Russell Shaw’s article about Europe’s sad plight/demise is frightening ("Europe’s Crisis of Faith," February 2008). Irreligion, the gift of the Enlightenment, is destructive of everything. At the same time, Shaw is rightly wary of reducing religion to being something good for social coherence. That would be utilitarian and inaccurate—Plato’s "noble lie" and Rousseau’s "social religion." Religion—one’s meeting with God—is simply true or false.
In the same issue there is a fine article about the history of religion. I might add, however, that the Stone Age religion is with us still, albeit unconsciously: We worship the same nature deities, gods of power, domination, sexuality, and gluttony. That is modern life, as it has been life in all the ages since the first holy caves.
— Rollin Lasseter
Arts for Life
I was thrilled to see your January article, "True Education Liberates." We sent our son to a Catholic college to get a liberal arts education, and we were thrilled to see how he was taught the importance of developing a good character, practicing the virtues, trusting the wisdom of the Church, searching for Truth, valuing reason over feelings, etc. It is true that he struggled for a while after graduation with finding a career, and we wondered if we had done the right thing to insist that he develop the "art of learning" rather than concentrating on learning skills for a trade. However, as we watch him try to discern what God wants of him and see the effect he is having on other young people with his solid faith and belief in the Truth, we see that he is really set up for life and for death. A career will come soon enough, and we know he will be better suited for raising a family and for participating in the best of our culture for the rest of his life. Thanks for an article that confirmed what we thought and expressed it a whole lot better than we ever could.
Quiz Show Connection?
I immensely enjoyed Rollin A. Lasseter’s article, "True Education Liberates" in the January issue of This Rock, and I agree with his premises and conclusions.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a television program called College Bowl, in which academically gifted teams of students competed with each other to win money for their respective colleges. During one episode, Vanderbilt University’s team was captained by a Rollin Lasseter. Is this the same man who wrote the article?
—Stephen L. Rosa
Editor replies: Indeed, one and the same.
No Smoking, Please
In response to a question about smoking in January’s Quick Questions column, Michelle Arnold referred to CCC 2290. I was quite taken aback upon reading it, since it apparently condones "moderate" smoking. Smoking is always destructive to the body—each and every cigarette causes it harm. For the Catechism to condone harmful behavior is surprising. Perhaps a better reference would have been 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. I’ll grant that the context is about sexual purity, but surely we also glorify God by treating our bodies with respect and not bringing unnecessary harm (cigarettes) to them. In addition, shouldn’t we recommend to those suffering from any form of addiction that bringing such behavior to the confessional regularly is a good thing?
—Joel S. Peters
Michelle Arnold replies: In my response, I did point to the value of confession, even in the case of venial sin. The graces of confession heal the penitent and may help an immoderate smoker to overcome his addiction.
The underlying premise of your argument, though, is that humans may never do something that can cause harm to their bodies and has no compensating health value. There are, however, many human activities, not just smoking, that fall under that category but are not forbidden or sinful. Examples include drinking alcohol, riding motorcycles, boxing, and playing tackle football. All of these activities, when done without the requisite care and prudence, cause harm; some of them can cause harm even when requisite care and prudence are taken.
The Church does require that people take "reasonable care" to protect their lives and preserve their physical health (cf. CCC 2288), but it cautions that "If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake" (CCC 2289).
Belfast Likes Catholics
I feel compelled to write to you regarding the comments which were made about C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. I apologize for not quoting the exact article and issue but it was discussed in relation to The Golden Compass. [The comments appeared as part of a response to a letter published in our Dec. 2007 issue.—Ed. ] It was stated in the article that C.S. Lewis was anti-Catholic and grew up in a very anti-Catholic part of Belfast. It is true that East Belfast is staunchly Protestant and a significant number of people in that area are anti-Catholic, but please do not tar us all with the same brush.
I grew up in Belfast in the ’70s, a stone’s throw away from where Lewis was born. Not only am I not anti-Catholic and never was, I became a Catholic. Many of my childhood friends are not Catholic, but the anti-Catholic attitudes they grew up with generated sympathy for the Catholic community and a tolerant attitude towards Catholicism among the more reasonable. A longstanding friend of mine who professes to be agnostic, having been turned away from religion by fundamentalist Christians who taught in the primary school we attended, has a bottle of Holy Water from Lourdes proudly displayed in a prominent place in his home.
When I told him I was going to become a Catholic (six years ago), his reply was "Go for it; I can understand why you would want to do that." We in Northern Ireland sadly don’t have a lot to be proud of because of our past. We are quite proud of C.S. Lewis. Personally I don’t see anything anti-Catholic in his writings, and I don’t know anyone else who does, Protestant or Catholic, but we are all entitled to our opinion. I just ask, please don’t attach an anti-Catholic label to someone just because they grew up in East Belfast.
Bangor, Northern Ireland
The Consequences of Unbelief
Three of the stories in your December 2007 issue fit together beautifully. In two articles we read about Philip Pullman and his promotion of atheism to children through His Dark Materials and the movie based on The Golden Compass. Then, in the conversion story of Peter Michael Refakis (Damascus Road), we read of the consequences of accepting atheism as a way of life. Refakis writes, "I was shocked to discover the result—hell on earth." "Hell on earth" is what is in store for children influenced by The Golden Compass to read Pullman’s books. And since children ultimately become adults who run society, all of society will become hell on earth.
"Once Saved" Not Scriptural
As usual, Tim Staples did a great job with "It’s Not Over ’til It’s Over" (By the Book, December 2007), in which he points out that Romans 5:1 does not mean that all sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven. He points out that justification as revealed in Scripture is an ongoing event, not a one-time happening. The Old Testament passage that confirms that "once saved – always saved" is untrue is Ezekiel 18:21-24: "If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die . . . and if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does . . . he shall die." God has given us free will to accept his grace or reject his grace. To believe that after I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior nothing I do in my life can take away my salvation is not scripturally correct.
Broadview Heights, Ohio