|Paul Tillich probably had more influence on my idea of God than his Catholic contemporary Pope Paul VI.|
A person's level of education has a huge impact on their attitude towards social and cultural issues. It's long been known that raising the educational level of women is the best method of controlling exploding population growth. However education also has a big impact on adherence to religious authority. This was originally seen in Catholicism back in the mid 1800's when the education level of men in Europe began to rise across the socioeconomic spectrum and their exodus out the doors of Catholic churches began in earnest. Here's a short article which gives some stats which strongly indicate if Catholicism wants to hang on to educated sectors of the population, it has to keep moving towards inclusion and not exclusion, and it has to seriously search for answers which transcend and incorporate secular advances rather than continue fighting a losing war with 'secularism'.
By Cathy Lynn Grossman
(RNS) The old wisdom: The more educated you are, the less likely you will be religious. But a new study says education doesn't drive people away from God -- it gives them a more liberal attitude about who's going to heaven.
Each year of education ups the odds by 15 percent that people will say there's "truth in more than one religion," says University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Philip Schwadel in an article for the Review of Religious Research. Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology, looked at 1,800 U.S. adults' reported religious beliefs and practices and their education.
People change their perspective because, as people move through high school and college, they acquire an ever-wider range of friendships, including people with different beliefs than their own, Schwadel says. "People don't want to say their friends are going to hell," he says. (It's probably a little more global than just "I don't want to say my friends are going to hell." It also has to do with dropping any ten year old notions of a score board toting vengeful God and moving towards a deeper understanding of Divinity)
For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:
- 15 percent more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.
- 14 percent more likely to say they believe in a "higher power" than in a personal God. "More than 90 percent believe in some sort of divinity," Schwadel says.
- 13 percent more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is "less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life" than their childhood religion.
- 13 percent less likely to say the Bible is the "actual word of God." The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the "inspired word" of God, Schwadel says.
Last night I was reading Eugene Cullen Kennedy's piece at the NCR about pre Vatican II notions of guilt and how those notions won't play in the future. As usual his column was trolled by the more vicious of the Catholic right, which for me, makes reading the comment section a true exercise in developing emotional control and staying open to the Spirit. I freely admit I'm not very good with this task at this time in this context, and in fact am seriously considering not reading Kennedy's or Jamie Manson's comment sections because I quickly jet past my tolerance level.
Last night though, I was glad I somehow found the fortitude to stick with the comments, because I came across a couple of comments which made me take a second look at those who are heavily vested in the 'reform of the reform'. It dawned on me that they have never had to overcome the mental associations of guilt and sin connected to the old Latin Mass, weekly confessions, and other pious practices. They can look at these rituals free of the lousy guilt based theology those of us in the older generations had to endure. The reason they can do this is because they were not brought up in that Catholic miasma and ironically have the Eugene Cullen Kennedy's of the Catholic world to thank for that fact. Someday I hope they understand enough to thank the theologians they now feel free to bash. Previous to Vatican II, and the work of these theologians, they would never ever have given themselves the freedom to bash any cleric or any theologian or any other professed religious for fear of going directly to hell without passing Go. Additionally they would have been stuck in a world of cognitive dissonance which constantly pitted their religious understanding against their real world education. It's precisely at this stage when it's very easy to throw the baby out with the bath water, which I suppose is why so many Catholics of my generation have taken decades to even consider returning to the Church. Which brings me to the 'evils of secularism'.
Back in the day when I was seriously considering pursuing a career in theology, I took a class called Christian Secularity. The class dealt specifically with questions raised by science and culture which impacted on traditional Church teaching and whether the two could be reconciled. It was this class which introduced me to Thomas Merton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Paul Tillich, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I can't imagine too many Catholic colleges would dare teach this as an undergraduate class in today's environment. It was a riveting class for those of us who took it because the only synthesis we could find that reconciled the two was the Christian notion of hope combined with the secular notion of social evolution. It was the idea that man, through his capacity to connect with the Spirit, could find solutions to the massive problems man's intellect created. I guess one could call this solution a form of reality based active mysticism. Solutions would not be found in pious passive mysticism locked in cloistered convents and monasteries, but in real time active mysticism ordered towards discovering solutions, not praying away evil. It was not a closed solution based on traditional answers to poorly formed questions, but an open ended and trust filled faith in the continued evolution towards manifesting the Kingdom on Earth. God's Will would be done if we trusted our capacity to hear and execute the solutions. For me it was an invigorating vision.
This is still what I am all about and it's becoming the shared goal of many mystics and spiritual people from all religious traditions. It has the potential to synthesise knowledge and education with spiritual insight and human development. Unfortunately it can't be contained in rigid doctrinal formulas--whether of science or religion--and it can't be entirely subject to religious authority. It can only be fostered by religious authority and that in my humble opinion, is where the mission of Catholicism must go in the future. It must foster it's mystics, and stop dictating their solutions. That takes real faith in the People of God. It takes deep trust in the goodness of God. It takes a true capacity to love enough to include as many people as possible because one never knows whose head the solutions reside in, and love is the Ground of Being from which the solutions will be found. Jesus said so.