Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why I am a Catholic

Sanity is defined as how closely ones belief of how the world operates coincides with how in reality the world works. This blog is about my beliefs on humanity and how sane or insane these beliefs prove themselves to be. To begin, an examination of my beliefs are necessary. I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, and all that it professes, because it is the only belief to answer my questions on the dignity of humans, the nature of suffering and the social nature of man, in such a way as to convince me of its truth and faithfulness to reality. Therefore I shall now examine how the Church answers these convictions in a way consistent with reality.
My first objection to Christianity came in the form of humans themselves. I had difficulty accepting the idea that man are created in the image and likeness of a god. What god is there that kills innocent children for fun? How can a creature capable of such terrible and horrid things as man be loved, even created by a being. My problem was I couldn't love man with sin, so I hated him. I found man a disgusting creature to be reviled and hated and controlled. The Catholic understanding of evil answers me with the salvation story, that man was created good, and that he fell. That sin is no real tangible thing which we humans possess, but a lack of something which compels us to act in this disgusting manner is as shocking and wonderful a revelation as one may ever find. That means that man, inherently, is not a despicable creature. It means that he is a pitiable creature, possessing the fullness of glory in him at the same moment he wallows in the mire of his own sin. I think it is only possible to truly love mankind when one has adopted this understanding of humans, otherwise one has to ignore human evil entirely, or hate humans. Some people deny Auschwitz in their minds, because they can not accept the idea of humans doing such awful things to each other. Islamic law requires the presence of at least two male witnesses to prove rape, because they somehow believe that a men can't take advantage of a woman unless she submits. This is a denial of reality, a denial of man's sinfulness, and one has to deny it in order to love man. Without a Christian love for man, which recognizes man as a sinless-created, but entirely sinful creature in need of salvation, I truly think a love of humankind in general is impossible. One has to accept that the abysses of Sodom and Divine Glory exist side by side in the human person before one can love them, or themselves.
But what about suffering? If God truly came down and died for us on the cross, shouldn't we be cured of the need for suffering? If the redemption happened, why do people still die, or did Jesus not truly conquer death? The Catholic Church answered me again with the profession of redemptive suffering. The truth is that the resurrection is not an event, it is a process, one which takes place in the hearts and minds of all human beings. This continual death through suffering is the method in which men become spiritually mature, and through which they attain salvation. Jesus says “Whosoever wishes to live must take up his cross and follow me” and then again in John, “I am the resurrection and the life, whosoever liveth in me, though he die, shall have eternal life.” The death to self and to the world is suffering, and it is suffering which brings us closer to God. Throughout the entirety of the Old Testament, the Hebrews are continually rejecting God and he then inflicts horrible cataclysms on them to necessitate their return. In the same way, all humans receive suffering as the path onwards to a higher end. Humans must continually die to their ideas, to their thoughts and to their dreams. Humans must always die every day to old addictions and to old fears, and out of the ashes there must rise a new man. The phoenix of mythology is a metaphor for the human experience, for just as the phoenix was consumed by its own flames, so too must men be consumed by their theories, actions, and desires, rise again from the ashes of his weak and former self, and rise to scale their mountains. Buddhism teaches that suffering is an illusion. Well that would be nice, but entirely foolish to believe. The murder of innocent children is no illusion, the rape of defenseless women is no illusion. It happens. Atheists have to believe that suffering has no redemption, and that the pain and sorrow and suffering people go through is all in vain. Hindus believe that suffering is the consequence of something you did in your past life, which leaves us to offer no compassion to those suffering. After all, the Jews must have “deserved” Dachau, must have “deserved” the gas chambers with this understanding. No. The Catholic world view is the only answer which adequately answers this dilemma for me.
The last issue to be addressed is the issue of Human Community and the Social Nature of man. I have always wondered at the truth of this statement, which is professed by the Catholic Church, and which I had to accept as the result of after many long years of attempting to live a solitary self-sufficient existence. But on the other hand, to what extent is man a communal being before he ceases to be an individual? I was always afraid of loosing my individuality in the Christian community, always afraid that my quirks and uniqueness would be squashed and squeezed out of me (which tends to happen in Protestant communities I have noticed). However, when I heard that the Catholic believed that the Community was the Church and that the individual was the Church, I was at the same time astonished and wonderfully pleased. This avoids entirely the error of communism, which eliminates individuality entirely. Or as C.S. Lewis says in the Screwtape Letters, the devil wants to claim all humans entirely, so that they loose their individuality. But this Christian God does not want drones, but his mystery is more fully revealed in the Christian Community, in fact, humans are meant to exist in communities, which coincides completely with the psychological and sociological habits of man, observable outside the context of Christianity. So in the Christian context, persons exist in full communion with each other, mirroring the communion of the Trinity, but retain their own individuality. Atheists have two different ways of dealing with the issue. Either the individual is the center of everything; self-preservation and all that, or the individual must always give way to society. So for Communism, the individual ceases to exist in the appropriation of goods, man is no longer degraded, because for a communist, a man's worth is dependent on his production, and if all are paid equally for production, worth is consistent across all men. The very aim of communism is the cesation of the individual. Hindus believe that man's individuality vanishes in complete Nirvana, where his soul dissolves in heavenly bliss in union with the universe (aka god). Christians would call that anihilation, for the individual ceases to exist. Buddhists too, are concerned with the individual reach for enlightenment, and views the individual as completely self-sufficient. The extreme of self-first philosophies denies the social nature of man, which is a psychological fact, and the extreme of the denial of individuality contadicts the very obvious nature of individuality itself. In other words, Catholicism is the world-view to acceptably combine both the community and the individual without loss of individuality or denying the social nature of man.
In Conclusion, I am a Catholic because Catholicism has stood before my accusations and answered them calmly and without fear. Catholicism answered my hatred for humanity with the truth of human nature. Christianity answered the problem of suffering, opening my eyes to the continuing resurrection all around me. An lastly, I came to accept Christian community as the fullness of worship and the design for human existence. All other forms of belief have paled under the microscope, and until I am presented otherwise, my chips lie on this table. I cast my vote with the Christian God.

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