Why don’t people read the books?

The other day, I posted a slight rant about pluralism, and a certain notion that has crept in post-Vatican II. The Church rightly teaches that there is a “ray of truth” in all ideologies and religions, and that “ray of truth” is what appeals to people and ought to ultimately lead them to Catholicism. The Church, however, also holds there is a great deal of error in these other religions. Vatican II tries to emphasize building dialogue on the good things in other belief systems, but that has often manifested itself in a mentality of pluralism or indifferentism or even syncretism. So, taking for granted a great deal presuming my audience was primarily Catholics, and not intending to directly debate atheists or other non-Catholics as such, I posted a piece about how if we, as Catholics, truly believe our religion is the Truth, then that should influence how we address the issues of the Church in public life, pluralism, religious liberty, and education. We should not, in our Catholic schools even, be teaching our faith as just one option among many. In public schools, a thorough education should at least include “the Great Books,” and that includes many works of Catholic thought.

All that said, I inevitably got some spiteful replies from atheists and agnostics (or I presume so). I refused to directly engage them in a debate where I’d simply be rehashing the arguments of Catholic philosophers. I instead, per the point of my post, invited them to read some of the great texts of Catholic and Christian philosophy–some of which should be prerequisite to a proper education. The person accused me of committing the fallacy of appeal to authority. I tried to explain that I was not appealing to authority but rather referring the reader and/or interlocutor to the texts that explain things better than I could. There’s a huge difference. So this person posted yet another flippant response. Since I had said all I intended to say on the matter and saw no point in preceding in what would inevitably descend to a flamewar, I wasn’t sure the post required a response. Further, I’ve been quite busy these past few days and feeling particularly badly health-wise, so while I’ve been online and have posted a reflection or two since then, I have declined to respond immediately.

The person took my silence as a sign of defeat and posted yet another ad hominem about how I am supposedly “willfully ignorant” because I refuse to debate him or her. I wrote a lengthy response that I felt merited its own post:

Write whatever you want. Moderating a discussion to the audience and purpose I intended does not make me willfully ignorant. It makes me the moderator of this blog. There are plenty of threads on this blog where I’ve directly argued with atheist commentors. I just have no interest in doing so in this particular thread, because the purpose of it was to address the question of how Catholics should handle a pluralistic society. The post is not directly dealing with atheist-Catholic dialogue or apologetics. I don’t see how inviting you to actually read the books that I’m referring to, which make the arguments I’m taking for granted, constitutes “willful ignorance.” It constitutes willful refusal to have a discussion that would be inane without the proper context.
I have a thorough education, and I have an informal self-assigned Great Books education that I engaged in on top of schooling. I have never been adverse to studying world views that are different than mine, and I appreciate learning from them what they have to offer. However, as G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of an open mind is to shut it on something solid.”
Further, you hardly gave me that much time to reply. I realize that this Internet culture presumes instantaneous response, but I haven’t had that much time the past few days, and what time I have had, I have been having severe pain from the aortic dissection I live with. So I simply have not had interest in engaging in adversarial debates in the time I’ve spent online this past few days.


9 responses to “Why don’t people read the books?

  1. joyschoenberger

    Nice response, John. It’s crazy how often silence on the web is interpreted with deeper meaning than is really there. What a world we live in!

    BTW, do you read my blog? It’s a hobby blog, but there’s a definite thread of Catholicism….

    • joyschoenberger

      Sorry, John, my wordpress account is still linking to my old blog (I’ll fix that over the weekend). In the meantime, here is where my real blog is: http://www.mamageekminis.com/blog

      • Thanks for the link, Joy. I spend most of my time on Facebook these days and usually only read the blogs that come up on my FB wall. But I’ll make sure to check in! I know you don’t go to FB that much, but you can link your blog to FB through Networked Blogs, and it will automatically post to FB even if you’re not logged in. That’s what I do with my blog on Twitter and FB.

      • joyschoenberger

        Hey, that’s a great tip! Thanks!

  2. The only human knowledge that is not an appeal to authority is personal experimentation. ALL other human knowledge, including reading the reports of people who did the personal experimentation, is an appeal to authority.

    The fallacy lies in when you pick an authority who is not an authority, like Richard Dawkins.

  3. Good point, Ted: an authority who is not an authority in the subject, or else appealing to an authority on a hierarchical basis rather than a basis of expertise. Like, if I tell my kids, “Use a comma after an introductory phrase *BECAUSE I’M YOUR FATHER*” that would be a fallacy of appeal to authority. “I have a Master’s degree and years of experience teaching developmental English: put a comma after your introductory phrase” would be a proper appeal to authority.

  4. joyschoenberger

    Hey, John. I added my blog to Networked Blogs. Now how do I get it to automatically post to Facebook?

  5. Should be pretty straightforward on the Networked Blogs controls. I forget offhand.

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