Friday, June 13, 2008

The Crisis of Modernity

There are several likely reasons for my fascination with the pope. First, there's the whole Catholic wife thing. Arguably, this man has more influence in my house than I do. (Not true, but it was a fun bit of hyperbole while it lasted.) Second, there's the fact that he looks like Palpatine. Third, there's the fact that he's taking steps to regress the Catholic Church in order to save it.

There's a school of thought, one I explained to my neighbours the other night after six or seven drinks, that any growth in religion is only coming from fundamentalist denominations: evangelical Christians and Islam, most notably, and more tolerant, accepting, even lax denominations are experiencing sharp declines in membership. After twenty-odd years (or is it thirty-odd?) of JPII and his more liberal stances on things like heretics, Catholics are falling away from the church in alarming numbers, while Islam spreads like a virus.

Don't fatwa me. It's a simile. Or go ahead; I don't care.

The feeling is that when people seek a faith, they want a faith that's challenging, that has tradition, that provides that shrill denial of progress that we all find so endearing. People want tribalism, damnit, and they're going to keep searching until they find a church that confirms their suspicions that they are, in fact, better than other people, and god hates gay people. Benedict is reversing the stance of the Vatican on one or two issues, and reaffirming its position vis a vis things like condoms and other forms of contraception. He's also reassuring catholics that the gays are still bad, and Islam is crazy. It's a more loving, intolerant position that he is seeking, like that of many of the popes before him. Not John Paul II, though. That guy was a pussy. And probably a commie.

Not surprisingly, many Catholics (the ones I was explaining this to the other night, for instance), are uncomfortable with Benedict trying to drag Catholicism kicking and screaming into the Dark Ages again, and rather liked the conciliatory approach of the feel-good pope we had before. Doesn't matter. The cardinals picked god's rottweiler, and we're stuck with him until he dies. He's god's mouthpiece, you know.

There's also the fact that the more devout you are in any Abrahamic faith, the less likely you are to use contraception, and therefore the more likely you are to make little Muslims, or Methodists. The pope is ignoring that (or possibly simply trying to be all sneaky about how he plans on getting more Catholics).

But because my life is tied to the pope and anything he mumbles on about, I pay attention to what he says. More so than the Catholics in my life, it seems. Like when he abolished limbo, for instance. Or when he said that environmentalists must be careful that their judgement is not "clouded by dogma" (damn near popped my irony metre on that one). Or when he "insisted on the importance of a reasoned explanation of Christian faith".

Christian philosophy must answer "crisis of modernity," Pope

Vatican, Jun. 9, 2008 ( - The study of philosophy is especially important today in light of "the crisis of modernity," Pope Benedict XVI told a group of university professors at a June 7 audience.

The Holy Father reminded participants in the 6th European Symposium of University Professors that Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, issued 10 years ago, had called for a renewal of Catholic philosophical study. Pope Benedict confirmed that imperative, urging the exploration of "new lines of research in order to understand the true nature" of the crisis in modern thought.

I'm not even sure what the "crisis of modernity" might be, unless its that we're not thinking like our ancestors did. I'll let that slide, because it's just too fucking obvious.

But again, we have a theist saying that reason must inform faith, with no regard to the inherent contradiction. It's as if they understand that they're losing, simply because they're playing on the wrong field, or playing the wrong game.

But you can't prop up your faith with reason. If you need to, then reexamine your faith. If you try to, you simply emphasize its weakness.

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