One of the talks I present when I am conducting a parish mission is “The Attack of the Isms” and portray them as an alien attack on rational earthlings.
I discuss twelve different forms of relativism, and as Pope Benedict referred to “the dictatorship of Relativism” notice how all ten lead to tyranny of one kind or another.
Here are ten “isms” that are attacking our culture and destroying the church.
These are really ten informal heresies–most Americans are not aware of them because they are simply part of our culture. They are the air we breathe. They are the wallpaper.
Remember heresies are not complete lies. They are half truths. Therefore in each one of the ten heresies there is something attractive and true. It becomes a heresy when it is cut off from the other truth which would balance it, or when it exists on its own apart from the rest of a truth system.
1. Individualism – Americans love the rugged individualist, the person who marches to a different drummer and all that, but when individualism is cut loose from any sense of community, tradition and truth it brings chaos. It’s true that each individual is a unique and eternal creation of God, but he finds his fulfillment in something greater than just himself. I sometimes think the national anthem of America should be changed to Frank Sinatra’s “I Did it My Way”. Individualism has now gone to such an extreme that every person feels they can do what they will as long as they harm no one. The problem with this is that is exactly the creed of the Satanist: “Do what you will, but harm not one.” By the way–the “harm no one” phrase is a recent addition to the diabolist’s creed to make it more “nice people friendly.”
2 Sentimentalism – Relativism means there is no such thing as truth. If there is no truth, then the only way a person has to decide what to believe and how to behave is according to how they feel. Sentimentalism is the heresy of determining everything about how we feel. The problem with this is that without any system of revelation and truth the emotions are soon reduced to two basic and elemental emotions. Discerning truth actually brings subtle gradations of emotion and different feelings. Without truth only two remain: rage and ecstasy. So in our society we see hordes running after sheer pleasure as fast as they can and when something does not bring them pleasure they respond in rage. Yikes!
3. Indifferentism – If there is no such thing as truth, then it doesn’t matter what you believe and it doesn’t matter what religion you belong to. What is the most sure fire thing for destroying not only the Catholic Church, but every form of Christianity? Indifferentism. If you choose your belief system according to how you feel (sentimentalism) then any religious choice must be as good as any other. It doesn’t take long to figure out that if any form of Christianity is of equal value, then every religion must be of equal value and if every religion is of equal value, then not having a religion must be of the same value.
4 Universalism – Universalism is the belief that everyone is going to heaven. Semi-universalism is the hope that everyone will go to heaven and the belief that “maybe there is a hell, but it is empty or if some people go there for a time they don’t stay there forever” You can see how universalism is an outgrowth of indifferentism. If it doesn’t matter what you believe, and if all belief systems are of equal value, then it must also be true that everyone goes to the same afterlife. Relativism is rooted in the Satanic idea that all distinctions must be obliterated.
5. Egalitarianism – By this I don’t mean the innate worth that all human beings have by virtue of being created in God’s image. That’s a good thing. However, when egalitarianism takes a political and ideological form it serves not to preserve the equal rights of all people, but to destroy distinctions between people. The Catholic view is that all people are equal in the sight of God, but all people are also unique. Each person has a unique place in God’s providence and a rightful place in his plan. Reducing everyone to the same lowest common denominator is always the work of the tyrant. Look anywhere at the revolutionary movements and you will see the obliteration of the rightful dignity of the individual by the forces of communitarianism.
6.Materialism – By this I don’t mean “shop until you drop”. That is just a symptom of a deeper problem. Materialism is the heresy that assumes there is no supernatural world. It is a kind of default atheism. Our society is stuffed full of people (many who go to church) who only ever see the material aspect of life. Their belief system is “What you see is what you get”. They assume that only what is known be the senses is real. They might go to church, but they live and behave as if there is nothing other than this physical world.
7. Scientism – This is the common assumption–linked with materialism–that the only valid knowledge is scientific knowledge. If something cannot be scientifically proven then it is either an intentional lie or the stuff of fairy tales, legends and folklore. The assumption that science has disproven religion and that all religious people are stupid, ignorant superstitious hicks runs through the mainstream media, higher education and the popular culture. Few stop to examine it, and when they ask for “evidence” they don’t even know what kind of evidence they are looking for. The assumption his all. Science is true. Religion is false.
8. Utilitarianism – If it works it must be good. Utilitarianism is also an outgrowth of materialism. If there is no heaven, hell or judgement, then the way to live (says the utilitarian) is to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. Unfortunately it is not easy to determine first of all what is truly good and then how to attain it. Invariably utilitarianism is linked with an ideology of some sort–usually economic and political and the “greatest good” is forced on people by the tyrant. “You will be happy. You will join our brave new world. You will support our utopia.” Here is a much longer post I have written on utilitarianism.
9. Historicism – This is the belief that “history is bunk”. The Christian believes in Divine Providence–history is “His Story” as my Sunday School teacher would say. Historicism draws the conclusion from relativism that if there is no truth, then there is no God and if there is no God then there can be no over arching narrative for history. What we see as a pattern or a plan is simply our attempt to impose some sort of meaning on history. History, for the historicist, is simply a random sequence of events that influence the way the human race goes. Some people get rich. Some people are poor. There are wars. One side wins. One side loses. So it goes. Furthermore, if there is no meaning to history there is also no meaning to your own life.
10. Progressivism – The irony is that the modern person will believe in historicism on the one hand–in which there is no over arching narrative of history, but he will at the same time believe in progress. Growing out of belief in evolutionism (by this I mean the ideology of evolution–not the scientific theory) the modern person assumes that because of evolution we are getting better and better every day in every way. If it is new it must be better. If it is the latest fashion, trend or idea it must be better than what has gone before. They hold to this fantasy despite the fact that the twentieth century was the most bloody, barbaric, cruel and disastrous century humanity has ever seen, and the twenty first century does not seem to be unfolding any better.
When I say these “isms” are destroying our culture and our church I am pointing out that they have invaded the church because they are part of the culture.
Most Americans–Catholics included–live their lives by these ten assumptions and are hardly aware of it. They make their choices on what to believe and how to behave according to individualism, sentimentalism, utilitarianism etc.
What is the answer? The only answer is for Catholics to stand apart, to know their faith and live it in a radical and startling way in the world. By this I do not mean simply doing good works and helping at the food pantry and doing HomeWorks on the summer vacation.
All that, of course, is wonderful, but living a radical Catholic life means more than that. It means having a different mindset, a different world view, a different perspective on all things than do our non Catholic neighbors, and the only way to achieve this is through a life dedicated to work, prayer and study.
If you would like to learn more about the “isms”–they are the subject of my entertaining book Slubgrip Instructs In this book the devil Slubgrip teaches college students in Bowelbages University in hell about the different “isms” that infect modern culture.
Utilitarianism: If you’re lucky(?) you end up with Huxley’s “Brave New World,” if unlucky you might get something like the society in Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”
Scientism has many problems, not the least of which is the question of what *is* science. Recent work by Sabine Hossenfelder has highlighted the “mathophilic” nature of much recent work in particle physics and how this serves to prefer beautiful math models over reality (see her “Lost in the Math”). From my perspective, work in untestable (not to mention unfalsifiable) theories such as string theory and the “multiverse” makes physics uncomfortably close to a faith-based enterprise.
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