Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Peeling Away Lies: The True History of the Spanish Inquisition

Posted by Tony Listi on June 3, 2011

“…historians are now discovering that the common notion of the Spanish Inquisition as some horrible, fanatical, all-encompassing bloodthirsty monster could not be further from the truth. Their conclusions come from the first-time ever study of the actual cases taken from the archives of the Inquisition itself…. Studying the archives of the Inquisition demolished the previous image that all of us had.” (BBC documentary “The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition”)

“The reason why accurate information about the Inquisition fails to penetrate the popular mind is not such a mystery at all. Numerous people have a vested interest in keeping the traditional image alive…. Those who resent the Church’s claim to moral authority use as their most effective weapon the allegation of hypocrisy….” -James Hitchcock, Professor of History at St. Louis University

There are so many myths, lies, and half-truths surrounding the history of the Inquisition. In this post, I’m going to set aside the philosophical, moral, and prudential considerations surrounding the issue. Let’s focus on the historical facts first, shall we? Some historical accuracy and perspective should be enough to defuse much of the hatred and animosity aimed at the Catholic Church.

First, some general historical facts:

The Inquisition technically had jurisdiction only over those professing to be Christians (i.e. Catholics). It did not have jurisdiction over those who did not claim to be Christian like Jews and Muslims.

States and kingdoms of the time explicitly and officially endorsed and embraced the Christian faith as the foundation of their own authority and the peace of civil society. Thus they saw an attack on the unity and purity of the Christian faith as an attack on them, their authority, and the public peace. This was not a new or unique idea in the previous history of the relationship between religion and politics. Furthermore, even by some imperfect modern standards, in point of fact, these heretical sects were indeed in many cases violent and destructive of civil society.

The Inquisition was a response to statist encroachment into doctrinal territory and overzealousness of the State and mobs of people in executing heretics. In the early 13th century, the Inquisition was born most likely in response to popular mobs’ and the State’s aggressive prosecution and punishment of heretics, especially the Cathari, a sect that taught that sexual intercourse and marriage was evil and that suicide was good under certain circumstances. The Church likely saw these secular tribunals as an encroachment on its authority with regard to what is true doctrine and what is heresy. So it decided to create its own body of judges that would exercise doctrinal authority and judgment in the name of the pope.

The Inquisition was not an all-powerful institution with unlimited power and supreme authority. Rather, it was under the authority of the pope and diocesan bishops and competed with the State and the local aristocracy in many instances. It was often overshadowed in the city and powerless in the country.

This rest of this post is going to focus on the Spanish Inquisition.

My primary source of historical information is going to be a TV program that the BBC that aired in 1995 called The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition (see videos below). Why? Because this TV documentary presents the views of scholars who actually examined the original and detailed achival records of the cases that came before the Spanish Inquisition. These internal records were never intended for public viewing. The documentary draws primarily upon the work of Professors Henry Kamen and Stephen Haliczer. There is also a Wikipedia article devoted to the new historical findings.

You can watch the documentary yourself, starting with the first YouTube video below (of five videos):

The documentary is no more than an hour long and well worth the watch. For those who don’t want to watch it or don’t have the time to, I’m going to highlight some key facts that it brings to light.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Church History, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Origen: More 2nd/3rd Century Confirmation of Catholicism

Posted by Tony Listi on November 6, 2010

Origen (185-254) was a very early catechetical teacher. In his work De Principiis, he demonstrates that the truths of Catholicism have deep and early roots, whereas Protestantism does not. He upholds Church tradition and authority as the fundamental rule of faith for the teaching of correct doctrine and confirms the necessity of obedience for salvation.

All emphases are mine.

Before Origen proceeds to state the content of the Christian faith, he notes that their are differences of belief among people who call themselves Christians and thus sees it necessary to lay out an overarching rule for how to distinguish true from false doctrines:

Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points…. [S]eeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and tradition.

Origen then, in Catholic creed-like fashion, says what the Christian faith holds to be true, careful to claim apostolic/Church authority for these doctrines:

Now it ought to be known that the holy apostles, in preaching the faith of Christ, delivered themselves with the utmost clearness on certain points which they believed to be necessary to every one…. The particular points clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles are as follow…. Then, Thirdly, the apostles related that the Holy Spirit was associated in honour and dignity with the Father and the Son…. And that this Spirit inspired each one of the saints, whether prophets or apostles; and that there was not one Spirit in the men of the old dispensation, and another in those who were inspired at the advent of Christ, is most clearly taught throughout the Churches…. After these points, also, the apostolic teaching is that the soul, having a substance and life of its own, shall, after its departure from the world, be rewarded according to its deserts…. This also is clearly defined in the teaching of the Church, that every rational soul is possessed of free-will and volition…. [T]his beginning, itself, whether it be by birth or not, or whether bestowed upon the body from without or no, is not distinguished with sufficient clearness in the teaching of the Church…. Regarding the devil and his angels, and the opposing influences, the teaching of the Church has laid down that these beings exist indeed…. This also is a part of the Church’s teaching, that the world was made and took its beginning at a certain time, and is to be destroyed on account of its wickedness. But what existed before this world, or what will exist after it, has not become certainly known to the many, for there is no clear statement regarding it in the teaching of the Church…. Respecting which there is one opinion throughout the whole Church, that the whole law is indeed spiritual…. This also is a part of the teaching of the Church, that there are certain angels of God, and certain good influences, which are His servants in accomplishing the salvation of men…. Every one, therefore, must make use of elements and foundations of this sort…if he would desire to form a connected series and body of truths agreeably to the reason of all these things, that by clear and necessary statements he may ascertain the truth regarding each individual topic, and form, as we have said, one body of doctrine, by means of illustrations and arguments….

Notice at the end how Origen assumes the necessity of unity of true doctrine.

In talking of the end of the world, Origen also assumes the unity and authority of Church:

…if his mind be full of preconceptions and prejudices on other points, he may judge these to be heretical and opposed to the faith of the Church, yielding in so doing not so much to the convictions of reason as to the dogmatism of prejudice…. And in keeping with this is the declaration of the same apostle, when he exhorts us, who even in the present life are placed in the Church, in which is the form of that kingdom which is to come, to this same similitude of unity: “That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

He again upholds the authority of the Church when discussing corporeal and incorporeal beings:

We have now to ascertain what those matters are which it is proper to treat in the following pages according to our dogmatic belief, i.e., in agreement with the creed of the Church.

He again upholds the authority of the Church when discussing judgment and hell:

But since the discourse has reminded us of the subjects of a future judgment and of retribution, and of the punishments of sinners, according to the threatenings of holy Scripture and the contents of the Church’s teaching…. But now, also, for the sake of logical order in our treatise, there will be no absurdity in restating a few points from such works, especially since some take offense at the creed of the Church, as if our belief in the resurrection were foolish, and altogether devoid of sense; and these are principally heretics, who, I think, are to be answered in the following manner.

He again upholds the authority of the Church when discussing free will:

But as the preaching of the Church includes a belief in a future and just judgment of God, which belief incites and persuades men to a good and virtuous life, and to an avoidance of sin by all possible means; and as by this it is undoubtedly indicated that it is within our own power to devote ourselves either to a life that is worthy of praise, or to one that is worthy of censure…. Since in the preaching of the Church there is included the doctrine respecting a just judgment of God, which, when believed to be true, incites those who hear it to live virtuously, and to shun sin by all means, inasmuch as they manifestly acknowledge that things worthy of praise and blame are within our own power, come and let us discuss by themselves a few points regarding the freedom of the will

Origen also says that God demands fruit and labor from us, though He alone gives salvation:

So also in the race of our life we ourselves must expend labour, and bring diligence and zeal to bear; but it is from God that salvation is to be hoped for as the fruit of our labour. Otherwise, if God demand none of our labour, His commandments will appear to be superfluous. In vain, also, does Paul blame some for having fallen from the truth, and praise others for abiding in the faith; and to no purpose does he deliver certain precepts and institutions to the Churches: in vain, also, do we ourselves either desire or run after what is good. But it is certain that these things are not done in vain; and it is certain that neither do the apostles give instructions in vain, nor the Lord enact laws without a reason. It follows, therefore, that we declare it to be in vain, rather, for the heretics to speak evil of these good declarations.

He again upholds the authority of the Church and its complementarity with Scripture when discussing the human body:

For the faith of the Church does not admit the view of certain Grecian philosophers, that there is besides the body, composed of four elements, another fifth body, which is different in all its parts, and diverse from this our present body; since neither out of sacred Scripture can any produce the slightest suspicion of evidence for such an opinion, nor can any rational inference from things allow the reception of it, especially when the holy apostle manifestly declares, that it is not new bodies which are given to those who rise from the dead, but that they receive those identical ones which they had possessed when living, transformed from an inferior into a better condition.

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Hypocrisy, Abuse, and Truth in the Catholic Church

Posted by Tony Listi on August 15, 2010

Hypocrisy and abuse are no proof of error; they are proof of weak, sinful human beings. To point to hypocrisy or abuse in argumentation is an ad hominem fallacy, a fallacy that many dissenters to and enemies of the Catholic Church employ over and over again.

The distinction between abstract/absolute ideas and and individual actions is crucial to the acceptance of the Catholic faith (or any belief system for that matter). Yet many people are unable to understand or unwilling to accept this crucial distinction. 

If the saints of the Church are not proof of the truth of Catholic doctrines, then neither are corrupt clergy proof of the error of Catholic doctrines. Doctrinal truth is not dependent on the character of individual men and women but upon the Holy Spirit acting through the offices of pope and bishop, who declare what is true doctrine (1 Tim 4:11, 6:2-5; Titus 1:13, 2:1, 15).

St. Peter and St. Paul were both sinners and hypocrites, as Scripture tells us. Peter is rebuked by Paul because of Peter’s hypocrisy in declaring no food unclean and circumcision unnecessary at the Council of Jerusalem yet drawing away from the Gentiles in fear of “the circumcision party” (Gal 2:12-14; Act 11:1-18, 15:6-14). Paul too showed himself to be a hypocrite to Christian teaching in his trivial quarrel with Barnabas over John Mark and in his other sins (Act 15:37-40; Rom 7:14-25).

Did the sins of Peter and Paul make their teachings any less true? Of course not!

Truth does not cease being truth just because an individual acts sinfully and in contradiction to truth that he knows to be true and has preached to be true. This truth about truth is true even in the case of popes, bishops, and priests.  The sins of clergy or individual lay Catholics have not and cannot change Catholic truths, which Catholic clergy, esp. the popes, have merely preserved and passed on since the time of the original apostles.

So it doesn’t matter how many times you bring up the Crusades, Inquisition, adulterous popes and clergy, individual Catholics complicit in the Holocaust, leftist Catholics like Nancy Pelosi, pedophile priests, abuse of annulments, or any other scandal, whether real or false: NONE of these things have changed Catholic doctrine over time. Nor could they.

That this is an historical fact is a tangible testament to the unique work and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Roman Catholic Church, which has preserved correct doctrine without change for about 2000 years. Jesus was not lying when He said that His Church built upon the Rock of Cephas would not fail.

The Roman Catholic Church is holy, not because its leaders and members have been or are sinless but because by the power of the Holy Spirit it possesses certain and true doctrines without error, doctrines that can be traced historically through Church history back to the beginning. “If the root is holy, so are the branches” (Rom 11:16).

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Why Catholicism is Distinctly Conservative

Posted by Tony Listi on January 23, 2010

The Catholic faith teaches that grasping the truth about God, His Church, and His moral precepts is not an ongoing process that never ends. The Holy Spirit led the apostles and the Church built on their hand-picked successors “to all truth” (John 16:13).

While it may take some time for the individual to learn and humbly submit to all these truths, these truths have already been revealed and “handed down once for all” (Jude 1:3). The Christian faith was established with certainty and infallibility long before Martin Luther; it cannot be changed, no matter how scrupulously one studies the Bible. Nothing substantive or fundamental can be added to or subtracted from the early deposit of faith.

Personal Scriptural interpretations and younger, man-made Protestant traditions cannot possibly carry greater weight or be more accurate than the Scriptural interpretations of the early Church fathers and councils long before the Protestant Revolution and its “progressive” and innovative doctrinal additions to and subtractions from the one, traditional Faith handed down by the apostles, the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20).

However, grasping these fixed, traditional Christian truths as they apply to our individual lives and our striving to live out those truths (i.e. sanctification) is indeed an unending, life-long process. We need constant reminders of the truths that have already been revealed to us and constant reflection on how to apply them to our own lives. We need constant prayer for the grace and strength to practice and live out the fixed truths we already know, so that our faith may not be dead, useless, and in vain.

Therefore, Catholicism is distinctly conservative while all other denominations, to a greater or lesser extent, are necessarily liberal, relativist, fallibilist, and egocentric.

Though he’s talking about politics and conservatism, the following quote by William F. Buckley, Jr. (himself a Catholic) in Up from Liberalism applies very similarly to religion and Catholicism:

Conservatives do not deny the existence of undiscovered truths, but they make a critical assumption, which is that those truths that have already been apprehended are more important to cultivate than those undisclosed ones close to the liberal grasp only in the sense that the fruit was close to Tantalus…. Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgement that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before.

With regard to epistemology, i.e. “critical assumption[s],” Protestantism and modern American liberalism are two sides of the same coin.

Posted in Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Error of the Supremacy of Private Judgment of Scripture (Cardinal Newman’s Analysis)

Posted by Tony Listi on December 15, 2009

[From: Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church (Via Media, Volume I), 1837, Lecture Six, from Newman’s Anglican period]

Private Judgment is a weapon which destroys error by the sacrifice of truth….

In the next place, let us consider what force prepossessions have in disqualifying us from searching Scripture dispassionately for ourselves. The multitude of men are hindered from forming their own views of doctrine, not only from the peculiar structure of the sacred Volume, but from the external bias which they ever receive from education and other causes. Without proving the influence of prejudice, which would be superfluous, let us consider some of the effects of it. For instance; one man sees the doctrine of absolute predestination in Scripture so clearly, as he considers, that he makes it almost an article of saving faith; another thinks it a most dangerous error. One man maintains, that the civil establishment of religion is commanded in Scripture, another that it is condemned by it. One man sees in Scripture the three evangelical Councils, another thinks them a device of the evil one. Such instances do not show that Scripture has no one certain meaning, but that it is not so distinct and prominent, as to force itself upon the minds of the many against their various prejudices. Nor do they prove that all prejudice is wrong; but that some particular prejudices are not true; and that, since it is impossible to be without some or other, it is expedient to impress the mind with that which is true; that is, with the faith taught by the Church Catholic, and ascertainable as matter of fact beyond the influence of prejudice.

Again: take the explanations in detail given by Protestants of particular texts of Scripture; they will be found to involve an inconsistency and want of intelligible principle, which shows how impossible it is for the mass of men to contemplate Scripture without imparting to it the colouring which they themselves have received in the course of their education. Nothing is more striking, in popular interpretations and discussions, than the amplitude of meaning which is sometimes allowed to the sacred text, compared with its assumed narrowness at other times. In some places it is liberally opened, at others it is kept close shut; sometimes a single word is developed into an argument, at another it is denied to mean anything specific and definite, anything but what is accidental and transient. At times the commentator is sensitively alive to the most distant allusions, at times he is impenetrable to any; at times he decides that the sacred text is figurative, at other times only literal;—without any assignable reason except that the particular religious persuasion to which he belongs requires such inconsistency. For instance, when Christ said to the Apostles, “Drink ye all of this,” He is considered to imply that all the laity should partake the cup: yet, when He said to them, “I am with you always,” He spoke to the original Apostles, exclusively of their successors in the ministry. When St. Paul speaks of “the man of sin,” he meant a succession of sinners; but when Christ said, “I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He does not mean a line of Peters. When St. Paul says of the Old Testament, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” he includes the New; yet when he says, “We are come to the city of the Living God,” he does not include the Church militant. “A fountain shall be opened for sin,” does not prove baptismal grace; but “Christ is unto us righteousness,” proves that He fulfils the law instead of us. “The fire must prove every man’s work,” is said to be a figure; yet, “Let no man judge you in meats and drinks,” is to be taken to the letter as an argument against fasting. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” is to be understood as a command; but, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” is not a command. “Let no man judge you in respect of a holyday, or of the Sabbath-days,” is an argument, not indeed against the Sabbath, but certainly against holydays. “Search the Scriptures,” is an argument for Scripture being the rule of faith; but “hold the Traditions,” is no argument in favour of Tradition. “Forbidding to marry” is a proof that Rome is Antichrist; but, “It is good for a man not to marry,” is no argument in favour of celibacy. The Sermon on the Mount contains no direction for Protestants to fast; but the second Commandment is plainly against Image Worship. The Romanist in using prayers in an unknown tongue is guilty of disobeying St. Paul; but the Protestant, in teaching justification by faith only, is not guilty of at once garbling St. Paul and contradicting St. James….

I am but showing the extreme inconsistency which is found in the popular mode of interpreting Scripture;—men profess to explain Scripture by itself and by reason, yet go by no rule, nor can give any account of their mode of proceeding. They take the most difficult points for granted, and say they go by common sense when they really go by prejudice. Doubtless Scripture is sometimes literal and sometimes figurative; it need not be literal here, because it is literal there; but, in many cases, the only way of determining when it is one and when the other, is to see how the early Church understood it. This is the Anglo-Catholic principle; we do not profess to judge of Scripture in greater matters by itself, but by means of an external guide. But the popular religion of the day does; and it finds itself unequal to its profession. It rebels against the voice of Antiquity, and becomes the victim of prejudice and a slave to Traditions of men. It interprets Scripture in a spirit of caprice, which might be made, and is made by others, to prove Romanism quite as well. And from all this I infer, not that Scripture has no one meaning in matters of doctrine, or that we do not know it, or that a man of high qualifications may not elicit it, but that the mass of men, if left to themselves, will not possess the faculty of reading it naturally and truly….

It is very observable how a latent prejudice can act in obscuring or rather annihilating certain passages of Scripture in the mental vision, which are ever so prominently presented to the bodily eyes. For instance, a man perhaps is in the habit of reading Scripture for years, and has no impression whatever produced on his mind by such portions of it as speak of God’s free grace, and the need of spiritual aid. These are at length suddenly and forcibly brought home to him; and then perhaps he changes his religious views altogether, and declares that Scripture has hitherto been to him nothing better than a sealed book. What security has he that in certain other respects it is not still hidden from him, as it was heretofore as regards the portions which have now unsettled him? Anglican divines will consider him still dark on certain other points of Scripture doctrine. Or, again, I would ask him what satisfactory sense he puts to our Lord’s words, “Verily, thou shalt in nowise come out thence till thou hast paid the very last farthing”? or, “Stand fast and hold the Traditions”? or, “Let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord”? and whether a Roman Catholic might not as fairly accuse him of neglecting these texts still, as he at present considers certain other texts, to which he was before blind, the sum and substance of his religion?

Or, to take another and more painful illustration. The (so-called) Unitarians explain away the most explicit texts in behalf of our Lord’s divinity. These texts do not affect them at all. Let us consider how this is. When we come to inquire, we find that they have a preconceived notion in their minds that the substance of the Gospel lies in the doctrine of the Resurrection. This doctrine is their Christianity, their orthodoxy; it contains in it, as they think, the essence of the Revelation. When then they come to the texts in question, such as “Christ, who is over all, God, blessed for ever;” or, “The Word was God;” they have beforehand made up their minds, that, whatever these words mean, they can have no important meaning, because they do not refer to the Resurrection; for that alone they will allow to be important…. They are not confident, they are not careful, about their correctness; they do not mind altering them. They put forward whatever will stop or embarrass their opponent, nothing more. They use some anomalous criticism, or alter the stopping, or amend the text, and all because they have made up their minds already what the Gospel is, that some other doctrine is the whole of it, and that in consequence the question in dispute is very unimportant….

And so, in like manner, many a man insists on the words, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” who will not go on to our Lord’s answer, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.”[T]he mass of Christians bring their prejudices and impressions to the written word, as well as they, and find it easier to judge of the text by the spontaneous operation of habit and inclination, than by the active and independent exercise of their reason; in other words, they think inaccurately; they judge and feel by prejudice….

Scripture is not so distinct in its announcements, as readers are morally or intellectually slow in receiving them. And if any one thinks that this avowal is derogatory to Scripture, I answer that Scripture was never intended to teach doctrine to the many; and if it was not given with this object, it argues no imperfection in it that it does not fulfil it. I repeat it; while Scripture is written by inspired men, with one and one only view of doctrine in their hearts and thoughts, even the Truth which was from the beginning, yet being written not to instruct in doctrine, but for those who were already instructed in it, not with direct announcements but with intimations and implications of the faith, the qualifications for rightly apprehending it are so rare and high, that a prudent man, to say nothing of piety, will not risk his salvation on the chance of his having them; but will read it with the aid of those subsidiary guides which ever have been supplied as if to meet our need. I would not deny as an abstract proposition that a Christian may gain the whole truth from the Scriptures, but would maintain that the chances are very seriously against a given individual…. Neither would I deny that individuals, whether from height of holiness, clearness of intellectual vision, or the immediate power of the Holy Ghost, have been and are able to penetrate through the sacred text into some portions of the divine system beyond, without external help from tradition, authority of doctors, and theology; though since that help has ever been given, as to the Church, so to the individual, it is difficult to prove that the individual has performed what the Church has never attempted. None, however, it would seem, but a complete and accurately moulded Christian, such as the world has never or scarcely seen, would be able to bring out harmoniously and perspicuously the divine characters in full, which lie hid from mortal eyes within the inspired letter of the revelation. And this, by the way, may be taken as one remarkable test, or at least characteristic of error, in the various denominations of religion which surround us; none of them embraces the whole Bible, none of them is able to interpret the whole, none of them has a key which will revolve through the entire compass of the wards which lie within. Each has its favourite text, and neglects the rest. None can solve the great secret and utter the mystery of its pages. One makes trial, then another: but one and all in turn are foiled. They retire, as the sages of Babylon, and make way for Daniel. The Church Catholic, the true Prophet of God, alone is able to tell the dream and its interpretation.

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Conservatives more honest than liberals?

Posted by Tony Listi on June 10, 2008

Ideas have consequences.

http://www.examiner.com/a-1419425~Peter_Schweizer__Conservatives_more_honest_than_liberals_.html

By Peter Schweizer
June 2, 2008

The headline may seem like a trick question — even a dangerous one — to ask during an election year. And notice, please, that I didn’t ask whether certain politicians are more honest than others. (Politicians are a different species altogether.) Yet there is a striking gap between the manner in which liberals and conservatives address the issue of honesty.

Consider these results:

Is it OK to cheat on your taxes? A total of 57 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” said yes in response to the World Values Survey, compared with only 20 percent of those who are “very conservative.” When Pew Research asked whether it was “morally wrong” to cheat Uncle Sam, 86 percent of conservatives agreed, compared with only 68 percent of liberals.

Ponder this scenario, offered by the National Cultural Values Survey: “You lose your job. Your friend’s company is looking for someone to do temporary work. They are willing to pay the person in cash to avoid taxes and allow the person to still collect unemployment. What would you do?”

Almost half, or 49 percent, of self-described progressives would go along with the scheme, but only 21 percent of conservatives said they would.

When the World Values Survey asked a similar question, the results were largely the same: Those who were very liberal were much more likely to say it was all right to get welfare benefits you didn’t deserve.

The World Values Survey found that those on the left were also much more likely to say it is OK to buy goods that you know are stolen. Studies have also found that those on the left were more likely to say it was OK to drink a can of soda in a store without paying for it and to avoid the truth while negotiating the price of a car.

Another survey by Barna Research found that political liberals were two and a half times more likely to say that they illegally download or trade music for free on the Internet.

A study by professors published in the American Taxation Association’s Journal of Legal Tax Research found conservative students took the issue of accounting scandals and tax evasion more seriously than their fellow liberal students. Those with a “liberal outlook” who “reject the idea of absolute truth” were more accepting of cheating at school, according to another study, involving 291 students and published in the Journal of Education for Business.

A study in the Journal of Business Ethics involving 392 college students found that stronger beliefs toward “conservatism” translated into “higher levels of ethical values.” And academics concluded in the Journal of Psychology that there was a link between “political liberalism” and “lying in your own self-interest,” based on a study involving 156 adults.

Liberals were more willing to “let others take the blame” for their own ethical lapses, “copy a published article” and pass it off as their own, and were more accepting of “cheating on an exam,” according to still another study in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all conservatives are honest and all liberals are untrustworthy. But clearly a gap exists in the data. Why? The quick answer might be that liberals are simply being more honest about their dishonesty.

However attractive this explanation might be for some, there is simply no basis for accepting this explanation. Validation studies, which attempt to figure out who misreports on academic surveys and why, has found no evidence that conservatives are less honest. Indeed, validation research indicates that Democrats tend to be less forthcoming than other groups.

The honesty gap is also not a result of “bad people” becoming liberals and “good people” becoming conservatives. In my mind, a more likely explanation is bad ideas. Modern liberalism is infused with idea that truth is relative. Surveys consistently show this. And if truth is relative, it also must follow that honesty is subjective.

Sixties organizer Saul Alinsky, who both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say inspired and influenced them, once said the effective political advocate “doesn’t have a fixed truth; truth to him is relative and changing, everything to him is relative and changing. He is a political relativist.”

During this political season, honesty is often in short supply. But at least we can improve things by accepting the idea that truth and honesty exist. As the late scholar Sidney Hook put it, “the easiest rationalization for the refusal to seek the truth is the denial that truth exists.”

Peter Schweizer is the author of “Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less … And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals” (Doubleday).

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sexual Attraction is Not Love: A Critique of the Movie “Closer”

Posted by Tony Listi on June 9, 2008

If you have not seen Closer, you might want to familiarize yourself with it here (will spoil the movie) or just skip this post. The style of story-telling is very clever and imaginative. The characters are powerfully portrayed by each actor. But it is the substance of the film that I am most interested in.

This movie is about 4 messed up people who cheat on each other and have no idea what love really is. It is a reflection of how dysfunctional and hyper-sexualized Western societies have become in their relationships. It is the tragic and perverse culmination of so-called sexual liberation. It is hard to find a theme or moral that is not negative in formulation (e.g. “Don’t do this!”).

Dan, Alice, Anna, and Larry are all weak, broken people. Each has their own unique faults, but all of them fail to realize what love really is. The men measure their relationships and “love” based on mere sexual attraction or in terms of power. Alice seems unable to love herself and who she is, and so she lies to herself and Dan from the very beginning. Anna is too weak to rebuff the advances of Dan and her own attraction to him, a married man. Both women prostitute themselves and thus degrade themselves. None of the characters seems to realize that love is not sexual attraction, not something that one feels. Love goes beyond mere feeling that intensifies and fades away (perhaps in cycles) with time. Love between men and women is a permanent, exclusive commitment to sacrifice for and serve one another till the death of one spouse. It is a relationship that is to be strengthened and made sacred before the eyes of God through the institution of marriage. How can love be more than bestial urges, mere irrational biochemistry, without an anchor in the Transcendent?

One line of the movie (paraphrased) stands out among others as a potential takeaway message: “Without the truth, we are nothing more than animals.” True enough. And yet Larry, the doctor character played by Clive Owen, is scrupulously honest with others throughout the film, as far as I can tell. But he behaves like a sex-crazed, vengeful animal just like the other three. He is vain and malicious. For all his honesty, he is a monster. So if the message of the movie is merely “tell the truth,” that merely begs the question: what is the truth that we should tell? How can we be honest with each other when we don’t know what the truth is?

Of course, the previous question is not quite the best interpretation either. Each of the characters knew it was wrong to cheat on their spouse. Each should have plainly seen how their choices, actions, and approach to sex and love were destroying their lives. Guilt was no mere “social construction” for the four. The real question is this: how can we be honest with one another when we aren’t honest with ourselves, when we don’t heed the moral truths written on our very hearts that are confirmed by human experience and history?

It has been said that art is a reflection of life (among other things); Closer, sadly, probably is a reflection of real life in many Western cities, especially those which embrace modern liberalism. It is gritty, sexual realism of a sort. Because the movie accurately portrays the consequences of breaking moral laws, especially with regard to sex and marital love, I cannot help but like the movie for its honesty.

But as I’ve suggested above, honesty is not enough. There was no closure to Closer. There was no offer of a better alternative to the moral chaos and misery of these characters. There was no offer of hope. Marriage is treated as a superfluous social convention rather than as something made holy and seriously contemplated. The film is devoid of any reference to the Divine, which points the way to real Love. But perhaps one cannot expect too much of one movie. The detailed intensity of the havoc of sin in the movie (especially of a sexual nature, which is often hard to demonstrate abstractly) may be valuable enough to those who already know what the alternative is or those who are spurred to search for a meaningful alternative.

But I can’t help but think that many people are going to accept the moral chaos at face value as “a fact of life” and search no deeper. Some will conclude there is no truth, no morality, no exit. Some will watch the movie and embrace its nihilism, its poetic meaninglessness. They will embrace it as a “feel good” movie because the harsh reality was “beautifully” presented. They will take hollow comfort in the beauty of tragedy without seeking a better escape. That is what I fear. That is what I object to.

Yes, art can be an honest reflection of life but it can do better than mere honesty. Art can be a reflection of Truth. It can be a reflection of moral truths, of ideals that may never exist in full in this world but which we should constantly aim towards nevertheless because the alternative is the observable fate of Dan, Alice, Anna, and Larry. Art can be a reflection of Purpose, of meaning to our lives because we embrace certain truths. Art can be a reflection of Faith, of trust and submission to something higher than ourselves, higher than the tragedy of fallen humanity. Even the ancient pagan Greeks and Romans recognized this higher plane of art. Ultimately, if art is not grounded in Truth, Purpose, and Faith, it merely intensifies the maelstrom of confusion, chaos, misery, and hopelessness.

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Culture War, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 59 Comments »