Catholics


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Recently I have been contemplating if the church has any real significant and positive influence on the world today, especially in the beliefs and actions of western society in particular. There was a time when Christian ideology, through the church was very influential (good and bad) in shaping political, social, cultural and even personal beliefs and viewpoints. I would argued that today this influence is not as great as it was say… even 30 years ago.

I read an analytical report on The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life website which somewhat dealt with this issue, from an interesting point of reference. This article entitled: “Science in America: Religious Beliefs and Public Attitudes”, discussed the findings of a survey which concluded that “when scientific evidence and long-held religious beliefs come into direct conflict, many Americans reject science.” 

According to the authours of the report, American society has a unique dichotomy in that on one hand, it is the most religious of the advanced industrial democracies, while on the other hand, it’s leadership in scientific research and application has been instrumental in making it a powerful nation. This has… not surprisingly… created some conflict between faith and science on societal beliefs, particularly on controversial issues such as evolution, homosexuality and global warming. The report primarily looked at the influence of religion and science on these three topics in American society.

The report contended that a close reading of the survey shows that large majorities of the American public respect science and scientists, but where scientific evidence and long-held religious belief come into direct conflict, “many Americans reject science in favor of the teachings of their faith tradition.” However, surprisingly today such areas of explicit differences are not common. 

It was interesting to compare the beliefs of Black and White Christians (specifically Evangelicals) on the above three issues, as well as secularists, Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals, college and high school graduates. The results were not as straightforward and/or obvious as one would be expect. There are definite mixtures and combinations of scientific and religious influences which run through even strong held beliefs and opinions.

The report does not necessarily answer my original question on whether the church, Christianity and religion in general is a positive driving force on western society, but it does offer some insight on what motivates beliefs and therefore actions… which can have obvious implications in areas such as the formulation of government statutes and public policies. 

 

Religious discourse can be very controversial. Although I am open to share and listen to the religious beliefs of others (or lack thereof), I have never been interested in debating the issue. How can one debate the issue of faith? I find it pointless. I have nothing to prove nor do I want to convert someone to my way of thinking (or belief). However, I do want to comment on the endorsement this week by Pope Benedict XVI of the doctrinal document “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrines on the Church“. In a nutshell, this treatise asserts the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, while other churches, like the Orthodox church are “wounded”, and that Protestant churches are not “true” churches. It also claims that Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

In this age of inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogue, which is working to bring about a better understanding and respect for others of different beliefs, I find this assertion and endorsement by the Pope as troubling. As the arenas of government, politics, economics, culture, etc., struggles towards greater harmony and peace, it appears that the religious community and their leaders, regardless of their faith, are moving towards greater fundamentalist polarization of beliefs. We don’t need to look only to history to see the danger in this type of thinking. We need only to look at the Middle-East today, Iraq in particular, to see the outcome of such rhetoric. Although I am a Pentecostal Christian and have beliefs, which could be classified as “christian fundamentalist beliefs”, I do not believe that only Pentecostals are going to heaven, nor do I believe that other denominations are “wounded” or are not “true” churches. As a Christian, I do believe that it is only through Christ that someone can receive salvation, but I don’t condemn to “hell” someone from another religion or those who have no belief in religion at all. Judgment, as far as I am concerned, I will leave to God.

There are 3 points I would like to share in regards to this topic.

1. The church I attend, although fundamental, it is non-judgmental. The Pastor believes, preaches and is involved in inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogues. This is one of the reasons why I go to this church.   

2. As far as I know, there has been no bombings of Catholic or Protestant churches; no burnings of effigies of the Pope by Protestants; no return to the Inquisition; no killing of Priests, Nuns, Pastors or Reverends; no violent demonstrations or protests; no separation into neighbourhoods based on religious beliefs, due to this proclamation. I would pray that those of the Muslim “Ummah” will be influenced by this example.

3. There has been no difference in the dynamics of the relationship with my family, friends or acquaintances of different denominations (or faiths for that matter), since the Popes endorsement of this edict. It is all a non-issue for us. Regardless of religious beliefs or non-belief, we are all still “cool”. Love and respect prevails.            

     

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