Questions from Michael- What’s So Great About Catholicism?- Why Does God Permit Misery and Evil?
Using the contact me link at the top of my webpage, Mike sent me the following question:
Hello, miss. I’d like to ask you some questions, if I may. Why do you assume a person has a political agenda when he or she comments on the church? Are religion and politics intertwined? Did God say they are?
It’s my personal belief that politics are disgusting, for the most part, and relating the church to politics soils the church in every way. Politicians are paid to lie, but of course the church doesn’t lie, does it?
Reading your opinion on matters, I took from you that anyone who even questions the Catholic religion is a hate speaker. Am I wrong? Right?
And the truth that you so passionately speak of, which I do appreciate, for not many people believe in anything anymore- how do you claim that your beliefs are the truest? You have no proof, you have nothing that says truth besides what a group of men said was true thousands of years ago.
Finally, one last thing, a thing that no theologian or Christian believer has EVER been able to answer- why does God let children be raped and/or killed? Why does God let wars happen so frequently and so willingly? Why does God let supposed “Christians” murder homosexuals and set aflame the very cross they pretend to worship? Why does God let groups of happy teenagers die in car accidents and leave their parents and families to grieve for the rest of their natural lives? Why does God let hearts die of grief? Will hearts be healed only if they give themselves to Him? If not, are ordinary, decent people left to rot in sadness if they don’t believe? Why does God let darkness overcome the lives of happy people? Why does God leave people abandoned and ill? Why does God let people abuse animals? Why does God let children be hit, abused and used, treated like garbage, burned, whipped, starved, etc..
Why does God just let things go as if there’s nothing wrong with you, me and the entire world?
Why does everyone just say free will and God will judge? It seems like you do a whole lot of judging on your own. God is supposed to be GOOD. I don’t know a damn person worth knowing who wouldn’t take their own lives before allowing any of those sad things to happen.
I know I didn’t make my questions easy to answer, being that they are mostly in paragraph form, but if you’re a true Christian, I’d imagine you’d take the time to answer it all, honestly, as a human being.
You have asked so many questions, the reply could fill books!
Before I start with the serious reply, I have to inject some humor provided by my husband over coffee this morning. As I told him of your questions, Rolf suggested I answer your last question first, regarding why God permits evil. Explaining that, he said, would clarify some of your subsequent questions on the existence of politics and politicians!
Jesus, Apostes, Scripture, Handing the Keys to Peter
But back to your questions, in the order in which you asked them. Thank you for your interest, and I will make a stab at answering you.
Let me also say that I am not the expert, just one Catholic who loves Christ and loves my Church.
If you want better expert answers, you should talk to a good Catholic priest and look at some good Catholic books/media.
Contact me again via my contact form if you want suggestions, and mention the city you live in if you want suggestions for resources.
Politics and Religion
Mike, you claim that I assume that a person commenting on the church has a political agenda. I often do assume that, because I live in Madison, WI, where politics and religion are very intertwined, and where very liberal (“progressive”) politicians and media do routinely misrepresent and attack the Catholic Church unfairly. Defending my Church against the media in Madison and against hateful people, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, who attack my Church both publicly and in discussion forums with name calling and lies, was the initial reason why I started my blog. One of the first categories created in my blog was “Don’t Diss My Church.”
I don’t know where you are from, but perhaps you have noticed that prejudice against the Catholic Church is the last acceptable prejudice, and seems to be fair game for ridicule and misrepresentation, especially by media and on university campuses nationwide?
Politics and religion ARE actually very intertwined, whether we like it or not.
Politicians make laws – are we allowed to kill, are we allowed to steal, are we allowed to perform abortions, how much of our paycheck are politicians entitled to take in taxes?
Religion addresses what is right and wrong- from the perspective of what God has informed us, like the Ten Commandments, and also from the perspective of Reason, which is why we have an institution of experts in philosophy and ethics, called the Church, to help us determine what is right and what is wrong in every age.
So our beliefs on what is right and wrong, in a democracy, determine what laws we pass, and religion and politics become inextricably intertwined, whether we like it or not.
Religion is Power
Politics also becomes intertwined with religion because politicians recognize that Religion is Power, and they do their best to stamp it out. History books are filled with the persecutions of religious people, and numerous despots have tried to eradicate religion, because religious people try to tell the politicians what is right and what is wrong, and to limit what politicians can do. Religion also gives people the courage to do what you suggested– to risk their lives to correct injustices, knowing that the power of God is behind them and that one righteous man can change history.
Even Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, just acknowledged that Pope Francis is dangerous because “We don’t want nice men in the Vatican.” Nice men like Pope John Paul II and President Reagan can topple political empires. John Paul II and President Reagan did just that with the Soviet Union, dissolving the empire without war. ( Time Magazine’s Holy Alliance.)
David, from the Biblical account of David and Goliath, was also a “nice man” who brought down the Philistine army. An illustration for all of us of what a principled conscience combined with courage can accomplish.
Religion in the World Today
The Pope often holds more sway in global politics than Presidents and Dictators do, as evidenced by Pope Francis’ taking on of President Obama during the recent Syria crisis. The Pope has no army, no nukes, 135 Swiss Guards, and who just won against the Obama Administration? Pope Francis. One minute we were about to bomb Syria, the next minute Secretary of State Kerry makes a gaffe, Putin positions himself as a savior, and the Syrian crisis is over! (One very cool thing about God is his wickedly keen sense of humor.)
Vatican Swiss Guards
What does the Pope have that President Obama does not have? Moral authority, the ability to request prayer from 1 billion people, and the ear of God.
Wait, don’t we all have the ear of God? Doesn’t President Obama have the ear of God?
Not according to Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, who claims that President Obama is an atheist.
And even if Richard Dawkins were to be wrong, if President Obama is not praying for something that is good, he will get no Divine assistance.
The threat that religions hold for politics is still evident in the United States today, as we citizens try to tell our politicians in Washington to be honest and responsible, and as Washington tries to muzzle the voice of the Catholic Church (the most centralized and organized of the Christian opposition) to restrict the religious freedoms of Christians. Christians who oppose paying for the agonizing dismemberment of a million infants in the womb each year. Dismemberment in the womb is no different from the grisly drawing and quartering of tyrants in England, legal until 1867. The fact that the infants cannot scream in the womb does not diminish the pain or grisliness of abortion.
Those Christians who have moral objections to abortion have now lost their religious freedom in the U.S., since the government has unilaterally decreed (without input from citizens) that abortion will be included in ObamaCare, which is universally required. The original ObamaCare bill, when first passed, did NOT include abortion. Abortion, in the form of the HHS (contraception and abortifacient) Mandate, was added later, unilaterally, by left wing politicians, against he wishes of 72% of the American population, who oppose the funding of abortions through any federally run health plan.
What is Truth?
You stated some extreme judgements, which it’s tempting to agree with when I’m feeling emotional, but I must point out that they are exaggerated.
Not all politicians lie.
Not all members of the Church tell the truth.
All human groups include a variety of members, good, bad and in-between.
I do NOT claim that anyone who questions the Catholic religion is a hate speaker. If questions are polite, as yours are, I welcome them. If “questions” involves ridicule and calling the Church primitive and medieval, as they often do in Madison, WI, I do claim that reflects a certain degree of hatred. Does anybody in 2013, particularly “tolerant” liberals in “tolerant” Madison, call women, blacks, native Americans, the Dalai Lama, gays, or anybody else “primitive and medieval?”
That same modern tolerance (in the absence of a double standard) should be extended to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, which represents the largest religion on earth, upon whose principles the legal systems of Western civilization have been based, and which has provided a successful voluntary framework for global charity, healthcare and education for two thousand years, way before feeble secular attempts at charity systems such as ObamaCare were proposed.
Aside: If President Obama were not so busy trying to stamp out religion, the very charity that he is trying to provide through ObamaCare would continue to be provided by the churches of America. Now, the ability of churches to do charity work is being shackled by government regulation, and Christian hospitals, adoption agencies and universities are being crippled by government regulations which violate the religious freedoms of Christians in the United States.
Which Religion is the Truest?
Regarding my assumption that my beliefs are the truest, as a product of the American university system, I have spent many years questioning Catholic Church teachings myself, and after much research and homework, I have been persuaded that the Catholic Church has very convincing arguments for her teachings, more convincing than any other set of beliefs I have encountered. You might look at a short You Tube video where a young man in search for truth came to the same conclusion as I have- so convinced that he’s studying to become a Catholic priest, in order to spread the Good News. The You Tube’s only 5 minutes long and is pretty interesting and convincing:
Church Teaching and Truth
Your statement questioning truth based on “what a group of men said was true thousands of years ago” is oversimplified.
In politics, the equivalent would be to discard the Constitution of the U.S. Because it was “what a group of men said was true two hundred years ago.”
For millennia people, including Pontius Pilate, have been asking the question “What is Truth?”
It is admirable that you are also asking that question today.
The truth of what the Catholic Church teaches today is based on many things, including first of all the Divinity of Jesus Christ, which would distinguish Him from “a group of men.” The Divinity of Jesus Christ can be confirmed by each and every one of us by beginning a relationship of prayer with Him. Everyone who has asked God for faith and who pours out their heart to God (as you did to me, on the devastating injustices in this world), gets help and gets a reply. Not a booming voice from heaven which caters to our every demand. But a loving fatherly response that is less noticeable than a breeze and that sends peace (and solutions) to our hearts.
Faith is based on interaction and a positive response. The testimony of billions of people is not wrong. 82% of Americans pray and say that God answers their prayers, and 47% of Americans pray daily.
If you take the time and trouble to research and learn about the Church, you will realize that the teachings of the Catholic Church are also based on a tremendous amount of reason, logic, history, and success stories, not to mention scientifically inexplicable miracles that have been documented by scientists who are not Catholics at all. God is the inventor of reason, logic, and truth, so it is not surprising that His teaching is reasonable, logical and true.
Using the Same Standards – It’s Only Fair
You do not presume to dismiss all of science or all of history as “what a group of men said was true,” and so you should not dismiss all of religion, either.
If you accept the testimony of men in history books and in science labs, you must accept the testimony of men in religion. Despite the fact that some historians spin the truth, and some scientists forge their results, we can still come up with a consensus based on numbers of reports and numbers of witnesses.
If you accept the existence of George Washington, Alexander the Great, or the Pharoahs of Egypt, you should accept the existence of Jesus Christ, and the 2,000 year treasury of testimony on the work of His Church.
The historical record of Christ and His Divinity is every bit as real and well-documented as the historical record of any other individual.
FOUNDER OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
FOUNDER OF CHRISTIANITY
SON OF GOD
| 44 BC – 14 AD
|| 4 BC – 29 AD
| SOURCES: Caesar Augustus Autobiography,Nicolaus of Damascus
||SOURCES: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,
Paul (-the Bible), Tacitus, Seutonius,
Pliny the Younger, Josephus
|STATUS: Universally Accepted Historical Figure
|| STATUS: Existence Frequently Questioned
Since media in 2013 is not inclined to respect religion with all its prohibitions on selfishness and the seeking of pleasure first, you have to do the work of investigating religion yourself.
It’s not as hard to do as you imagine, because the head guy, God, has infinite time and will lead you when asked. That’s the definition of prayer: “God, give me Faith, and lead me to your Truth.”
You can also talk to people of faith, you can talk to experts (priests), and you can read books.
It is true that some people make mistakes in defining God and defining what is right and what is wrong, and there will be some inconsistencies in what different religions teach. But that is true of science and of history, too, and you have to dig for the details if you are interested. Many Christian religions have some degree or some piece of the Truth, and as Christ said, you will know them by their fruits.
Descent of the Holy Spirit
St. Nicolas Church, Nérac, France
What Fruits Do We Look For?
We look for charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and you will find these where you find Christ.
For me, the fact that one man, Jesus Christ, was able to establish a religion based on love two thousand years ago, which thrives today, which is the largest religion on earth (Christianity), which caters equally to all of mankind with missionary work both materially and spiritually, regardless of politics, and which has saintly leaders like our recent 3 Popes, one of whom brought down the Soviet Union, is pretty impressive. It impresses me more than any other human institution- the U.S. Government, the Smithsonian Institution, NASA, Universities, or MicroSoft.
The philosophy brought by Christ, of devoting one’s life to redeem those in pain with one’s own service, suffering and mercy, to the point of death on a cross, is more than a human philosophy. It’s a superhuman Divine example of love. I find this love so compelling that I feel compelled, in my own imperfect way, to join in the effort.
And in terms of choosing which Christian religion to follow, I look at the fruits. The largest, most centralized, poised to respond globally to human events and tragedies, and responsible for the largest portion of charity work on earth, is the Catholic Church. It’s open to all, free of charge, available in every nation on earth, and now headed by Pope Francis, who is reaching out lovingly to atheists and calling himself a sinner. I know of no other religion as all-encompassing and as loving as the Catholic Church.
Other Christian Faiths
With all due respect and love for other Christian religions, I believe they hold a great portion of the Truth, but sometimes neglect to cover some basic human spiritual needs, which the Catholic Church is able to cover.
Protestantism focuses very heavily on the Bible, which, although wonderful for us educated Europeans/Americans, actually neglects the masses of humanity who are illiterate and who need the liturgy/art/statuary that the Catholic Church has provided for milennia to learn about Jesus Christ.
Protestant critics of the Catholic Church sometimes forget the fact that before the Protestant Reformation, which was, incidentally, at the same time as the invention of the printing press, ownership of individual Bibles was not humanly possible for every household. Bibles were transcribed by hand with quill pens, paper was not available, and parchment was made of animal skin.
One Bible would require the skins of flocks of animals. One single copy of the Bible took the work of an entire monastery scriptorium for a year. By modern standards, using the average American wage, that would correspond to $1.5 million in salaries alone. One Bible would cost, by modern standards, 2 to 3 million dollars. It was only the dedication of celibate monks devoted to lives of poverty that made any copies of the Bible available at all.
Between historical illiteracy of populations throughout history and the lack of availability of Bibles, the Catholic Church had to summarize, simplify and deliver Christ’s teachings to people, much as teachers simplify and deliver knowledge to students today.
Today, about 1 billion people on earth continue to be illiterate. The Catholic Church continues to cater to this poorest 20% of the earth’s population.
Many Christian religions also allow divorce, which deprives children of one parent, and destroys their hope and optimism for their own future marriages and families. The family is the primary source of the sacrificial love and nurturing which is essential for the formation of a happy and productive human being. Both parents play a crucial role in the raising of children. Divorce deprives children in a very fundamental way. The Catholic Church focuses on repairing marriages instead of dissolving marriages at the first sign of trouble. This farsighted wisdom benefits not only the children, but also benefits women who are not left to struggle as single mothers, and men, who are not left struggling to support two households financially for the rest of their lives. Saving marriages is a win-win-win strategy, and divorce is a lose-lose-lose strategy.
Many Christian faiths allow contraception. Predicted by Pope Paul VI in 1968 in the encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), the damaging effects of 50 years of contraception on our society are now being realized, as we lack young people to support our society, to look after the elderly, and to pay the taxes. Those are just the material effects of 50 years of contraception. The spiritual effects of eradicating untold millions of tiny human beings and of encouraging men and women to view each other as objects to be used, and the resulting babies as objects to be aborted, are equally alarming. The Catholic Church realized and taught these things, and all this misery could have been averted from the start.
Finally, and most important of all, many Christian faiths do not provide the physical Presence of Christ for their members.
For anybody who loves Christ and the philosophy He taught, His physical Presence (John 6:50-70), instituted by Him at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26) and available to all Catholics in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, is as essential to relationship with God as the presence of a human being is essential to relationship with a human being.
Why Does God Permit Evil?
Your last question is the biggest one- which as you say, no theologian has been able to answer: Why does God permit evil?
BTW, the list of evils you mention shows that you have a compassionate and loving heart.
You are already ahead of many people when it comes to getting closer to God.
According to Pope Francis, “Atheists who do good are saved.”
The reason everybody says “free will” when you ask why evil is permitted, is that we can see that free will exists in the world. It’s part of the way that God created the world. We can watch everyone around us exercise their free will, no matter what we tell them, no matter what authority tries to order them. And the vast majority of evils that you could cite are the result of some person’s poor exercise of their free will.
Let’s ask the question another way: what if we had no free will?
If we had no free will, the world would function like a computer or like an Energizer bunny, wound up and performing only the tasks that its creator specified.
There is a world of difference between an Energizer bunny and a real bunny (created by God).
There is a beauty and a warmth and a capacity for love in the way the world was created to include free will, that would be cold and absent if God had created us to be automatons incapable of free will. Without free will, there can be no love. Love is a choice, and love is the most beautiful thing in the world.
I can’t do much better than that, when it comes to explaining evil.
You could try reading Why Does God Permit Evil? for a better explanation of the question of evil.
St. Benedict Crucifix
“A Damn Person Worth Knowing”
You say “I don’t know a damn person worth knowing who wouldn’t take their own lives before allowing any of those sad things to happen.”
Well, what do you think Jesus Christ did?
True, He did not come to eradicate free will, turn us into Energizer bunnies, and eliminate the possibility of love.
But He did something better- in love, He came here to give us His Divine example of sacrificial love, to give us His eternal Presence in the Eucharist, and to give us the other Sacraments (very roughly translated as magical spiritual energy pills) to help us make our way through this difficult maze of good and evil on earth.
Jesus Christ, although definitely not a “damn person,” is very well worth knowing.
A Game Changer
One thing that non-believers forget, is that the concept of eternal life alters everything completely.
The length of our lives here on earth are negligible when compared with eternity.
Religion, and God, the author if religion, promise us the paradise that you are asking for here on earth— but that paradise is delayed, and will be enjoyed for eternity.
Incidentally, there are plenty of rewards enjoyed here in earthly life by the faithful, as well. Not all rewards are delayed. Living a virtuous life has it’s earthly rewards as well, among them love, family and stability.
Most people, religious or not, understand the concept of “no pain, no gain.”
If athletic or intellectual training (which includes sacrifice and pain) is worth the future rewards, then so is earthly life worth enduring, considering the future rewards in both the present and the after-life.
That’s part of the reason why despots are so terrified of religion and why religion has so much power. Religion is the ultimate game-changer.
Religion holds out a promise that enables ordinary people to make heroic sacrifices for good, which any atheist in his/her right mind would never make.
Religion gives hope and courage in the face of adversity.
And aside from the philosophical attitude adjustment advantages that religion provides, it actually provides ordinary people with an ally that dwarfs the most powerful people on earth. It puts God in everybody’s corner.
Adam, Eve and the Serpent
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Finally,before we attack God for permitting evil to exist here on earth, let’s remember that evil was not part of the initial plan.
Every single one of us has used our free will to make some selfish choices in our lifetimes which hurt others. How can we expect God to exercise mercy towards us, while eradicating sinners who have committed sins that might be larger than ours? Where should God draw the line? If He drew a line, which side of the line would we be on? So before condemning God for exercising mercy for bigger sinners, we should tread carefully, be thankful for the mercy that was shown to us, and be willing to forgive the trespasses of others as we want our trespasses forgiven.
The Lesser Evil
You may also notice that it is often in times of devastating injustice that people turn to God for help, and receive it. Much like a parent who lets the middle-schooler exercise free will and sustain a few injuries mis-using their bicycle, God permits bad choices to be made, allows evil to occur, and then turns that evil to a good purpose. When evil causes people to turn to God for help, people set themselves on a path toward eternal happiness, not just temporary short-sighted happiness, followed by misery, which most temporary impulsive pleasures lead us to.
The horror of evil on earth might alert us to the greater horror of misery in eternity. When God allows evil on earth, could He be choosing the lesser of evils, temporary evil over eternal evil?
Either You Believe or You Don’t
Ultimately, either you believe in God or you don’t.
Either the Universe, the Grand Canyon and the beauty of nature are accidental and came out of nowhere, or God created them.
And if you do believe in God, then that God is Someone who is wise and powerful enough to create a universe, yet still cares enough about us to interact with us personally with prayer. We might cut Him some slack and allow that maybe His intellect has a better plan than our intellect can come up with.
We understand the plan of God about as well as the newborn Prince George, who was Christened last week, understands his future status as King of England.
May God Bless You, Mike
Mike – I hope my thoughts have given you some insight into the questions you had about my beliefs.
I will pray for you in your search for Reason and Truth, as I hope that you will pray for me.
May God bless you, Mike, and may St. Michael the Archangel guide and protect you!
Appendix: The Will, The Church, and Human Imperfection
Even if such values as solidarity, commitment to one’s neighbour and responsibility towards the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial, still the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practise renunciation and make sacrifices. Perception and will do not necessarily go hand in hand. In defending personal interests, the will obscures perception, and perception thus weakened is unable to stiffen the will. In this sense, some quite fundamental questions emerge from this crisis: where is the light that is capable of illuminating our perception not merely with general ideas, but with concrete imperatives? Where is the force that draws the will upwards? These are questions that must be answered by our proclamation of the Gospel, by the new evangelization, so that message may become event, so that proclamation may lead to life.
How can we address Pope Benedict’s concerns? If we all made use of the teachings and sacraments offered by the Church, we could tame our Wills, and devote ourselves to the service of fellow human beings to the point of sainthood. If more of us did that, how much more Evil would be vanquished in the world?
Unfortunately, even those of us who do not reject the teachings of the Church outright, often do not succeed in implementing Christ’s teachings very well in our lives.
We should have the humility of Pope Francis, who admits that he is a sinner, and we should keep trying to seek truth and to live it with love.
The Church, Imperfections and All
Those interested in Truth and in Charity (love) should recognize the Catholic Church’s role as curator of all that Christ brought to the world- first of all, Himself, available to each human being throughout history in the Eucharist. Also, scripture, history, tradition, wisdom, the example of saints, and priests who come to us in an unbroken, direct line of ordination from the Apostles.
Members of the Catholic Church may not be perfect, any more than the Apostles were perfect.
If honest, members of all other Churches and all other organizations will admit they are not perfect.
But just at a doctor who smokes can still give you good advice on your health, or a prof who makes some mistakes can still teach you mathematics, or a President who is not perfect can still defend the Constitution of the United States, the Catholic Church, staffed with imperfect people, can still hold and administer the treasury of riches left to us by Jesus Christ.