In the previous posting on this subject — the reason for having “core values” in the first place — we looked at the link between solidarity and core values. After all, if solidarity means accepting the principles that define a group as that group and no other, it makes sense that the principles be clearly defined or you won’t know who belongs to that group.
Oddly enough, the modern craze for “inclusiveness” at all costs (rather than the principle of participation), although often justified as bringing about “solidarity,” is actually the opposite of solidarity. Inclusiveness is often taken to mean that you exclude no one for any reason . . . except, of course, for those who obviously shouldn’t be included, such as anyone with whom you disagree or don’t like . . . such as anyone who doesn’t meet your definition of “inclusive.”
The principle of participation, on the other hand, assumes as a given that anyone who wants to participate has learned and accepted the conditions for participation. Where inclusiveness sometimes boils down to coming up with reasons to keep people out, participation is concerned with getting people up to speed to bring them in. It’s a whole different orientation.
Having a clearly articulated statement of core values, then, acts as a kind of filter. If you don’t agree with them, why are you even bothering to join or remain in the group? If you change your mind about them, why are you staying in? And if you accept them, why aren’t you at least trying to act in conformity with them?
Anyway, to get on to the first of CESJ’s Core Values (the full list of which can be seen here for quick reference), CESJ begins at the beginning:
There is an ultimate Source of all creation and of all universal and absolute values such as Truth, Beauty, Love and Justice, which represent the highest ends of human actions. Many people call this Source, God.
The first question that comes to many people’s minds is, If CESJ is not a religious organization, why are they dragging God into this? And which God? Isn’t CESJ being just a little bit presumptuous? And what’s this shtick about “Ultimate Source”? If CESJ is a religion, why not just come out and say so without all this pseudo Star Wars drivel?
These are all the same basic question, viz., why are we using dirty words like “God” and trying to convince people CESJ is not a religion?
Well, the “God” to which CESJ refers is not the God of any particular faith, but the God of reason. That’s not a different God, of course. If we define “God” as a perfect Being, then there can only be one. Reason tells us that multiplicity necessarily implies imperfection. Thus — logically — any faith or philosophy that defines God as a perfect Being by reason, whatever else that faith or philosophy believes about that Being by faith does not change the simple assumption of a single, perfect Being. Aristotle called this perfect Being “the God of the philosophers” because It is — or can be — discerned purely by reason.
Right away we have to qualify Aristotle’s statement. As Mortimer Adler pointed out to the outrage of a number of people before they realized the validity of his position, to say that the existence of “God” can be proved by human reason alone is not the same thing as saying that the existence of God has been proven — to state that something can be done is not the same as having done it.
We happen to accept Aquinas’s proofs of God’s existence (and don’t really understand Anselm’s), while Adler did not (although we didn’t see any difference in what Aquinas and Adler said), but we both agree that the existence of God can be proved by human reason alone. Even the Catholic Church has stated that as an infallible doctrine:
If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema. (Vatican I, Canon 2.1.)
This is consistent with Aristotle’s comment in the Politics that man is the rational animal. (Politics, 1252a.) Yes, he meant adult, Greek human males (mostly), but we take it to mean all human beings, as did Aquinas when he corrected Aristotle.
Man being the rational animal, anything that shifts the human person away from reason as the foundation of a faith or a philosophy contradicts essential human nature, that is, what it means to be human. Taking “essential human nature” and “natural law” as equivalent terms — defining “natural law” as “the universal code of human behavior” — we conclude (and omit the pages of argument) that human understanding of truth is that which conforms to reality, reality being something independent of the human mind that perceives it. (Mortimer J. Adler, Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990, 21-22. Cf. J.M. Bocheński, The Methods of Contemporary Thought. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1968, 3-5, 6.)
This is an important point, because many people today think that accepting the existence of God is purely a religious issue, and either has nothing to do with real life or actually contradicts it. Both theists and atheists make this same mistake. They confuse conclusions and beliefs based on religious faith, with those derived from scientific enquiry, and assume that what the “other side” believes is necessarily false if it does not match exactly their interpretation of what they hold by faith or reason.
Of course, people can also have the advanced disease in which they accept contradictions even as they admit they are contradictory! As G.K. Chesterton once remarked, such people “split the human head in two” —
Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths, the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. To many this would at least seem like a parody of Thomism. As a fact, it was the assassination of Thomism. It was not two ways of finding the same truth; it was an untruthful way of pretending that there are two truths. (G.K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The “Dumb Ox”. New York: Image Books, 1956, 92-93.)
As the late Dr. Ralph McInerny commented of this tendency, “[T]o suggest that in these circumstances one could go on believing is to make a mockery of both faith and reason. The believer would be someone who believes that A is true but who knows — thanks to Scripture scholarship — that -A [Opposite-A] is true, and who still thinks it is all right for him to go on believing that A is true.” (Ralph M. McInerny, Miracles: A Catholic View. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1986, 22.)
Now, forcing religious beliefs on others violates free will and offends against human dignity. It also fails to take into account that while scientific truth and religious truth are both true, they are different truths, and are proved or accepted in different ways. As Adler commented in a discussion of knowledge and opinion,
Religious belief or faith would lose all its efficacy if it were reduced to mere opinion. But the grounds on which it makes such a claim are so utterly different from the criteria we have employed to divide genuine knowledge from mere opinion that it is impossible within the scope of this discussion to put religious faith or belief into the picture we now have before us. (Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes: Basic Errors in Modern Thought — How They Came About, Their Consequences, and How to Avoid Them. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1985, 105-106.)
Thus, CESJ accepts that there is an ultimate Source or Creator, that the Nature of that Creator consists of absolute good, and that this can be proved by human reason (not that it necessarily has been), but nothing more. Anything else is based on faith that, while it cannot contradict reason, also cannot be proved empirically; it is necessarily an abstraction.
And if you think that is deep, wait until you see the next posting on this subject. . . .