Showing posts with label theology and sanity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theology and sanity. Show all posts

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Theology And Sanity: Splendor of Mystery

Hubble photograph of the Cat's Eye Nebula.
I've been reading this book, Theology and Sanity, by Frank Sheed.  The backstory about why the heck an Atheist like me would be reading this book can be found in my series of responses to a post Stacy Transancos made comparing the rationality of Christianity and Atheist world views.

You can read the first three parts of the review here, here and here.  Although they make little logical sense, they gave me an excellent view into the mind of a thinking believer.

Along the way, we've learned that the doctrines of the Church are to a mind as a transplanted organ to a body.  There is much that needs to be done to prevent the brain's natural defences from rejecting it.

What has surprised me is how conscious Sheed is of this.  He systematically lays out how each level of an intellectual firewall can be undermined in order to allow the religious meme to be take root against all logic - often through an act of sheer will - into the mind of one who desperately wishes to believe.  Or at least that's how I see it.

Circumventing The Brain's Natural Defences 

I. Trust the Catholic Church

First, in order to properly understand the Church's teachings, we must see the world as the Church sees it (eg. use the church-tinted glasses).   This amounts to believing that the Catholic Church has right answers before we even bother investigating them.  God is everywhere and in everything and only the Church sees the totality of everything - so we better listen to them.

II. Don't Worry If It's Unimaginable - Just Trust the Catholic Church

Second, don't let a lack of imagination shut down the intellectual evaluation of the truth of religious propositions.  Namely, imagination can hinder the intellectual process.

Simply because something can not be pictured (imagined) doesn't mean it may not be true.  I believe one could charge many Christians for having a lack of imagination when they make the bold statement that when Science doesn't account for something IT MUST BE GOD.  But hey, that's just me.

Many things defy our imaginations but have been demonstrated as true.  The Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics are two examples.  But we need testable claims!

III. Don't Worry If It's Logically Contradictory - Disregard the Inconsistency - Just Trust the Catholic Church

Third, and most damning, of all are the techniques provided to circumvent your own intellect into believing doctrines that appear to contradict.

This involves:

  • ignoring the doctrines involved in the contradiction the best you can; 
  • or ignoring one side of the contradiction the best you can; 
  • or distorting both sides somewhat to lessen the severity of the overall contradiction; 
  • or believing both sides ardently while trying to play the mystery card best you can by explaining the contradiction away as a couple of opposites that live in the whole.

The Splendor of Mystery

This brings us now to the Splendor of Mystery, the last part of chapter two.  Here's what Sheed has to say about that.
That there should be Mystery in our knowledge of God, and that this should show itself to us as truths about God, each of which we know to be true while yet we cannot see how to reconcile them, is plain common sense. And indeed most people would admit as much if they happen to believe in God at all. 
Is Catholic doctrine wildly implausible and logically contradictory? Of course it is! One would expect something that is beyond our understanding to grasp to make no logical sense - oh thee of puny minds! (Just trust the Church!)

One would also expect things that simply to not exist to simultaneously exhibit logically inconsistent traits.  That's the whole mechanism of reductio ad adsurdum arguments and the scientific method!

Look, physicists have had a hell of a time reconciling the Theory of Relativity for macro objects with Quantum Theory for micro objects.  Each theory breaks down in the domain of the other.  But both are testable scientifically within their own - unlike even the components of this god.  An over arching theory is being searched for and until it is provable, they just don't know.  It's possible one or both will require modification when an overarching theory is found - like what Relativity did to Newton's equations.

Sheed points out the pesky habit people have of questioning and even ceasing to believe a statement if it is shown to contain assertions that are logically contradictory.
But here we come upon a curious phenomenon. Many Christians who are theoretically aware of all this are yet completely shattered in their faith the first time their attention is drawn to one of these apparent contradictions.  ... ... He knows that there are truths about God that he cannot reconcile; he knows that if he could totally comprehend God, then God would have to be no larger than his own mind, and so not large at all. 
Many times, I've found that Carl Sagan expresses my sentiments about our intellectual place in this big old Cosmos better than I ever could.  So I bring him in now.

Maybe these doubter Christians are tuning into their own intellects and realizing there is something fishy going on.  Like the Relativity/Quantum Theory problem, something is not adding up.  Quick! It's an opportunity to do some science!  Oh, nevermind...

Anyway, given such a realization of a contradiction, it is quite logical and advisable to suspect that one or both of the apparently contradictory statements must be either completely wrong or require some modification.  What's the problem with this?  In fact, at times when the whole picture is shattered by contradictory data, it would be prudent to fall back on what is at least demonstrable, scientifically.

This is where, in the above example about the theories of the micro and macro, one can at least fall back on the demonstrability of each theory.  We don't know how they fit together, (String Theory maybe?), but at least in their domains they are more or less proven to be true.  This is not the case with God.  There is nothing provable in any of the parts, as the whole structure is ultimately as vaporous as a cloud.  The whole house of cards shatters into a pile of doubt as soon as any weakness is shown.  There is nothing to break the fall.
He knows that the very fact that there is a God requires that there should be elements we cannot reconcile; yet the moment he meets two such elements he is driven to wonder whether there can be a God after all. 
And where is this very fact there is a God? There's the rub.  It is no fact at all.  There is nothing proving it at all.
But, this logical monstrosity apart, there is something marvelously inviting to the mind in an infinite being of whom we can know something, but whom we cannot wholly know; in the knowledge of whom we can grow, yet the truth of whose being we can never exhaust; we shall never have to throw God away like a solved crossword puzzle. And all this is contained in the concept of Mystery.
Cue Carl.
Carl Sagan does such a wonderful job of summing up a non-religious scientific view of mystery in his Cosmos series (quoted above).  But really, if there is one thing that unites the atheist and people like Sheed is our wonderment at the great mysteries of the universe.  Except the theist starts out with the answer and then crams it into his own head using all means of self delusion.  They have the true piece to the puzzle and go after all the rest with a pair of scissors.


Thus a Mystery is not to be thought of as simply darkness: it is a tiny circle of light surrounded by darkness. It is for us so to use our own powers and God’s grace that the light will grow. It means using the mind upon what reality may be made to tell us about God, and upon what God, through His Church, has told us about Himself; it means praying for more knowledge, and using the knowledge one gains to enrich one’s prayer. 
This is poetic and upon this point even I would agree.  If only Sheed would see that it is us alone as a species made of matter floating on a speck of dust in space who can discover the cosmos and all the wonder within. Oh, and he also mentions... just trust the Catholic church.

Sheed goes on to say that the more we learn as finite humans of God (the infinite) the more we come to be in awe at this immensity.  If we substitute Cosmos for God, we more or less have agreement.  Lest I be accused of being a pantheist, I am not saying the universe is God - the universe is all there is - material, matter and energy.

To Sheed it is much better to wonder at the light of Mystery and search out truth than to obsess over the darkness of mystery - what is unknown.  I think many scientists, including Sagan, would agree with this and feel this deeply.  This is what draws them to science and perhaps this is what draws Sheed to theology.  It's a shame that a mind as inquisitive as his could work so hard to make the delusions of Church doctrine more palatable to healthy minds rather than searching out the truths of reality in reality through Science.

Sheed ends the chapter with some encouraging words about how this task of building up the muscles of an atrophied mind - one that has been weakened by the crutch of imagination.  Truly images are a form of idolatry and the Bible compares idolatry with fornication.  So it's with fornication we leave chapter two and shall enter the second part of this book in the next segment.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Theology And Sanity: How To Swallow Contradiction - Catholic Style

Official trailer is here.
Here's part three of my ongoing review of Frank Sheed's Theology And Sanity, which I'm beginning to believe leads to insanity.  No Nonsense Catholic Stacy Transancos over at her blog Accepting Abundance recommended I read part of chapter two so I might be better able to understand a statement she made on one of her blog posts about Atheism.  It's a long story.  I still am not getting it.  Must be a Catholic Thing.

Part I and Part II may help explain things a little better.

The first part of chapter two went into the various problems imagination poses to a True Catholic Understanding of Reality™.  The imagination is unable to picture spiritual things and so it tends to discard them before they can reach the intellect for a proper inspection.  I have two words of advice: Use Science.

The second part of this chapter goes into a very interesting discussion of mystery.  I'm sure you've heard this sort of thing before:

Ever ask a Catholic how you can have a God that's both one and three at the same time?

Ever ask how Jesus can be God and Man at the same time?

How about the problem of Evil?

They'll inevitably whip out the mystery card.  The wonderful thing about this chapter is it talks quite frankly about the difficulties mystery presents to the intellect and in turn to those who may value Reason over Faith.  Well, not everyone thinks the way you do.

One who follows the scientific method and who values an evidence-based approach to understanding reality would, of course, cope with mystery by admitting that they simply do not know.  It's so simple, honest, brave... But things are a little more complicated for Catholics, who need to believe all that doctrine stuff.   Mr Sheed really tells it like it is.

Mystery and how the intellect may cope with it.

The book explains that mystery in religion comes from a finite mind attempting to understand the infinite.  Sheed admits that at first thought this might seem a reason for abandoning the whole venture:  if Reality is so utterly beyond us, why not leave it alone and make the best terms we can with our ineluctable darkness?

Of course, one need not throw out all hope of understanding the true nature of the universe.  There is a middle path between believing everything without evidence and simply giving up on the whole enterprise.  It's called the Scientific Method.

Anyway, Sheed defines mystery for us.
Mystery, in short, is an invitation to the mind.  For it means that there is an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind may drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind's thirst.
I get the sentiment and I think that many scientists would kind of get where he's coming from.  Of course, there is no way for Sheed to be sure that the well is inexhaustible.

This part has many anomalous capitalizations. These are often a signal to the reader that we're not just talking about a mere thing but rather a super-spiritual-absolute-floaty-sentient-Thing-thing.

For example:
As we examine the Mysteries of religion, we discover that the practical result of this effort of the finite to know the Infinite -- which is also a determination of the Infinite to be know by the finite...
He's not really talking about the infinite as in the number of digits in the number π, he's talking about the Infinite as in the spooky-all-knowing-immaterial-infinite-floating-brain-thing-Infinite.  Also note the spooky Truth above and ghoulish Mysteries.

But let's get on to the mystery here.  It begins at the end of the above quote.
... any given Mystery resolves itself (for our minds of course, not in its own reality) into two truths which we cannot see how to reconcile.
This is where the real fun begins for an ex-Catholic turned Atheist reader like me.  Let's keep reading this goodness.
Sometimes by the revelation of God, sometimes by the hard effort of man's own mind, we see that each of two things must be so, yet we cannot see why one does not exclude the other.  Thus in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, we cannot see how God can be Three if He is infinitely One; in the Doctrine of the Incarnation, we cannot see how Christ can be wholly God and at the same time wholly man; in the mystery of our own will, we do not see how its freedom can be reconciled with God's omniscience; and so with all the other mysteries of religion.  Left to ourselves, we should almost certainly say that there is a conflict, and therefore that both cannot be true...
Yes! Right!  There is a real problem here!  You can see it!  You admit it!  So what are you going to do with it?  Do you have a logical explanation for these?

These would be the very sorts of logical problems that an Atheist may consider deal breakers.  You know, logical contradictions what would normally lead any rational person to conclude there is something wrong with the argument being presented.

Science: Time to find another theory - this one is broken.  
Catholicism: The theory is always right - time to undermine logic.
Normally the mind would reject any doctrine proposed for its belief with this unbridgeable gulf in it.  But when such doctrines are revealed by God, the Christian will not reject them; yet he still has to decide what to do about them in his own mind.

How can someone keep such profound logical contradictions in their mind without having the whole system unravel?  How can a structure that contains such obvious logical flaws keep its integrity when similar constructions proffered by other religious systems are often blown to bits immediately by the same mind?

Here are some coping mechanisms Sheed suggests in this chapter for Catholics who are having difficulties dealing with doctrines which self contradict.  Remember, with plenty of training any crazy dogma can be ingested into an otherwise sane and consistent mind.  The trick is to build enough barriers between contradicting facts that these ideas do not get rejected.

Hey, Don't Worry About It!

One possibility for him is to make a large act of faith, accept them, and think no more about them.  Thus he is not troubled by any apparent contradiction, nor illumined by the doctrine's truth.  It simply lies in the mind, and he is no worse for it and no better for it.  He has a shadowy feeling that if he looked at the doctrine very closely, it might be something of a trial to his faith.  But he does not look at it very closely.  He does not really look at it at all.
But what if you're the kind of person who must think - at least a little bit?

It's simple: Compartmentalization.

Sheed goes on to explain, in detail, how one must forcefully build independent and isolated logical silos in the brain.

Catholic Approach Number One: Prioritize One And Don't Think Too Hard About The Other.

The first way is to select one of the component truths, make that the vital one, and simply accept the other half but without adverting to it very much.  Thus for example, in the doctrine of the Trinity, one might devote the whole force of the mind to the Three Persons, and leave the question of how Three Persons can be one God in the back of the mind; or one might concentrate upon the oneness of God and leave the threefold personality largely as a form of words whose meaning we shall discover in the next life. 
Sheed discusses some drawbacks to approach number one, but he admits that it is far superior to approach number two.

Catholic Approach Number Two:  Attempt to "Shade" Both Together As One More-Believable Fuzzy Whole That No Longer Properly Reflects Either.

Yet even at that, this first way is immeasurably better than the second -- which consists in accepting both elements, but shading them down to look like each other, thus getting no light from either. As applied to the Incarnation, this tactic involves accepting both the divinity and the humanity of our Lord, but making the divinity too human and the humanity too divine. 

Catholic Approach Number Three: Accept Both Separately Full-Throttle And Ignore Any Contradiction The Best You Can.

The third way is to accept both elements, and accept them both a white head without bothering too much about whether one can see the reconciliation.  
Unbelievably, Sheed sees this last approach as the best because the mind loses no integrity swallowing two contradictory statements at full force while knowingly ignoring their logical irreconciliable natures!
The mind loses no integrity thereby, since it is already certain on other grounds of the truth of each element separately. Therefore in accepting and devoting itself with all its power to each, it is acting rightly.  And the result justifies the method.

He goes on to say that although one cannot actually see the reconciliation...
We begin, as I have said, with a steady concentration upon each of the two elements, and a moment comes when we recognize that we are living mentally in the presence not of two truths but of one.  We still could not say how both can be true at once, yet we truly experience them so.
I believe brainwashing works the same way.  It sounds like a kind of deliberate self-induced delusion.  The chapter reads like an amazing self-help guide to deliberately undermine normal rational thought with sloppy thinking.  What's sad here is that it's not indoctrination but self-indoctrination.

Sheed goes on to try to justify this somehow by saying we are all beings who contain many contradictions within ourselves.  It's all rather Ying Yang like.  I'm not sure how this actually demonstrates anything at all.  I invite you to read it yourself if you buy the book - it's not very convincing.

Honestly, this section left me a little depressed and sad.  How can one argue with someone who is hellbent on warping and contorting logic to serve his own dogma, which gets a completely free pass because it was revealed by God?

Anyway, my next post will deal with the rest of chapter two.  Until then I will leave you with this sound and cheerful advice from one of my least favourite apostates (from paganism) - Augustine.
Pray as if everything depended on God; work as if everything depended on you.
Sheed says that this is a wholehearted acceptance of two opposites which somehow fuses into one continuing act of successful living.  But if one simply admits there is no God then what follows is clear and rational simplicity - the Catholic mystery disappears completely.  Stop praying and work as if everything depends on you.  It does.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Theology And Sanity: The Confusion Sets In

The proof's in the pudding.  Please, give me some
pudding! And after your done proving the statements 
could I have a proper definition of what the statements
were in the first place?
Edit: I modified the title of this post.  It was originally Theology And Sanity: The Confusion Sets In - Part I.

Awhile back, Catholic blogger Stacy Transancos over at Accepting Abundance suggested I read part of Frank Sheed's Theology and Sanity in order to better understand this statement of hers:
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.
I went ahead and bought the book.  I've been on a theological kick lately.

I've already talked about the first chapter, Theology And Sanity - Part I, Chapter 1: The World Through Church-Tinted Glasses.  Now it's time to tackle chapter 2, Examination of Intellect - unfortunately, I forgot my church-tinted glasses.

This chapter begins with a multi-pronged attack on imagination.

(i) How imagination can hinder intellect
One of the results of the Fall of Man is that imagination has got completely out of hand; and even one who does not believe in that "considerable catastrophe", as Hilaire Belloc calls it, must at least admit that imagination plays a part in the mind's affairs totally out of proportion to its merits, so much out of proportion indeed as to suggest some long-standing derangement in man's nature.
Too much imagination - not enough good Catholic thinking.  That's basically what much of the first part of this chapter is about - how imagination acts like a faulty firewall.  It either accepts untrue ideas out of hand without giving the intellect a chance to vet them or else it discards perfectly true ideas that it's unable to picture.   More on this later, but first, remember how I pointed out that this book tends to personify inanimate objects in a sort of creepy way?
The first difficulty in the way of the intellect's functioning well is that it hates to function at all, at any rate beyond the point where functioning begins to require effort.  The result is that when any matter arises which is properly the job of the intellect, then either nothing gets done at all, or else the imagination leaps in and does it instead.
Sheed does this all the time.  I can see the intellect as a functioning of a brain, but I cannot see it as a disembodied (or rather disembrained) floaty-ghostie-thingy.  Thus, statements like the above mean little more than people don't like to reason - they would rather go on flights of fancy.  (You know, like Catholicism).  If that's what it's supposed to mean then fine, but let's drop all the spooky language.

The book goes on to say serious contemplation can be derailed by intruding thoughts of food, coffee and sex - watching imagination's pictures flash across the mind.  I have no arguments here, but sometimes, the brain does needs some downtime.  I get some of my best inspiration sitting in a room and listening to music or the rippling of of a stream.

The imagination discards truths it cannot itself "picture"

A second strike against imagination is that it is a censor upon what the intellect shall accept.
Tell a man, for instance, that his soul has no shape or size or color or weight, and the chances are that he will retort that such a thing is inconceivable.  If we replay that it is not inconceivable but only unimaginable, he will consider that we have conceded his case-- and will proceed to use the word "unimaginable" with the same happy finality as the word "inconceivable".
Sheed sees imagination as the power we have of making mental pictures of the material universe.  So the imagination can only reproduce that which we have seen from the material world - sight, smell, touch, taste etc.  Meanwhile, the intellect has access to concepts that are presumably beyond the imagination.  Sheed is saying the imagination can act as a Cerberus and stop any ideas which it cannot itself vet first by picturing it.

You know, I have experienced the same thing trying to come to grips with Einstein's theory of Special and General Relativity - and forget about 11-dimensional M-Theory.  Religion doesn't have a monopoly on this sort of thing.  Science of late has concepts that bend and break the imagination because they are so far from our everyday experiences.

But the theories of Relativity have been tested over and over again for the past century - independently and reproducibly.  Experiments have demonstrated outcomes predicted by these theories, as crazy as they sound to our imaginations.  Likewise with Quantum theory - 10 Real-world Applications of Quantum Mechanics - we have real-world applications which help bolster its credibility.  As for String Theory - well there is still much doubt about it in the Physics community and this is honestly admitted by both boosters and detractors.

It seems that in Science the more unimaginable something is the more intellectual proof must be offered to increase its certainty.  But this doesn't mean that imaginable things get a free pass.

Remember the misconception that heavier things fall at a greater rate than lighter things?  This is completely imaginable but scientists didn't sit on their laurels - they still experimented to confirm the hypothesis.  It turned out to be false and they had the evidence and math to prove it.

I wonder what real-world evidence Sheed can provide for his theory?

The basic thesis of Sheed's argument is that matter can be imagined and is thus imaginable and hence can be confirmed by the imagination.  While things that are immaterial (read: spiritual) cannot be imagined (pictured) by the imagination and hence can only be examined and confirmed by the intellect.

Hence, Sheed feels the need to distinguish spirit from matter.
Spirit, we say, is the being that knows and loves; and this is a positive statement of its activity, what is does.  But we can say something also of its nature, what it is.  Briefly, spirit is the being which has its own nature so firmly in its grasp that it can never become some other being.

More ghostie language.  You know, Einstein's proof was a tad more rigorous than this - and I was actually able to understand his Special Relativity.  It all sounds a lot like the kind of proofs I saw while reading the Greek metaphysicians from 2,000 years ago.  Wait a minute, that's where the Church likely got all this anyway.

I'm guessing the gist of it is that spirits don't have any parts so they are somehow permanent (unless God destroys them), while all other things are made of atoms and molecules and stuff - so they are non-permanent.
What has parts can occupy space -- space indeed may be thought of as the arrangement matter makes to spread its parts in.  It is from the occupation of space that those properties flow which affect the senses.  That is why matter does.  That is why spirit does not.
... silence ...

I hope more in on the way later in the book.

I can vaguely recall the Greeks being obsessed with extension and immutability.  Change is bad and it's not the sort of thing you want spiritual things to be doing - if it's changing then it must not be perfect (finished, complete).  Perfect things are finished changing - that's the definition of perfect... OKAY?

Apparently it's the parts that occupy space, (1 ... n parts, I guess).  Something that has zero parts does not occupy space - hence it is immaterial and doesn't exist materially.  Okay, that's pretty non-controversial.  But then apparently spirit is one of these immaterial things that knows and loves.  Where's the proof for that?

Anyway, the take home information here seems to be that the reality of any spiritual statement must be tested by the intellect, not by the imagination.  And apparently the way the intellect can test a statement for veracity is to to ensure there are no logical contradictions.
Thus the first test of any statement must be tested by the intellect, not by the imagination.  The intellect's word of rejection is "inconceivable".  This means that the statement proffered to the intellect contains a contradiction within itself, so that no concept can be formed embodying the statement. 
Sure, this always should be a first test.  But one could make any number of non-contradictory false statements.  The pudding's really in the proof.

I need pudding!

There's too much craziness in this chapter to deal with it all in a single post.  More on the evils of the imagination from chapter 2 to come.

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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