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The hardest thing to accept?

September 21, 2013

Rod Dreher, ruminating about the recent interview with Jorge Bergoglio, wrote something that is telling:

But this is where I think he goes badly wrong: his remarks will be received as the Pope saying that this stuff [contraception, homosexuality, and other culture war issues] doesn’t matter all that much. .. He may not have intended it this way, but it will be taken as such by a people, especially in Europe and North America, who have closed their hearts and minds to the Church’s unchanging message on these topics, precisely because these are the hardest things for modern people to accept.

No. The hard thing for a modern, rational individual to accept is that a god created the immensity of our universe as a testbed for people, taking Christians after their death into a heaven where they are magically transformed so that they are ever obedient, constantly ecstatic, and never bored, that this god of love condemns the rest of humanity to eternal torture, that in order to save Christians this god first had to sacrifice himself incarnated as Jesus to himself as God the Father, that Catholics consume the literal flesh and blood of Jesus as each eucharist miraculously propagates that sacrifice, that Christians have a personal relationship with Jesus, who strangely speaks to them in so small and quiet a voice that even they often have doubts whether any of this is so, that in addition to their god the world includes an assortment of demigods, seraphim and cherubim who perform various tasks for the Christian god, demons who tempt people, possess people, and consort with people, and that all of this is to be believed on faith. If I could believe all that, it really wouldn’t matter that much whether this god had enjoined against blasphemy, contraception, and homosexuality, or eating shellfish, shaving your beard, and working on Saturday, or sailing on Fridays, researching genetics, and playing chess. Those are small details in the corners of the tapestry. The nature of those details create political friction between believers and the rest of us only where believers try to inject such things into secular law that applies to us all. Those details are not what makes it hard to take the religion seriously.

blake.satan-inflicting-boils-on-jobClarence Darrow summed this nicely, when he said, “I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.” There are many moral arguments around abortion, and I quite understand how someone might decide it is something they would never do or approve. I don’t laugh at the Catholic Church for teaching it is wrong. I do laugh at the Catholic Church for many things. Here is one: it still believes in demon possession, and still practices exorcism. Which has less evidence than vampires and is as fantastic as the loup garou. If Dreher or Jorge Bergoglio want the Church to be more reasonable, or merely to seem more reasonable to the modern world, changing that would be a good starting point. The problem, of course, is that once one starts pulling out the unreasonable threads of this tapestry, there soon are only tatters left. (The photo shows Satan inflicting boils on Job, by Blake.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. John permalink
    November 4, 2013 10:25 pm

    I much prefer the truth-telling perspectives on the new pope, what he really represents, and the recent dark (even fascist) history of the “catholic” church, written by Frank Schaeffer, and featured on his website. And of the “heretic” Mathew Fox.
    Re the dark fascist history of the JP2 era the book by David Yallop titled The Power and the Glory – The Dark Heart of JP2’s Vatican is essential reading.
    Also and associated websites

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