The unwinnable battle: Combating devout cultural Relativists!


#1

After two continuous weeks of being on staff at a summer Boy Scout camp, it’s great to be back – albeit for this brief time – so that I can address perhaps the most pressing theological issue of our time.

Having been renewing, reading about, and learning how to defend my Catholic faith these last three-or-so months, I’ve practically been loaded with Apologetical Ammo, ready to discuss all matters of religion with anyone on any terms at any times. Not that I’ve been instigating or provoking such encounters, but that I’ve been prepared to make reasonable sense of the Catholic faith in the highly-likely event that a “religious” person from *my *area starts ridiculing, attacking, or misrepresenting the Church.

Maybe I didn’t notice it too keenly in the past, but on camp staff this year, I noticed how (regardless of religious background or where they go to worship) at least half the staff I’ve gotten into deep conversations with are relativists at heart. Here (as well as at school) it isn’t O.K. to simply have mutual respect for other faiths while disagreeing with them. You have to acknowledge that *everyone *can be right each in their own special way, or you keep your mouth shut!!! To engage in any real religious discussion is to be “childish” and “narrow-minded”.

So far, the “philosophical” conversation I keep hearing on camp staff and which I indiscriminately HATE the most is the:

“Yeah! Maybe we *are *in one big mass hallucination, or maybe Jesus *was *just a good ol’ guy, or maybe the Church is just power-hungry, or maybe everyone should just decide which religion is right for them. Man, are we deep! Too bad not everyone is as philosophical and thoughtful as we are!”

In one such type of conversation, we were supposedly talking casually about science-fiction and Stargate SG1, yet repeatedly jabs were taken at the Church in this “friendly, casual, open discussion” of ours. However, every time I tried to correct these unsettling errors about the Church’s stance on evolution, biblical interpretation, the life of Jesus Christ, and absolute truth, I was simply ignored in favor of more “deep” conversation.

Where I work, people are so open-minded they’re close-minded. Along with the many “Christians” we have here, there is even a polytheist who has his own little religion based on the “my-religion-is-so-broad-and-all-encompassing-it-swallows-all-others”-prototype. With relativism on the rise, whenever I try to apply reason and practical apologetics to a religious discussion, I’m immediately beaten down with “If you born into a Muslim or Jewish family you’d think differently. Wouldn’t you!” To this I mention how being born into a family that thinks the world is flat wouldn’t justify that absurdity, to which I’m given “Religion and God are nothing like science. We can never prove anything about him at all, so we can rightfully believe whatever we want and that would be just fine.”

These people I should mention really *are * great people to work and do stuff with, but not following the relativistic dogma and actually *taking *a stand makes me be percieved as a narrow-minded racist (though only in such discussions). What do you suggest?:banghead:


#2

I’m not sure why you would be thought of as racist. But part of the problem appeared in a column in my local newspaper not long ago. The title said it all: “There are no absolutes.” So, things are no longer black and white, there is no right and wrong and everybody just has their own, personal opinion, which, of course, could be wrong too. But who cares? Right? Wrong.

If you know the truth and you do, and if you have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, not because mom and dad told you but because you made it yourself, then you are right.

The Bible teaches us to avoid foolish and vain conversation. First, start (or continue) praying for these people. Next, look for an appropriate opening to speak to one of them. If all you get back is, “Man, what is your problem? Everybody’s right or no one can tell anybody to do anything…” then just continue praying. If these people are truly lost (and it sounds like it), then continue to do the things you know that a Christian should be doing. Sometimes, these things can take a long time to resolve.

I’m in a situation where most people around me are living their lives according to the example set by the world and not according to God’s word. They know I’m a Christian and only a few give me any positive recognition for it. But, since I live my life according to the Word of God as best I can, I know I continue to be a witness to them by my actions. “By their fruit you shall know them.” So continue in service to God and pray.

God bless,
Ed


#3

Dear Lawrence,

Welcome to the reality that most Catholics in the USA, even orthodox ones, IGNORE: Not only are we not living in CATHOLIC Christendom, not only are we not living in a GENERAL Christendom (that includes schismatics and heretics), we are not even in the early stages of Enlightenment, when at least even REASON was accepted as a light of truth! We are living in a minor APOSTASY that envelops most of the global North. Please be prepared to understand that this is why, with each passing day, we edge closer to the second to last prophecy of Our Lady that has not yet occurred, namely, the ANNIHILATION of ENTIRE NATIONS.

Again, you have to look at the two witnesses of Revelation again. Futurists think they’re Enoch and Elijah, or Moses and Elijah, or some other combination of LITERAL prophets. Preterists think they are STS. Peter and Paul. They’re both idiots.

The Two Witnesses in their primary sense are the Written Tradition (to see the truth) and the Oral Tradition (to hear the truth).

In all ages of Church history since Constantine, many times persons attempted to HARM these two alleogorical witnesses, but never did they completely KILL them. For the early heretics, culminating with Islam, attacked in one degree or another the Trintiy or Incarnation, but could accept many other elements. The Orthodox attacked Peter’s special office, but that was mainly their only harm, otherwise they accepted the rest. And even though the Protestants harmed the Sacred Oral Tradition, they didn’t kill Scripture, at least in the sense that they wanted to understand Scripture. And even the perenniel men of the “Enlightenment” did not COMPLETELY kill all Divine Truth, for they could accept that reason dictates absolute truth and a certain existence of the Divine and of an objective natural law that is rather evident from Creation.

But the modern atheists and relativists have COMPLETELY MURDERED Scripture and Tradition. For them, the Two Witnesses are not merely harmed, they are DEAD. And they celebrate their death by “sending gifts to one another”, that the pursuit of objective truth in faith and morals is finally killed and can no longer “torture” their consciences.

But take heart, the Witnesses will come back to life in the Minor Chastisement (Fatima’s “annihilation of entire nations”). When humanity experiences the CONSEQUENCES of their total spiritual depravity and indifference to truth in religion and morals, they will be filled “fear”.

And in the end, the Witnesses will be “taken into heaven and glorified”, that is, that throught the Chastisement, in manifesting the consequences of all non-Catholic errors, all Christians will be reunited and the faith gloriously restored, just as the prophets who warned the Jews prior to Babylon were finally vindicated after the exile.

In other words, what I’m saying is, all you can do is pray and do penance and wait for the dress rehearsal for the end of the world. Because of human nature being the same for Jew and Gentile, they will probably remain in apostasy until the unimaginable horrors come.


#4

Become intimately familiar with the works of

G.K. Chesterton
C.S. Lewis
Mark Shea
Scott Hahn
Ravi Zacharias (Very Protestant but also VERY good with philosophical and relativistic gobbledy-gook)

God speed, never give up.

Peace,
+N


#5

Thanks, but ultimately I think Edwest’s advice is the best. I do plan on reading Mere Christianity by the end of the summer, but dedicating the time to read through all these would be impractical in my present circumstances (thanks anyway though ;)).

However, I am a little concerned about that one friend of mine who I mentioned is the polytheist. He’s probably the friendliest, nicest guy on staff and he does a lot of great work, but I’m a little concerned with his conception of the spiritual realm. He’s at least five years older than me and has the wiccan pentacle on his cowboy hat, but even so he’s pretty approachable. Sadly, he mentions how he came up with his own belief system after studying world religions in college, always saying how each one has a piece of God in them.

I hate to say it, but to the regular scout who has questions about his religion and has never been given answers, this pagan system is very attractive. It’s ultimate relativism. Every now and then I have conversations with him about religion (he is much more open and ready to talk about the subject than anyone else I know), and even though I haven’t gotten deep into it with him to start arguing the cases for Christianity, I can already predict what he’ll believe.

He’ll feel that Jesus was a great teacher and maybe even a God, but he isn’t the only one, that all cultures have wise teachers, gurus, and gods, and that he thinks we should accept and follow them equally. Of course, this pantheistic world-view only covers the broadest senses of the words God, morality, and spirituality. Any deeper and you start seeing how different religions contradict each other, so likewise, this sort of “religion” doesn’t go much deeper than relativistic ramblings, but are hard to deal with nonetheless.

So far, all I got him to admit was that Akbar – the multicultural Mughal ruler with similar views to his – may have been a great politician, but in no way could’ve have been correct in his convictions. :thumbsup:

So, any help here? I wish there were a way I could help him, but subtlty, considering he is five years my senior!


#6

Next time they drop an anti-Catholic statement in the conversation just pipe up with “Wow, what a bigotted comment!”

The B-word will stop them dead in their tracks for a moment, then they’ll either try and defend themselves or just quickly change the subject.


#7

What you are describing is PLURALISM and it is a heresy. It is logically impossible for all religion to be right. In saying all religions are correct, one is truly saying all religions are wrong. To say another religion is as correct as your own only shows your own unfaithfulness. Let’s say there is a debate and one person says 2+2=5 and the other says 2+2+4 and another says 2+2+3 and a pluralist will say they’re all correct, because what really matters is that they believe that and that there a good person anyways. I suggest reading, Hilaire Belloc’s “The Great Heresies”.


#8

Understand and agree 100% :thumbsup:, but how do you get any of this into a good apologetic conversation when all the people care about is that they’re all nice people in the end?:dts:

To make matters worse, one could argue that all religions were founded due to man’s tendency to seek God, once again, a characteristic we have due to God.


#9

I reiterate myself: How could I best argue?


#10

Arguing isn’t the way to do it. Just show logically it is impossible to defend pluralism. If they are catholic you are talking to, just ask them," what do you believe?" they will tell you and then ask them what does a Muslim believe. Then ask how can both be right? They will probably say something about being a good person. And then remind them that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone to salvation. Further if pluralism is true Christ died for NOTHING. Ask these pluralists “if everyone is generally correct why did Christ die for us?” Obviously Christ would not have to die to save us if all we needed to do was be a good person. He could have come and just said, “you are all doing well, believe in your religion and be a good person.” But that is not what he said he said “follow me” and “if you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall not inherit eternal life.” I don’t know you should exactly phrase your conversation with your pluralist friends. But just give it a shot.


#11

You can’t. All that can be done is to leave little “treats” out there for people to eat up, and let the Holy Spirit bring them into the Church.

My suggestion is to invite people to Mass. Keep inviting them, and little-by-little they’ll get closer to the Church. Pray your beads, too.


#12

May I suggest Peter Kreeft’s audio talk “A Refutation of Moral Relativism” which you can find here: peterkreeft.com/audio.htm

Kreeft demolishes a lot of the points your friends brought up. I suggest downloading this lecture onto CD and playing it when convenient, like in your car on the way to work. That way it won’t take up any more of your time, and you’ll have the ammo you need next time you talk to them.


#13

Just a comment on what I meditate on when the relativists get me down:

Something is either true or it isn’t. If it’s true, then by definition it cannot be false. If it’s false, then by definition it cannot be true.

It ain’t deep, but it it’s huge part of what has kept me a Catholic.


#14

Just another book to add to your reading list:

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It was written by a Lutheran and I confess I have not read all of it yet but the first division of the book is one of the most compelling calls to action I have read. It deals with the notion of “cheap grace” that modern Christians are doling out. It can be easily expanded to include those modern relativists. While it is a Lutheran text and occasionally makes a jab at the Church, Bonhoeffer’s criticism is of all Christians and more generally the modern world. Anyway, I am in the middle of enjoying it and thought it could help.

In Christ,

S


#15

Study some philosophy and logic. These are very good disinfectants for bad and sloppy arguments and thinking, which underlie a lot of airy-headed relativism these days. A lot of these arguments sound like what the ancient Greeks called sophistry; basically they are arguments which sound convincing, but in reality they also sound somewhat fishy. This is because several fallacies are actually at work which make the argument effectively useless and worthless.


#16

Sometimes with the “all religions are equal” people, I have had some success with the following:

“Islam teaches that some things have eternal souls, but not everything. Hindus believe that all things have eternal souls. Classical Buddhists believe that nothing has an eternal soul. Could you explain how all these could be equally correct? Don’t they seem rather exclusive of each other? (as well as all-encompassing—in other words, this represents every possible point of view regarding eternal souls, as far as I can see). They can’t all be equally right. If so, how?”

I usually begin by using Islam with this example rather than Christianity. Then I begin to segue:

“Classical Buddhism teaches there is no God at all. Hinduism teaches that all things are equally God. Christianity teaches that there is a God, but not everything is God. What do you think? Are you God?”

These have usually turned into good conversations. Sometimes people say, Yes, I am God (I live a half-hour from the major Hindu center in the U.S.). So I usually ask them to do a miracle. :stuck_out_tongue:


#17

I think Hillaire Belloc had it right in “The Great Heresies” where he described cultural relativism as the modernist heresy. It is an assault on the Catholic Church’s most profound and cherished wisdom—that Truth exists, and we may know it.

The cultural relativist drumbeat is that there is no truth, merely equally valid perceptions.

This is the corrosive which is eating away at the established churches. This is what has destroyed doctrine everywhere but in the last bastion of Truth—the Catholic Church.

What must be done to combat this relativism is to puncture the arrogance which leads to relativism. One may believe that all manner of things are somehow equal, and yet if you throw yourself out a window you will quickly and painfully discover why Newton was right and the levitationists wrong.

We see this most clearly in our own lives and experiences. Someone may say that sexual promiscuity is on par with chastity, but the chaste require no antibiotics in following their path. Someone may hold that abortion is a modern sacrament on par with all the others, and yet the experience marks those who act on this belief nonetheless.

Cultural relativists are the eternal children of our day, for adults are those who learn hard truths, and apply them.

May I suggest a healthy dose of the A&E program “Intervention” for the live and let live crowd?


#18

Quite right—the only modern heresy to be shunned is that of “intolerance”.


#19

I suggest stopping these ‘conversations’ before they start. And get ready to be lonely. If someone wants an explanation, simply say that you are not fond of being subjected to religious hatred no matter how folks choose to disguise it. And leave it at that.

Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. Stop allowing it to be acceptable.


#20

Don’t argue. How can you argue to someone who is not listening?


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