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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Bible, Fundamentalists and Atheists

So I saw this meme circulating on the internet:

Clearly this is a case of a teenage atheist having fun with a meme generator who has never really been taught how to read the Bible.

Firstly, NO ONE should be reading ANY text in the way that a programmed robot does.  That's just absurd.  We read everything with a discerning eye, and the Bible is no exception. 

Secondly, if we're going to program a robot to do exactly what the Bible says, why not make a meme that uses these verses:

"Honor your Mother and Father"--Authorization Code Deuteronomy 5:16

"You shall not wrong any widow or orphan"--Authorization Code Exodus 22:21

"I would give my bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked"--Authorization Code Tobit 1:17

"Love your neighbor as yourself"--Authorization Code Matthew 19:19

Thirdly, Catholicism does not get its moral code from the Bible. Our moral code comes from Jesus, through His Body, the Church.  We do not glean our doctrines from a harrowed and fundamentalist reading of a Book, no matter how holy.

"The Church does not sit down and derive the dogma from the tortured reading of a few isolated texts of Scripture. Rather, it places the Scripture in the context of the Tradition handed down by the apostles and the interpretive office of the bishops they appointed."—Mark Shea--"What is Sacred Tradition"

I have noticed an amusing and ironic similarity between atheists and fundamentalists:  both use a very literalist and tortured reading of a text in order to come to an interpretation of what this text means.  That is, when both Christian fundamentalists and atheists read Genesis, they both read it as if it were a scientific treatise on creation.  Fundamentalists accept this as science, atheists reject it.  But both think that Genesis should be read as a historical, scientific text.

Also fundamentalists and atheists alike profess that faith and reason are opposed to each other.  Fundamentalists and atheists create a weird false dichotomy: choose ONE.  EITHER have faith OR use your brain.  Choose to blindly believe OR follow science and your intellect. Catholicism however professes that faith and reason are "2 wings upon which the human spirit rises to contemplate the truth"--Pope St. John Paul II--"Fides et Ratio"

A wry but astute observation that was coined by Mark Shea:  "Scratch an atheist, find a fundamentalist" is certainly applicable to the above meme.  "Both Christian fundamentalists and Atheist fundamentalists have in common a flat-footed and simplistic approach to questions of faith, science, reason, and biblical interpretation".
Would that everyone who reads the Bible were able to read it in the way it was meant to be read:  through the lens of Sacred Tradition.  Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, outlines how we are to read Scripture:

1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”;

2. Read the Scripture within “the living tradition of the whole Church”;

3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.

Taking isolated texts, as the teenage meme-creator has done "is sort of like looking at a goldfish and seeing only a circulatory system, an excretory system, a pair of gills, a pair of eyes, some randomly distributed fins, a bunch of scales, a nervous system, and various connective tissues, all of which just happen to be crammed into a goldfish-shaped space—and then spending all your time looking for “junk DNA” in the goldfish cells while steadfastly ignoring the swimming, living fish."--"Tools for Thinking Sensibly About Scripture"

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts"

                  “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
                                           and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

A thought-provoking question we can ask (older) kids who have ostensibly learned the difference between "fact" and "opinion" is this:  

Is this a FACT or OPINION: Hitler was wrong to kill 6 million Jews.

Another one is:
Is it a FACT or OPINION: It's dishonest to cheat on a test.
Is it a FACT or OPINION:  Selling marijuana to children is a bad thing to do.


The answer to all of the above is that those are FACTS.  

Not opinions.  

Just like it's not an opinion to say "Vatican City is in Rome"--that is a geographical FACT,  it's also not an opinion to say "Rape is wrong". That's a moral FACT.  

New York Times blog titled, "Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts" gave this startling statement: philosophy professors note that "the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture."

That is, most of our children entering college would answer that the above are OPINIONS.

The author wrote this article after visiting his son's grade school and seeing a sign in the classroom bulletin board discussing the difference between FACTS and OPINIONS.  After investigating a bit more, he found that the teacher (who represents the prevailing norm apparently in education) had classified all statements that had value judgements (such as "right" "wrong" "good" or "bad") as OPINIONS.

That is, she labeled these as OPINIONS:

-copying homework is wrong

-cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.

-all men are created equal


It's just an opinion that all men are created equal?  Really?  It's not objectively true?

The explanation given was that "each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts."

And, by implication, if there are no moral facts, then there is no moral truth.

However, as Catholics we understand and embrace the idea that there is moral truth.  Objective moral truth exists. 
(Objective = true regardless of one's emotions, personal biases or opinions on the matter).

That is, some* things are wrong, whether someone believes them to be wrong or not.  Not based on how one feels.  Not based on what the prevailing cultural norm dictates.  Not based on what society permits.  

But objectively so.

So even if someone says "I think it's perfectly fine to cheat on a test"....she is wrong about this moral fact.  

We ought to agree with the author of the NYTimes article who asserts:  "Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

That would be wrong."

*some things are objectively wrong does not translate to "every action what we evaluate is objectively wrong and not subject to how one feels".  Some things can be morally subjective.  For example,  regarding Lila Rose:  good folks can disagree about whether going undercover to Planned Parenthood constitutes a moral means to expose the evils of abortion or whether "lying for Jesus" is NOT a legitimate prolife method.