Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 1:
Yes. God has definite rights which no man is justified in ignoring. Moreover God definitely commands you to adore and serve Him. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . this is the first and greatest commandment." A man with no religion, who never worships God, never says a prayer to Him, is far from fulfilling this commandment of love. It is not enough to admit off-hand that God exists, and then ignore His definite claims.
I do, and shall justify that postulate as a definite fact in due course.
Do you see that there must be a God? Do you see that you are one of His creatures? Prayer is conversation with God, and an act of religion. To ignore prayer is to ignore God and deny His rights. Being an adult male does not exempt from this duty. Men are not less the creatures of God than women and children. Nor will heaven be less worth having for men, or hell more tolerable. Or do you mean that you are above this sort of thing? Before God you are a child. There are no privileged classes in the presence of Infinite Wisdom; no exemptions before an Eternal God; no strength before Omnipotence. We are all children before God. Or is it that you are ashamed to kneel? Instead of being ashamed to kneel, you should be ashamed not to do so, for it is the only fitting attitude of a creature and a sinner before Almighty God. Men often pray almost frantically at the hour of death, fear making them do then what love and generosity will not make them do now. Is God less worth serving because He gives health and strength now than He will be then?
There is a good God, and He does wish that. But He does not wish our attention to be wholly given to creatures, and the Creator to be ignored. We must acknowledge and love Him. He can no more dispense us from this than He could dispense children from their privilege and duty of honoring and respecting their parents.
You seem to think that it must be one or the other. Both are necessary. There is no real sanctifying piety unless it inspires a religion of pity. If there is no pity, there is no piety and no sanctity, but self-deception and hypocrisy. At the same time, banish sanctifying piety, and mere pity or kindness is not religion. It may be philanthropy or humanitarianism, but it is not religion. Religion essentially means that we must love God, and that our love for God must overflow upon other children of God.
I might just as well ask you whether we can get milk out of a locomotive. However religion does inspire the supplying of bread and butter to innumerable people through thousands of charitable societies.
Religion is the virtue of justice which renders to God the honor and worship due to Him. Your remark is like saying, "I do not miss much in refusing to acknowledge my debts." However you do miss more than you think.
You may be well known and respected by fellow men; but, though you are well known by God, He does not respect you for your neglect of your obvious religious duties.
If you ever had a religion and it did not have any influence upon you, then you would not experience any change in being without it. You would perceive a difference in favor of the good and happiness if you became a really practical Catholic. You would then know the peace of Christ—a peace the world cannot give.
Laws don't float round without a lawgiver. If nature has laws they have been imposed by a lawgiver. All legislation supposes a legislator. And who authorized you to specify that particular form of religion? Surely the one who is to be worshipped has the right to specify how he shall be worshipped.
Sincere religion spells freedom—freedom from vice, from all injustice and want of charity. There is no absolute freedom. You must be free from vice and subject to virtue, or free from virtue and subject to vice.
Not subconscious, but conscious reverence for the authority of God certainly guides the conduct of a religious man. Your terminology is based upon a false idea that the notion of God is a kind of psychological abnormality due to natural causes. It is true that one with a right idea of God is fully aware that he personally is inferior to God, and therefore possesses the saving grace of humility.
To do right for right's sake implies that right ought to be done. Why ought it to be done? Ought or must supposes some kind of law. All law derives its force from the right of the lawgiver. To do right for right's sake pushes us back to doing right for the sake of the Supreme Author of all right. No one can do right for right's sake if he ignores God, for without God he cannot prove that what he thinks to be right is right or has any binding force at all. Also in the state we have laws and policemen. But it is absurd to say that no citizen is good except through dread of the law, and that the police are necessary to keep every single one of us on the path of duty. A religious man knows that God is his Father, and he serves as a child of God from a motive of love, a love which casts out servile fear without diminishing filial respect.
The religious man knows that he cannot face life unaided, but that is not to his detriment. We do not ridicule a child at school who cannot face the problem of mathematics without the help of a master. If God needed help He would be imperfect. But man is not God. He is very conscious of limitation, and if he wishes to behave as if he were God, quite self-sufficient and capable of all things, he denies the truth of his limitation. The man who realizes that he did not make the universe, which anyway he cannot stop or rearrange, is nearer the truth, and behaves reasonably in asking the perfect Being who made him to preserve him from the mistakes and frailties of his own imperfection. An imperfect being should behave as if limited, not as if supremely perfect. Nor does religion sap man's self-reliance and initiative. These he uses to the full, and then asks additional help from God. If a man employs extra help in his business, is he sapping his self-reliance? Must he do everything himself? No man can do everything. God helps those who help themselves, but He expects men to turn to Him where they cannot help themselves. This secures full personal initiative, and the help of God to supply for one's essential deficiencies. As for the developing of weaklings, read the history of the early Christians in the days of Nero and the Roman persecutions. For the love of God and with the help of God, children faced the reality of torture and suffering before which strong men quailed. The irreligious man is the weakling, shirking the duty of rendering to God what is due to God; shirking the humility of admitting that he is not infinitely perfect; shirking the greatest reality of life.
Religion is not supposed to be an easy road to temporal prosperity in things which death takes from those who have them. It is the road, not always comfortable, to never-ending and eternal happiness. We do not expect religion to result in earthly advancement. If it did men would rush it as a good business proposition, and offer to God a devotion quite without value. Temporal things are subject to the natural course of events. You are not materially well off because you have no religion. There are thousands who have no religion and are not well off. So, too, the poor are not poor because they practice religion. There are well-to-do people who also practice their religion. And if the poor gave up their religion they would not suddenly become rich. Meantime, you prosper because of natural circumstances or natural ability, or because God is giving you temporal rewards for such good as you do. Everyone does some good sometimes. For the poor, God often reserves their compensation for the next life.
If you are perfectly happy you are the only one on earth who is. Is there absolutely nothing further you would like to have but which you do not yet possess? Anyway, religion is not a kill-joy. One of the really happiest men who ever lived was St. Francis of Assisi, born and bred in the Catholic spirit. The simplest Priest finds more joy in saying one Mass, and the least of our Catholic people in one Communion, than you have experienced in your whole life. Then, too, I have already shown that death cannot end all. If it did, the religious man would hardly be able to feel a fool. But if it does not, as it cannot, you will scarcely enjoy meeting a God whom you have consistently ignored. The idea that death ends all is not the result of thought. It is the result of refusing to think.
If a religious man dreads death it is not because he is religious, but because he is not trying sincerely to live up to his religion. Then he has need to dread death. No one is asked to dread death in the name of religion, but one is taught to be ready for it.
Even were that true it would not justify irreligious men in their crime of ignoring the public acknowledgment of God. But it is not true. If one who professes to be religious is guilty of such things men experience a special indignation, and it is made much of precisely because the unexpected has news value. The majority of men know that they are less likely to find evil in a God-fearing man than in others.
All do not know that creed has nothing to do with conduct. In fact no man knows precisely what motive has moved men to do given things. God alone can read the heart. We have no experience save of our own interior dispositions. Religious people may sin. But they do not call vice virtue. They know they sin. Nor do their sins dispense them from the duty of continuing to pay due honor to God. I know tax-payers who are drunkards, but that does not exempt them from paying their taxes. If some are hypocrites, that is not due to the teachings of their religion. Blame them, not their religion. They must give up what is evil, their hypocrisy; not what is good, their religion.
Now you take your own virtue as a standard, and proceed to find other people wanting when measured by it. It often happens that those who practice no religion canonize themselves as the models of perfection, and regard religious people as sinners and hypocrites. But those who go to church are constantly told of their own failings, and that they must not judge others. It would be better for you to take up your religious duties. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to be really honest without being religious. Religion is the highest form of honesty, a strict duty to God. Take this case: Jones owes one man $100, and to another $1. He pays the $1, but not the $100. Smith also owes $100 and to another $1, but pays the $100, neglecting to pay the $1. Whose is the greater dishonesty? Now each man owes a tremendous debt to God and a lesser one to his neighbor. You may pay the lesser, but you neglect the greater. Your neighbor, who fulfills his religious duties, at least tries to pay the greater, though he may seem to you to neglect the lesser. But he is the better man at least in so far as he attempts to pay the greater. The man who is just to his neighbor, but does not bother about his duty of religion, is the kind of man who pays the baker for the bread he puts into his body, but nothing to God for the body he puts the bread into. Religion is a strict duty of justice to God, acknowledging our indebtedness to Him. If religious people sometimes fail in honesty towards their fellow men, I do not justify it. But their creditors are insignificant compared with the Creditor who supplied you with all you have and receives no acknowledgment from you. You are both in the wrong, but I would rather be in the position of those you condemn, if a choice had to be made, which of course has not to be made. Their religion may save them despite their faults. Your honesty will not save you.
Thus charges give way to excuses. It is something to believe in God. But what notice do you take of God? You believed in the existence of your own parents, but I am sure you paid them more attention than you have ever paid to God, in whom you say you also believe.
On one condition—that you honestly believe no more to be necessary, and have never had an opportunity of discovering the real truth. But if, for example, you have ever heard of the claims of the Catholic Church and have refused to inquire into them, I could not answer for you. If you did inquire, realized that you should become a Catholic, and refused, you would have less chance still, for you would obviously be insincere.
One who is firstly just to all others, including God. His first duty is to render to God what is due to Him. Secondly, and for the love of God, he renders all that is due to his fellow men. In addition he must manage himself in his own personal life, overcoming with fortitude the difficulties in the way of right conduct, and practicing temperance by restraining sensuality and other lower appetites.
Once you find that God has revealed a particular form of religion you must accept it. You will not assume any obligation to bear any ill-will towards others. Rather you will have an additional obligation to avoid it. But you are not justified in refusing to adopt that particular form of religion because you will thus antagonize your fellow men. If thus you secure the ill-will of others, that is not your fault, and it is their loss. We may never let what men think of us matter more than what God thinks of us. And after all, it is God who will judge us, not our fellow men.
You may follow what you think to be the truth, but how do you know that it is the truth? If because you think so, is there no possibility of mistake? If you accept ideas because wise men have uttered them, remember that equally wise men have denied them. You need not be afraid of gods, devils, or clergymen, if you are sincerely looking for the truth. But you need to be afraid of your own mental limitations. The wisest philosophers have fallen into the most absurd errors at times, above all in questions of religion. Meantime you owe a debt to God you do not pay in the way He rightly demands. If you refuse to pay earthly bills, you are arrested and have to answer in court. God is not foolish. He does not give commandments for nothing. He cannot be escaped. Death arrests every man, and he who neglects God's just demands for religious worship and acknowledgment will have to answer for his conduct.
In what way are they intelligent and clever? Some are clever in mathematics; others in law, but they may be very ignorant in the science of religion. A Catholic school-child could teach many of them quite a lot in this matter. Your argument might have some value if they were well instructed in the truths of religion. But it is little use saying, "I know a very clever doctor, and he has never studied music, so I do not see the use of music." The doctor's medical knowledge is no argument against music, and not all the learning of your friends in mathematics, science, physics, or astronomy, can be an argument against religion. Their knowledge of these things does not make heaven the least bit less worth having, nor hell one jot more comfortable. Let us serve the God before whom all the wisdom of men is childish prattle, and who in His infinite wisdom declares that religion is necessary not only in addition to honesty and goodness, but in order to be honest and good.
Yes. God has told mankind very clearly why He created man, what is the destiny of man, and what man must do in order to attain that destiny. He sent the Prophets to teach men His will; after that He sent His own Divine Son, Jesus Christ; and Christ sent the Catholic Church—a Church still teaching with the infallible authority of God in our very midst.