Pages

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Caring about the truth

One of the more pressing questions facing Catholic efforts is the attitude against truth that prevails in our culture today.  Not the fact that people reject Catholicism per se.  But that people in general simply do not care if they are wrong about anything, let alone beliefs that they hold.

To understand this problem we need to back up a bit in history.  More specifically the ancient world.  In Paganism, by which I mean the myriad of religious and mythical traditions that were held at one point or another in the various cultures of the past.  One thing that animates all of these is the importance of truth.

The ancient world was a harsh time.  People didn't have the resources to screw around with ideas like "there is no objective truth" because the need to create food and not starve was an ever present reminder that life did not bow to the will.  Reality was ever present and repeatedly beat into you the idea that there is such a thing as reality and it is the human that submits, not the universe.

That ever present notion of the truth haunts the religions of the past.  That search for those truths, as much as for survival but also the importance of commitment to the truth animates the mythologies of our ancestors.  Paganism understood the importance of truth, and the importance of finding it.

So when Christianity arrived the Pagans abandoned their Faith in pursuit of the truth.  The religions of the past, exhausted of their potential to answer the mysteries of life, were discarded in favor of the fullness of Truth.

Modern man however has no interest in the Truth, having denied that such a thing exists (a contradictory position, but nonetheless).  Without the commitment to truth, the modern position on any important issue is reduced to that of emotion, to the point of mistrusting reason and rational arguments.  The stronger the emotion, the greater assurance modern man has of his position, regardless of the fact that the position itself is grounded neither in reason or common sense.

This presents a problem for evangelization efforts.  Most efforts take as an assumption that people care about the truth.  But when that commitment is not there this falls apart.  Reason is useless against an irrational person.  Truth is not important to someone who denies the importance of truth.

So the open ended question I pose is this:  How does one teach a commitment to the truth?  I believe the answer to the modern condition lies in answering this riddle.

2 comments:

JC said...

"Modern man however has no interest in the Truth, having denied that such a thing exists (a contradictory position, but nonetheless). Without the commitment to truth, the modern position on any important issue is reduced to that of emotion, to the point of mistrusting reason and rational arguments. The stronger the emotion, the greater assurance modern man has of his position, regardless of the fact that the position itself is grounded neither in reason or common sense."

A perfect description of why my conversation with my "progressive Catholic" friend has been so frustrating. At some point, you realize that the other person is not trying to be consistent, coherent, or fair-minded. In my friend's case, it was after he contradicted himself for the nth time, had this pointed out to him, and responded by repeating both of the contradictions in his rebuttal.

CatholicGuy said...

The last three "discussions" I've had on reddit amount to the same thing. Assume my entire position, ignore any and all contradictions, and attempt to shoot down the opposition. People simply don't give a damn that their position makes literally no sense and contradicts itself. Then has the nerve to assume that WE are close minded and irrational.