Thursday, 20 December 2012

Theology And Sanity - Part I, Chapter 1: The World Through Church-Tinted Glasses

This photo is called Space Nuns.  Perhaps the one in the
front is practicing a complex new theological maneuver.
Awhile back I did a three part analysis of a single, highly compressed, post by Stacy Transancos in her blog Accepting Abundance: Explaining Reason: Atheism or Christianity.

Then she posted a response, Atheism and the Wild Imagination.  And before I could respond to that she posted another related post, Schooling an Atheist on Grammar.  Then she posted a response to a long comment that was left on her Wild Imagination post, Eyna, Are you More Than A Body?

All this while I've been trying to keep up, but life and the demands of my little blog have conspired against me!

Anyway, in Atheism and the Wild Imagination, she responded to my utter confusion concerning this statement she made in her original post, (Explaining Reason...), where she wrote this.
If reason is real, then it is as inconceivable that the Big Bang is the primordial beginning of the universe as it is inconceivable that a circle can be squared. That is — it is impossible.
In her response, she first directed me to Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed, chapter 2, part i.  I was so enamoured with the book I went ahead and bought the whole thing!  It's the perfect holiday gift for an Atheist like me!  But of course, you need to enjoy reading stuff you don't agree with - I'm one of those people.

Amazon: Theology and Sanity (This blog gets a small cut if you use the link).

The language is simple and accessible - without all the usual insane jargon one gets with most philosophical works.  This truly drew out the utter incomprehensibility of the underlying ideas!  On the very first paragraph I knew I was about to step over a chasm into a Catholic Abyss.  How wonderful!   I was hooked.

Back in September, I asked you guys what I should read next.  Well, I didn't act on it and I've been bookless since then.  Well, now I have my new book and, heck, I'm going to review the thing while I do my homework for Stacy.  So while I work my way up to chapter two for Stacy, I thought I'd highlight some of my favourite parts of chapter one.

Frank begins the chapter with a description of the soul.  I can tell this is meaningful because 38 people have highlighted it in their Kindles.
The soul has two faculties, and they should be clearly distinguished.  There is the will: its work is to love -- and so to choose, to decide, to act.  There is the intellect:  its work is to know, to understand, to see; to see what? to see what's there.
One little problem - I have no idea what a soul is.  I used to think I knew, but then I started to actually think about it.  Anyway, I suppose it's something with those two faculties.  A little later in the same chapter, this soul has these two faculties but also has no constituent parts.
Spiritual beings -- the human soul, for instance -- have no constituent parts.
So I suppose this single thing called a soul has both faculties while not having any separate parts.  Or maybe it has parts that are all actually itself - like the Holy Trinity.  Alas, I am confused.

I also get the creepy feeling that Frank believes will and intellect are sentient beings.  I believe I've covered this spooky business before - making living ghosts out of words.  Sometimes I think this is poetic, other times it looks more like we're intended to take it at face value.  Anyway, more on this in a later chapter.
... for we can never attain a maximum love of God with only a minimum knowledge of God.
Please, pass on some of this knowledge - even proof there is such a thing is God would undoubtedly result in a Nobel Prize in several fields.

The chapter continues to talk about how the true universe is only visible through rose-coloured Church-tinted glasses.  In fact, anyone who doesn't see God holding everything together at every moment is sort of insane, really.
Seeing God everywhere and all things upheld by Him is not a matter of sanctity, but of plain sanity, because God is everywhere and all things are upheld by Him.  What we do about it may be sanctity; but merely seeing it is sanity.  To overlook God's presence is not simply to be irreligious; it is a kind of insanity, like overlooking anything else that is actually there.
Like much of the book, the justification for assertions like this is nothing more than putting a verb in italic font.  In the above quote: because God is everywhere and all things are upheld by Him.  Well, that proves it.  Where do I sign up?

And it's so comforting to know that there is an all-powerful being who is responsible for the moment to moment existence of every molecule in the Universe.  He apparently makes it possible for 16,000 children to starve to death every day and countless other such events but is unable or unwilling to do anything about it.  What a mystery.  Praise the Lord.

The book then goes on to give the analogy of an disembodied eye on a plate that Stacy also covered in a past post.  The gist is that people may know a lot about a single subject - like everything they know - but it takes the Roman Catholic Church to put everything into a perspective that reflects true reality.  The Church (as an organization, I suppose) sees the Universe as it truly is.  Because it does - I suppose.

It then covers the nuisance of the intellect.
To many, the idea of bringing the intellect fully into action in religion seems almost repellent. ... Many again who do not find the use of the intellect in religion actually repellent, regard it as at least unnecessary -- at any rate for the layman -- and possibly dangerous.
Yes indeed. Too much thinking can lead to questioning - or apostasy.  But Sheed believes that 'all this is so crammed with fallacy as to be hardly worth refuting.'  Of course, if one approaches investigation of theology with the forgone conclusion that everything the Church says is correct all the time and anything that contradicts this is obviously a failure on his part to see the world as it really is, then this shouldn't be a problem.
One practical consequence is that the laws of right living promulgated by the Church, moral laws generally, are the natural and obvious laws of that real world and would seem so to us if we were mentally living in it; whereas in the twilight world we are living in, they often seem odd and unreasonable, which does not make obedience any easier. Thus the whole burden of right living is cast upon the will -- do it because the Church says it -- with no aid from the intellect, which naturally tends to judge by the half-reality it sees. And this is sheer cruelty.
Got a problem with the Church's stance on homosexuality, gay-marriage, birth control, masturbation etc..etc..?  Well, that's because you're not seeing the real world, the world the Church sees.  You're living in a twilight world and not getting the whole picture.  Put on these glasses.
... for every every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving Him.
We've obviously been reading different books and living on different planets.  Perhaps I haven't been seeing the world through Church-tinted glasses.

Stay tuned for chapter two.

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