Relativism, Communism, Catholicism, and Pope Mania
Yes, we all know that a new Pope has been "elected"; it's been the focus of just about every news agency for the past two weeks. As a result, countless Catholics and theologians have gotten major media airtime, and they have, dutifully, used it to distort and frame philosophical, theological, and historical debates on a number of topics.
The first major topic of discussion in the media was about a sermon by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on "Relativism"
As has been discussed in the media, Relativism is basically the view that morals and norms are relative to the individual or to some other criteria; that they are not innate or universal. This is a view or attitude that has dominated the latter half of the 20th century... now let's just figure out why.
It should really be no surprise that a leader in the Catholic Church would denounce "Relativism", which is also embraced by Post-Modernism. The Catholic Church has always claimed divine knowledge of absolute truth, and had made the claim to absolute truth for the past 1,800 years or so of its existence. Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, it has been proved wrong many times, but apparently many of the "faithful" can overlook these obvious failings.
When we look back at history, what we see is that a large number of the major wars in history were in fact partly wars over "the absolute truth".
Europe's history is littered with these wars. When the Catholic Church was initially established in Rome The Church outlawed all claims of truth that conflicted with theirs. They then set out with military force killing hundreds of thousands of Christians who were of other sects. They outlawed non-canonical gospels, and had them burned. If you were found in possession of a non-cannon gospel you could be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed. This is how they established the "absolute divinely inspired truth".
These practices continued on throughout the Dark and Middle Ages. Scientists, such as Leonardo DiVincie, Copernicus, Galileo, and others were all censured and reprimanded by the Church for challenging their version of "the divine truth". In the end, of course, we have all learned that the Church was wrong, and the scientists were right.
Then The Enlightenment swept Western Civilization the Catholic Church received catastrophic defeats all over Europe, with revolts against its power, loss of property, and major loss of membership. The Catholic Church continued to claim to be the only source of truth in the world despite obvious proof to the contrary, and this was why they had such large losses of membership during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
During The Enlightenment, Humanism and science made major strides in Western Civilization. The biggest lesson that people learned during the Enlightenment was that the truth could be determined by ordinary people. That we could all work, ourselves, to figure out what was true, and the method by which we could determine what was true was science. Of everything that The Enlightenment represented, most of all it represented a democratization of claims to the truth. "Truth" was no longer held in monopoly by the Catholic Church, as it had been in Western Civilization for almost 2,000 years to ill effect. People were now all free to work to determine the truth themselves.
Marxism emerged in Germany at the culmination of the Enlightenment. Marxism, like Catholicism, also denounced "Relativism", and also denounced the spread of many different sects of religions. Marxism, of course, is an atheistic world view, and the view of Marxism is that all truth not only should, but MUST, be established through science. Marxism is both a scientific and moralistic world view, something that has left it open to criticism. The Marxist view, of course, stated that there is exploitation in the world, and that we as human beings have an obligation to end all forms of exploitation, and that religion is one of the major enablers of exploitation because religion serves as a pacifier of people who are in otherwise poor situations. Religions allow people to be exploited in the current world, by promising them eternal paradise after death.
Specifically, Marx stated:
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion...
The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world...
The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being...
- Karl Marx 1844
As Marxism emerged as a major world view in the early 20th century, the Catholic Church "declared war" on the ideology. This was not because Marxism promoted liberalism or promoted "Relativism", in fact Marxism promoted the opposite of these things. Marxism was effectively the atheistic equivalent to Catholicism, a world view claiming absolute truth and denouncing all deviations from it. The Marxist view, however, at least put science at the forefront and worked from a basis of demonstratable truths, that could be verified by human beings in the light of science.
The result was that Catholics, and many others who opposed Marxism, embraced Relativism and/or liberalism as a means to undermine the absolutist ideology of Marxism, which was making progress through the embrace of science. There was indeed a global backlash against science throughout the 20th century because of views, associated with Marxism and otherwise, that science was absolutist. And, indeed, science is absolutist, it works to establish absolute verifiable truths as the basis of our knowledge about existence, but everyone can participate in the establishment of truth through science. Truth is not handed down via dictates, it is established by people working together to demonstrate what is true.
By the mid 20th century, however, new dictatorical absolutist world views emerged around the world, and just like the past in Europe, claims to absolute truth fed the fires of war. World War II was largely a war of absolutists, and a war of ideology. The absolutist Nazi regime of Germany was making war on both Liberalism and on the other major absolutist power of the era, Soviet Communism.
The Nazi view was that there was one absolute truth, and that truth was that "Aryans" were the master race, divinely ordained by god, and that Hitler was a divine instrument of god, sent to fulfill a divine mission of cleansing the world of decadence and moral and racial decay. Morality was seen by the Nazis as a property of race, and the Germanic peoples were viewed as the only morally component race.
We can see many examples of the Fascist and Nazi ideology relating to absolutism, and denouncing "Relativism" and Liberalism:
Fascism transcends democracy and liberalism; its regenerative action is based on granite foundations: the idea of hierarchy, of the participation of the whole population in the life of the State, social justice in the equitable distribution of rights and duties, the infusion of public life with moral principles, the affirmation of religious values, the prestige of the family, the ethical interpretation of the ideas of order, authority and liberty. In the light of this transcendence Europe will be able to find its way to enter a new phase of History.
- Asvero Gravelli
...liberalism taught that all people were equal, that there were no value differences between the races, that external differences (e.g., body type, skin color) were unimportant. Each person, regardless of race, might be a hero or a coward, an idealist or a materialist, creative or useless to society, militarily able, scientifically able, artistically gifted. The environment and education were the important elements that made men good and valuable. If one provided the proper environment and freed people from their chains, the peoples would join together to develop their abilities in a unified humanity, and eternal peace would result. Therefore liberalism demanded equality for all, the same opportunities for everyone, in particular the Jews, equality and freedom in the economic sphere, etc.
We Germans have seen where such doctrines lead. Liberalism tore down the structures that held races and peoples together, releasing the destructive drives. The result was economic chaos that led to millions of unemployed on the one side and the senseless luxury of economic jackals on the other. Liberalism destroyed the people's economic foundations, allowing the triumph of subhumans. They won the leading role in the political parties, the economy, the sciences, arts and press, hollowing out the nation from inside. The equality of all citizens, regardless of race, led to the mixing of Europeans with Jews, Negro, Mongols and so on, resulting in the decay and decline of the Aryan race.
- Nazi Pamphlet 1943
The Government, being resolved to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, is creating and securing the conditions necessary for a really profound revival of religious life.
The advantages of a personal and political nature that might arise from compromising with atheistic organizations would not outweigh the consequences which would become apparent in the destruction of general moral basic values.
- Adolph Hitler, 1933 Reichstag speech
God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he [Hitler] was sent to us by God to save Germany.
We believe that the Fuhrer is fulfilling a divine mission to German destiny! This belief is beyond challenge.
-Rudolf Hess, speech, 20 June 1934
Thus, after World War II, there was a major global backlash against absolutism. There was a major global movement to simply agree to disagree and to get along. Everyone knew, after World War II, that absolutism and belief in an "absolute truth" was a major factor behind the rise of Fascism and Nazism. Furthermore, after World War II, the only major remaining absolutist power in the world was that of Soviet Communism.
When the war was over, the Soviet Union still existed, and the Soviet Union took on a leading role in the global Communist movement. The 20th century Communist movement was a movement based on absolutism and anti-liberalism, and thus, liberalism, "Relativism", and Post-Modernism all became forces of opposition to both Soviet Communism and Fascism. This is why the post-war period in the 20th century saw such a rise in "Relativism" and Liberalism.
It was seen as better to let everyone "do their own thing" than to continue fighting over "the absolute truth", especially with the development of atomic weapons.
In the United States, what was discovered was that Relativism and Post-Modernism are "good for the economy", at least from the perspective of corporations, who have been quick to sell the idea that "anything goes", and who have been quick to expand the use of target marketing and market segmentation, further embracing and expanding Relativism and Post-Modernism. Apparently, the "Free-Market" favors Relativism.
Indeed this is the case. Regulation of culture and ideology requires market control, both social and economic regulation. This is exactly how the Catholic Church has traditionally operated. Let's not forget that the Catholic Church was a major controlling force in Europe from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire up until, really, the French Revolution, though they had been losing power ever since the Protestant Reformation. (Protestant literally means "protestors" by the way. The "Protest"-ants, were the protestors against the Catholic Church. That's what the movement was, a protest against the central authority of Catholicism.)
Looking at the news today, we see many people discussing the role of the late Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church in opposition to "Communism".
As I have said, however, 20th century "Communism" and Catholicism really share a lot of qualities. In some ways, you could call Soviet Communism, Catholicism without god.
They share almost every quality, except the belief in god. Both Soviet Communism and Catholicism are/were institutions of global unification and control, both are/were anti-democratic, both are/were opposed to poverty and "free markets", both are/were absolutist, and both do/did share a lack of accountability for authority figures.
Can anyone tell me the difference between the College of Cardinals and the Politburo? Yes, I can, the Politburo was more open and more democratic.
The system of election of a new Pope and of a new President of the Soviet Union are almost identical, and the results are remarkably similar as well. The Pope is the single head of a global organization, the largest private property owner in the world by the way, whose dictates come down as edicts that are supposed to be adhered to by all Catholics.
Unlike the head of the Soviet Union, however, the Pope claims to be chosen by god. The claim is that the "Holy Spirit" (which according to the trinity is also god) supposedly selects the Pope. This type of nonsense was done away with hundreds of years ago in every element of Western Society, except the Catholic Church of course. For centuries kings claimed to be chosen by god, and they were then blessed and sanctified by the Pope, who also declared that the kings were chosen by god. Is there nothing more absurd? Then people woke up and realized that they had been lied to and deceived and that these kings and this whole institution was nothing but corruption and exploitation and the kings were overthrown and democracy was instituted. The United States of America led this revolution against Popes and kings, and in favor of self rule. This is why early Americans were very anti-Catholic, because the Catholic Church always was, and still is, anti-democratic.
The Catholic Church is still working its way at regaining influence over governments, and still trying to re-break the walls of separation between church and state, to regain the power that it once had, in the days knows as "The Dark Ages".
As has been said, the Catholic Church is taking the "long view", and this Pope has said that he intends to strengthen the Church's traditional roles and values. Around the turn of the 20th century, Pope Leo XIII repeatedly restated the traditional position of the Church:
It is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Great Encyclical Letters"
They [Catholics] must penetrate wherever possible in the administration of civil affairs... all Catholics should do all in their power to cause the constitution of states, and legislation to be modeled on the principles of the true Church.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Encyclical of Leo XIII"
Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Libertas"
If Pope Benedict XVI wants to declare war on "Relativism", that's fine with me, but if he thinks that he can do so using the claim that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on the truth, which is granted to it divinely by a god, then he certainly has a battle on his hands. The quest for "the truth" is one of the oldest quests in history. Claims of divine knowledge of the truth are also among the oldest in history, and time and time again these claims are shown to be false.
There is only one way to determine the truth, and that is through scientific demonstration of it. If the Pope wants to combat Relativism, subjectivity and post-modernism, then he is welcome to join the scientific community and embrace science as the means by which every human being on earth can use their own brain and their own ability to demonstrate the difference between fact and fantasy. The scientific community would love nothing more than a rejection of post-modernism and Relativism, and an embrace of the most successful and proven way to understand universal truth: SCIENCE.