Adhering to Popular Opinion Does Not Make You an Independent Thinker

I discovered this rather hilarious / idiotic article this morning. It so wonderfully encapsulates just how self-deluded our current culture, and especially the generation to which I, alas, am a part of, really is, especially with regards to issues of truth.

The article is reproduced below in bold with my comments in italics.

My name is Kathleen and I am a little Catholic schoolgirl. I wore a sweater vest and knee-highs and a skirt that could be no more than two inches above my knees. Rogue nuns wandered the halls of my high school. We “left room for Jesus” at school dances, all of which were supervised by a resident priest. I come from a devoutly Roman Catholic family from a primarily Catholic community largely dominated by Catholic institutions, schools, values and beliefs.

Right out of the bat, I’m suspicious of her assessment. That doesn’t sound the Catholic schools I knew. I mean, maybe, but all that sort of thing – supervising priests, nuns wandering the halls, and ‘leaving room for the Holy Ghost’ (that’s the usual phrase, not ‘leaving room for Jesus,’) was pretty much on its way out by the 1990s at the latest. Now, there are still some schools like that, but based on the rest of her article, I’m thinking that it probably wasn’t like she’s describing. More likely, she went to your typical modern Catholic school that is terrified of ever saying or teaching anything that wouldn’t also be said at the local public school and so bringing the wrath of the PTA down upon its head, but she remembers it as a stifling environment of conformity because that’s what the progressive narrative tells her it should have looked like.

This view of things is supported by the fact that she starts her article with a photograph that looks like it’s from the 1950s.

And yet against all odds, I don’t fit into Catholicism.

Well, stop the friggin’ presses.

That’s not against the odds, Miss Ferraro, that’s what the odds predict. You’re a college sophomore of the early twenty-first century; beating the odds would be not conforming to the zeitgeist like the jelly that you are.

As Mr. Chesterton put it, falling into Heresy is the norm. It’s what happens when you don’t try and just drift with the tide of opinion. Maintaining orthodoxy is the difficult thing because Orthodoxy is always out of fashion.

My Catholic upbringing and education seemed the perfect formula for a perfect Catholic.

After reading the whole of her article, I have grave doubts about that, but we’ll deal with that later.

Nonetheless, I’ve developed values and beliefs that significantly diverge from this foundation.

Sounds like they weren’t perfect, and they probably only seem that way to you because they were actually terrible and you have no idea what Catholicism actually entails. Don’t feel bad; we’ve all been there.

Religion has been and always will be a subject that touches nearly every aspect of my life; a subject that touches everybody’s life in one way or another be it via the news, interaction with religious affiliates or contemplating higher power. That being said, why are so many of us (myself included) continually describing ourselves as spiritual, agnostic, exclusively culturally religious or atheist despite often having strong roots in organized religion?

That would be because you’re narcissistic, pampered little snowflakes who were never seriously taught the faith, never learned to think rationally, never were made to understand moral principles, and who naturally buy into the current trend of popular thought because it’s flattering and doesn’t demand anything of you.

Whenever I think about this question, I always resort to my list-making ways, crafting an inventory of the reasons that Catholicism has not worked for me.

Oh, this should be good.

Old-fashioned values and traditions,

I.E. ones that actually work in the real world.

hesitation towards accepting the LGBTQ community

Knew we had to get to that one. Because it’s up to the 2,000 year old religion to arbitrarily change its moral teachings in order to be more ‘accepting’ towards a ‘community’ defined entirely by its desire to violate some of those teachings. Because that’s what the Church is there for; to make sure sinners feel good about themselves as they continue to sin. As Our Lord said, “if your brother sins, reassure him that it’s perfectly normal and you wouldn’t have him any other way.”

and inherent political undertones of church leadership leave me feeling conflicted and uneasy.

Based on the rest of her article, I have to assume ‘inherent political undertones’ means ‘opposes contraception and abortion.’ By the way, note that her ‘reasons Catholicism don’t work for me’ never once mention either ‘truth’ or ‘Jesus’? She doesn’t even seem to be aware that the question “do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God” is even relevant here. Man, her perfect Catholic Education sucked!

I will never understand why dressing up in a modest J.Crew dress and sitting in the first pew at church

What the…sitting in the front pew? Where did you grow up; Regency-era England? Look, in my experience sitting in the first pew means you 1. are a special guest who will address the congregation at the end to ask for money to help build an orphanage somewhere unpleasant 2. Are a lector 3. Are attending a baptism, or 4. Are elderly or disabled to the point where the priest has to bring you Communion. Otherwise the seats are ‘sit where you like and no one gives a damn because that’s not why we’re here and no pays any attention to who is sitting in the front row’. This furthers my suspicion that she’s greatly exaggerating / making-up much of her ‘Perfect Catholic Upbringing.’

trumps participating in a climate march,

Going to Church (whether in the FRONT PEW or not), is healthy and useful, rather than shrill and annoying. There, does that answer your question?

By the way, why is she citing climate issues as an opposition to the Church? As far as I can tell, the Church is, if anything supportive of the whole climate change thing. You know, she’d be more convincing as the voice of the dissatisfied youth of the Church if she sounded like she had at least met a real Catholic once. Not saying I think she’s lying about being RAISED CATHOLIC, just that she obviously wasn’t paying much attention during the process.

or why accepting doctrine on faith alone beats independent thinking, questioning

HAHAHAH! That’s a good…Wait, you’re serious? Ma’am, based on this article, I doubt you’ve ever had a single independent thought or asked a single honest question in your life.

and customizing one’s religious life.

If you’re trying to customize your religious life, you’re doing it wrong. Listen, Miss Ferraro, when you come before God either as a believer or a seeker, you don’t get to ‘customize’ Him! ‘Customizing your religious’ life only means making up a lot of self-flattering nonsense to justify wherever you happen to find yourself; it is the opposite of real religion.

For me, religion has been more a culture of privilege than of prayer,

Sounds like that’s your problem right there; maybe you should try prayer instead of seeking ‘privilege.’ Oh, and while you’re at it, try going onto a public forum and expressing Catholic doctrine on, say, homosexuality. Then just sit back and bask in all the privilege.

a competition of piety rather than a humble quest of personal growth and spiritual connection.

Did you actually ever talk to any of those priests or nuns you claim were buzzing about your school? And where in His name is Jesus in all your religious seeking?

These are all examples from my experience with religion that motivate me to reject Catholicism, but as I think about it, are these also reasons that Catholicism rejects me?

‘Catholicism’ doesn’t reject you (and not just because half the things you mention sound made up). You’re just sitting outside on the Church steps pouting because they’re a bunch of big meany meanyheads who won’t go along with the same mindless conformity you have.

I believe it is.

Whatever makes you feel better.

Speaking only for the Catholic institutions I come from, I do not fit the prototype of what a Catholic is supposed to be

Considering you thought religion was about privilege instead of prayer, and seem only vaguely aware that there’s someone named ‘Jesus’ involved, that’s not surprising.

–the by the book churchgoer who accepts Catholicism because that is what is true. I am pro-choice, don’t go to church on Sundays, don’t put stock in the Bible or doctrine, challenge traditional ideas of religion and spirituality

In other words, you’re not Catholic. So, Catholicism ‘rejects you’ because you reject it. You poor, poor thing.

            Wait a second: a few paragraphs ago, you said Religion ‘touches every aspect of your life,’ but you don’t even go to Sunday Mass? What exactly did you mean by ‘every aspect,’ then? Is your whole life dedicated to posting self-righteous articles on the internet (there but for the Grace of God go I, ma’am)?

and care infinitely more about trying to be a kind, humble person than actively worshipping.

When a person claims to prefer to be kind than to be religious, it usually means nothing more than that they have a vague notion that they are a ‘good person’ because they see other people who are definitely ‘bad people’ and aren’t conscious of behaving in that way. They think themselves kind because they generally get along with the people they meet and feel well-disposed to ‘people’ in the abstract. Kindness, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, is a very easy virtue to imagine we have, so long as we aren’t aware of any specifically contrary emotions at the moment. Whether they ever actually perform any acts of charity, or have ever once done a single unselfish act is another question entirely, and doesn’t often come up. Combine this with your ‘customized religion’ (which I assume includes a customized moral code, because your whole objection to Catholicism seems to be moral) and of course you’ll feel perfectly kind and good, whatever you happen to be doing.

I’m not saying I think Miss Ferraro is a bad person; I’m sure she’s probably a very nice young lady. I’m saying it’s very easy to just say you value kindness over religion and feel satisfied without actually placing any moral obligations on yourself.

Though I am firm in my beliefs, I find it difficult to discuss these ideas sans judgment, simply because they diverge from those of a system that prizes tradition.

Yes, I’m sure you suffer greatly for enthusiastically conforming to the present zeitgeist. Why, you might suffer a tense moment at a family dinner sometime!

I differ, and am thus discounted. Though it’s subtle, I do not feel a part of the community that proudly boasts, “All are Welcome.”

So, you openly reject the Church and all it teaches, then wonder why you ‘subtly’ do not feel a part of it on the rare occasions that you bother show up? And this is somehow the Church’s fault for not ‘welcoming’ you by arbitrarily conforming to what you in your infinite wisdom think it should be?

On one hand, this rejection validates my personal beliefs and their deliberate divergence from Catholicism. On the other hand, this rejection leaves me unfulfilled.

Well, aren’t you a precious little martyr? I’m sure those twenty-one Copts who were just murdered in Libya for refusing to abandon their faith would feel nothing but admiration for your fortitude in the face of such unimaginable suffering as FEELING UNWELCOME IN A COMMUNITY YOU HOLD IN OPEN CONTEMPT!

I find myself an outsider, subject to the Catholic exclusivity that ostracizes other divergent thinkers and doers: the very exclusivity that prompts me to reject Catholicism in the first place.

Yes, Catholicism ‘excludes’ those who aren’t Catholic from being considered Catholic. That’s because the Church, unlike you, understands the law of non-contradiction; look it up before you write your next article about feeling excluded from the community you reject.    

Its (sic) a perplexing paradox – my beliefs exclude me and define me as an independent. And because my beliefs disqualify me from active participation, I am consequently excluded from a community that I want to engage with, though not necessarily be a part of.

That’s a paradox?! YOU LEAVE A COMMUNITY THEN WONDER WHY YOU’RE NOT IN IT ANYMORE, AND THAT’S A PARADOX?!

And yeah, you ‘independently’ believe the same things that most politicians, the news media, the entertainment world, your teachers, and your peers all expound. You’re a regular Socrates.

I would say “its not you, its me,” but I think “its not me, its you” is equally appropriate (sic).

No it isn’t, because you want ‘It’s’ not ‘its.’ Apparently, you have a bold independent stance on grammar as well. I wasn’t going to mention it, but this is your big money line, you’ve made that mistake already in this piece, and now you repeat it four times in quick succession. This is not boosting your educational credentials (seriously, what Catholic school did you go to? I want to cross it off of my list of possible places to send my kids).

There is a certain voicelessness that I associate with my experience in Catholicism–sure, I can talk about gay rights, premarital sex or saving the environment, but I am often met with a dismissive response or the assumption that I’m going through a progressive phase. But what separates this from other phases I’ve gone through is that I’m not alone–29% of millennials identify as religiously unaffiliated, a higher percentage than ever before. Is the religious voicelessness I feel a common thread in the spiritual lives of our generation?

That is because A). ‘Progressivism’ is frothing insanity and B). You are a college sophomore in your early twenties; you don’t get to decide what is true and what isn’t (By the way, I’m guessing ‘dismissive response’ means ‘they don’t automatically agree with me’). The Church is not in the habit of allowing her doctrines and polices to be set by pampered teenagers based on the latest zingers from Jon Stewart. This may not be coincidental with the fact that she’s survived two-thousand years of near-constant war, persecution, unrest, and famine and built the most successful civilization in history while you think attending a ‘climate march’ is a sign of great moral character and are concerned enough about ‘feeling excluded’ to write a self-pitying screed for a national newspaper.

Look here; when you go to Church, you aren’t supposed to just turn off your brain, but you are supposed to go in with a level of openness and humility (you claimed you were a ‘humble’ person just a few paragraphs ago. You’ve given precious little evidence of it). That’s because you’re there to receive God, not to feel ‘validated’.

And no, you don’t get a voice in deciding the truth. That’s because the truth doesn’t change and it doesn’t conform to your wishes. Reality is not a democracy.

By the way, the twenty-something priest at my parish doesn’t seem to feel ‘voiceless’ in the Church. Neither does the booming community of young and beautiful nuns who live nearby. Maybe you feel voiceless because don’t actually have anything to contribute.

I can’t totally answer that question.

Because it’s a stupid question based on the faulty premise that under-educated, self-righteous children who have been sheltered and pampered all their lives should have any kind of authority over the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

But I do feel that its (sic: seriously, pick up a grammar book before you write for a national newspaper) time for our voices to be more included in formal religious institutions before individuals disillusioned with organized religion are lost to the realms of independent spirituality and atheism.

So, you’re demanding Church doctrine to be voted on by teenagers or else you’ll take your ball and go home?

This, to some, may serve as a haven from a potentially voiceless experience in religious institutions. I’m not saying that my beliefs are right,

Yes, you are

but I am saying that I want to be heard, not just listened to.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? That the Church will start taking twenty-somethings who openly admit that they don’t believe in Christianity as serious sources of doctrine?

And yeah, I’m sure the Church is having a hard time hearing what the WHOLE DAMN CULTURE IS SCREAMING AT IT! Do you ever consider the idea that the Church hears you, but that you’re actually wrong?

For me, this conversation is not about stylizing religion to suit the tastes of young adults;

Isn’t that exactly what you just spent two pages advocating?

it’s about aligning all voices with the process of organized religion and earnestly engaging in different conceptualizations of faith.

What does that mean? Big words are not your friend, Miss Ferraro. And I doubt you have any idea of what the ‘process’ of organized religion involves (at least you finally got ‘it’s’ right).

Try to get this through your precious millennial mind: Faith is about truth. It’s not about what ‘fits you’ or about a ‘personal spiritual experience’ or any of that solipsistic nonsense you keep spouting. ‘Different conceptualizations of faith’ is a complicated way of saying ‘heresy’ which is a technical term for ‘wrong,’ especially when your ‘different conceptualization (Just say ‘concept,’ for goodness sakes) of faith’ seems to be based primarily on your ‘Twitter’ feed.  

To ignore these perspectives in favor of tradition is the deeper issue here. If the people are the church, then the church should include the people–divergent souls as well.

The Church is the Bride of Christ; she isn’t just ‘the people.’ The people don’t get to decide what is true and what isn’t. People who openly reject the Church don’t get to complain that they’re being excluded by it.

Again, you seem confused on the whole idea of ‘truth.’ See, there’s a real world outside of you, Miss Ferraro, and it has its own nature completely independent of your will or desires. Your job, as an ‘independent thinker’ is to conform what is in your mind to what is actually out there. It’s not to demand that what is out there conform itself to what is in your mind. This goes double when you’re talking about God (though you seem curiously unwilling to mention Him while discussing religion).

The boundaries of tradition become more apparent as individuals decide to customize their faith outside of tradition’s limits.

I.E. to become heretics without even the dignity of a belief system as coherent as those of Luther or Arius.

Though I probably wouldn’t rejoin the church if it became more inclusive, I would absolutely feel included in faith dialogue and legitimized as a spiritual being by a community that I will always be connected to.

The Church isn’t about how you feel! Jesus doesn’t care how you feel. He cares that you believe in Him and keep His commands, which you obviously have no interest in.

Sure, the church doesn’t necessarily stand to gain more memberships if they open up the dialogue, but they do stand to better incorporate themselves into an ever more inclusive and dynamic world.

Because the Church is supposed to conform to the world, as Jesus said: “If the World hates you, conform to it, because that will make narcissistic young people feel validated.”

And in doing so, they also stand to prove that all are indeed welcome, at least in some capacity.

The Church is not some social club where you can preen your self-image. The Church is the vehicle by which souls are brought to Christ. Anyone who comes to Christ must be willing to repent and ask for mercy. When the Church says ‘all are welcome,’ she means that there’s nothing you can do that will deny you the opportunity to come to Christ and be healed. If you want to be part of the Church, but have no interest in that, then you don’t actually want to be included in the Church; you want to be included in ‘the church:’ the imaginary community in which you get patted on the head and told what a good person you are. There are plenty of ‘churches’ like that, but the Church herself is something much more serious. The Church doesn’t ‘exclude’ you; you simply don’t realize what the Church is and have no interest in actually being a part of it.

It’s as if you wanted to join the Marine Corps because you thought it would look good on your resume, but you hate guns and have no interest in fighting for your country, so now you complain that you feel hurt and excluded and invalidated because they wouldn’t change their whole purpose for existing in order to accommodate you.

We are not doctrinal robots;

You sure sound like one.

we are constantly evolving, dynamically faithful members of a world that needs a little cooperation and receptivity.

The Truth, however, is not constantly evolving, and so the Church isn’t either. The fact that you are ‘dynamically faithful members’ of the world is precisely the reason the Church doesn’t appeal to you; the Church testifies to the Light, but the world hates the light and prefers the dark, because its deeds are evil. Hopefully, you’ll understand that one day and come back to the Light. It’ll still be here when you do, and you’ll be welcome.  

By the way, note that she mentioned Jesus once and it was quoting a silly rule about school dances. Nor did she ever mention sin or forgiveness or charity or Grace or mercy or the Cross or suffering or really anything else that has to do with the Church. Like so many other fallen-away Catholics, her whole objection seems to be ‘I don’t like some of the ethics because they’re unpopular in our society.’

                Of course, the darkly humorous thing is that she’s claiming to be an independent, rational thinker who boldly breaks the bonds of tradition and considers things for herself, unlike those ‘doctrinal robots’ who adhere to Church teachings. She then provides a handy list of things she believes which is basically an outline of “typical millennial college student,” including the fact that she thinks this jelly-like conformity to popular opinion makes her somehow ‘independent.’  

                Prof. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, tells of a cleric who insists that his heretical views were the result of honest reason. His friend points out that, in fact, they were nothing but the unresisting adherence to the popular views of the time; that they simply said what they knew their professors and public wanted to hear and reaped the benefits of it. He also points out that, contrary to his friend’s assertions, there was no risk to doing so; there never was any sort of threat or danger even to their careers in going along with the current trend of opinion, and there never is. What ‘courage’ does it take to go along with the majority? What is at all ‘bold’ about saying what you know your audience wants to hear? What on Earth is ‘independent’ about agreeing with the views of the most powerful and influential members of society, not to mention the majority of your friends and peers? You are simply going along with whatever is popular and calling it ‘thinking,’ much like some people provide a mingled list of facts, laws, and theories and call it ‘science.’

                The really bold and independent thinker is the person who criticizes the popular views of the day against the Truth, not the Truth against the popular views of the day. As Mr. Chesterton said, there is no courage needed to attack an old tradition or an ancient doctrine, any more than offering to fight one’s grandmother. What really takes courage is standing up against the new heresies; the popular, ‘progressive’ views that dominate the cultural landscape and which have the approval of all the ‘important’ people of the time. That is what really independent thinking looks like.

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