Secularism’s Victory through Osmosis

The German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) began his education as a Lutheran seminarian during the cultural ferment that we now refer to as the French Enlightenment. Later, as a philosophy professor at Jena, in a chapter in his 1807 Phenomenology of Spirit on “the struggle of the Enlightenment with Superstition,” he offered a philosophical analysis of the success of the Enlightenment that took the world by storm in the previous century. He describes the swift, consummate, but initially bloodless victory over the “idols” of superstition as follows, including a quote from Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew:

Now the Enlightenment, as an invisible and subtle spirit, slinks through the honorable segments little by little, and soon has essentially achieved control of all the innards and organs of the unsuspecting idol. And then, “on one fine morning it gives the idols of its contemporaries a shove with the elbows, and crash! bam! the idol is lying on the floor.” On one fine morning, whose noon is not bloody, as long as the infection has pervaded all the organs of spiritual/cultural life; then only memory still preserves the dead form of the previous stage of spirit, like a history that, somehow or other, has run its course. The new serpent of divine wisdom which is elevated for worship has thus, when you come down to it, merely painlessly shed its wrinkled old skin.

In the span of a couple decades, the Enlightenment took over France, spread to England and Germany and other European countries, and even to the shores of America. This took place not by force, or even by learned argumentation, but rather by gradually surrounding everyone, so that the new spirit functioned like the air they breathe in, or like an infection that has taken root and travels ineluctably and irreversibly through the social organism.

The historical background involves the lumières, the “brights” of the 18th century — including the agnostic Voltaire, the atheist Diderot, and the emergence of the worldwide best-selling Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, to which both contributed. Such brights tried valiantly to raise their contemporaries out of the “simple faith” inculcated by “scheming priests” traditionally ensconced in positions of power and prestige, and to discountenance philosophers like Blaise Pascal, who famously recommended that, if you have doubts about your Catholic faith, you should simply “ask your confessor.” Soon the Goddess of Reason was celebrated in Notre Dame Cathedral, and remaining proponents of Faith all over France slinked to the sidelines, rendered relatively irrelevant and speechless.

 

In a similar fashion, secularism, as an “-ism” opposed to religious “superstition” in our own era, has little by little gained the upper hand. Signs of the victories it has gained surround Christians on all sides: The Bible is no longer the “Word of God,” but an interesting anthropological remnant from times bygone, subject to analysis to determine the sources of the strange mentality prevailing in early centuries of Judeo-Christian developments. Strange doctrines, like the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, and especially the Resurrection, are traced to myths prevailing in ancient civilizations. Anything with the scent of the miraculous, in our enlightened age of Science, can be, and must be, explained away in terms of natural causes.

But even more clearly and firmly, secularism has won the victory over once-embedded moral norms, championed throughout the ages by Christians and other defenders of the natural law, religious and non-religious. Contraception had been condemned from the earliest Christian eras by Barnabas, Clement of Alexandria, and many others down through the centuries; until the 1930 Episcopalian Lambeth Conference drilled the first hole in the dike, followed by almost all other Protestant denominations. Thus we are confronted at present with a fait accompli in industrialized nations where almost everyone is using contraceptives. Polls indicate that about 98 percent of Catholics as well as Protestants say that they have used contraceptives in the past; and that more that 80 percent of Catholic married couples use contraceptives, especially the Pill, to regulate births (omitted from these statistics are the massive number of Christians and non-Christians who now live together before marriage).

If and when pills and contraceptive devices don’t work, the contraceptive of choice, of course, is abortion. Ironically, a considerable portion of contracepting Catholics oppose abortion but give no serious consideration to the opinion of many members of the Association of Pro-life Physicians that, in spite of the Pill, eggs sometimes become fertilized but are effectively aborted because changes in the cervical mucus and endometrial lining prevent implantation. Morning-after pills and IUDs are more clearly abortifacient, as well as the latest “advance” in abortion procedures, produced by IPAS (International Products Assistant Services) — a “manual vacuum aspirator” that any woman can use to suck out babies from their wombs like the machines used by abortionists.

Following upon contraception and abortion like a third apocalyptic horseman, we encounter the gradual emergence, almost through stealth, of the acceptance of homosexuality as something one is born with — although, in spite of numerous attempts, no scientific evidence has been produced to substantiate that claim. Dr. Robert Spitzer, who in 1973 persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, has more recently reversed himself, citing success in reorienting many homosexual patients.

Apparently the authors of After the Ball: How America Will Conquer its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90’s (1989), Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, have achieved their strategic goals, almost as if following the patterns of the Enlightenment as recorded by Hegel. Their strategy: saturating our cultural environment, including films, TV, and other media, with images of gays who are respectable and as normal as the neighbors next door; pointing out celebrities and famous historical personages as gay; equating criticism of homosexuals by pro-family supporters as “hate” crimes; and so forth. It cannot be denied that the goal of Kirk and Madsen is within reach — not just acceptance, but celebration of homosexuality as a contribution to cultural diversity, and even responsible for special individual gifts and talents.

 

Surrounded on all sides by such changes in the cultural atmosphere, wouldn’t it be naive and hopelessly blind to expect any reversal of this handwriting on the wall? Would it not be rational and realistic to accept the changes that have taken place as inevitable and irreversible, so that opposing them would amount to a quixotic tilting at windmills? Almost everyone is using contraceptives; the latest Gallup poll indicates a majority of Americans support gay marriage; abortion is accepted almost everywhere — except for a few holdout enclaves — and touted as a necessary and indispensable element in female empowerment. This constitutes our present social atmosphere. Or shall we end up like the proverbial ostrich, putting its head in the sand?

But going back to Hegel’s analysis, and proceeding a few pages further, we find that the strategy of the Enlightenment eventually turned out to be only a pyrrhic victory. The Enlightenment strategy backfired when the lumières, at the height of their success and power, overreached themselves, enforcing the volonté générale (the new “universal will”) on the volonté de tous (the often recalcitrant “individual wills”), leading to Robespierre, the Jacobins, dissenting factions, and the infamous Terror.

In the middle of the 19th century, Marxists, systematically trying to resurrect a new and “scientific” version of the Enlightenment’s smothering of religion, eventually suffered in the Soviet era a similar reversal, clearly overreaching themselves as they tried to impose an ideology of “communist man” on an unwilling world.

A similar development may take place in our own day, as the proponents of secularist ideology systematically push to the limits their power and influence. Evidence of this has already begun to appear: Organizations and courts siding with atheists in preventing any display of crosses, religious figurines, or depictions of the tablets of the Ten Commandments; liberals outdoing themselves to find ways to fund and support abortion providers like Planned Parenthood; governmentally supported movements to prohibit exceptions of conscience, requiring doctors and pharmacists to supply contraceptives, and insurance companies to cover contraception and abortion; ignoring scientific findings (e.g., by the National Institute of Health in 2006) regarding the connection of contraceptives with breast cancer, and scientific studies showing statistical correlation between abortion and breast cancer; requiring adoption agencies to entrust children to homosexual couples; portraying any criticisms (especially biblically based criticisms) of homosexuality as “hate crimes”; and major Catholic colleges and universities going out of their way to offer contraceptives to students, honor campus GLBT groups, support Planned Parenthood, and feature pro-abortion and/or gay commencement speakers at graduation.

At the present time, like the denizens of the 18th century that Hegel describes, we have to admit that the victory of rampant secularism over Christianity in the Western World is an unmistakable cultural accomplishment, a fait accompli. But the possibility of the sort of reversal that Hegel points out may also be on the horizon. As the ideological secularists begin to overreach in all the ways just described — like their Enlightenment predecessors — we also begin to see the possibility of their (hopefully bloodless) defeat. We may feel a spiritual kinship with many of the citoyens at the end of the 18th century in France, after being subjected to the abolition of all classes and governmental structures, witnessing the resultant radical factions that wanted to exercise control over all individuals in the interests of the “general will,” and being confronted with the new worship of the goddess of Reason. A new, powerful, and all-pervasive conviction might emerge among the citizenry now, like then, that enough is enough.

Howard Kainz

By

Howard Kainz is professor emeritus at Marquette University. He is the author of several books, including Natural Law: an Introduction and Reexamination (2004), The Philosophy of Human Nature (2008), and The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct (2010). Professor Kainz is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine.

  • Paul

    Dear Dr Kainz,

    Thanks for your helpful description of the similarities of the Enlightenment with our own sad epoch. Let’s hope (and pray) that the forces of evil have indeed over-reached, and we have the courage to confront them with the truth of the Cross. This is our hope. Without the Lord we can do nothing. With him we cannot fail.

    Cordially,
    Paul von H.

  • Mike in KC, MO

    “A new, powerful, and all-pervasive conviction might emerge among the citizenry now, like then, that enough is enough.”

    – I do hope that’s the case. My cynical side isn’t buying it, though. More and more I am convinced that, unfortunately, the country will have to burn first. A lot will be lost, and there will be much sadness.

  • Bob G

    Good article, but maybe a shade too pessimistic. Yes, the secularist ideology has won—among secularists, the academy, and the unchurched. But potential new recruits are dwindling. Very visible public trends, such as the disintegration of family life, are raising doubts, even among some cognoscenti. And then, of course, the greatest counter-indicator of all: a faltering economy. The cognoscenti say there is no connection between moral and material realities, but they’re wrong. This debacle is indeed rooted in moral factors, such as a growing irresponsible reliance on debt, public and private.

    If this economy goes down for good (as it well may) so will the culture that produced it. Who knows what will come next? But the “old values” indeed may stage a comeback.

  • http://dad29.blogspot.com dad29

    The good Professor hints at what I think is happening: another “Awakening” in the US, nascent ~10 years ago, now in late childhood, and likely to last another 20 years.

    Oremus!

  • Thomas C. Coleman, Jr.

    Gernerally good article, but the reference toward the end to Marxists in the 18th Centruy is a tad off, since Marx did not write until the 19th Century. Perhaps it was just a typo that the editor should have caught. We are in a bad way today, aren’t we? I, personally, lay it all at the feet of one Martin Luther.

    • Michael PS

      You are right. In Luther’s successors, the principle of private judgement led Calixtus to put reason and Spener the religion of the heart before orthodoxy. Wolf claimed to have established the creed on rational principles; Semler, Ernesti and others used it to deny the authority of scripture. So, too, the anti-rationalism of Spener led to the Pietist Kant’s discrediting of metaphysics.

      In Calvinism, too, there is a clear route from orthodoxy to Unitarianism, to Deism, to scepticism and atheism, or to the sentimental and ultimately amoral pantheism of Emerson.

      Liberalism is merely the secular application of the principle of private judgement: the sovereignty of human reason.

    • http://www.crisismagazine.com Administrator

      Gernerally good article, but the reference toward the end to Marxists in the 18th Centruy is a tad off, since Marx did not write until the 19th Century. Perhaps it was just a typo that the editor should have caught.

      Thanks for the notice. It has been corrected.

  • Michael DePietro

    “that more that 80 percent of Catholic married couples use contraceptives,”

    This statement is the key to the entire problem we are facing because of what it implies. It would seem to suggest that the vast majority of Catholic couples do not believe the Church is what it claims to be. I think it even more importantly means the clergy does not believe it either.

    It is common knowledge that the Church used to teach that contraception is a mortal sin.
    In the past mortal sin was to be greatly feared since it lead to hell. If 80% of Catholic couples continue to practice contraception, this must mean they believe either:

    A) The Church is wrong about what is or is not sinful.
    B) The Church is wrong about the existence of hell
    C) People do not care if they go to hell
    D) Some combo of the above

    Obviously it follows if the Church is wrong about A, or B etc.. There is no reason to believe it about much more nebulous concepts like Christ’s divinity, the real presence, etc. After all there is some empiric evidence that contraception is bad ( look at the rise in STD, divorce, the social disarray produced by out of wed lock births, all of these things can reasonably be associated with the sexual revolution, which to a large extent was triggered by contraception) So to some extent a rational argument can be made that contraception is sinful. No such argument can be made to support things known via revelation alone. (like the divinity of Christ) So it you reject the Church’s teaching about contraception it seems to me that there is no logical reason to believe much of the rest of what it teaches. Hence secularism grows.

    But there is more to it then this. If you were a pastor or a bishop and you really believed that 80% of the married souls in your care were committing what is objectively at least mortal sin, you would fear for their souls. Surely you would preach against it. But it is rare indeed to hear this! In fact although It has been a good many years since I was married, I heard the lay couple employed by the Church to conduct the marriage prep I attended defend and endorse contraception. I have never heard a sermon mention contraception. I have never seen a article or comment in any diocesean paper. Actually this goes beyond contraception, as I have not heard the phrase mortal sin ever used in a sermon ever.

    It then follows that the Priests and Bishops to a good extent believe either:
    A) The Church is wrong about what is or is not sinful.
    B) The Church is wrong about the existence of hell
    C) They do not care if the people in the pews go to hell
    D) Some combo of the above

    I think any of this spells a massive loss of belief among the clergy.

    So there you have it , until this large loss of faith is recongized and countered secularism will rule the day

  • Howard Kainz

    @Michael DePietro: I have had basically the same experience as you — never a sermon or homily touching on contraception. I can remember a girl friend from a family with eleven children telling me during the 60s that her mother was very disturbed about pressures on the Church to allow contraception, which had always been classified as a mortal sin. The mother was thinking, “I have been faithful all along for nothing?” Since the 60s, a veritable sea-change has taken place in this and other areas, without our noticing. That’s the point of my article.

  • TeaPot562

    Examine the population groups in Western Europe and anglophone North America.
    Those of European ancestry are NOT having enough children to replace themselves, i.e., fewer than 2.2 births per woman aged 15 to 45.
    Those of American Indian (erroneously called Hispanics) ancestry are slower to adopt the contraceptive mentality, and have a larger number of births. Strict believers in Islam treat women as second class citizens and are having enough births to become a majority in our culture within a century.
    Conclusion: The values of atheistic materialism have negative survival values for a culture, compared with the values taught in Gen: 1:27-28.
    TeaPot562

  • Phil

    Y’know, historically, when Christianity has been criticized, it has usually not been because the Faith was found immoral. The essential messages of Christ – love your neighbour, have faith in God, do good, etc – has usually actually been held in high esteem, and rightfully so. The social services the Church provided was much superior to what was otherwise available, and the message of the gospel too was a significant force for good. Though doctrinal and theological matters certainly were important, usually it was a perception of corruption and hypocrisy that drove anti-clericalism.

    With that in mind, I find it deplorable that today the situation has changed – modern society believes that its beliefs and values are morally superior to the Church’s. Today’s society seems to have absorbed Christianity’s basic ethics, even if it considers itself to be secular. People might not love their neighbour, but at least they don’t wish them any harm. There are an awful lot of nice, good people out there who never attend church, and who do nice, good things without thinking of God or Christ at all. For many people, the Church is no longer a force of good, to provide moral support in times of need. Instead, it seems, well, to be a force of evil, from which derives intolerance and sexual obstructionism. The expression “is this the Christian thing to do?” now seems much more sinister than it would have fifty years ago. The “Christian thing to do,” many people assume now, is to spread hate against gays, to oppose women’s rights, and to allow millions to die of AIDS because of some theological notion. A few years ago, in Alberta, when a Christian marriage commissioner refused to fulfill his duty as a gov’t official and legally marry a gay couple, there was an outpour of public anger against him. How dare he refuse to perform his job!

    As we all know, such perceptions of the Church are seriously misguided and uninformed. Even if the Church’s stance against homosexuality has caused much suffering among deluded gays and even ruined lives which otherwise might have been successful, there is a rational basis for such a stance grounded in a tradition of theological though stretching back millennia. The average person simply does not know that, and glibly assumes that if the Church is against gay couples “marrying,” it must be out of some nefarious worldview. If the world truly is secularizing quickly as this excellent article claims, then it is imperative that the Church make a great effort to reeducate the public on its true teachings, in order to reprise it’s natural position as a great moral force in a sinful world.

    • Brian English

      “The “Christian thing to do,” many people assume now, is to spread hate against gays, to oppose women’s rights, and to allow millions to die of AIDS because of some theological notion. ”

      Right, I had forgotten how back in the ’80s JPII forced all those gay men to have unprotected sex with multiple partners. And certainly in Africa over the last 25 years there have not been numerous non-Catholic aid organizations that hand out condoms to anyone who looks older than five.

      And by spreading hatred against gays, I assume you mean restating the Church’s position for 2,0000 years?

      And by opposing women’s rights, I assume you mean objecting to the killing of unborn children?

  • sallyr

    I think it’s interesting that people associate the collapse of our culture almost exclusively with the collapse of the economy. As if the loss of material goods and power is the only real calamity we have to really worry about.

    How much more does it seem to me that our culture really collapsed and fell over the last 40 or so years of moral breakdown – of the family, sexual morality, abortion, drugs, mindless pursuit of things, entertainment and distraction. The fact that the economy is collapsing just seems like a symptom of the disease that’s been running its course for the last few generations.

    There are some things that money just can’t buy, although money does allow us to hide from the fallout. We are about to see what happens when the lack of these intangibles – trust, security, moral norms – confront us without the buffer zone of prosperity to soften the blow.

    Here in Chicago we are beset by packs of feral teenagers using social media to go wilding through the most expensive areas in town, randomly beating isolated people and stealing their ipods and phones. Wait till people arm themselves once they realize the police can’t protect them. It’s going to be a bumpy summer.

    We reap what we sow – the most chilling phrase in scripture for our age.

  • bosco stromboli

    the french enlightenment is not a hopeful example. yes, the secularists overreached themselves and the people said ‘too much’, but France never has fully recovered. Her people are generally lost in a mild form of hedonism, and her land will be taken over by Christ-renouncing Muslims.

    • Michael PS

      In France, many Muslims, and especially Muslim women, are manifesting their confidence in the Republic and proclaiming their adherence to its values.

      The president of the Muslim women’s movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Sluts nor Door-mats) Sihen Habchi, in a forceful attack on “multiculturalism” has demanded “No more justifications of our oppression in the name of the right to be different and of respect toward those who force us to bow our heads” and Rachida Dati, herself a Muslim and former French Minister of Justice told the National Assembly that “The Republic is alone capable of uniting men and women of different origins, colours and religions around the principles of tolerance, liberty, solidarity and laïcité, making the Republic truly one and indivisible.”

      Likewise, Fadela Amara, another Muslim and Secretary of State for Urban Policies has declared that “For this generation, the crucial issues are laïcité, gender equality and gender desegregation, based upon living together in harmony throughout the world, and not only in France.

      It is France that is changing Muslims, not Muslims that are changing France.

  • Mr. Ingersoll

    Yes, secularism and atheism are on the march! This time, we won’t make the mistakes of the past.

    Today, 3 out of 4 Americans do NOT attend an organized religious service; we have won. Organized religion is seen in its true light, fleecing the dull witted for their money and spreading hate and fear.

    When 1 out of 5 people openly acknowledge they are atheist and are proud of it, we are winning. Today, we have the internet to spread the truth far and wide.

    More and more people read our texts, and are enlightened. Soon, your myths and bronze age shibboleths will end up where they belong, as esoteric studies in the ancient literature dept. at college.

    • Brian English

      This is what I love about atheists — they show so much respect for those who don’t share their unbelief. What could possibly go wrong if people like this ever gained control of a society?

  • Fred

    Brian – seriously…you have a post above slandering gays (ok libeling) saying ‘..in the ’80s JPII forced all those gay men to have unprotected sex with multiple partner”, ignoring the fact that hetrosexuals were also rampantly having just as much sex. And, you are pro-life, yet you are OK letting Africans have HIV babies, when much of this hardship could have been prevented with condoms.

    Think about what could go *right* if people looked to facts and solutions, rather than an old book, for societal direction.

    • Brian English

      Well, you get points for distinguishing between libel and slander, but then blow it by admitting what I am saying is true, but just true of a larger group. Truth is an absolute defense to libel and slander actions.

      In any event, I was responding to Phil’s absurd claim that the Church was responsible for the deaths of millions of people from AIDS because of some “theological notion.” In his mind, the following conversation was a common one between gay men: “Look, we can have anal sex, but we can’t use condoms, the Church forbids that.” Do you believe such a conversation has ever actually taken place?

      With regard to Africa, in addition to Ed Green, I highly recommend Matthew Hanley’s articles at http://www.the catholicthing.org. I believe he as a book dealing with this issue as well. Hanley has actually been an aid-worker in Africa, so he has seen how abstract theories play-out on the ground. It turns out my old book (really my old Church to be precise) has a much better approach to this issue than your Church of the Eternal Latex.

  • Michael DePietro

    Fred states ” And, you are pro-life, yet you are OK letting Africans have HIV babies, when much of this hardship could have been prevented with condoms.”

    2 comments, this is wrong, on lots of levels. First Condoms have nothing to do with preventing infected Moms from having HIV infected babies. Infants contract HIV directly from mother via poorly understood mechanisms. This is prevented by use of anti- retroviral drugs. The Church has been very active in making this therapy more available.

    Presumably you are referring to the idea that with more condom use there would be less HIV among women. This is not neccesarily true. I would direct you to read the article by Ed Green, who is director of the Aids prevention research project at Harvard at this link http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/03/002-aids-and-the-churches-getting-the-story-right-27.

    In any case the point is not whether anyone agrees with the Church’s position on these things. You are free if you wish to disdain the Church. The point is if you do
    disagree, you must no longer believe the Church is what it claims to be. It is not particularly interesting if their is yet one more secularist who hates the Church. Such folks are a dime a dozen. What is really interesting is the number of clergy who seem to share a similar view.

    • Fred

      Right…I stated it poorly. I was attempting to state that if the condoms were properly distributed and used, there would be a lower rate of HIV + a lower pregnancy rate. Thus…less women with HIV + less babies = less babies with HIV. Not an exact correlation, but pretty close. Of course, if the mom is already infected, condoms do nothing (except prevent the pregnancy).

      I did read the First Things article, and even in dismissing condoms as a preventative for HIV, it does state that “..even consistent condom use reduces risk by, at best, 80 to 90 percent”. To me, that’s 80-90% less total cases – and it seems that would be good.

      100% is better, sure – but, as a practical matter, people aren’t (or don’t seem to be) willing to use abstinence as much. If the target audience isn’t going to use the 100% method, let’s at least give them a shot at avoiding the disease, rather than saying “you didn’t listen…I told you so”.

      BTW…it’s not so much disdain for the Church as it is genuine disagreement. It is interesting to read that some of the clergy seem to have similar viewpoints.

  • Carl

    Fred,
    Church teaching if practiced by everyone would eradicate HIV, not less than, not as bad—total eradication. Natural Family Planning is more effective than condoms.

    Disagreement is dissent, disagreement is dissent, and disagreement is dissent. You’re not arguing with Mr. English, Mr. DePietro, or me. You are arguing with God’s Church.

    And just because there may be Priest(s) serving Cafeteria Catholics doesn’t make your arguments any more believable or convincing.

    You are making secularist’s arguments not Church arguments.

    • Fred

      Carl – you are correct…I suppose I am arguing with God’s Church. I do dissent.

      It just seems to me that, although “Church teaching if practiced by everyone would eradicate HIV, not less than, not as bad—total eradication. Natural Family Planning is more effective than condoms” may be a factual statement, it’s not a realistic or compassionate one.

      To the secular mind, this is like saying “eat your vegetables – you’ll be healthy”, but then withholding vitamins to the people that didn’t listen or follow the advice.

      When people are not listening to the “perfect solution”(and the number of HIV cases seem to indicate that they are not), isn’t it inhumane not to offer another easily available alternative that would help?

      • Brian English

        But suppose giving people vitamins leads to (1) people more often choosing not to eat vegetables; and (2) people who would ordinarily eat their vegetables deciding not to?

        Due to the concept of “Risk Compensation”, people are more likely to engage in risky behavior if they think some type of technology can protect them from the risk. Unless that technology is 100% effective, you are going to end up with more people being harmed than if the technology was not being relied upon.

  • Carl

    Mr. DePietro said “It then follows that the Priests and Bishops to a good extent believe either:
    A) The Church is wrong about what is or is not sinful.
    B) The Church is wrong about the existence of hell
    C) They do not care if the people in the pews go to hell
    D) Some combo of the above”

    No, they answer:

    E) God will understand that I’m basically good and will forgive my few faults because I did some things well. I have saved a few babies who would have otherwise been born with HIV!

    In other words their good deeds are like “sin credits.” For example paying high tax rates to support the poor, working in the soup kitchen and by frequently volunteering at Church they have enough credits to pay off there sins. This is along the lines of “carbon credits” and the “global warming” hypothesis.

    From the sale of indulgences to sale of sins. The Martin Luther dissenters have come full circle! Except they want to pay for a license so they can keep on sinning! Absolution and penance is no longer necessary!

  • Laura

    2 points:
    First, Mr. DePietro, temptations are sometimes difficult to fight against i.e. a nice life which for the Pastor may be within reach by NOT preaching on “hot button” issues of the day and for the laity – eased sexual tensions, fewer children, sort of attractive regarding the “ease” of artificial contraception. What I also rarely hear from the pulpit of a typical parish church is a homily on free will and the exercise of the moral/Theological virtues. This line of homelitics is closely related to sin, temptation, Heaven/hell and the last things. So, brining up the one leads to the “hot button” stuff in short order, and, in the end, the whole desire for comfort(as a god) hamstrings the individuals’ ability to pursue or guide to the Truth.
    Then, as for our state of general, national, lassitude, let us not forget Vietnam lessons. We have communist infiltration on many levels. The libertine/ “enlightened” university crowd is well-defined (and still teaching many of our youth). However, another prong of the attack is via drugs! China fell prey to communism in part owing to the widespread use of opium. I also personally think that our growing “entitlement” class on perpetual/generational welfare is a severe drag on our ability to exercise our national freedoms. For when on entitlement programs, you are not free; the gold is fools-gold if your’re working the system.
    So, bottom line, I suppose that those of us with any modicum of moral clarity should first give thanks to God, then act as fearless guides to our brothers and sisters around us who are blinded and disoriented by the thick smoke of our day and keep up the effort to walk them to the Truth understanding that even mortal struggles might ensue.

  • michael depietro MD

    Brian states ” Due to the concept of “Risk Compensation”, people are more likely to engage in risky behavior if they think some type of technology can protect them from the risk. Unless that technology is 100% effective, you are going to end up with more people being harmed than if the technology was not being relied upon.

    That is a good point. In fact if you look at the experience in Uganda, they have been much more successful that other African Nations at limiting the incidence of HIV and the emphasis has been on changes in sexual behavior (multiple partners, not having sex with teenagers etc.. rather then focusing predominantly on condom use.) Anyone interested can look up the USAID report on HIV in Uganda to see for themselves.

    I am frankly amazed by the faith everyone seems to suddenly place in condoms, since I was pretty thoroughly indoctrinated in the idea that condoms were unreliable as contraceptives all through medical school, suddenly they are impregnable to HIV, they do not slip off, break etc.. that’s not to say they do not lower the risk to less than it would be without them, but by encouraging overall more sex with men, more sex with multiple partners etc.. they may remain an unsatisfactory answer to the epidemic.

    But my central point is really not about the best way to prevent HIV transmission. This is not the central mission of the Church! Remember the Church would argue that disease and death are not the worst possible things. ( I am a physician so I recognize they are bad things and spend my working days dealing with them, but since death is 100 % inevitable they are not the worst things..) Fred seems to think they are. That not offering something which limits disease transmission is “inhumane”

    But of course The worst thing is not disease or death, both of which are inevitable, but sin of course, and the business of the Church is to save not lives but souls. So even if something is 100% effective at lowering he HIV transmission rate to zero, if it is sinful or lead to someone sinning it is a bad thing. A purely technical analysis of HIV transmission then is not the crux of the issue.

    In the long run things which lead to soul death are worse. As a bonus they also tend to lead to physical evil. I think a world in which everyone followed the Church’s teachings regarding sex, would probably not be a world with a lot of fatal Sexually transmitted disease.

  • Konstantin

    Doctor, I kindly disagree with the fundamental thrust of this essay because I don’t view the Enlightenment as an organized movement or as the result of a strategy of a particular group. Thus, I find it difficult to use those terms & criteria to compare the Enlightenment with the advancement of secularism the last 20 years.

    There was no grand conspiracy then and there is no grand conspiracy now. Truth begets truth. It’s a messy process, this ongoing intellectual revolution (or “osmosis”), and we ought not seek comfort by compartmentalizing it within the framework of a forced, false view of history.

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