Why is the world, the pagan world and the Christian world, as well as the Muslim world, seeing a resurgence of anti-intellectual religion?
There is a short answer—denial of reality outside one’s self. Only the rational person can face and understand the real world.
The Catholic Church values the intellect so much that in Her teaching that we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are made with free will and an intellect.
A long time ago, a young man I dated, who was very popular, had a little motto he shared with his friends. He would say, “Be real, and face the situation.” A good down-to-earth motto. I hope he has not forgotten it. I remembered it. Another “popular,” but fictional character, that of Gandalf from the works of Tolkien, could face reality. In a conversation with Frodo, this is clear. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But, that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Reality check! Facing the apocalyptic fictional time forced Frodo and others to become heroes.
Tolkien knew his Faith. We decide what to do with the reality around us. We do not create our own. Decision is in the free will given to us by God. The understanding of reality informs our decision making.
To deny the importance of the intellect is to fall into the errors of all false religions. The Teachings and Tradition of the Church are logical and also rational with regard to ideas and ideals.
To go into the reasons why we are in the denial of the rational in would take a book, as this movement is based on the degraded of philosophy and metaphysics over the centuries. To look at the reasons would involve examine the refusal of the Protestants to engage in Tradition and the long history of the Teaching Magisterium.
In a small article like this one, I only want to relate how the movement away from rational religion, to knowing one’s faith in an adult manner, to develop a mature prayer life in addition to study, is the only way to become a saint.
Avoiding the emotional seeking of religious experience in now THE prevalent approach of what I want to share. What does this mean?
Knowing that the great mystics like St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila warned people against seeking or dwelling on experiences, such as visions or consolations, has been written about in detail in modern times. I do not need to repeat these warnings.
What I want to do is lay out the personal process which leads many good Catholics to leave study and concentrate on experiences, so that you, dear readers, can avoid this movement away from Catholicism into Protestantism and, eventually, agnosticism.
The logical result of relying on experiences is to finally say there may not be a God.
To deny a intellectual approach to religion is to deny God Himself. Think on this. The Most Holy, Providential, Perfect God has the attribute of Pure Intellect. As we are made in God’s image, we share an intellect with our Creator, Who made us to be like Him.
This is the irony of Satan’s temptation, by the way, as he persuaded Eve to eat the apple to become like God when she already was in her intellect and free will.
Clouding of the intellect is a result of Original Sin, as we are taught by the Catholic Church. This state of the clouding of the intellect was passed on through all generations to our own day.
Part of the clouding of the intellect is always connected to spiritual sloth, that is, the avoidance of looking both at reality, how we learn through our senses, and the laziness concerning spiritual growth.
Without hard work, this clouding of the intellect will not dissipate. With study and prayer, it will be changed. Grace informs the intellect through the gift of knowledge the gift of counsel, given in Confirmation, but sometimes stalled by sin.
However, how does a person fall into this emotional state of only wanting experiential religion?
The first step is to not accept reality. Reality is the daily absorption of want we learn through our senses. This is good Aristotelian, Thomistic and Montessori teaching. An aside, Maria Montessori was a Thomist. These three thinkers knew that we learned through reality, not from our imaginations.
Reality is not in our mind first and foremost. From the womb, we learn through experience. From these experiences of the senses, we intellectualise reality. Grace enhances our sense experiences, as well as teaching and meditation, reflection and study. Unless we know the teaching of the Catholic Church, we cannot grow in our faith.
Father Ripperger said two things which will help you understand that the movement of moving away from reality into complete unreal, emotional religion.
He stated, “Religion becomes a constantly evolving process of our own internal experiences.” Now, these internal experiences are not sense experiences, but a reality created in the mind separate from reality. Let me give an example. A man who goes to three prayer meetings a week, but never, never studies, while be open to deceitful demonic activity. He will also be using his prayer meeting “experiences” for the basis of his faith, rather than the Catechism, the Encyclicals, and the Doctors of the Church. This man is actually creating his own religion through his “experiences” rather than meeting the reality of the Tradition of the Church.
Relying on conferences, healing Masses, prayer meetings, is not the way to personal holiness. All these phenomenon are interpreted by the person, who is creating his own religion. In opposition, personal reparation, mortification, daily Mass, meditation and Adoration under the guidance of a personal spiritual director form the basis of a life of schedule, holiness and purification.
Father Ripperger also noted that then religion becomes maximising one’s experiences instead of getting to the concrete reality of Revelation has taught us. This is almost a direct quotation. He also has noted that the philosopher
Schleiermacher stated religion is pure emotion, a feeling, an intuition. Of course, he did not believe in Revelation, or the Tradition of the Church.. This feeling or intuition is what many Catholics are living out in their religious lives.
Those Catholics who are constantly going for good feelings will soon become Protestants, or even worse, having their own religion which is theirs alone, and then, finally, losing their faith and becoming agnostic.
Why would seeking emotional religion lead to agnosticism? Simple. If a person has created their own religion, chasing what they want to believe or act out, even sometimes in contrary to the guidelines of the Church, such as the condemnation or warnings about certain visionaries or seers, these people will not be able to withstand the deceits of Satan, as they are in disobedience. Why are people who are gong to multiple prayer meetings in disobedience?
Here are some signs of disobedience of those seeking emotional responses to religion instead of the hard work of study and prayer.
1. Wanting to feel good almost daily
2. Wanting to avoid suffering, and even believing in false seers who say they will not suffer.
3. Wanting special knowledge and to feel special, even superior to others who do not have the experiences they have
4. Reading books not approved by the Church or even, worse, condemned, but excusing themselves, as God has called them to this—a sign of a Protestant mind-set
5. Only wanting to be close friends with those who think like they do, that emotions create religious experiences, avoiding rational Christians, who want to discuss religion, not just experience religion.
6. Not having a spiritual director outside their own groups—a real sign of a dangerous proclivity of becoming cultic.
7. Not growing spiritually, but continuing to seek emotional religion over and over without real maturing in the spirit or character.
8. Using religion for reasons other than becoming holy, such as friendship, community, pushed by the need to belong to some group, instead of being detached.
9. Distrust of dogmas and doctrines, or ignoring such.
10. Fundamentalism is a sign of anti-intellectual and emotional religion. Hence the growing fundamentalism of all the religions of the world, especially the big two.
There are other signs as well, but these are common ones.
If disobedience is involved in any religious experience, one will not become a saint. And, in fact, one is in danger of falling away from the one, true, Catholic and apostolic Church.
To ignore the intellect is a dangerous preoccupation. Those who only want an emotional religion will fall to the genius of Satan, the most intelligent being created by God, whose intellect is warped and set against God.
If one is not growing in one’s faith, moving though the stages of purification, which must include suffering, and purgation, one will go backwards, not forwards.
This is a well-known spiritual truth. One does not stay stagnate in the spiritual life—if one is not moving forward in grace, one is going backwards.
The disjoint between reality and religion has become more and more apparent. I am estimating that at last 30% of those who are trying to become holy are actually living totally in unreality and only trusting their emotions in order to believe. Emotions will never help us believe. An emotional experience may be from the demons, who know how to manipulate our emotions. An emotional experience may be, most likely, from our own imaginations.
Those following emotional types of worship, or worse, falling into sects or cults based on emotional feelings, need our prayers.
The denial of the intellect is the denial of reality. Internal religion is false religion. We internalise the exterior, which should be the Teachings of the Catholic Church. Our religion is one of accepting what is handed down to us through the Church. Protestants create their own reality, mostly through anti-intellectualism and seeking experiential religious worship.
Seeking emotional religion will end in the loss of one’s soul, unless one “wakes up” and realises that the emotions manipulate the body and affect decisions which weaken the will.
Seeking consolations ends in despair and non-belief.
Even the “simplest” saints knew their Faith. Without this basis, the process of becoming holy stagnates and, finally, dies in the egoism of the person who has made-up their own religion.
One last thought…those who follow emotional religions will not be able to spot the Anti-Christ when he comes. Nor, will they be able to withstand the emotional charism he will possess. These poor souls will fall prey to the lies of a master of emotional manipulation. Only a faith based on reason and grace will allow for the type of discernment necessary to see through the lies of the Man of Sin.