Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Defense of Being Right

Most posts on this blog are fairly technical pieces directed at my fellow Catholics. This post will be sightly more controversial.
To the non-Catholics among you: My Catholic religion is better than yours.
This statement may seem rather shocking at first, but I do not apologize for giving offense. For you believe that your religion is better than all other religions. (Or, if you are an atheist, you hold your irreligion to be better than any religion.) Otherwise, you would not adhere to that religion which you practice, or at the very least believe.
Please do not insult your intelligence and mine with the idiotic assertion that “one religion is as good as another.” For if that were the case, all religions would be equally true (or equally false, depending on which way you looked at the question). And a true religion is better than a false one, since it better reflects reality.
But one religion claims that Jesus is God; another holds the existence of many gods; another believes there is no such entity as god. One religion claims Jesus is divine, another a demigod, another simply a good human. Even among different types of Christianity, there is irreconcilable division – one holds that Jesus established one Church, another posits personal interpretation of the Bible. They can’t all be true.
The moral codes of each religion are wildly different and contradictory. Some religions uphold divorce, others forbid the practice. One approves abortion, another rejects it. One religion permits suicide, another opposes same-sex marriage, still another forbids the eating of pork. Again, they can’t all be true.
And there are a host of reasons why Catholicism is superior to other religions. Catholicism, the only faith that can credibly claim to stretch back to the time of Christ, has taken shots from every earthly entity for 2000 years – persecution from without and within, confusion as to its basic principles, and the corruption and outright stupidity of many of its leaders – and emerged from every battle stronger than ever and unchanged in its basic teaching. (Judaism is something of an exception, but the Jewish people wait in vain for a Messiah who has already come.)
My Catholic religion is a haven for the holy and surrounded in sanctity. Catholicism is characterized by miracles in spades. My religion is lived out in its fullest expression by a multitude of saints.
My Catholic religion embraces the reality of the realms of the intellectual and the spiritual. It makes sense that humans would not fully understand a God who is by necessity beyond us. It makes sense that humans could use reason to come to a limited understanding of the Maker of the universe and the architect of natural law. It makes sense that God would wish to supplement what we can know about Him by reason through revelation. Christianity is rational and mystical; Catholicism successfully navigates both realms.   
To a much lesser extent, one can assert the superiority of one political ideology over another. In the political sphere, the analogous statement to “one religion is as good as another” is “Don’t enforce your moral views on me.” But the enforcement of moral views is the entire point of law; the laws a society adopts and enforces reflect both its moral vision and (theoretically) its cultural consensus.
Thus, all laws reflect some form of morality. Legalized abortion is the enforcement of a view which holds that the freedom of the mother to do as she wishes with “her body” trumps any right of that which grows within her. Redistributive taxation implies a moral vision that government has an obligation to take care of the poor in part by taking from the resources of the rich. The Second Amendment implies that people have the right to defend themselves, using means that could be turned to evil.
Of course, politics is much less dogmatic than religion, despite the hysteria of many political commentators and politicians. There is revealed truth in religious matters; there is no such revealed truth as to how to run a government. There can and should be disagreement about political matters, and the person who claims infallible knowledge of what political course to take is either the second coming of Solomon or a clueless narcissist.
Nonetheless, I do hold definite political views, and believe that those views should be enforced through the proper legal channels. Accordingly, I vote for candidates that hold similar views. If that constitutes “imposing my moral views,” so be it. Presumably, you vote for candidates that support your views. If you wish me to stop pushing my moral views on you, convince me that my views are wrong. 
So I can only say to those who demand that I remain silent and stop pushing for the implementation of my moral views on society: “I believe my ideas are better than your ideas, and will vote accordingly to implement them. So do you. If you wish to convince me concerning an issue, I will listen to you with an open mind – I’ve been persuaded before. Please extend me the same courtesy.” 

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