Indifferentism

“I was raised in a loving Catholic family. My dad, raised a Lutheran, joined the Church when he married my mother, a cradle Catholic. As we grew up, both of them made a genuine effort to pass on the Faith to me and my four younger siblings. But as I grew older I became negative and critical toward the Catholic Church. It basically came down to this: I wanted to live one way and the Catholic Church wanted me to live another way. Both ways were not compatible.

So I chose to go my own way, focusing most of my thought and action on realizing my worldly ambitions. Inevitably Catholicism, which began to appear like a mere take-it-or-leave-it “extra,” drifted off my radar. By the time I had completed university I no longer accepted with conviction the orthodox Christian morality and fundamental Christian beliefs I had been raised to believe, and I began to harbor a growing skepticism, most fundamentally in regards to the divinity of Christ and the personal nature of God.

These doubts rendered all organized forms of religion, Catholicism included, increasingly irrelevant. Eventually tempted by agnosticism I found myself absorbed into a pagan way of life and my criticisms of Catholicism continued to grow. I was not a vocal opponent of the Catholic Church. Nor can I say that I was intellectually engaged in discovering whether God existed or not. I was, for a lack of a better word, following my feelings; and my feelings had a curious tendency to gravitate toward a sort of Epicurean way of life, that is, a godless way marked by pleasure and convenience.

But feelings are also transient and unfaithful when left running wild, which meant that on some days I enjoyed brief periods of renewed interest in Christianity, but on other days such notions as deism, pantheism, and New Age spirituality were most attractive. But all in all, these “interests” never ran deep enough to effect any significant change to my “spiritual but not religious” worldview.

My detachment from so-called organized religion did not come with any sort of intellectual angst. I had not battled with arguments against Catholicism nor any other religions, and lost. I just sort of haphazardly drifted out of commitment to Christ and his Church, and grew complacent about religious facts and arguments. Life was busy and much too stimulating for serious spiritual contemplation. I became a religious indifferentist in the most basic and ordinary sense, content not to think too seriously about the claims of the Faith of my childhood—nor any other religion for that matter.

Religious indifference in the most absolute and unrestricted sense is the failure to think seriously about religious beliefs, and the consequences that follow from the truth or error of those beliefs, simply out of intellectual laziness.

The three main parts of this book, however, will focus on three more specific types of religious indifference, all of which you have likely encountered to some degree.

Closed Indifferentism

The first type is closed indifference and involves a closed-mindedness toward religion. Closed indifferentists reject all religions. But although they believe all religions are bankrupt, closed indifferentists are not necessarily unfriendly toward religion. They may relate with a believer’s religious experience; perhaps even appreciate it. As atheist philosopher Julian Baggini writes, “Atheists can be indifferent rather than hostile to religious belief. They can be more sensitive to aesthetic experience, more moral, and more attuned to natural beauty than most theists.”

Maybe you’ve encountered the atheist who couldn’t care less about religion because of his skepticism; or the deist whose god “pushed the first domino” to set time and matter into motion but otherwise, like a deadbeat father, has turned his back on his created “offspring” ever since. Perhaps you have met people who think of God more as an impersonal force than a loving Father. It should be no surprise that these non-theists see religion as insignificant.

Open Indifferentism

The second type is open indifference. Whereas closed indifference involves a radical closed-mindedness to religion, open indifference is characterized by an extreme open-mindedness toward all religions. Open indifferentists generally hold that all religions—and religious founders—are equal. Maybe you’ve interacted with, say, a “spiritual but not religious” college student who praises the teachings of Jesus while simultaneously hoisting other spiritual teachers like Gautama Buddha or the Dalai Lama up on the same pedestal as if all spiritualities ultimately and equally lead to the same God. Underneath such notions commonly lie an aversion to “organized religion.” To open indifferentists, there is no one religion that is truer than another: all religions are equal.

Denominational Indifferentism

The third type of indifference is called denominational indifference. Denominational indifferentists claim that all Christian denominations are equal. Perhaps you’ve met a believer in Christ who rejects the importance of doctrine and accordingly does not take disagreements among denominations seriously. Instead they perhaps assert that so long as Christians of different stripes worship the same Jesus Christ then all is well and good. So whether a person happens to be Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist, Greek Orthodox or Quaker, it doesn’t ultimately matter—even when their doctrines clearly contradict each other and the doctrines of the earliest Christians.

So you can see that religious indifference is not easy to define. It involves a failure to think seriously about religion to some extent, and exists across a broad spectrum where religious attitudes range from “nothing goes” and “anything goes.” It is important to note that from the standpoint of a believer in God, religious indifferentism also includes the failure to carry out one’s duty to worship the one true God by believing and practicing the one true religion.

Specifically our purpose moving forward in the pages to come is to explore indifference toward the Catholic Church, and the costs to be paid for rejecting its beliefs.

The point is to show that Catholicism is worth thinking seriously about. For if Catholicism is true then it follows that the great spiritual problem of today is not what many people think about Catholicism; it is that many people don’t think about Catholicism. Indeed all too often, armed to the teeth with logical, historical, and biblical errors, they only react to it without a second thought. The problem I am here concerned with is not that people think wrongly about Catholicism—it is that people don’t think about it all.”

Love & deep thinking that leads intrinsically to Him, the source of ALL that is,
Matthew

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