Saturday, March 28, 2009

Decline of the Civilization Sans God?

Corpus Christi University Parish, Toledo, began the Spring Lecture Series on the topic of “New Frontiers in the Search for the Living God." Pastor of the parish, Father Jim Bacik, said that his mentor, the late German theologian Karl Rahner, asserted that "atheists perform a great service" because "they keep the word 'God' alive."

He went on to say, "If not for the word "God," [citing Karl Rahner], "we would have regressed to the state of sophisticated animals; we would have lost what it means to be human."

We would have regressed to sophisticated animals? I wonder what the data says about that? What do paleontologists find as they sift through the sands of Ethiopia, explore the caves of southern France, and read the hieroglyphs in the lost temples? Did civilization progress because these early humans were aware of a god, a god who 'made them' and deigned them to honor him/her/it for doing so?

Perhaps the lecturer meant 'any' supernatural being with powers and abilities far beyond mortal men: Zeus, Isis, Vishnu, Opheles, Attis, Quetzalcoatl, Mithra. Humans have invented more gods and goddesses than one can shake a stick at [not that one would dare to be so foolish to do so].

Fr. Bacik said said that atheists often make the mistake of discussing God as if God were a being that is "a little stronger than we are, another being in the world like we've got kangaroos and we've got people and then we've got God."The word "God," Father Bacik said, "points to the mystery of life. It points to the infinite that is present in our world … God isn't a being, God is the source of all being."

If God is not a being, I wonder, why, for example do we refer to the masculine, 'He' as the pronoun?

If God is not a being, why to we personify 'Him' in art, books, and cinema?

If God is not a person, why do we ask 'Him' for favors, for wishes, for magic, for healing, for safety in a storm?

Fr. Bacik referred to Thomas Aquinas- 'we know what he meant when he said the most important thing you can know about God is that we don't know God.'

Well, that's clear, neat and tidy. That reminds me of the church in Ethiopia that has the Ark of the Covenant behind the massive red curtain. No one is permitted to lift the curtain, but the abbot assures us that, in fact, it is there. The donation box is visible, however.

At least this part of the lecture seems honest: "You can't get into a God of intervention," Father Bacik said, "because there are no answers to some questions. No one can understand why God did not prevent the Holocaust, for example, or keep a bullet from striking the Pope, eradicate disease, or spare the lives of good people who die young," he said.

That red curtain. Don't look at the man behind the curtain.

"Being confronted by opposing views and having one's beliefs challenged should be a positive experience for people of faith," Father Bacik said, "sending them into a 'search mode' for God."

Whoa! My head is spinning on that one. Quick, where's my Dramamine®?

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