Assumption of Mary

assumption-of-mary

Tomorrow, August 15, is the day when we in the Catholic Church celebrate the Assumption. The Assumption was the event at which Mary, after living out her earthly life, was taken up into heaven body and spirit. The Eastern Orthodox also celebrate this day, which they call the Dormition.

By receiving her physical body and ascending into heaven, Mary did what all of the saved will do at the end of time. In this way, as in so much else, she is a sign of hope for us and an exemplar.

As the Second Vatican Council taught in 1964,

In the bodily and spiritual glory which she possesses in heaven, the Mother of Jesus continues in this present world as the image and first flowering of the Church as she is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, Mary shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hope and solace for the pilgrim People of God.

The myth of interreligious hostility

It is often imagined that the followers of the world’s religions dislike each other merely because of their religious affiliation, and that religions encourage people to fight and kill those who don’t agree with them. That’s a bunch of crap.

It is true that religious people have killed other religious people. It’s also true that atheists have killed religious people, and that atheists have killed other atheists. The common denominator here is not religion, but human beings. It’s in our nature as humans to hate and kill. Religion doesn’t make people do that.

If you’re a history buff or foreign affairs junkie, you may have heard of the “clash of civilizations” thesis. This holds that the world is divided into “civilizations”, each of which is at odds with the other. The two “civilizations” that receive the most attention in this thesis are Western Christianity and the Islamic world. Supposedly, the Christians and Muslims have for centuries been divided into two warring blocs.

While there is an element of truth to that, the way history is presented here is misleading. While Christians sometimes fought Muslims, they also made alliances with Muslims against common enemies. This was quite common in places and times that are stereotyped as Muslim-Christian battlefields, like medieval Spain and the Crusader states.

Neither the Christians nor the Muslims fought simply on the basis of religious affiliation. There were always other factors at work that complicated the issue. For example, when the Ottoman empire was expanding into Europe in the 1400s and 1500s, the motivation for their conquests wasn’t to conquer them because they were Christian. It was to expand their power and wealth. At the same time the Ottomans were attacking Christian Hungary and Austria, they were also attacking Muslim Egypt and Iran.

Likewise, when the Christians fought the Ottomans, it wasn’t because they were Muslim, it was because they were attacking Europe. And the Christians in Europe made alliances with the Muslims in Iran against the Ottomans.

The perception that religions cause wars and make people hate each other is a religious dogma that atheists take on faith in order to justify their atheism. Unfortunately, Baha’is have also adopted this myth and take it on faith.

The blog is still running

Compared to the other things I do in life, I have always given this blog a low priority. In recent months I’ve given it even less attention than the meagre amount I had previously. But I just want to jot a quick note to let folks know the blog is still operational. So if you post a comment and I don’t respond to it soon (or at all), it isn’t you. I just don’t spend much time here.

Doctrines are different from character

Christians believe that their religion has the fullness of truth, and it necessarily follows from that that another religion is less true to the extent it disagrees with Christianity.

A lot of people get offended at this, for a variety of reasons. I’d like to address one possible reason here.

A response one sometimes hears to the Christian perspective is this: Christians don’t act any better than other people. They’re not more loving or more devoted to God or more faithful than the followers of other religions. In fact, when young Christians make friends with the followers of other faiths for the first time, they can become confused. The good that they see in the non-Christian makes them wonder what makes Christianity so special.

So how can we say that Christianity has the fullness of truth, if one sees no difference in virtues and character between Christians and non-Christians?

This question is based on a confusion of two different things: truth and virtue. The fact is that one can know the truth without being virtuous, and one can be virtuous without knowing the truth.

Just because someone knows that Jesus is the Son of God, that does not necessarily mean that they live righteously. On the other hand, someone can be unaware that Jesus is the Son of God and still desire to do the right thing. What we know in our intellect and what we desire to do are two different things.

A physiologist can know intellectually what foods are healthy, but he might still eat junk food. Someone with limited knowledge of nutrition can still be drawn to healthy foods.

Knowing facts about reality doesn’t make us act better. “Jesus is the Son of God” is a fact, in the same sense that “heat rises” and “Montpelier is the capital of Vermont” are facts. They’re all true, but acknowledging their truth doesn’t make us better people.

By the same token, it is not logical to say, “That guy is a jerk, therefore if he thinks Montpelier is the capital of Vermont, he must be wrong.”

From Hindu to Baha’i to Christian

Guess I’m not the only one. Here’s a Hindu woman who embraced the Baha’i Faith, and five years later resigned and became a Christian. She is now a member of the Orthodox Church.

Here is her story. For a blog post, it is exceedingly long (15 type-written pages), but well worth reading. I am amazed at how similar her experience was to mine (except I came from an agnostic background instead of Hindu). Her attraction to the Faith, her puzzlement at the contradictions, and her experience with Protestantism are all similar to my own, and what she says about Eastern Orthodoxy is how I feel about Catholicism.

Two bloggers, Crunchy Con and Wholly Roamin’ Catholic, comment on the story.

My thanks to Steve Marshall for the nice tip.

Catholicism on Jesus and God

I’ve never heard of Eckhart Tolle, but the priest’s comments are useful beyond just commenting on Tolle’s book. He provides a good sense of where Catholics are coming from in regard to the Western world’s prevailing spirituality.

(h/t Mark Shea)

Matt’s comment

Matt left a comment on the thread Believing “in” and believing “that” that is too off-topic to discuss there. On the other hand, it touches on a common Baha’i apologetic tactic, which basically goes like this: “Christian interpretations of the Bible disagree with Jewish interpretations, and you believe Christianity is true. Therefore, Baha’i interpretations of the Bible can also be true”.

Here is Matt’s comment:

Hmmmm…

Jewish polemicists have been accusing Christians for centuries of pretending to believe and follow the Torah, but “mean something entirely different than us”, and thus have been derided of “omission.” In fact, they accuse Jesus personally of willfully deceiving the public who “don’t know any better” with his convenient quotations of some verses from the Tanakh, and avoidance of other quotations that wouldn’t bolster his claim.

Christian polemicists have been accusing Muslims for centuries of “not really” believing in Jesus and the prophets of the Tanakh, and at one point derided them as “heretical Christians” because they couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that a religious community independent from Christianity could exist, even if it was “false.”

Muslim polemicists have been accusing Baha’is for one-hundred and sixty-four years of pretending to believe in the Qur’an and the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), but “mean something entirely different than us” by it. I guess my question is if all of this supposed deception is so well-known by the “knowledgeable” of each preceding religious community in reference to the “new, false” religious community, what motivation would the “new, false” community have to keep continuing to doing such a horrible job of deceiving people who apparently can’t be deceived? Or is there something else going on?

I’m not a Baha’i, by the way. I just think it is something to think about….

I’m confused by your question and I’m not sure exactly what you’re getting at. Let me try to rephrase it to make sure I don’t misunderstand you: Baha’is don’t really distort the meaning of the Bible, because knowledgeable Christians accuse them of doing so. If Baha’i distortion were as obvious as “knowledgeable” Christians claim it is, then why would Baha’is continue to do it?