men to light candles for me to guide me through the dark. There are two marvellous 20th Century symphonies that address the issue of my mortality – Mahler 2 and Shostakovich 14. Shostakovich was an atheist, but rather than affirming the humanist values that make atheism such a compelling moral discipline, his symphony ends in total despair. Because of the scale of his genius, that despair is quite terrifying. (Incidentally, forget all the crap about the symphony’s being a coded attack on Stalinism. Alexandr Solzhenytsyn, who knew a thing or two about dissidence, didn’t welcome it. He was dismayed by it, He said that the ending ‘lacked light’.)
The Mahler 2 (the so-called ‘Resurrection Symphony’) is a totally different animal. Written by a Jewish convert to Catholicism, it attempts to fuse the teachings of Judaism and Christianity into an overwhelming attack on the very concept of death. It ends with such an outburst of splendour and hope that it’s difficult to stay calm while listening to it. Mahler might have been fooling himself, but in the here-and-now his symphony works, and if it keeps the darkness at bay, then I for one praise him for having written it.
Give me the Resurrection Symphony every time. Shostakovich faced the prospect of his own demise with great courage, and he will always have my respect because he was such an eloquent and fearless chronicler of a dreadful century. But in the last resort he has nothing to offer but dust, ashes and a sense of futility. Mahler offers hope.
The Greeks addressed the issue first, as always, with their story of Pandora. God, I love those guys!
Why aren’t there protestant communists? Well, I think there must have been a lot in Germany before Hitler wiped them out. But generally speaking it’s because protestant societies have nearly all achieved a reasonable prosperity and a social compact (now seriously under threat) between the classes, in the shape of welfare, socialised housing, healthcare – the USA being the big exception, of course. I don’t know how much weight to place on culture as discussed in Weber’s ‘the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’, but certainly the N. European protestant societies were where the ‘ industrial revolution’ took place and were the powerhouse of capitalism up to now, and therefore the working class had considerable power. And the protestant churches, especially the Methodists and the Quakers, were centrally involved in organising them to use that power to make the capitalists give limited concessions through social democracy. And there was the threat of a good example in Soviet Russia, to make it worthwhile for the capitalists to keep buying off the proles. It’s all changed now; they only need a few of us for their armies now, to police their investments abroad where. If things keep going the way they’re going, and the protestant working classes start to feel real desperation again, you might see protestant communism taking off, especially in the USA where social democracy made least headway – that worked while the US economy was furiously expanding; it won’t anymore. And you’ll see the US ruling class not only reverting to the barbarism they used to break the labour movement in the ’20s, but surpassing it by introducing the methods they used in El Salvador and Nicaragua to American cities. This North American Union thing – Canada, Mexico, and the US – is something to watch out for. Someone pointed out the other day that one result of this is that the US army could become largely comprised of Mexicans – less problem then about them having qualms about firing on their WASP raggedy-ass brothers!
Me, I’m an agnostic not an atheist. It no more possible to disprove the existence of God than prove it. I certainly am not convinced that God has revealed himself to some people and given them instructions to pass on to the rest of the human race – I would want to see some evidence at least that the behaviour of followers was changed in some way – any way, positive or negative – but I don’t see any. I’ve noted, however, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to my door – a nice lot, I find – that there are a lot of smart, cute young women into religion, and at least they’re probably not junkies; that’s one attraction of religion that might be an improvement on watching box set tv series.
Hey artritico, you’re banned, ok asshole?
And yeah, when a town goes White -> Hispanic, there is a noticeable decline in a number of ways. There are gangs, shootings, murders, idiots wearing gang colors, gang graffiti, trash and run-down places everywhere, the dropout rate is through the roof and every other chick is pregnant as a teen. But hey, that’s that glorious Colombian Latino culture of yours, right, artritico?
As far as the rest of it though, I don’t really mind Hispanics that much. I can tolerate them. Now a city full of Blacks? Another thing entirely.
Why don’t you move out of that nice lily White Bogota upper class suburb of yours, artritico? I mean, go live with these Hispanic peons you love so much. Little too down and dirty for your unlined upper class hands, artritico?
Good piece on populist/”fascist”/socialist Bolivia’s Morales via tompmbarnett.com/weblog today.
Other diffuse notes:
Don’t like “replacement theology” which was Hal (sorry Bob) Lindsay’s subtle pro-Jewish poke at Traditional Christian Triumphalism (correct theological term) over it’s ancient Jewish opponent and would-be suppressor.
Bob might want to research Marcion an early Church Father who wanted to eliminate the OT and almost succeeded.
Also, Eastern Orthodoxy (now called) was THE equal founding Church of Christianity. The first set of Bishops were equal in power-thru the centuries the Western Roman Bishop got “too big for his britches” and claimed universal jurisdiction.
Bob might want to research, though it is a intricate subject, the East’s traditional belief in “deification”
of mankind–it never exactly believed as did the Western Church, in “original sin.”
Some Pentecostals if you wish to include those as Prots. also practise self-flagellation.
Luther acccepted icons-it was Calvin who started destroying them.
That blog post about bolivia was awful. I would only call Evo Morales a fascist if he started persecuting the white minority that lives there and I have not heard about that happening so far. From what I hear he is being supportive of the worker. But I havnt read a whole lot about Bolivia so I dont know for sure what is going on over there, I do know that I am very offended by the insults the author of the post directed at south american populist movements.
Thomas P Barnett is an intellectual associated with the US military. What he basically does is plots out all of the threats to US imperialism and corporate capitalism in the world, often suggesting that the US military should go attack them to take care of the problem.
Anyone who doubts that the US military operates in service to US imperialism or US oligarchical and corporate interests needs to check out Barnett’s essays. Furthermore, this guy is one of the US military’s top thinkers. Scary.
Evo Morales is great. There is nothing fascist about him whatsoever. The only fascists are the light skinned Whites and light mestizos in the East who get to live like kings while everyone else lives like a dog. Oh yeah, a lot of them are into Nazism too. They love to wave Nazi flags. They think they are the White Race and the Indians are the Indian scum. The conflict is really about race, like so many things.
Robert are you a member of the communist party usa?
I think so, but I don’t get the newspaper anymore. Also I got tossed out of the local group for supporting capitalism and supposedly not being a true Communist.
I thought you weren’t into capitalism
Yeah I know, but I don’t support Communism for the US in any form. We just don’t need it. Also I support social democracy, and for that I was accused of “supporting capitalism,” since they said social democracy was just capitalism. This all started when I did not want to go to public events and pass out Commie flyers. In this part of the state, that would seem almost like a death sentence. People would not take kindly to those flyers.
My politics is pretty complicated. I have a business and have nothing against moderate amounts of regulated capitalism, depending on the case.
Well what about Cuba? Cuba is a wonderful society and people own their own private business’s over there. You have to admit that Cuba is a good nation.
I know most stuff s sate run and that works good and they also make alowances for private business’s too
I strongly support Cuba, but even I admit that they have lots of problems. The embargo is a big part of the problem, but it’s not all of it. A major problems is that people just don’t work very hard. And you can’t fire people. And even if you do, there’s no good workers to replace them with, so you are stuck with slackers. I think Raul is going to make some good changes.
I don’t see why Cuba has to be so screwed up and run down. The USSR and Eastern Bloc was not run-down. They had nice socialist commercial and residential structures built up everywhere. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure as Hell didn’t look like a slum. Downtown Havana looks like a slum. I don’t see why it has to be that way. Maybe it’s the Embargo?
Some parts of Cuba do look a little run down and that is due to the embargo. Despite having to deal with the embargo Cuba has a life expectancy higher than the United States. The United States is at 78.2 and Cubas life expectancy is 78.3.
And here is another thing. Cuba has a higher life expectancy than the USA while dealing with a economic embargo enacted on it by the USA. I wonder what its life expectancy would be without the embargo.
Cuba has a higher literacy rate than the USA too. In fact Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the world.
funny, i also like the catholic church. i was baptized in a lutheran church. they’re alright, i actually like their theology and lack of fundamentalism, but boring. i started going to catholic church when i was starting high school. i liked all that ritual.
nowadays i am pretty much straight-up atheist. but after reading this i might not let that get in the way. nyc has some nice catholic churches for sure.
Also Catholic idols are better tan Hindu idols, because European art is better, i don’t need Hinduism for aesthetic pleasure, Krishna has funny Blue skin color? well Saint Patrick has funny Green clothes 🙂
Monkey, No freaking way is that Madonna and child is better than my Goddess Kali. Mmmmkkk
I hate how in America there is this idea that concern for the worker is somehow a indicator that someone is part of an evil political movement.
This is an excellent vein of thought that you are mining here, Patrick, and it goes way beyond that actually. See my latest post on this matter. You’re only scratching the very surface of it.
Indeed, pro-worker = Communist! I can’t believe it. Here it is 2000 and fucking 9, and we are re-enacting the McCarthy Era.
There is another aspect of it you did not touch on. Not sure if you’re aware of it but I sure am. If you’re pro-worker, you’re a loser! Why? Whites aren’t workers. Whites either have great white collar jobs, are consultants, own their own businesses, middleman this or that, or play market games somehow. Being a worker is for losers, minorities and chicks. Not for men. Loser!
People who think that being a worker means being a loser should stop enjoying the things that workers make. They should stop eating food for instance because food is made by workers and by their logic only losers would do something like produce food so carrying their logic a step further food must be bad according to them.
You’re free to become a pro-choice Catholic
My mother was as genuflecting a Catholic as you’re likely to meet. Dragged me by my forelock to Mass every. single. Saturday. night. CCD every. single. Wednesday. after. school. Baptism Communion Confession Confirmation.
If my mother, God rest her soul, heard you say such a thing, she’d rise from her grave and clop you with her spatula.
Now, granted, I haven’t stepped foot in a Catholic Church since I was sixteen and told Mom I just didn’t believe any of it, so would she prefer that I lie and say I’m going to Mass Sunday and instead go have donuts, like all my older sibs did, or would she prefer I stay home and fix my (heathen) Dad pancakes?
So I’ve no recent personal experience, but, are you SURE about they don’t care about pro-choice today? THAT I find impossible to swallow.
Man. If that’s really true, the Catholic Church must be utterly desperate to get more contributors to the collection plate.
Well, I asked them. I asked a parishioner and he said a lot of us are pro-choice. I asked a nun and she said, “Well, we don’t agree with that at all.” Then went on to explain the Church’s position. Then said you can still become a Catholic. She said the pro-choice thing was “between you and God.” These were the Hispanic Catholics, and they’re really tolerant, relaxed and easy-going.
There’s whole huge organizations of pro-choice Catholics, you know, and in the US, Catholics get more abortions per capita than non-Catholics. They aren’t going to throw you out of the Church or anything. The Catholics don’t seem to throw you out for anything if you ask me.
“There’s whole huge organizations of pro-choice Catholics, you know, and in the US, Catholics get more abortions per capita than non-Catholics. They aren’t going to throw you out of the Church or anything. The Catholics don’t seem to throw you out for anything if you ask me.”
Fascinating. My mother was excommunicated in late 1940s for divorcing her first husband (who was Catholic) for beating her and then marrying my dad.
Well, to be fair, she would have not been excommunicated for merely leaving her first husband. It was dillying my dad, and thus conceiving me, that got her tossed.
Excommunication entailed her no longer being allowed confession nor communion. Tossing $ in the collection plate was still ok, though — expected, even. Demanded, even.
So those pro-choice Catholics are not getting excommunicated? Does Cardinal Ratfink — er Ratzinger know about this?
No, of course they are not getting excommunicated. The divorce thing, I think if you get divorced, only thing is, you can’t get married in the Church again. They never excommunicate anyone for anything. I think there were threats to forbid some of these big pro-Choice candidates from receiving Communion, but that was because they were famous, and the Bishop was a real rightwinger. They’ll give Communion to pro-choice people, but maybe not if they are super famous and making a big deal out of it, like running for President.
No the pro-choice Catholics are not getting thrown out at all. There’s also a group called Dignity, gay Catholics. No one is throwing them out either.
I guess the Church has really relaxed a lot.
“I guess the Church has really relaxed a lot.”
Fascinating. I remember my 2nd grade CCD teacher — a nun — doing a whole long series about how the Catholic Church’s teachings are infallible and forever and unchangeable, how they were teaching God’s values and God is unchangeable.
Wow. The hypocrisy is making my head swim.
I feel bad for my Mom, because SHE spent her whole life feeling really bad and conflicted about her divorce and subsequent excommunication, and a worry in the back of her mind that, in the end, she was bound for Hell. Turns out she needn’t have worried. Today’s Catholic Church would just pat her on the head and say, that’s okay.
Do you really want to get mixed up with these nuts, Robert? After all, if the Catholic Church IS, in truth, actually changeable, as we can see they are, the pendulum might just very easily
swing BACK to the Middle Ages type of stuff where excommunication meant no other Catholic would talk to you or do business with you.
I’m not about to convert at all.
There are only three worldviews that can be backed up philosophically and logically. They are Catholicism, Deism, or Agnosticism. With Catholicism, you have to be willing to take a leap of faith, but a reasoned faith. But your eternal salvation depends on it. Catholics view faith and reason as compatible, not enemies.
Now I think it is great that you like the Mass, it is indeed the most sublime form of worship to God, since he himself instituted it. But, I think you err in basing your beliefs of the Church on what people say, because the Church is not democratic. It does not matter what people say, and in fact, the criteria to be a true Catholic is accepting ALL that she teaches to be true. It doesn’t make sense to accept half or whatever pleases you, either it is all true or all false. To see what the Church teaches you have to refer to the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The reason I believe there is such opposition to believing in what she teaches is because it goes against what we would like to believe, particularly regarding sexual and biomedical issues, those that require personal sacrifice and discipline.
Look open-mindedly into Catholicism, it is the only religion that can stand complete scrutiny. Mistakes have been made regarding personal behavior of her members (including Popes), but she is guaranteed divine protection by Jesus Christ himself, regarding indefectibility (existing till the end of time) and infallibility (never to teach error regarding morals). I conducted an extensive honest search for truth with humility, and this is where it led me.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried” – GKC
“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant” – Henry Newman
Catholic Church has never gone back on any of her teachings. The thing is, in this soundbyte and visual era, where people have no time or interest in deeply looking into things, they are easily fooled by statements such as those. You have to understand the difference between Dogma, Doctrine, and Discipline, and the significance and changeability of each. Dogma can never be changed, never has been changed, and never will be changed.
excellent article about the difference::
There are many catholics who honestly (due to ignorance or personal bias) or subversively (what better place to cause havoc than from within) believe and promote false teachings about the church, including priests and nuns. They are considered dissident, not liberal. There is no conservative and liberal like in politics in Catholicism regarding many issues, it is either orthodox (true to the Church’s teaching) or heterodox (heretical). No church teaching regarding these matters have been changed. Abortion, homosexual actions, Euthanasia, SCR, IVF, Extramarital Sex, etc. has been and always will be proscribed i.e condemned by the Church.
The present day Catholic Institution has lots of goodwill. The primary difference between Catholics and say the Southern Baptist evangelical aholes is “Good works”. The fundamental belief is doing good works has created many institutions like schools and hospitals and what not.
But the evangelical aholes who don’t believe in doing “good works” except in gaining converts even by doing horrific stuff, have been gaining grounds in flock stealing in third world countries including in traditional catholic countries like Latin and South America and India …so some Catholic institutions have resorted to similar strategies which is unfortunate.
But all in all the Catholic religion although they have tons of baggage like historical horrors, they have made up for their sins with lots of good works.
If I were to introduce a Caste system within various denomination, it would be like this
1) They Quakers, The Amish et all would be The upper castes. They are fairly moral (historically they have stood with righteousness and yet they do not evangelize.
2) Episcopalian. More good than bad
3) Lutheran and the Unitarians
4) The Catholics (kind of in the middle of the Totem pole…they have done lots of good but done lots of horrors..so the net effect is, its a wash)
7) Baptists – Backward Castes
8) Southern Baptists evangelicals (Untouchables)
9) Pentecostals.. (Total untouchable duchebags)