I’d like to begin this little reflection by saying clearly that I love my country. There is so much good in us, and there are so many possibilities for us. We Americans have many good qualities, and some great ones, too. At the same time, our culture needs to be healed. We are not living in the Kingdom of God, after all. There are some serious issues that our culture has the chance to address, and the need to look at these issues is becoming clearer to a great number of people. After all, when everyone is comfortable with the status quo, what’s the motivation to change? When we’re uncomfortable the door is open for change. Maybe it’s the Catholic moment…
To begin with, we need to recapture our trust in our capacity to reason. Then we have to start thinking! We need to use our minds to go beyond the methodology of science and step into the world of big ideas. What does that mean? Well, there’s something called “metaphysics,” that is, “beyond physics.” We need answers to questions like these: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? What is love? What is a community? What is truth? Is there any such thing as objective truth? These are big questions and essential for us to try and answer as many of us begin to ask ourselves about our purpose. Since we are talking about mysteries here, we have to be tentative about our answers, but we also have to look for answers. We are built to try and make sense of our world. It needs healing, and to offer anything that might help we have to understand the sickness.
Lucky for us, some really good thinkers have been writing about these kinds of questions for a long time. If you would like to read more about learning to trust our minds again, click here. The “here” is an encyclical by St. John Paul II on thinking. We have to expand the scope of reason beyond the methodology of science because science does not allow us to think about metaphysical questions… it only allows us to think about the physical world. And we are most certainly more than just a pile of chemical reactions! At least some of us think that…
In “The Return of the God Hypothesis,” Stephen C. Meyer outlines how some scientists are coming to understand that the “religion” of scientific materialism fails to really explain what they find in chemistry and biology and astrophysics. As someone wrote about this journey, “the first sip of the cup of science will make you an atheist. If you drink all the way to the bottom of the cup, you find God.” These scientists dig deeply into their area of expertise and end up coming to believe in God! Wow!
Pretty clearly if we want to be rigorously honest in our thinking, the farthest we can get in thinking about the God question is to become agnostic (that is the position “I don’t know.”) Atheist (that is the position “God doesn’t exist”) is a type of religion. Just as you cannot prove beyond a doubt that God exists, you also cannot prove God doesn’t exist! How about that! Atheism is a religion!
To conclude, here’s a silly example of how much we don’t know about ourselves… I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the placebo effect. It’s a thing scientists discovered when they were trying medicines. You know, you give some patients the real medicine, and you give some of them sugar pills. Then you try to measure whether your medication has any effect.
Imagine their surprise when they found that some people were cured by placebos! And they did some more research about this. They found that the more expensive the placebo, the better it worked! What? It makes you want to laugh out loud! It’s obvious from this reality that we’re more than just a pile of chemical reactions. There are things about us that we really, really don’t understand. Still, the world we’re in needs healing, and the Catholic church has a lot to contribute to the discussion!