March 03, 2007

The Pope and The Witch at the U of M-Review

Gentle Reader: It's really tough to do a unemotional review of a piece that you know you are probably going to hate because it offends everything you hold dear.

I'll try, but since art asks us for our personal interpretation based upon our beliefs and experiences; I don't feel guilty throwing in some personal commentary. I'm not a theater critic or a newspaper reporter so I don't have to try and remain unbiased in my review.

I'm feeling sick to my stomach just writing this post. Here goes....

The Pope and The Witch's opening performance was Friday evening March 2nd at the Stoll Theater in the Rarig Center at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The original opening night of March 1st was canceled due to inclement weather.

I almost walked out about 10 minutes in. It opened with some vile choral number, sung by actors in clerical and religious costumes accompanied by a talented string quartet in nun costumes, that sounded beautiful but was something about the Pope having a face like an imbecile. They had some actors in nuns costumes parade some photos of the actor playing the Pope (Brant Miller) around-just in case any of us made the "mistake" of thinking they were singing about someone else. There were also jokes about visting the Vatican gift shop afterwards to get gifts blessed by the Pope. Everyone in Act 1, except the character of Professor Ridolfi (Colin Waitt), is in clerical or religious garb.

The set was nicely done. The same set was used throughout the play with some alterations for Act 2 Scene 1. The alterations for Act 2 Scene 1 consisted of putting what looked like big garbage bags over most of the Vatican set. Draw your own conclusions.

The best ongoing "bit" was the use of cell phones in the play. One of the best lines (see, Cathy can have humor!) was a variation of a line in Fo's script. Cardinal Pialli (Christopher Kehoe): "We will be notified that we are going to Hell via our cell phones". There were cell phones constantly ringing on the actors and they were digging around looking for them. In this day and age, how can any of us avoid thinking: "Is that my phone? Did I forget to turn it off?"

The Friar/Addict (most of the actors had dual roles) played by Haley Honeman stole the show with her comedic delivery of the few lines she had along with the physicality of her performance.

Fo's script does not directly refer to the Pope as being John Paul II. However, it's inferred that the Pope is meant to be JPII by his singing in Polish. I heard beforehand that all references to the Pope being John Paul II would be removed. I found this interesting since there are no DIRECT references in Fo's script to the Pope being JPII.

Last night, it sounded like the Pope's singing in German now and there was a reference to Bavaria. Gee, who could that be? But, Polish can sound Germanic at times and I could not really make it out. The sound was a problem or maybe it was the actor's delivery? I'm not sure. I don't think if I had read the script beforehand I would have had any idea what they were saying for most of the play.

I thought it was very unnerving and powerful to have the addicts in Act 2 Scene 1 disperse throughout the auditorium after they'd been shot-up with heroin by the Witch. I don't like people behind me moaning so good job making me even more uncomfortable!

Unfortunately, this play perpetuates the stereotypes that most anti-Catholics and non-Catholics have of Catholics. It makes Catholics look like a bunch of bozos who genuflect, overly vest, kiss rings, cross themselves, kneel, grab Crucifixes and Rosary's like a bunch of superstitious yahoos. There is nothing inward behind any of these "catholic" actions by the actors. It's just a bunch of going through the motions to make the outward gestures of Catholicism ridiculous.

The University of Minnesota is blessed with many talented actors and crew that I'm sure we will see more of. It's too bad, they don't have better material.

The performances end on March 9th. Check the University of Minnesota, Theater Dept. website for details.

34 Comments:

Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Cathy, you are a martyr for the faith. Thank you.

March 03, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger AbecedariusRex said...

Sounds like the drama dep at the Um is beyond passe. Don't they know that beating up on us Roaming Catholics is out of fashion? The new group for libs to smush is the military. (fortunately for most conservatives, the military smushes back!)

Nice review.

March 03, 2007 8:39 PM  
Anonymous DaveX said...

But seriously, AREN'T you just a bunch of "superstitious yahoos"? I mean, really... Catholicism is just your personally-acceptable version of witchcraft. To folks on the outside, its all tremendously silly. I'm well aware that you truly believe these things, its just hard to grasp anyone in this modern age being so gullible.

March 03, 2007 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'like a bunch of superstitious yahoos. '

As davex summed up quite nicely that is just about spot on. The sheer fact you don't see that

1. You are superstitious
and
2. Alot of it makes you appear as yahoo's to the vast majority of the planet.

They are not beating up on Catholics anymore than Catholics beat up on whatever other faith group they disagree with.

There is no reason to treat one groups superstitions as superior or beyond ridicule from another just because you happen to have these superstitious beliefs which in all likleyhood wherebestowed upon you in your youth.

So puh-leez stop the santimony.

March 03, 2007 11:21 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Thank you anonymous and Dave X for making my point.

March 04, 2007 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh good heavens Cathy...Speaking as a former Catholic, the guys are right. Catholicism IS just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Compare Catholicism to new age Spritiualism.

Praying over someone for their health - Reiki
Laying on of hands - Therapeutic Touch and Chiropractic
Prayer - Meditation
Angels/Spirits - psychic John Edward
Holy Water - Homeopathic medicines
Joseph Ratzinger - JZ Knight
Jesus - Ramtha
God - Zues (OK not new age but old school)

Cathy, I looked at your profile and your choice of books. If you would like to read a REALLY good book and one that's good for you, see Carl Sagan's THE DEMON HAUNTED WORLD - Science As A Candle In The Dark.
Best Wishes.

March 04, 2007 10:23 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Anonymous: Been there, done most of that. No thanks.

March 04, 2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger TerryC said...

Anonymous,et all

You obviously uninformed comments are te reason such a play as this is such a bad thing. Not only does it insult Catholics in a way that would not be tolerated against any other group, but it perpetuates false beliefs. The New Age comparisons only serve to illustrate a lack of understanding of Christian (let alone Catholic) beliefs. The inclusion of a proven con man in the list is a sutle form of slander.

March 04, 2007 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear TerryC and Cathy,

Cathy, if you've been there and done most of that I'm assuming you mean the new age stuff. If that is the case, I'm glad to hear you've recognized it for what it is. Unfortunately, I still content you've traded one set of superstitions for another.

TerryC, two things: I don't think my comments on Catholicism are uninformed. I'll grant they may not be as good as yours but let me say, I've read the Cathecism, Catholic Bible, Meaning of the Mass, Our Lady of Madjagoria (sp?), Why Do Catholics Do That?, Don't Know Much About Religion, etc.... For a long time, I even believed it.

The other point is its not insulting to Catholics in a way that wouldn't be tolerated by any other group. Its hard to be an oppressed minority when you're one of the major religions of the nation. Hell, the Catholics control the Supreme Court! You want insults, be an atheist and be forced to use money that say "In God We Trust"!

I don't expect you to take these comments lying down. I expect you to defend your views. That's the only way we can know you're actually thinking about these things. There is no reason your ideas shouldn't be open to polite criticism any more than your political views or views on economics, etc. You're just used to religion having some special privledge that shuts down all argument when one person responds "I believe". What that really means is "you can't change my mind because I refuse to admit the possibility I may be wrong or consider another viewpoint."

Read THE DEMON HAUNTED WORLD, it will do you a world of good.

Best Wishes

March 05, 2007 8:17 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

anonymous:
Unfortunately, I still content you've traded one set of superstitions for another.

I disagree.


Its hard to be an oppressed minority when you're one of the major religions of the nation.

We are one of the major religions of this nation. I've never claimed we were an "oppressed minority". A disrespected faith-yes.

You're just used to religion having some special privledge that shuts down all argument when one person responds "I believe". What that really means is "you can't change my mind because I refuse to admit the possibility I may be wrong or consider another viewpoint." I think Faith does give me a special privalege as a believer that a non-believer does not have but I don't mean that in societal terms. Admitting the possibility that I may be wrong about my Faith no longer enters my mind because I am on the right side of my Faith. I'm always open to other viewpoints or else I would have deleted your comments.

March 05, 2007 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Cathy,

I apologize for being tedious about this but can you please explain to us how Catholicism is different from new age superstitions?

Besides the obvious that the Catholic kneels while praying and the Spiritual sit cross legged, what is the difference between prayer and meditation? It looks the same and seems to have the same outcome.

While you're at it, you could tell me the difference between the Eucharist and "natural medicines". If you examine closely both of these, one seems to be bread, even after the consecration, and the other is still plant extracts that the spiritual believe has healing powers. Where is the evidence that transsubstantiation actually turns the bread into the body and blood of Jesus Christ? How is Catholicism more "real" than new age spiritualism?

Maybe this should be a whole commentary instead of a response to this post?

Best Wishes and thanks for taking the time.

March 05, 2007 1:55 PM  
Anonymous DaveX said...

I don't expect you to offer any evidence like anonymous is asking for-- its obvious that after 2000+ years, there really isn't any. Let's face it. Catholics have had two thousand years to produce some evidence, but have failed. For all the money and power of the Catholic church, you have little more to show for it than the old standby: faith.. the ultimate discussion killer. Don't let the weight of religion's built-up tradition (or your own fears of being embarrassed) keep you from moving past this stuff.

March 05, 2007 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Schnappi said...

Admitting the possibility that I may be wrong about my Faith no longer enters my mind
That's your loss, but hardly surprising. After all, your all-loving boss likes to punish independant thought with eternal torture.

I'm always open to other viewpoints
Liar. As your previous sentence makes perfectly clear, you're as open-minded as a slab of concrete.

March 06, 2007 12:56 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

I have not had time at this moment working for 14 hours/day as I do and currently having car trouble and trying to get my car to a shop to compose a reply to anonymous. So, don't make the mistake of thinking I am incapable of doing so.

I will do so when I have some free time.

March 06, 2007 9:20 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

davex: It is you who needs to move past what appears to be a lot of pent up anger.

schnappi: I don't appreciate being called a liar. If you can't play nice, don't come back.

March 06, 2007 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Cathy,

I'm sorry to hear you're working 14hrs./day and having car trouble. I wish you luck with all of that.

I can honestly say I look forward to your reply about the differences between Catholicism and other superstitions like new age Spiritualism.

I'm sure it will make for a good debate. I hope it will be a civil one as well (from all sides).

P.S. Have you given any more thought to reading that book by Carl Sagan?

Best Wishes.

March 06, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Anonymous: Thank you for your civility. I will check into that book by Mr. Sagan.

I really mean it when I say I intend to respond to your post. I don't have time for more then a few quick notes at this point.

March 06, 2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger Our Word said...

What troubles me about this entire exchange is the vituperation with which so many of the critics of Cathy’s post respond. There is a temptation to respond in kind, but that really serves to defeat the purpose of civil exchange; in addition, it provides a poor witness to the Faith.

One of the great facets of Catholic scholarship is that we are able to refer to the Church Fathers for guidance and advice in encountering critics of the Church. And in a case such as this, I can’t think of a better authority to refer to than Aquinas and his writings from the Summa.

In Reply to Objection 1, ST 1, 1, Aquinas deals with the relationship of reason and doctrines of faith, which seems to be a main objection from reasonable critics:

Although arguments from human reason cannot avail to prove what must be received on faith, nevertheless, this doctrine argues from articles of faith to other truths.

In the main body of the argument, he makes this observation which addresses concers about “unanswerable arguments”:

As other sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences: so this doctrine does not argue in proof of its principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them it goes on to prove something else; as the Apostle from the resurrection of Christ argues in proof of the general resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). However, it is to be borne in mind, in regard to the philosophical sciences, that the inferior sciences neither prove their principles nor dispute with those who deny them, but leave this to a higher science; whereas the highest of them, viz. metaphysics, can dispute with one who denies its principles, if only the opponent will make some concession; but if he concede nothing, it can have no dispute with him, though it can answer his objections. Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another. If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections — if he has any — against faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered.

[…]

The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles; for faith presupposes natural knowledge, even as grace presupposes nature, and perfection supposes something that can be perfected. Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent a man, who cannot grasp a proof, accepting, as a matter of faith, something which in itself is capable of being scientifically known and demonstrated.


On the other hand, God’s creation of the universe is an article of faith:

The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively, because faith is of things "that appear not" (Hebrews 11:1). But that God is the Creator of the world: hence that the world began, is an article of faith; for we say, "I believe in one God," etc. And again, Gregory says (Hom. i in Ezech.), that Moses prophesied of the past, saying, "In the beginning God created heaven and earth": in which words the newness of the world is stated. Therefore the newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.

(The above analysis and quotes from Aquinas are courtesy of Peter Sean Bradley at the very sharp blog Lex Communis, who summarizes these points far better than I ever could have hoped to.)

The point I make here is that those who resort to uncivil, crude, boorish behavior are not interested in a true exchange of ideas. [Anonymous, please note that these comments do not apply to you; however, I do not consider myself conversant enough in the issues you’ve raised to be able to provide an adequate answer myself.]

However, I will offer this observation, Anonymous, that Catholics are indeed the last group against whom overt bigotry is accepted. Indeed, did one see the protestors gathering to burn down the theater, threaten the lives of the participants, put a bounty on the head of the playwright? This most certainly would have happened had such a performance been aimed at, let’s say, Mohammad and Islam, no?

For those other commentators who appear to be more interested in tossing off self-amusing bon mots, [DaveX and Schnappi], I find it ironic that they wind up engaging in the very behavior that they most often accuse Christians of – a denial of reason, logic, rational thought. So who is more interested in reason and intelligent debate, and who is more interested in sloganeering and emotionalism?

But, DaveX and Schnappi, don’t bother to respond. First, I doubt you’re really interested in a serious intellectual discussion, when it’s much easier to just be insulting. And second, Cathy truly is too busy to deal with all of it now; I’m merely too busy to waste my time with the likes of you.

March 06, 2007 10:51 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Well, there's not much I would dare to add to that.

March 06, 2007 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Our Word,

Forgive my ignorance, but I've read what you've cited by Aquinas and it doesn't make much sense to me. Is it possible to explain this in every-day language?

I must also take issue with your claim that Catholics are the last group against whom overt bigotry is accepted. Please see:
http://www.myconfinedspace.com/2007/03/06/reader-voices-strong-opinion-on-atheists/

If the link doesn't work, the full text of this letter to the editor reads: It’s time to stomp out atheists in America. The majority of Americans would love to see atheists kicked out of America. If you don’t believe in God, then get out of this country.

The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.), but you must believe.

I don’t recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says, “In God We Trust.” So, to all the atheists in America: Get off of our country.

Atheists have casued the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our school sna being able to rpactice what can only be called evil. I don’t care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.

Can you imagine the newspaper publishing this about Catholics or Jews or Blacks (or even gays)?

But still, you don't see Atheist threatening to burn her house down, threatening her life, or putting a bounty on her head (so far as I know). So at a minimum, I think you'll have to add atheists to your list of accepted bigotry.

I will take a moment to compliment Catholics in one respect. If you find one who is truly trying to live their faith, you will often find them to be some of the nicest people you'll ever be lucky enough to meet.

Of course, being nice doesn't mean their religion is anything more than superstition, it just means they have a superstition that values being nice.

Best Wishes.

March 06, 2007 11:39 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Anonymous:

With respect to "atheism" I would agree that there are people opposed to atheism and who would like to see it outlawed.

There are also people who please in a Flat Earth, there are people who believe that the earth is populated by being from other galaxies who dwell in a hole in the center of the earth, and also people who believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

You can find people who believe in just about anything. Some of them write books and sell millions.

Can you name a state university that sponsors sponsors plays mocking atheism or one that discriminates against atheistic employees or professors?

March 06, 2007 12:58 PM  
Blogger Our Word said...

Anon,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Some thoughts in return:

1) I think Jefferson would say that freedom of religion does in fact mean freedom to have no religion. He might not think it wise for the civil society (Franklin, another man who professed no formal religion, felt that religion nonetheless was important to society as a whole). But the Founders would, I think, have been horrified at the idea people were being forced to believe. Since many people look at the Founders as men of the Enlightenment, it's dubious that they would feel people "must believe." I can't agree with you there.

2) I also can't agree with your assertion that athiesm and Catholicism face equal amounts of bigotry. Yes, there is bigotry everywhere - in a certain sense, everyone is a bigot of one kind or another. It's when you put your bigotry into active action that it becomes a serious social problem. Nonetheless, in a society that is increasingly becoming a secular, relativist, humanist one, I think it's somewhat absurd to suggest there is rampant bigotry and discrimination against athiests. It would be like the body turning against itself, and as Christ said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." So no, I won't add athiests to the list of those against whom bigotry is acceptable.

3) The quote "Atheists have casued the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our school sna being able to rpactice what can only be called evil. I don’t care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant" and your question as to whether I could imagine anyone saying that about Catholics: of course I can. I think things of that spirit are said against Christians all the time. The name Sam Harris ring a bell? So I'm afraid I disagree with you there as well.

4) As far as Aquinas is concerned, I will agree with you to this end - he can be very challenging to read through. My advice to you, and I mean this sincerely and not in a snarky manner, is to study the quote from the Summa - look at some of the commentary that's available online, and read it over until it makes sense to you. It may take awhile, but it can be done - and if you are truly interested in learning what Aquinas is saying - and not just to ridicule it - you'll get a great deal more out of it.

A postscript: many people (and I'm not attributing this to you) think that Catholics are spoon-fed, taught to accept without questioning, unable to think for themselves. But in fact authors such as Aquinas wrote not solely for the clergy, but meant their writings to be accessible. And any good parish study program would recommend that people come to classes well-read, well-prepared, and ready to discuss. Even in the pre-Vatican II days, Catholics were encouraged to read the Bible and other writings prior to Mass, to prepare themselves internally and intellectually. That's why I say there is no substitute for study.

Second postscript: I don't get online a lot, so do not take any subsequent silence as either an insult, a capitulation, or indifference. Most likely, it's just too much to do, too little time! Regards.

March 06, 2007 1:25 PM  
Blogger Our Word said...

Anonymous,

I did want to include one further comment. I certainly don’t want you to think that I (or anyone else involved in the discussion) is throwing around these high-level concepts to show off or impress. We want to draw attention to God, not to ourselves. The last thing I’d want to do is throw something up there that proves totally unintelligible. That’s hardly the way to help people understand your point, any more than partaking in uncivil discourse.

To that end, regarding your question on Aquinas and my previous answer, I’d suggest looking at a relevant passage from Aquinas wherein he talks about the use of reason in discussing the existence of God. As one commentator says, “We cannot hope to demonstrate the necessary existence of a being whose true nature we cannot even conceive by direct or positive means. Instead, Aquinas held, we must begin with the sensory experiences we do understand and reason upward from them to their origin in something eternal.”

I think you will find Aquinas’ arguments flow rather logically and are easier to follow when you read him directly. However, if you have questions about it I would defer to our resident Thomist Adoro (who commented earlier in this thread), who can disseminate this much more clearly than I can!

March 06, 2007 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ray,

I agree that a lot of people (the majority?) hold strange beliefs. Trying my best not to be insulting but remember the original premise of all these posts is that Catholicism is not substantially different from new age Spiritualist, those that believe in a flat earth, hollow earthers, and geocentrists. Sure the beliefs are different but good evidence for all of them is left wanting.

State universities that discriminate against atheists? No. But then again, I can't think of a state university that discriminates against any religion at least as a matter of policy.

Couldn't find any plays that mock atheist but that's not surprising. The unchurched make up less than 14% of the population so it makes sense the majority of plays concerning religion would be overwhelmingly those that support and those that mock the faith.

But because I couldn't find either a university or play that discriminates or mocks atheists, this has nothing to do with the mockery contained in the play we're discussing. I'm assuming you'd be willing to mock the flat earthers and hollow earthers. If Catholicism is essentially the same as these groups, as I claim, then Catholicism is also an appropriate venue for mockery.

Lastly, it’s not quite the same thing as mockery or discrimination but it’s a state law here in Virginia where I live that the Pledge of Allegiance must be said every day. I've let the school know of our godlessness and they've graciously offered to take my kindergarten daughter out of class during the pledge if we desire but we don't want our daughter singled out. So while the state mandated pledge doesn't mock atheists, it’s certainly not very representative of our views either.

Dear Our Word,

1) Sorry for any misunderstanding but I was not making the claim that people must believe. That was from a Letter to the Editor from some crazy lady in Alaska.

2) I'm not sure about the assertion of equal amounts of bigotry. Certainly because the majority of the population are believers, the majority of bigotry in absolute numbers is probably directed to the faithful. In terms of relative amount of bigotry, didn't the University of Minnesota have a fairly recent study saying atheists were the least trust group following Muslims, Jews, and gays?

But I really don't want to get into an argument with you about which of our groups is the more pathetic.

In absolute terms, bigotry against any of these groups is unacceptable although scrutiny and deserved ridicule for their goofy ideas should not be off-limits.

3) Touché. I'll give you this one.

4) I'll probably take a pass on the offer to read Aquinas (even though I'm being hypocritical by asking Cathy to read one of my books) due to time constraints. I will keep an eye out for the Cliffs Notes version.

Best Wishes.

March 06, 2007 4:23 PM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Our Word, thanks for the reference, but I'm not certain I quite qualify as either a Thomist or any kind of theologian!

As far as the issues being addressed here, there's a lot of Christianity and Atheism both that must be taken on faith. A Christian has a faith in God (as the Trinity) and we believe in life after death. An atheist chooses not to believe, and thus also takes that stance on life and death.

We can sit here and throw written works around all day long but let's be honest; we are not going to accept each other's position.

Atheists are not going to convice us that there is no God; we simply believe that he exists and we live, to the best of our ability, those teachings. After all, what do we have to lose? Rather, we have everything to gain and this belief also gives us hope and faith in humanity itself. Why would you try to destroy that in another person?

What would be your motive in trying to dissuade a Chistian from their beliefs in God and in Jesus Christ as our Savior? He is YOUR Savior, too, whether you choose to accept that reality or not.

I have been studying the works of John Paul II and find them to be extremely englightening for they are giving me a far greater understanding of our beliefs. For example, are you aware that the Catholic understanding of redemption through Jesus Christ ultimately isn't just about getting into heaven; rather, it is about complete fulfillment of humanity, restoring humanity and making humanity even more human. What we see in our secular cultur is the complete dehumanization of people in various constructs.

I would encourage you to spend some time reading Redemptor Hominis, and possibly Gaudium et Spec (a Vatican II document) along with it. I would also encourage anyone interested to read his encyclical Fides et Ratio (faith and reason). I believe that Pope Benedict XVI also has a book by that name although I have found much of his writing to be..well, quite difficult. He's brilliant, but his style may be a bit off-putting. The same can be said for JPII.

The reality is that faith and reason go hand in hand. We are not always able to articulate our beliefs or the reasons for them and our journey in our faith is a lifelong one; there's always more to learn and to consider.

As far as the New Age questions; I also was involved in New-Ageyness for awhile, and one of the reasons I have ultimately rejected it is that, firstly, it is a conglomeration of religions which is fluid. New Age today may be different tomorrow, and it also has a sort of pantheism, which I simply reject. Additionally, there is no moral yardstick; there is nothing to objectively measure or guide the beliefs of the New Age conglomerations. This leads to moral relativism in which anything goes and thus really disrupts the ability of those who subscribe to such a system to really be able to think critically.

We as human beings need something to ground us. I'm guessing that this is something we can all agree upon.

I also have had subjective experiences both as a new age relativist and as a reverted Catholic, and I can say this; I am a far better person since I have embraced Catholicism and the Truth that is Jesus Christ than I was when I was into the new age.

A lot of the proof out there is in the individuals who practice these things and where it leads them; true happiness or just a false embrace of something incoherent which ultimately leads to emptiness.

I cannot prove to you that God exists, nor can I address your comparison to the New Age. The reason being; you have already rejected the possiblity of God, thus you out of hand reject the possiblity of evil. In fact, you have rejected religion completely. Is there truly anything we can say that would change your mind or satisfy your curiosity?

None of us are theologians; we are everyday Catholics and we live our lives, to the best of our ability, in accordance with our belief in Jesus Christ. It does not make us better than anyone else; we have a fallen nature just as others do, but what our religion gives us is hope and knowledge that our lives have value, that each one of us (all of humanity) has an inherent dignity which was given to us by God above.

I have been without hope in the past; I do not ever want to repeat those dark days.

I am only a Catholic and all I can provide to you is my personal witness. I can point you to others who may satisfy your academic curiosity and I will see if I can find some internet links or titles which may be of assistance.

March 06, 2007 6:22 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Anon.

"State universities that discriminate against atheists? No. But then again, I can't think of a state university that discriminates against any religion at least as a matter of policy."

http://www.thefire.org/index.php/?PHPSESSID=8c29ac86dc03cb09cda8a0c152e3d858

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has a newsletter to which I subscribe.

The constantly are fighting against state schools that discriminate against religious beliefs.

I don't have time to look it up, but Last Fall, the University of Wisconsin in Madison wanted to remove a Catholic group from the Campus because they wouldn't allow non-Catholics as officers.

You are obviously seeking something, anon., I hope you find it. I will put you in my prayer intentions. But I don't have time to continue this conversation.

March 06, 2007 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Adora te Devote,

Let me first say I apologize if I’ve offended you (or anyone else reading this) and I appreciate you and everyone taking the time to read what I’ve written. I’m very pleased to hear you’ve recognized the “New-Ageyness” for what it is and realize it’s a bunch of made up superstitious wishful thinking.

If you will indulge me, I’m going to try to address some of the things you’ve mentioned point by point. I apologize for the length of this.

You say atheist choose not to believe and also take that stance on life and death. That’s close but not exactly true. What I am advocating is that we go so far in our beliefs only so far as the evidence allows and recognize anything beyond that as supposition. I am willing to accept both Catholicism and the existence of God if provided with good evidence but so far, I’ve not found it. More accurately, that which I used to accept as good evidence when I was a Catholic I’ve become convinced is not so good any more.

Take for example, life after death. I don’t know of any Catholics that claim our souls return to earth in any way as ghosts, etc., and yet back at the start of the 1900’s many people believed in ghosts and séances, etc. Harry Houdini spend much of his life showing that these “mediums” were either outright frauds or that their “evidence” was better explained by fakery. When the evidence arrives that there is a spirit that exists past death, I will accept that and chance my stance. But I think it reasonable to wait until then.

Why dissuade a Christian from a belief in God? I can actually come up with many answers to that but for me personally it comes down to truth. I am in love with the truth. I would rather know I’m dying of cancer and its incurable than be told platitudes of a long life by a trusted doctor. I don’t think Catholicism or any other religion is any more true than new age superstitions and because I’m in love with truth, I think it important for others to know they are maybe being deceived. Continuing to believe because it feels good is like saying one should stay a drunk because it makes you happy.

Religion and our beliefs have very real impacts on our lives. The obvious one is flying jetliners into building, or murdering abortion doctors to protect the “unborn”, to giving away 10% of your income so that you cannot heat your home but trusting God to provide. That real aggravation with this type of thinking is that if God does not provide your home with heat, you end up blaming yourself for not having enough faith.

It impacts our children too. Christian Scientists don’t seek medical treatment for their children. I’ve read a story at http://www.childrenshealthcare.org/ which says:
Amy Hermanson, 7, died in 1986 in Sarasota, Florida. A talented little girl, she took piano, violin, harp, and art lessons, and excelled in academic subjects also. Many teachers and employees at her mother's business observed Amy's weight loss and lethargy over a four-week period, but did not report to Child Protection Services (CPS). They did not know she had diabetes. Some assumed the parents were providing medical treatment. One employee said she did not report to CPS because she knew the Hermansons were Christian Scientists and they were "signing [her] paycheck." A neighbor urged her mother to take her to a doctor, but the mother refused. A few minutes later, Amy crawled in from another room on her hands and knees and begged her mother to take her home. Her aunt said that she was incoherent and unable to focus her eyes the day before she died.
The Hermansons were convicted of felony child abuse and third-degree murder. In 1992, however, the Florida Supreme Court overturned their conviction on fair notice grounds. Citing a religious exemption in Florida's civil code, the Court said, "The statutes have created a trap that the legislature should address." Nine years later, however, the Florida legislature still has not done so.
So Adoro, I apologize if I seem to be the buzz-kill but if belief leads to these things AND its not true, isn’t it better to live in the real world? Wouldn’t that little 7-year old girl have been better off under the care of a doctor? The real solid, physical evidence supports this view.

Now I know no one reading this post would take part in any of these things but if the question is why choose atheism over any superstition is because we stand a better chance of survival and happiness grounded in reality.

You say there are no moral yardsticks with New-Agyness. I think the problem is you’re looking for moral guidance from the New Age belief systems. Our morals come from the groups in which we live for the most part. Because we live in a predominantly Christian nation, we reject the moral dictates of Islam to have your women cover themselves or to kill them if they dishonor their families. If you lived in a Muslim country, you would reject the Christians adoration of saints.

Our true morals come from ourselves and being forced to live with others. For example, stealing is almost always wrong whether God is looking over my shoulder or not. Killing is almost always wrong. I don’t kill you because I don’t want your family killing me. You can be a very moral person and still reject superstition in all its forms and claims.

I agree we need something to ground us and I’m going with those things we know, absolutely know to be real. This does not include superstitions.

I’m glad to hear you are a far better person as a Catholic than when you were a New Age person but this has nothing to do with the “reality” of your religion. You can be a great person while being “new-age” or Catholic or atheist.

You accuse me of rejecting the possibility of God and evil out of hand. This is not true. I have seriously sought God for at least half my life. Because I want to know the truth about everything I’ve put a lot of effort into this. Its only after learning the importance of skepticism and how people are readily able to fool themselves, and how we tend to use bad logic, etc. AND when I was reminded of the importance of knowing what is real, did I finally reject religion and God. But, I could be wrong and provided with enough good evidence, I am willing to chance my mind. Understandably, when you look at the claims of the supernatural, these extraordinary claims will require extraordinary evidence.

The final part of this. You say, “…our religion gives us hope and knowledge that our lives have value, that each one of us (all of humanity) has an inherent dignity….”

When I came to my atheism, I found it a little disorienting. To give up God, to think its just me “against” the world, that I have to stand on my own two feet and that the world doesn’t care if I live or die or suffer, that I could be good or evil without worrying about reward or punishment in an afterlife. It made my head spin. It also made me a little depressed.

I tell you truly though, it took some adjustment but I’ve gotten over that and I’ve never been so happy nor felt so good about my place in the world in my life.

Now, I consider that I am part of a species that has struggled against nature for the last 100,000 year and I am proud. We’ve invented agriculture, domesticated animals, found the true nature of the Earth spinning, what lightning bolts are, that germs are too small to see and cause illness. We have space telescopes that look 15 billion years backward in time and that we are part of a vast, vast universe with literally hundreds of billions of galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars and I am grateful and thankful for living even if I will die some day. I look forward in anticipation of what my species will accomplish next.

To be this little flicker of consciousness in the cosmos is enough for me. No amount of wishful thinking will cause my consciousness to outlive my body so I have to be happy with what I have and am.

I no longer need religion or God to know my place in the universe.

If after my death I’m proven to be wrong, I shall apologize to God and ask his forgiveness but until then this life is wonderful and its enough for me.

Best Wishes. Thank you all for reading this.

March 06, 2007 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had to "martyr" yourself by going to art that you didn't agree with. I don't agree with the church so stopped going. End of story. I still have faith in God though. Yours seems so pathetically dependent on what other people think as to be controlled by those college kids in the theatre. It's kinda funny - like which came first, the audience or the actors? That your faith is so weak that you felt the need to be vomitously offended by a piece of art without even seeing it is kinda sad. If you knew it wasn't your thing, don't go. There is art that I cannot stomach. there are thoughts that I can't stomach. Like how many hours did I waste in CCD when I could have been a Quaker all my life... makes me kinda sad but there you go. The point is, your rage, rather than being defiant, comes off sad and pathetic. If you can't take the art, get out of the creative space. If you can't creatively analyze your faith, maybe your faith in God is weak. God will always be around, no matter what an artist says about God. Don't blame an artist for your revulsion, look inward. I suspect your will find your answers.

March 06, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger Our Word said...

Anonymous number 2 (as distinguished from Anonymous number 1, with whom we have been having a fruitful conversation):

Your antagonism on this issue is unfortunate, because it appears your anger is preventing you from logically looking at the question as to why this play bothers so many Catholics, and therefore entering into an engaging and thought-provoking discussion.

It is not, as you suggested, because we ourselves feel threatened by it. (Although I do think you strongly underestimate the ability of young people – even college students – to make a difference. Many of the great Christian martyrs, for example, were teens.) And I think you're also selling short the ability of art to persuade - the author of this play himself must have considered it a vehicle for his thoughts, else why bother writing it? Art does have power, as we point out in a discussion currently under way at the Our Word site.

No, this issue is not about reinforcing the faith of those who already believe as much as it is trying to demonstrate the truth to those who may be unsure, to those who are seeking answers, to those who may be weak enough in their faith that they can be easily misled. To look at this logically, let us take as the text for this discussion Christ’s words:

"The word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do."

It follows from this, therefore, that:

If you believe in God then you believe what He teaches is the truth
If you believe what He teaches is the truth, then you follow the Commandments
If you follow the Commandments then you love your neighbor
If you love your neighbor then you want what’s best for your neighbor
If you want what’s best for your neighbor, then you want him to share that faith in God
If you want him to share that faith in God, then you want him to learn it truthfully
If you want him to learn it truthfully, then you show concern about people who try to mislead him
If you show concern about people who try to mislead him, then you expose the falsehoods in their teaching
If you expose the falsehoods in their teaching, then you provide a witness to the truth.

Let’s follow this up by looking at the parable of the sower of the seeds. In this, we see through Christ’s words the reason why we are so concerned about teaching the truth:

The sower sows the word.

And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them.

And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."

And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand?

For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:14-23 RSV)


That’s what it’s all about, Anonymous #2. We protest because we are called to be witnesses to the truth, not because of any insecurity in our faith. You see that if we truly care about our fellow man, we want to share that truth with him, and rebut the falsehoods that are told.

The idea of protecting the truth and rebutting falsehoods is, I’m sure you know, a great tradition in both English common law and American constitutional law – the idea of libel and slander demonstrates the value attached to protection of the truth from defamation through intentional falsehoods. I don’t know whether or not there’s anything out there in which you truly believe but if there is, then doubtless, you would defend the truth of that belief.

I also don’t know whether or not you much care about this discussion – from the tenor of your initial comments, it would be hard to imaging that you really care about anything other than vacuous sloganeering and mudslinging. But I could be wrong, and I hope I am. (In case you’re thinking that I’m being judgmental here, I’ll also point out that while we can’t judge the contents of a man’s heart, we can certainly draw conclusions from his public behavior, as indeed I am now doing.) Furthermore, if there is anyone else out there who wonders, this may be of help to them.

But if you don’t care – if you truly don’t care about logical thought, intelligent discussion, fruitful debate – then so be it.

March 07, 2007 9:08 AM  
Blogger Our Word said...

I should add that I would rather be a fool for God, than merely a fool.

March 07, 2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Anonymous2: I went to the play because I KNEW if I didn't, especially after being publicly critical of it someone would come along and say: "How do you know its so bad, you did not see it." I read the script by Mr. Fo because I knew if I didn't: "Someone would say, you don't know what you are talking about you have not read the play"

I don't care what other people think about me. If I did, I would not put myself out into the public sphere via this blog. I DO care what people think about my Faith which is the entire point of attending the play, reading the script, blogging about it etc.

You contradict yourself in your comments, first you say I should not have martyred myself (by the way I did not refer to myself as a martyr) by going, later you say how can I be "vomitously offended" by a piece of art I did not see. Who are you talking to? I did see it.

I did critically analyze the art. If I could not take "art", I would have stayed home.

Do I creatively analyze my Faith? Good question. I think I do so via this blog. But, I still keep in mind the Magisterium. Do I critically analyze my Faith? You did not ask that question but I will. Yes, every hour of every day.

You seem to have the mistaken impression, carried by so many, that people who actually live their Faith, as they are called to do, are mindless automatons. I claim no great intellect for myself, but I have found many believers to be extremely intelligent individuals.

You refer to being a Quaker: Hmmm... Mr. Golux is that you?

March 07, 2007 1:01 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

anonymous: My response to you is up: http://therecoveringdissidentcatholic.blogspot.com/2007/03/how-faith-is-not-superstition-open.html

March 07, 2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger 中島美嘉mika said...

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January 27, 2010 9:58 PM  
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February 06, 2010 7:23 AM  

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