Catholic atheism: in the best of taste
By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 11, 2003
It's hard to find a more reliable exponent of Somewhere-Over-the-Rainbow gnosticism than U.S. Catholic magazine. And it's hard to find a clearer example of U.S. Catholic's contribution to the schism that dare not speak its name than this month's interview with the thoroughly bogus Elaine Pagels. Here's the editorial intro:
Pagels was able to find hope in the midst of Christian community, ritual, and liturgy that she didn't experience anywhere else. But when she realized that that comfort had little to do with confessing belief in any creed, she began to question how Christianity came to be associated with intellectual assent to a set of beliefs. That wasn't always the case, she learned. In the bestselling Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas Pagels describes how early church leaders suppressed another interpretation of Jesus' message -- one found in the ancient documents Pagels first popularized in her 1979 book, The Gnostic Gospels, winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Pagels' Chariots-of-the-Gods approach to history is a standing joke among serious scholars of antiquity, but the key to her appeal is her sentimentalist appropriation of Christian symbols while simultaneously withholding "intellectual assent to a set of beliefs" -- she says Yes to liturgy and No to the God the liturgy would honor. That gives her the fun of dressing up and singing and playing church, with none of the worries that a God exists who might make harsh --or even terrifying -- demands of her. Most of us will recognize in her project the credal fault lines that run from top to bottom through the Church, from the episcopacy, through the academy and religious orders, and onto the diocesan clergy and the parishes themselves. It's a crisis of belief.
A Knight-Ridder story on religious issues in fall programming describes a show in which "God appears to teenage Joan Girardi in the form of a good-looking male high school student."
"Why are you appearing to me?" asks the rather perplexed Joan.
"I'm not appearing to you," God replies. "You're seeing me."
Cute. The networks, and Elaine Pagels, and U.S. Catholic, would have us preach an affirming, non-threatening God; a cuddly God; a God who saves us from the illusion that we are in need of salvation; a God who doesn't care whether His creatures believe in Him or not. The article makes it clear that no path is wrong -- except the one marked out by unchanging doctrine: "As God says to Joan in the pilot, 'It's not about religion. It's about fulfilling your nature.'"
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