Friday, October 31, 2008

Christian in Name Only

A DOUGHNUT HOLE is undoubtably a part of a doughnut, but it has no existence without the doughnut; its existence is conditioned by the existence of the doughnut.  Also, you can have a perfectly good doughnut without a hole, especially if it has a tasty filling.  Likewise, you cannot have a parody of Hamlet without there being Shakespeare's original play.

This same notion leads to the origin of evil:  it is the absence of good.  See these articles by Saint Thomas Aquinas.  It is for this reason that evil is self-limiting, and even eventually destroys itself, for the privation of good leads ultimately to non-being.  You can increase the size of a doughnut hole until the doughnut itself, and likewise its hole, completely disappears.

Enlightenment religion (a term I use for want of any better, actual practitioners would likely reject it)  is based on doubt and is essentially skeptical.  It attempts to minimize or eliminate truth-claims, especially those claims of a metaphysical or spiritual character.  It concentrates on the hole rather on the doughnut surrounding it.  For this reason, Enlightenment religion has to pierce an existing religion — any religion will do — as a hole in a doughnut is like a hole in a bagel, and cannot have an independent existence.

You can take so much away from a religion until all that is left is the name only.

Senator Obama apparently subscribes to this kind of skeptical religion. See the article: Obama's Religious Ruse: 'I've Always Been a Christian'.

It is hazardous sometimes to argue philosophy with a skeptic.  Confronting them with the slippery slope argument may actually convince them that sliding down that slope would be a thrilling ride.  Instead, we must perhaps encourage them to hold onto whatever faith they do have, no matter how small, and help it grow.


  1. you are trying way too hard!!! Our Lord will judge if Barack is a Christian!!! Neither you nor I will be asked to make that decision. I see a man who cares about people, you see something else but I don't believe that Christians have an exclusive on good deeds thoughts or actions!!

  2. Interesting analogy.

    However, I would not want to have to ask for absolution for judgmentalism at my next confession (and I do confess this is a personal struggle).

  3. I was hardly trying at all, at just six short paragraphs. If I weren't so busy with other things, I would have written my own article on the subject rather than just linking to somebody else's article. Obama's intellectual formation is most certainly that of the Enlightenment (at least as broadly understood, and on the left side of the spectrum, for sure), and is broadly skeptical.

    He was greatly influenced by Nietzsche. Not a good sign: the will to power, the Superman, transvaluation of all values, and seeing the masses as mere cattle. Oy vey! Have we not learned our lesson?

    His religious influences are more interesting and also quite scary, including stuff that can be traced back to the Theosophical Society. What he says and writes seems to show that he is a Christian in name only.

    Is Obama good? How does he define good? His public record on the life issues is dismal, which is a terrible sign of his values.

  4. Irene,

    Since I am a citizen, and it is my duty to vote in the upcoming elections, it is therefore also my duty to judge the candidates and select one.

  5. By the way, I read that John McCain has not been baptized, so technically he isn't a Christian either.

    This is typical: for about the first hundred years of our Republic, no American President received communion in the churches they attended. Even though it is merely symbolic in Protestantism, receiving communion was typically taken very seriously, and was a sign of full unity (and tithing) in a denomination.