I really appreciate Fr. Kerry Walters’ regular column! While fearless about pronouncing his faith, he is also rational, fair-minded and rigorously honest in his deliberations.
His recent today, “Forty-seven,” (April 18) was his usual excellent fare, but at a certain point I diverged from his argument and arrived at a different conclusion. That divergent point was when he wrote, “... to deny the transcendent is to repress an essential human need.”
This is why I have never been (and never will be) a member of any religious denomination: They all put humanity at the center of existence! The church is still fighting Galileo for pointing out that the sun is at the center of our universe! My life experience has shown me very clearly that transcendence simply exists — it is up to humanity, individually and collectively, to decide if we want to open our ears to the transcendent music, but the music continues whether we listen or not. For me, positing transcendence as merely a human “need” diminishes the power and truth of transcendence as an ongoing, universally available state of existence.
I think that religion served an important purpose for humankind, and the Age of Enlightenment, which ushered in rationalism, or “secularism,” was an important correction or counterbalance to the excesses of organized, earthly religion. But we’re not finished yet — it is an incomplete argument that only includes religion and secularism. True transcendence contains the truths of both religious tradition and the rational mind. Having objected to Fr. Walters’ point of view, I have to be honest myself and say that studying and practicing classical Chinese medicine has helped me to articulate and refine my spiritual and intellectual point of view, so I’m not bashing tradition, or practices based either on faith or the mind. However, it is a false dichotomy to say that faith and reason can’t co-exist. We need to keep pressing forward in our human evolution (or karmic development, or fulfilling the grace of God) to reach a place where all truth fits, both rational and spiritual. I don’t at all disagree with some of Fr. Walters’ observations about the shortcomings of the “rational life,” but it is easy pickings and a waste of time to drag it down, akin to the secularist’s focus on dragging down religion due to the Catholic church’s problems with sex.
“Forty-seven” is only a number, a rational symbol that indicates a tendency. If it goes down to 17 or up to 97 makes no difference to me, as long as we continue to seek a better, more complete vision of existence. Once we see that, our place within will be obvious, and we will be happy to live there.