Thursday, August 25, 2011

Negative Aspects of Religion Easily Seen

A professor emeritus writing in a Catholic magazine contends that Christianity is being challenged by the current attacks on all religious beliefs and by an increasingly secular civilization. The first challenge comes from the "New Atheism," which is receiving a lot of media attention lately, and the second challenge, from the materialistic values aggressively promoted by our consumer-driven civilization.

Atheism as a movement  is not new but can be traced to the Renaissance and  the humanism that followed.  The present atheism is a different strain from those of the past and what we saw in Communism. Current opposition to the belief in God is more intense than in the past, and the number of  those who sympathize, both intellectually and emotionally, with the atheistic position continues to grow.

Those who think that this atheism is a result of Communism are living in a dream world, says the professor. He believes that the atheism we have today was born in a Christian culture and matured in the civilization of Europe, and that the monotheism of the three religions based on the faith of Abraham--Christianity, Islam, and Judaism--is especially the object of much of the criticism. After the destruction of the twin towers in New York, many who are not atheists have come to agree with them that  religious beliefs can and have become problems in achieving and maintaining peaceful societies in many parts of the world.

Probably, says the professor, there are Catholics in Korea who believe since Catholicism has a good reputation in Korea these problems should not be our concern. But he disagrees; he believes it will be necessary for Catholicism to be open to the pluralistic society, showing tolerance and going beyond the simple moral guidelines of good and evil.

Christianity forms the basis of the civilization of the West, with its values of equality, justice, love and the dignity of the human person. The words of Jesus, now known as the Golden Rule, briefly summarize his teaching: "Treat others the way you would have them treat you." This teaching refers to all persons. Jesus made this clear in his parable about  the Samaritan, its message being:  accept all persons as brothers and sisters irrespective of race, nation, social status, money, religion or ideology. This is not easy, but it provided the moral foundation  of our Western civilization.

In our present society, little attention is given to the lessons of history. However, within history lies a purpose and meaning to help guide us through life. As is often said, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." And as a Church, the professor reminds us, we can't afford to forget this warning. What is important, he believes, is to keep the general direction and intention of our history in mind. Society today is concerned with all kinds of material values and is  busy quarreling  about money matters and how  to get ahead. What is important is to keep the general direction and intention of our  civilization in mind. The professor ends by saying he feels  God is happiest when  we remember the purpose and intention of history in our lives.

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