Dr. Peter Kreeft's Speech
A few weeks ago, a good friend's brother (Hi, Steve) gave me a couple of CDs to listen to on Catholic apologetics. One lecture by Dr. Peter Kreeft and another by Dr. Scott Hahn. Today, I'll go over the former's speech entitled Seven Reasons Everyone on Earth Should Be a Roman Catholic.
This was pretty hard to listen to, not because it was difficult to refute or anything, but because there isn't any decent logical points at all to dig into. I mean, his first argument is, "What else is there?" Seriously. He asks, "Why believe anything at all? Because it's true." See, as an example, Santa made you happy, and good/moral. You were good before Xmas, and you were happy. Why don't you believe in Santa? It's not true. So, as he says, "Truth trumps everything." Ok, what's this truth stuff?
His questions are, Do you desire truth? Do you seek truth? This is sounding a bit new-agey. Kreeft goes on here about wanting truth and a bunch of stuff, but there's no argument in sight.
He then quotes the best atheist question, supposedly from Bertrand Russell on his deathbed after being asked, "What will you say to God if you're wrong?" Russell supposedly answers, "Fair enough, why didn't you give us more evidence?"
Ah, but see, God would compel us against our will if he gave us too much evidence. (Ed. note: Whaaaa?) Yeah, God gave just enough "light" for those who truly seek him to find him ("seek" here is an ancient Babylonian word meaning "have enough blind faith").
The point: "Either there's some sort of a God, or there isn't...Assuming that the religious view of some sort is true..." No no no... you can't just assume that. We can end the discussion here because everything apart from this is just more floors built upon the non-existent foundation. It's Tooth Fairy philosophy.
Kreeft asserts, "Many Gods just doesn't work"? Well, it seems to work fine for Shintoism. Worked for the Romans and Greeks. That flat statement is both condescending and ignorant of history and other religions.
In this lecture, there are so many either/or assumptions based on ridiculous "logic" that it's difficult to even follow along. It's almost like trying to listen to Deepak Chopra and attempt to make any sense out of his driveling rants.
Regarding the church's history, Kreeft says, "If the bones of the dead Jesus would just turn up in some tomb in Palestine, all Christianity would be destroyed." Sure, assuming Jesus was a real person. Plus, it's hard to find the bones of one guy who's grave was (if he was real) likely pilfered for relics.
He says that science relates to Christianity in that there's, "not a single scientific discovery that refutes a single doctrine of the Christian religion". Umm...how about Heliocentrism? Just a thought. Catholic dogma held that back for a long long time; remember Cardinal Robert Bellarmine who said that, "we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary". That would be the contrary message to what Galileo figured out, which was the that Earth went around the Sun.
Weak weak weak arguments.
Now we get into C.S. Lewis. You had to know he was on the way. It's the old, "Christ was either the messiah or he was a liar/madman" bit. Kreeft says that this argument, "forces you to say one of two extremes", which is true, but why go with the craziest? A little razor cut from old William of Occam fixes that right up, especially the old school version that says, "plurality should not be posited without necessity". Exactly. If the guy's either crazy or the "son of God", well, there's no proof whatsoever for the existence of some man in the sky, therefore the best answer is that he's a crazy person. Boom. Done. Let's go grab a beer.
Oh, wait, he's not done....
Sure, the Nicene Creed which gave the four marks (clues) of the Church:
Firstly, it's got to be holy, Catholic, and apostolic. Really? It's got to be "Catholic"? But what about this part of the creed, which is the really scary bit to me: "I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come." Death cult, anyone? People who expect to live forever and yearn for the "world to come" make me afraid because it so takes away from the importance of this life. We only have about 80 years, on average, to do what we like and be around those we love - to piss on that for some empty vague promise of what's to come is incredible weak. Tim Minchin expresses this thought beautifully in his nine minute beat poem, Storm, heard right here:
Back to Catholic doctrine and the lovely idea that they don't allow divorce because "we don't claim to have the authority to change the words of our Master." - to a nice little applause break...or as the Japanese say, "Apprause blake". So screw you, missy, you stay with that abusive, wife-beating drunk, you second-class woman, you. Way to hang on to that tremendous misogyny.
Oh, and women also can't be ordained for the same reason. Simple misogyny. You stay classy.
So, if you can't change the "word"...do you stone adulterers? (Lev. 20:10) Do you kill homosexuals? (Lev. 20:13) Not so "infallible" now, is it?
Kreeft says that because Catholics don't change with the times, they're persecuted and are the "new Jews". He says, "We're like an iron ball in the pit of the world's stomach, we can't be digested, we can't be assimilated." Another applause break from the supportive-yet-unthinking crowd. Great. I guess I'm just weird in thinking that unchanging dogmatism is a bad thing.
Next item of interest is "Apostolic Succession". He makes this point by pointing out three "historical facts": 1. Jesus did appoint apostles. 2. These apostles exercised their powers to pass on themselves in the form of bishops. 3. These bishops are still around. I think when you look at arguments for why everyone in the world should be a Catholic, this counts as the worst argument ever.
I had two mice. Those mice had babies and became my new mice. I still have mice. Therefore the bible is true. See how that works?!
This one made me laugh out loud. Kreeft says that, "Reason can prove very much of the Faith, not all of it, but much of it. And it can refute all objections to it." Really? I call BS. If the Catholic faith (or any faith, for that matter) could refute any and all objections, then I'd be convinced, but it can't. Period.
Kreeft said that he was bored on a beach and read St. John of the Cross. When he was done he said, "I don't understand this, but I know it's true." There's the mindset, in one concise sentence. If you don't take away anything else from this blathering I do, remember that one sentence because it sums up religious belief very succinctly. If ever there was a phrase to encompass the arrogance of ignorance, this is it.
We're nearing the end, thankfully, because this line made me almost seltzer my milk out my nose: "The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church." What? So no one bothered to change the text, big deal. Bishops had mistresses, church officials stole money, now a not-inconsequential number of priests rape children...that means the church is infallible? I think you live in Topsy Turvy Land
Kreeft says that the church and its inspired music/architecture/art are beautiful. He listened to music and thought, "I absolutely know that this music comes from Heaven." Argument from ignorance, anyone? Anyone? This is quietly, seemingly viewed as a serious point. He says, "I know three ex- atheists who were converted by J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion." Good for you. I have a newsflash - they weren't knowledgeable atheists, because any atheist worth his or her salt (see what I did there, making men and women equal? Right) would realize that Bach was great at something. Period. It's a lot like Francis Collins' frozen waterfall conversion. As Michael Shermer says, sometimes smart people are great at rationalizing the things they came to believe for not-smart reasons.
Here's where I actually got angry. Kreeft said that while visiting Africa, some members of the tribes he talked to couldn't believe two things: 1. They couldn't believe that there was such a thing as an atheist. No one near a river or an ocean could be an atheist.
This is, to be blunt, stupid. Who cares what the tribes believed about atheists? You might as well go back a couple hundred years and ask someone then about iPhones. If you have no technology and no science, the clouds and rain are magic.
Secondly and much more infuriating, Kreeft said that the tribespeople, "couldn't believe that, 'In America alone, a million and a half mothers pay hired killers called physicians to kill their unborn babies.'" All this is is inflammatory rhetoric from a deluded fool. It's bullshit. It also ignores womens' safety issues and shows the black/white mindset for the dangerous tripe it is.
Kreeft's final message to non-Catholics: Come out into the "splendor of Truth". I'm pretty sure that you don't mean that in the Stephen Colbert, ironic and hilarious way. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I left the Catholic faith a long time ago and Dr. Kreeft has nothing at all to make me think I made a mistake. Thanks, but no.