Maybe now that some of the dust has settled from the recent Friends List Wars of Religion, everybody could handle a few points that struck me as relevant, even if temporarily offensive? Worth a try, I hope, and with any luck people will shrug and keep me on their Friends lists anyway. ;) Because I don't want to single anybody out (and some posts (not mine, ever) were locked), I won't "source" any of these remarks...just comment and pass onwards. And just to be even more polite, it's LJ cut time.
(1) "Catholics are not crazy fundies." This topic was raised by one of my favorite LJ folks, and I waited a long time to post this reply for fear of giving offense. But, for the record, neither are Southern Baptists, Evangelicals generally, Orthodox Jews, or any other group of religious people, as a whole. Religious mania is a phenomenon which shows up in almost all faiths (I haven't seen it in Theravada Buddhism), and it's found in Catholicism, too: not only among some of the Trad outsiders (the Pius X and "Traditio" people and such), but within the church itself (cf. William Donahue (sp?), who appeared at the same telethon Bill Frist did last Sunday, noting that (close paraphrase) if secular humanists considered him a threat, "Guess what? They're right" -- also famously remarking, some time back, that (near-quote) "Hollywood is run by Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," and so forth. This is not just some outsider oddball: his attitudes mirror church doctrine far more closely than do those of most American Catholics*. And then there's (from sanest to craziest) Peggy Noonan, Robert Novak, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, and, well, you get the idea).
If one meant "Catholicism itself is more tolerant than Evangelical Christianity," that's just provably wrong, at least in doctrinal terms. Evangelicals are quite certain that other evangelicals, in other denominations, are going to Heaven. Catholic doctrine -- reaffirmed specifically by Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the church's doctrinal office, with the blessing of John Paul II) in the Dominus Iesus, and (less obviously) in his first homily as Pontiff -- is quite certain that all Christians, along with everyone else on earth, who are not communicants of the Roman Catholic Church are not going to Heaven (and that most will burn eternally in Hell for the greater glory of a loving God). This is not a slam, it's just a fact. For that matter, the Catholic church routinely issues discipline (including Silence orders) against priests it considers doctrinally unorthodox; I can't imagine an evangelical church trying that.
Finally, if one meant that "all of the American Catholics I know are liberal and decent people," I believe it!...and the same can be said of many other denominations, if one is in the right part of the world. This is why Vatican insiders refer to Americans as "Smorgasbord Catholics": take what you like, ignore everything else. Those few of us who -- unlike almost everyone on earth -- take religious doctrine seriously**, notice these things. That said, American Catholics as a whole tend to be far more liberal, politically and religiously, than American evangelicals; doubtless part of what the poster meant to say***...though it's a safe bet that Pope Benedict doesn't share those qualities, hence some of the viewing-with-alarm we saw on LJ.
(2) The only people professing alarm at Cardinal Ratzinger's background were anti-Catholic bigots. Frankly, I would never have raised the issue in the first place, and thought those who did were asking for trouble. My own contribution to the recent brouhaha was to insist that nobody slam anybody else's religion; also, to remind people that anti-Catholic bigotry has been very widespread in history, hence criticism of the Catholic church was probably best left to current and former Catholics (not to mention reserved for some time other than the inauguration of a new Pope, for crying out loud). That said -- and not wanting to drag the debate out -- Vatican involvement with Fascism and Nazism, both before and after World War II, is not an imaginary issue. If pressed I can give specifics, though I hope I won't have to (since people obviously find the issue upsetting); in any event, we're talking history here, not the hallucinations of bigots. None of this establishes anything whatever about how Benedictus XVI will govern, nor am I suggesting for one moment that it does.
(3) There is a unity of spiritual experience behind the chaos of religious beliefs. That one was mine, and I am quite certain it's true. I don't mean for a moment that "all religions are the same," or even all that similar; nor do I mean that the truth behind religious experience is not subject to rational verification, which it is.
Anyway, having been biting my lip on these points for some time now, I thought I'd post them here for the record. I frankly don't find anything in them that leaves much room for argument...but if people do, and want to argue, I promise to be nothing but respectful in reply****. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
* CNN/Gallup says three quarters of American Catholics surveyed rely on their own consciences rather than Papal influence in deciding what's right and wrong; doubtless part of what that poster meant in denying that Catholics are crazy fundies. I don't know what the numbers are for independence of mind in other faiths (though an exact analogy is impossible: most religions don't claim doctrinally infallible rulers). That said, the notion that one can pick and choose one's morality and still get into Heaven "because one is a good person" is a profoundly un-Catholic notion...and before anyone freaks out, please note that nobody would agree more with me on that score than would Pope Benedict XVI.
** I am, e.g., one of a handful of people on earth to have read the entire Christian Bible, Old and New Testaments, with scholarly commentary. Also massive amounts of Hinduism, Buddhism(s), Judaism, some Islam, and on and on and on.
*** I am cheating slightly here, to protect an LJ friend. What the poster meant to say was specifically that Catholics require works for salvation, and evangelicals do not. This assertion is itself religious bigotry, however innocently meant, and absolutely untrue on both counts. I can provide a further explanation, though I hope not to have to.
**** And to confess my own prejudices. For example, I confess I feel a great deal of sympathy for the doctrinal consistency of Pope Benedict, regardless of what he'd think of me. I think he's mistaken, but admire what I assume is his sincerity.