The topic of this post will be the article in the above link, written by the staff of InsideCatholic, a Catholic website. Its purpose is answering 12 modern myths often bandied about. But even though I agree that some of these are myths, I disagree with the conclusions Catholics draw from that fact. More on specifics as I cover the points.
1. They first tackle the claim that there is no absolute truth. They point out that if the statement is correct it is itself an absolute truth, and thus refutes itself. This myth shouldn't require much more discussion than that.
But the InsideCatholic staff take it further. They say that left unchanged, this statement leads to a philosophy of "might is right". In other words, if something is true for one person but false for another, the only thing upholding any person's security is superior strength and/or abilities. Otherwise one person could think it true that he can murder whoever he wants, and the only thing that would stop him would be someone stronger or smarter than he is.
Thus people amend it to read: "What's true for you maybe isn't true for me. Let's just allow different strokes for different folks so long as nobody gets hurt. Do what you want and think what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anybody else."
the staff of InsideCatholic then questions where the basis for this amendment comes from. They suggest that 'do no harm' bases itself in the idea of a basic human dignity. And if humans have dignity, they wonder, where does this dignity come from? Clearly, they write, it points towards some greater authority than arbitrary human opinion.
But these Catholics are being too simplistic. They assume there is only one explanation for the desire to do no harm, I.E.-- a divine Creator who defines morality.
Another possible answer is the natural one. Human social instinct can be explained as an evolutionary response to the need for social cohesion within the group. Humans are social, group animals. We have created all our civilizations because we have lived and worked together. Were we solitary we would have remained brutes. The long arm of evolution certainly does seem godlike to us. We think and live in terms of decades but evolution works in terms of milleniums. We were not made to comprehend that expanse of time and so we have tended to craft tiny little anthropomorphic gods to fit our likes. Like all fiction it is made to suit our needs. The truth is much more mysterious, glorious, and ultimately awe-inspiring. Religion began as a tribal affair and only grew to cosmic pretentions due to the constant prodding of scientific inquiry. The gods have visibly grown through the centuries as the knowledge of their human creators has grown also. Many gods, unable to contain the flood, have fallen. They shall not rise again, and lie forgotten amid their million brothers and sisters.
The world does point to something greater than human opinion, but it need not be a person. It could just as well be the vast, impersonal universe.
2. They make two claims in this point. The first myth they tackle is: "Christianity is no better than other religions", which I agree with for the most part. The next is "All religions lead to God." I too think this second part is false. Religions like Buddhism, for instance, have no personal deity.
However, in trying to refute these points they claim that Christianity is unique among religions because it claims that Jesus is the son of God sent to save us, and that he died for our sins and was resurrected. Except this ressurection story is as old as the hills. If we read history we see it repeated again and again. There are so many saviors in the history books that one should laugh at how pitiful mankind is to require so many. We have Odin, hung on a tree until he died and then resurrected greater than before. Osiris in ancient Egyptian mythology would rise from the dead and faithful egyptians would, through faith in Osiris, rise with him in the afterlife.
They also note Jesus' claim to the highest truth, in his statement "I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me." They think that only Jesus made this outlandish claim to complete truth. But nearly every religion has claimed to be the one truth faith, the one true revelation from God. This is no more unique than the resurrection myth.
3. Their next myth is that the Old and New Testaments contradict one another. I will not address their attempts to rationalize their belief in the unity of the Bible because that would be too great an undertaking for this post. Others have done it, and perhaps someday I will do it in another post. But not this one. Suffice it to say that it is curious that the Jews of the Old Testament had no clear conception of the afterlife while Jesus spends much of his time preaching on Heaven and Hell.
4. They next think it a myth when people claim they don't need to go to church to be good people. What follows is a Catholic plug for the consecrated bread and wine which they believes becomes the body and blood of Christ. They think that, in some magical way, people become suddenly better by eating the flesh of their God. I myself do not see much difference between this and old cannibalistic beliefs that you could absorb an enemy's strengths by eating his corpse. The difference is not in the underlying logic but in the application. Catholics only eat bread and drink wine rather than bodies and blood. But the disturbing part is that they believe they ARE eating a body and drinking blood.
5. Next they tackle the 'myth' that says: You don't need to confess to a priest to have your sins forgiven. Just speak directly do God.
The interesting thing about this justification of the confessional is that it lays bare the social basis and uses of religion. Religion is a tool for social cohesion. It is not so much concerned with the truth as with getting people to get along in a group. Confession fosters that social instinct, as do the other aspects of Catholicism.
It seems to me that possibly the reason confession direct to God isn't as satisfying as confession to a priest is that the priest exists while God does not. People who talk only to God are, in a real sense, talking only to themselves.
6. This objection concerns the material holdings of the Church and how that conflicts with Jesus message of charity and poverty. This doesn't interest me so I'll pass on.
7. This is an argument for conformity to Church orthodoxy. They argue that the Church has been around long enough to sift through most of the ideas possible to man, and that she has collected all the good ideas and rejected the bad. Thus, it is safer to conform to the orthodox view, not to mention healthier, than to go without her leadership. Perhaps there is some wisdom in the idea of trusting past thinkers, but one shouldn't totally reject everything that seems new. There can be genuine and new good ideas that will pop up. We'll never know if we reject everything without inspection.
8. This is a defense of the anti-homosexual-union stance of the Church. It is based too much on a harsh and totally arbitrary understanding of human sexuality. They see it as centered primarily around procreation. But even though our sex drives have evolved to promote making children, that doesn't mean we are violating some divine law by using sex for other uses at some times. They claim homosexuality is 'unnatural'. But what do they mean by unnatural? Homosexuality clearly exists in nature, and it is in that regard natural. I think they would be more accurate if they said: "Homosexuality is shocking to my personal sensibilities."
9. This is another apology for Church hierarchy and conformance to orthodoxy. The conscience of the Church is made more binding thant individual conscience.
10. This addresses Natural Family Planning. I won't go into this, as it seems a purely Catholic issue whether or not NFP is another form of birth control or not.
11. This is a defense of the Catholic opposition to all contraception and abortion. While I oppose abortion I think contraception should be allowed for those who want it. Of course, Catholics apparently be Catholics if they support either contraception or abortion.
12. Bizarrely, this is a refutation of reincarnation. I guess such beliefs are becoming fairly common if they felt a need to address this. I myself am agnostic on the matter and content to form an opinion after I die.