The Facts of Life Series: The True Worldview
Catholicism is the one and the only true way to look at life, existence and the cosmos. And, despite our modern reflex to dismiss any such assertion of truth on a scale and scope such as this, Catholicism still stands firm and invites such critics to think and think rigorously. Despite our modern conviction that Catholic beliefs must arise from intellectual simplicity and ignorance or from a strong strain of personal or collective arrogance, Catholicism appeals to reason and science and commonsense, to love, beauty and history to prove its most primary facts and principles and its many particular derivative assertions and implications.
But, in modern times, everyone knows there is no transcendent purpose to life and living. We are all just the physical by-products of an accidental process of mutational adaptability operating in an empty and silent universe without meaning, without truth, without love and without goodness and beauty. A cosmos of matter and energy, time and space, whose only reality is the physical material that inhabits it and the energy that animates it. Life is nothing more than the grinding mechanistic reality of our human bodies that reduces our consciousness, our rationality, our love to neurological illusions generated by the biochemistry of our bodies and our brains.
But, the fullness of truth that is Catholicism is not a delusion nor an ignorant or naïve assertion. It is a matter of fact. Demonstrable fact. Provable fact. Inescapable fact. Relentless fact, which we cannot hide from nor avoid. Yet, it does require some thought, some deliberate attempt to set aside our modern intellectual and cultural programming and really and seriously engage this Catholic assertion that their worldview is the one, true worldview now and for all times.
For our explicit and implicit cultural programming is so pervasive, so insidious, so subtle that we have to be delivered from its influences before we can truly see and understand the deep and deadly nature of its many deleterious effects and its diabolical dogmas. Make no mistake about the devious and dark nature of our dominant culture’s doctrines. This is real. For these doctrines are inherently deceptive. They offer light. Yet, they lead only to darkness. They promise freedom, yet they lead inevitably to determinism. They promote a bright future, yet they lead necessarily to nihilistic emptiness and existential absurdity.
This may seem a bit dramatic and exaggerated. But, it is not. For the gravity and scale of the differences between a Catholic worldview and that of our secular modern worldview are irreconcilable. For they are a direct product of the nature of first principles, the inherent power of primacy, the universal significance of first order rational and philosophical positions.
For instance, think about the question of the universe’s origin. Was its existence intentional or accidental? Did it develop through a mechanistic process or was it guided, directed? These are simple, yet profound answers to an important question. But, they take totally different trajectories as the implications are developed to our present day life and living. If it is a created cosmos, it is possible there is some purpose and meaning to human life and living.
But, if it is an accidental universe, meaning is just an illusion. There is no purpose to anything. Everything is just its physical reality. Any human ideas, emotions or virtues are merely arbitrary and empty concepts, by-products of neural activity and personal preference. Nothing more. For nihilistic absurdity is a direct and inevitable result of mechanistic matter and energy, of the assertion of philosophical materialism.
Or, look at the question of God. This is probably the most profound and significant question ever asked by mankind. Yet, despite the gravity of this question, it has only two basic answers. Either there is a God or there isn’t. Now, if there is a God, immediately a host of other questions emerge regarding the nature of this God, the implications of an existing God to questions of meaning and purpose in this created cosmos, the nature of humanity and human consciousness, the reality of love, goodness and beauty, virtues, vices and justice to name just a few.
But, if there is no God and all the universe is simply matter and energy, time and space governed by random chance, nothing more can be said. For all human perceptions are never more than mere perceptions, illusions arising from our biochemistry with no correspondence to any intangible standards of rationality. For there is no appeal to reason because reason is just biochemistry, mere neural activity.
Inevitably, with the loss of rationality, science becomes the supreme source of truth. That’s because everything that exists and everything we sense perceptually, intellectually, emotionally are nothing more than illusions generated by the neural, biochemical activity in our bodies, in our brains. But, given the hegemony of science, by virtue of reducing all of reality to mere matter and energy, is science even possible, without reason, without some rational order?
For science’s empirical method is laced with rationality in every single step in the experimental process. The empirical method not only uses reason throughout its many processes, but science also answers to the implicit demands of reason by even devising a rational method and in its recognition that this method must be rational. In other words, reason requires a rational basis for investigating the physical world.
Clearly, reason, rational order, inductive and deductive reason, as well as basic commonsense precede science, as well as guide, inform and predict science and order and guide its many endeavors. And, by the way, try doing even the simplest form of mathematics without an implicit use of and an appeal to reason. It can’t be done. What does that tell you?
It tells you reason is real, but intangible. It tells you there is an inherent order to our human minds. It tells you such an order must have originated by some means with its order fully intact. It tells you such an intangible order is not dependent on physical development over time. It tells you reason is not wholly confined to our biological realities. It tells you something intangible had to make this tangible reality and make some physical apparatus capable of doing such functions.
It tells us there is a God, a God who is reason, who made reason, who gifted human beings with this capacity and capability. That’s what it tells you. God, then, is a fact, a cosmic fact, a rational fact, a scientific fact. And, because of this, so many other facts emerge.
But, in the mechanistic materialism of modern philosophy and culture, there are only two interrelated facts. First, everything is matter or energy. Second, all consciousness, all reason, all emotions, all truths, all morality, all love, all beauty, all meaning, every human belief, sensation, motive, even human reason are just illusions generated by our organic matter and energy.
Demonstrating truths like this was the purpose of “The Facts of Life” series. To lay out with clarity, brevity and certainty the essence of the Catholic worldview. To prove the core truths of Catholicism and to demonstrate how best to apply them. To prove the truth of Catholicism, in light of the deep and irreconcilable differences between Catholic truth and its accompanying worldview and the modern West’s dominant first philosophy and its many cultural convictions.
Are there more comprehensive, sophisticated statements of these mutually exclusive differences between the Catholic worldview and opposing secular and religious worldviews? There are. And I wrote one, entitled “The World According to God.” And, it is worth your time to read such books to deepen your understanding and to expand your sophistication and to open up new vistas in your relationship with God and your utility in His Kingdom.
But, regardless of the breadth and depth of your curiosity and reading, the root of all such differences can and must depend on such first principles. For first principles, their distinctive and irreconcilable differences and the rational and scientific evidence corroborating or contradicting them must lead to and prove the truth of only one of these possibilities.
God either exists or He doesn’t exist. Either He is a certain fact, or a benign fable. Either He is the Creator of everything, or He is a figment of our imagination. Either He is the embodiment and source of all love, truth, goodness and beauty, or all love and truth, goodness and beauty are neural illusions generated by our cortical biochemistry.
For it really is just that simple. Just that clear. Just that terrible. For the choice is before you. Just as it is. Just as it has always been. Just as it ever will be. So, take the time these crucial things demand. Be rigorous and rational. Be relentless and reflective. But, be sure to hold fast to a sustained search for certainty.
For God is out there waiting for you to discover Him. He longs for you to know Him in the full harmony of your heart and your mind. For He is a personal, intimate God, who wishes you to know and to love Him and all His other sons and daughters. And, He wants you to know the breadth and depth of His love for you. For this is why you were created. To live in profound intimacy with Him.
This is the reality that animates and enlivens your worldly life now and your heavenly life forever.
We also recommend Mr. Cronin’s latest book, The World According to God: The Whole Truth About Life and Living. It is available from your favorite bookstore and through Sophia Institute Press.
image: High altar at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican. Photo by Iakov Kalinin / Shutterstock.com