April 29, 2008

Off the Cuff Thoughts on a Homily...or Why "the Secret"?

Our homilist this past Sunday mentioned moral relativism and how that to make your religion a private affair is to, in effect, deny the existence of God. In our time, God is credited with a decreasingly important role. I recall years ago reading an article that stated that whatever you believe will be true for you in the afterlife. If you believe there is no afterlife, you will simply cease to exist. If you believe there will be a tunnel of light and Heaven, you will see a tunnel of light and go to Heaven. If you believe in Purgatory and imagine yourself going there, then you will go to Purgatory.

God can do anything and He could arguably, if he wanted to, have set things up that way. He could've set it up such that it seems like you are "creating your own reality" even though you are not creating anything. It would actually be God allowing it to happen or making it happen that way.

But of course that scenerio is false on many levels. It's completely contrary to Scripture, of course. And it also totally ignores the great compassion of God, who doesn't sit Deistically on the sidelines while someone decides there is no afterlife and so He is thus content with their oblivion.

This view is not too different, I think, from "The Secret" which basically says you create your own reality and that if you want it, it will come - even in this life, be it weight loss or a new car. Just ask for it and expect it. The success of "The Secret" proves that that the thinking behind that article I read a decade or two ago is still alive and well.

So why would this be so popular?

I can think immediately of at least two reasons. One is that it offers us more control, instead of God, over our wants and needs and eternal destiny (with the added benefit of ignoring morality). Second is that it conforms to our perceptions of modern psychology. A placebo "works" and so perhaps the placebo effect works on a much larger scale such that positive thinking determines your afterlife. Given the "observer effect", often called the Heisenberg principle, we know that thoughts are powerful things.

So it is understandable that "the Secret" mentality is popular given it is a confluence of what we desire (i.e. control) and modern psuedo-science. That about sums up the problems of modernity - faith in science (even though science is a work-in-progress) and in our own desires.

It always comes down to who our authority is, because we all have authorities. For many, we guide our lives by scientific studies that wish to prolong life or make it happier.

I'm struck by how often it happens that I'll have already heard a truth from a source - perhaps a blogger - which I will have discounted, or at least semi-discounted or maybe ignored. But then later I will hear it re-echoed in a more authoritative source, perhaps in a book by an author I admire, by St. Faustina, or maybe the Pope. Even then it may not sink in. But then I will see it, or some small seed of the issue, replicated in the gospel, said by Jesus, the ultimate Source, the ultimate Authority, where the Buck stops, and it'll carry so much more weight and I'll see, with a sort of ruefulness, that those people that had said it originally were right.

Exercising faith and trust in God often seems to me like trying to carrying something heavy using only your pinky finger. But over time the finger strengthens.

One of my brother-in-laws has trouble with Christian belief because he sees it as "wishful thinking". He thinks eternal happiness is too good to be true. But sometimes wishful thinking comes true. To quote C.S. Lewis, one myth came true.

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