Tag Archives: philosophy

“I’m not hurting anyone”

I think somebody dropped the ball on teaching “The Golden Rule”.

Everyone knows what it says: we are supposed to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  So simple, so clear, and it seems to cover all the bases.

However…

Somewhere along the line, it seems to have turned into meaning that, so long as you are not doing something with the intention of harming someone else, what you are doing is perfectly fine.  At least that’s how Ben Harper seems to interpret it…

my choice is what I choose to do
and if I’m causing no harm
it shouldn’t bother you
your choice is who you choose to be
and if you’re causin’ no harm
then you’re alright with me

How can you argue with that logic?  He uses these lyrics specifically to justify smoking pot, but we often see this exact logic employed to justify all sorts of things: from drinking with the intention of getting drunk, to cheating on a test, to sleeping around, etc.

Hey, we’re not hurting anyone.  So why make such a fuss?

Well first of all, as Catholics, we don’t believe something is a sin just because it hurts our neighbor.  Ultimately, sin is sin because it hurts us—by harming our relationship with God.

And even putting aside religion for a moment, as human beings we need to realize something….

“The Golden Rule” presupposes that you have a certain love of self.  If it didn’t, it wouldn’t make much sense.  We don’t often like to talk about loving ourselves because we think it sounds selfish or shallow.  But I’m not talking about the kind of self-love you have after watching a Julia Roberts movie that makes you want to abandon your responsibilities, travel the world, and “find yourself”.  I’m talking about real love of self—a love that isn’t satisfied with mere fleeting pleasures; a love that seeks, and works for, the good in everything.

The thing is, when we get to the point of realizing this kind of love in ourselves, we also realize that we can’t really be neutral in our actions.  Whether we want it to or not, every action of ours will either work for the good or for the detriment of the world around us.  Because we live in the world, and if the end we seek is the good, then anything less than that is beneath us (read: not good, or bad).

It’s a tall order…but it’s better than trying to “just get by”.

A Chicken-Egg Situation

As sort of a newbie to this whole blogging game, I often find myself trying to network with fellow Catholic and young-adult bloggers in order to expand my readership.  I’ll write guest posts for other blogs or publications, I’ll email people who are doing it better than I am, and I will just generally spend a lot of time researching what “the other people” are doing.  For the most part, it works just fine.

But sometimes, I don’t quite do the research that I ought to…Like a few weeks ago:

In Googling other Catholic blogs for young adults, I came across one in particular that seemed fairly popular.  After spending all of 20 seconds on their site (over-eager, rookie mistake), I found the contact page and shot off an email, reading something to the effect of:

“Please please please can I write something on your blog so that mine can be noticed???”

I later got a reply making sure I really understood what I was asking.  Apparently, this particular blog was written by “progressive” young Catholics, who do not always agree with Catholic doctrine, and are hoping and working for specific teachings of the Church to be changed, so that the Church can be more “democratic”.  I guess, judging from my posts, they got the impression that maybe I wouldn’t be on board with that mission.

From their email response (which I will mention was very kind and considerate):

“I can see that your own judgment and thinking has led you to stances that are more in line with official Catholic teaching on all, or at least most, issues”

My initial reaction was, “of course it has!”  But then I had another thought.  Which brings me to my chicken-egg situation:

Which ought to take precedence—what I feel is right by my own logic, or the teaching of the Catholic faith I profess?

I think the “progressive” answer would be to say that it is my duty to skeptically question every little detail about the Catholic faith, judging it by my own reason, and then, only when I get all of my questions answered, I can decide to accept Catholicism.

But there is one rather large problem with that.  I’m not God.  My reason is often flawed, and I make many, many mistakes.  In realizing I am a flawed human, I actually try not to let my own judgment shape my beliefs, because I am just that—flawed.

I can only hope that, if and when I fail to understand a teaching of the faith, my reason will eventually come to be shaped by my faith, and not the other way around.  I know my track record of using reason and I know God’s.  It seems logical to conclude that the Church that He who is without fault set up will be right, even if my reason has trouble understanding how or why at first.

And speaking of chicken-egg situations…


Doing Good to Feel Good

Last week I watched an old re-run of Friends where one of the major plotlines of the episode was one of the characters, Phoebe, trying to prove to another character, Joey, that a selfless good deed is in fact possible.  Of course, the moral of the story was that in fact truly selfless good deeds do not exist, and that even the most difficult task to perform as a good deed is at least rewarded with the “good feeling” the person has for completing it.

This is kind of a popular “dilemma” in our culture.  I put “dilemma” in quotes, because I think it is a silly one to get caught up in.  Actually to be a bit more blunt, I think it is kind of dangerous to get caught up in.  The mindset that reprimands humanity for “feeling good” about doing good is kind of twisted when you think about it.  We seem to measure the goodness of the action performed by the amount of pain it brings us, as if our good actions are somehow “tainted” by the fact that we enjoy them.  “Well, so-and-so only does all of that good work because it makes him/her feel good.  It’s really kind of selfish when you think about it.”

I’m not arguing that we should only do what makes us feel good; I’m just saying that the fact that we feel good about doing good ought to be celebrated, and is not at all something to be ashamed of.  If the “good feeling” someone has about performing a particularly grueling task is all that will get that person through the task that will help another, then we should encourage positive feelings about helping others.  We somehow seem to think that we are only supposed to do things because they are “the right thing to do,” and that finding joy in doing the right thing makes it less right.  This is nothing short of insanity.  Our life and our actions ought to be motivated by what will make us truly happy in the long run, and helping others should certainly be on that list.

Finding Truth

“There’s some truth everywhere, something to learn from everywhere…There’s a lot of profound wisdom in other religions…But no other Christ”
-Peter Kreeft,
Yes or No: Straight Answers to Tough Questions About Christianity

As a Christian, I believe in objective truth.  As a Catholic-Christian, I believe that the Church Jesus set up in Matthew 16 (The Catholic Church) has the fullness of truth.  But this doesn’t mean that I believe other religions, other people, cannot arrive at any truth at all if they do not profess faith in the Church.

I think this is something that Christians especially need to keep in mind when talking to people of other faiths (or people of no faith at all) about Christ.  As one of my professors put it, when Christians get excited about sharing our faith with others, we tend to have an attitude that can be summed up with the title of this post: “Shut up and let me tell you about Jesus“. While it is true that there is only one Christ (and only one truth), this does not mean that only the Christian faith has truth.  We’re just the only faith that has it in its entirety.

We believe that all truth comes from God.  Just think of what it means that our God is so big that His truth is everywhere; you can’t escape from it, even if you try.  Once we accept this we can start to see the beauty in other religions; whatever elements of truth that they have they received from the same God that we believe in, even though they may not believe in Him. However, this doesn’t mean that we can turn a blind eye to the parts of these religions which can not be reconciled with the fullness of revealed truth, or that we can be satisfied with only having a partial truth.  God calls us to enjoy the fullness of the truth He has revealed to us.

By appreciating the truth that can be found in other religions, we can gain a greater appreciation for the extent of our God’s work, and also approach our brothers and sisters of other faiths in a much more positive way.