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15 Lies at the Basis of Our Culture
Catholic World Report ^ | January 31, 2014 | James V. Schall, S.J.

Posted on 02/03/2014 2:26:13 PM PST by NYer

A culture is a complex composition of the manners, rites, language, laws, ideas, and customs of a people. These sources describe what a given people hold to be true, or at least valid. How they act to one another, how they build things, how and what they punish and reward, how they think of birth and death—all these make up the outlines of a given culture.

Some thinkers want to say that truth and falsity are relative to a culture (multi-culturalism). Whatever the culture does or holds becomes its own absolute in that domain. Any outside revelation or philosophy must accommodate itself to the culture, not vice versa. No such thing as a natural law or universal philosophy, whereby one might judge the content of a culture, is acknowledged.

Catholicism has long held that its essential revelation is directed to all “cultures.” Whatever is good can be accepted. If anything is found that is alien to revelation, it would need to be modified in light of universal truths. The supposed “neutrality” or autonomy of any culture, however, makes it almost impossible to judge real differences between good and evil, truth and falsity. If such differences do not objectively exist as the same for all cultures, it does not make much difference what we hold or what culture we belong to. In effect, they are all—Western, Muslim, Chinese, Hindu, Byzantine, Japanese, African, Latino, modern, ancient—meaningless.

For those who hold universal principles of reason and revelation, current Western culture, in which the American polity participates, is, in many fundamental things, based on lies. The devil, interestingly enough, is said to be the “father of lies.” This attribution indicates that the devil bases his own life on the lie of his own self-worth. It also means that he can convince human beings—who can imitate him—that the lies they live by are “true.” They are not to be challenged or repented. This “kingdom of lies” is not divided within itself. One lie follows from another. All converge to deny what man and creation are about.

What are these “lies” on which our present culture is based? Each one of them, on examination, denies or violates a principle of reason or a fact of science. But they are all strenuously adhered to as “truth” because they allow us to do what we want. They enable us to avoid responsibilities for our chosen actions. We insist that they are our “rights,” our “privileges,” or our “liberties.”

The first and most obvious lie embedded in our culture is that abortion does not kill a specific, actual human being. All evidence shows that this killing is true. To hold the lie in our souls, we must and do call it a “right” or a “choice” that allows us to pretend that we know not what we do.

The next lie is that marriage does not necessarily consist in the permanent, legal bond of this man and this woman who form one flesh, a home in which they beget and raise their own children. Any legislation that defines marriage as merely a civil contract between members of the same sex or other arrangements is based on a lie. It denies what marriage is. It denies what is owed to the child, both a mother and a father.

The third lie is that euthanasia is a “right” to kill oneself or have others do so for us. It is made legitimate by the civil law. Euthanasia is self-inflicted suicide, not an act of compassion or autonomy over ourselves.

The fourth lie is that war is always immoral and never has any legitimate justification. War is never without its evils but never to allow war’s legitimacy in any circumstances whatsoever is to ensure tyranny and ignore the need to defend human good and dignity against those who would destroy it.

The fifth lie is that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. The only way for anyone to become not-poor is for him to learn from those who have learned how to produce wealth sufficient for human needs and well-being.

The sixth lie is that man himself is the chief threat to the well-being of the planet earth. Man’s presence on this planet is at least as natural as that of any other being. The well-being of the earth is not more important than the well-being of man. The purpose of the earth is to provide for this well-being, a well-being that knows what the earth is and needs.

The seventh lie is that the earth is over-populated and must drastically reduce its numbers by millions or even billions. The earth, because of human intelligence and enterprise, can take care of the population of the earth. Human well-being is, in fact, more threatened by population decline than over-population.

The eighth lie is that there is no truth. Everything is relative to our individual preferences. Relativism is always self-contradictory. It is a lie to maintain that man cannot know any truth about himself, the cosmos, or God.

The ninth lie is that democracy is always the best form of government. Democracy is that form of government based on a concept of liberty that allows man to do whatever he wants. It generally becomes a form of tyranny of the majority in which whatever the people want is the law and is identified with what is right.

The tenth lie is that the purpose of government is to protect human “rights.” As they are used, “rights” are not a description of what is due to man. Rather they are rooted in Hobbes’ claim that we can do whatever we want to keep alive and protect what we claim. “Rights” become what the state says and enforces. No reason can be found why they do not become tomorrow the opposite of what they are today.

Lie number eleven is that Islam is only a religion of peace. Islam, however, mostly expanded by war. Those who die in its wars are considered martyrs. It is considered to be blasphemy to deny any element of Islam’s holy book or tradition. Islam does not tolerate what it does not believe. The Trinity and Incarnation are specifically denied in the Koran.

Lie number twelve is that Jesus Christ is not who He said He was, that is, the Incarnate Word of God. All presumed evidence that denies this truth does not bear careful examination.

Lie number thirteen is that Christianity is another religion like all other religions. It has reasonable basis for its truths. “Religion” is technically an aspect of the virtue of justice. It attempts to define what, by using only his natural powers, man owes to his gods. Christianity is a revelation of a divine Person about who God is and what is necessary for salvation. What it contains is addressed to human reason and does not contradict it.

Lie number fourteen is that sin does not exist, that it can be explained by psychology, determinism, sociology, or myth. It need not be forgiven. The consequences of sin go on whether we like it or not. They become present in both the lives of the sinners and those against whom they sin. Sin is often a major aspect of a culture that determines its configurations.

Lie number fifteen is that no final judgment is possible. This position means that nothing we do makes any ultimate difference. Our lives are hence basically meaningless and of no ultimate worth. But that a final judgment exists is the truth. Since we are free and intelligent, we must give an account and be judged for how we used these gifts.

In suggesting that the culture is founded on these fifteen lies, I do not want to suggest that there are no other ones, or that the culture does not also contain aspects of virtue and good. Many people recognize and seek to counteract each of these lies. But in putting them together, I do intimate that lies are connected with each other. One will lead to the other once we embrace and live by one or the other. We will find ourselves “being led on,” whether we like it or not.

Yet, we need not accept these lies. Eric Voegelin once wisely remarked that “no one needs to participate in the aberrations of his time.” But the temptation to do so, to be politically and culturally correct—and it is a temptation—is very great. As C. S. Lewis noted in The Screwtape Letters, our deviation from the good usually does not begin with the big aberrations but with the small ones.

Josef Pieper rightly told us that it is not the “lie” that is the real basis of culture but “leisure.” Leisure is the Aristotelian word used to describe what we do when all else that we “need” to do is completed. The implication is that the most important things are not really the economic or political ones that have to do with just living and not living well. But to live well, we must think and think about what is, about what we did not make or establish. The things that are contain their own order that we are to discover lest we deceive ourselves and see only what we want to see. We read in Plato’s Timaeus: “Now while it is true that anything that is bound is liable to being undone, still only one who is evil would consent to the undoing of what has been well-fitted” (41b).

The “lies” that are found basic in our culture in fact “undo what has been well-made.” We do not acknowledge this disorder because we too often “consent” to the “undoing” of what we are and ought to be.


TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS:
James V. Schall, S.J. taught political philosophy at Georgetown University until recently retiring. He is the author of numerous books and countless essays on philosophy, theology, education, morality, and other topics. His most recent book is Reasonable Pleasures: The Strange Coherences of Catholicism (Ignatius Press).
1 posted on 02/03/2014 2:26:13 PM PST by NYer
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To: Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; Ronaldus Magnus; tiki; ...
What are these “lies” on which our present culture is based? Each one of them, on examination, denies or violates a principle of reason or a fact of science. But they are all strenuously adhered to as “truth” because they allow us to do what we want. They enable us to avoid responsibilities for our chosen actions. We insist that they are our “rights,” our “privileges,” or our “liberties.”

Ping!

2 posted on 02/03/2014 2:29:01 PM PST by NYer ("The wise man is the one who can save his soul. - St. Nimatullah Al-Hardini)
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To: NYer

He’s not lying.


3 posted on 02/03/2014 2:33:20 PM PST by DannyTN (A>)
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To: NYer

These are lies and certainly commonly held but our society isn’t “based” on them. Certainly not the one about war. This country is almost constantly at war.


4 posted on 02/03/2014 2:33:50 PM PST by DManA
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To: NYer

Sympathetic as I am to the author’s points of view, they are merely a laundry list of preferred policy positions.

I prefer most of them myself.

But calling them “Lies” that are the “Basis of our Culture” is a stretch.

Rather, perhaps the point is that these currently default policy norms are horribly wrong and undermine Western Civilization. And they deserve being fought against and conquered.

Those are my 2 cents. Semantics, perhaps. But let’s be clear about what’s what.


5 posted on 02/03/2014 2:36:56 PM PST by Uncle Miltie (Mohammed was a pedophile and Islam is a Totalitarian Death Cult.)
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To: NYer
Nice list. Not sure it is the foundation or basis of our culture which is very much based on Chritian values. However, this list certainly describes the "other side" (the Left side) of the "culture war."

The only thing that needs more clarification, I think, would be #10: the purpose of government is to protect human “rights.” The distinction needs to be made between man-made human rights and God-given human rights. The Declaration of Independence lists three God-given rights of every individual: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The United States federal government was created for the express purpose of protecting those rights. Other so-called rights that are invented by man are invalid and fall in your lie category. They are actually vehicles for government interference in the other God-given rights

6 posted on 02/03/2014 2:47:44 PM PST by PapaNew
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To: NYer
The fifth lie is that the poor are poor because the rich are rich. The only way for anyone to become not-poor is for him to learn from those who have learned how to produce wealth sufficient for human needs and well-being.

This not a lie. It is just not something that is always true.

There have been, and still are, societies in which the poor really are poor largely because the wealth of that society has been stolen by those with political power.

For instance, when J. Caesar invaded Gaul, it had a population of about 6M. It is estimated JC killed 2M, enslaved and sold 2M for his own benefit. Those who were sold were made poor by JC's method of gaining wealth, in fact they didn't even own themselves any more. The remaining 2M in Gaul were probably mostly impoverished by the 10 years of fighting involved in the conquest.

What is a lie is the claim that the poor are always poor for this reason.

The second statement in the quote is also an untruth. The oldest and historically most popular method of becoming non-poor is to take away the wealth somebody else produced. As JC did.

7 posted on 02/03/2014 2:48:44 PM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: Uncle Miltie

I agree with your description.


8 posted on 02/03/2014 2:52:15 PM PST by ansel12 (Ben Bradlee -- JFK told me that "he was all for people's solving their problems by abortion".)
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To: Uncle Miltie

I agree that this is really a laundry list of policy positions.

However: “The eighth lie is that there is no truth. Everything is relative to our individual preferences. Relativism is always self-contradictory. It is a lie to maintain that man cannot know any truth about himself, the cosmos, or God.”

That really is a foundational lie of our culture. I am reading a book by D.A. Carson called “The Gagging of God”. It is about how our post-modern culture deals with God and truth. The denial of absolute truth is at the core of a lot of our problems.


9 posted on 02/03/2014 2:53:44 PM PST by the_Watchman
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To: NYer

Not terrible for a first draft, but some of his “lies” are really hard to figure out.


10 posted on 02/03/2014 2:58:03 PM PST by x
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To: zot; Interesting Times; Alamo-Girl; SeraphimApprentice

ping.


11 posted on 02/03/2014 2:59:03 PM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: NYer

Obama is a Negro.


12 posted on 02/03/2014 3:03:12 PM PST by Red_Devil 232 ((VietVet - USMC All Ready On The Right? All Ready On The Left? All Ready On The Firing Line!))
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To: x

Some are clearly not clear! Lie 10 is really weird. I think he is alluding to the idea that people confuse perceived needs with “rights”. I added “perceived” because we just attended a Paul Tripp marriage conference (which I would highly recommend) and Tripp pointed out that a lot of problems come from people expanding their “needs” to include things they just “want” really bad.

In the political realm the progression would be my wants -> my needs -> my rights!


13 posted on 02/03/2014 3:17:00 PM PST by the_Watchman
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To: the_Watchman
It could also be the idea that if you rely on government to give you rights it will be able take them away but it's hard to tell from what he says.

It would have been better if he clearly said, "This is the lie" and "This is the truth," but instead it's not always easy to tell from what he writes where one ends and the other begins.

14 posted on 02/03/2014 3:21:06 PM PST by x
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To: Red_Devil 232

Obama tells lies. That he is Negro, or not, is meaningless race baiting casually injected into what had become a very thought provoking thread.

Thanks for ruining it.


15 posted on 02/03/2014 3:24:04 PM PST by Orbiter
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To: Sherman Logan

The fifth lie is that the poor are poor because the rich are rich.

In this case I believe that he is pointing out the class warfare canard.


16 posted on 02/03/2014 3:29:34 PM PST by Fred Hayek (The Democratic Party is now the operational arm of the CPUSA)
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To: NYer

bttt


17 posted on 02/03/2014 3:31:07 PM PST by sphinx
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To: Fred Hayek

I agree.

I was merely trying to point out that sometimes, historically and around the world, the rich ARE rich because they’ve stolen from the poor. This does not in general apply to free-market western societies.


18 posted on 02/03/2014 3:31:59 PM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: NYer
The tenth lie is that the purpose of government is to protect human "rights."

Our Declaration of Independence, which is still legally binding, declares that governments are established to secure inalienable rights [inalienable because they originate with the Creator], not grant them. Does "secure" mean the same thing as "protect?" Perhaps not, but it seems within reason for both words to be operative without resorting to falsehood. Anyway, of all the lies on this list, this one bears further scrutiny. My understanding is that good government is God's gracious provision in this temporary life, so that the Gospel and works of service may increase in our midst.

19 posted on 02/03/2014 3:32:27 PM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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>> our culture is that abortion does not kill a specific, actual human being. All evidence shows that this killing is true.

I seemed to freak out a few folks years ago when I stated unequivocally that abortion is legal killing. Well, I hoped the statement would make an impact, but not to the surprise of pro-lifers.


20 posted on 02/03/2014 3:33:55 PM PST by Gene Eric (Don't be a statist!)
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To: NYer

I’ll agree with others that his #10 is a bit incoherent; I’m not sure what he meant to say.

Aside from that, the rest of it is on the mark.


21 posted on 02/03/2014 3:35:54 PM PST by marron
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To: NYer

Saw this a couple days ago. Good list.


22 posted on 02/03/2014 4:21:39 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: NYer

The fundamental lie of the human race is that governments can indemnify personal acts through incorporation.

That, is the real-world forbidden fruit.


23 posted on 02/03/2014 4:31:02 PM PST by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: DManA

If our country is based on conservatism, then no, its not based on these lies.

But if our country is based on political correctness, then it is unquestionably based on these lies.


24 posted on 02/03/2014 4:41:39 PM PST by reasonisfaith ("...because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thessalonians))
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping. These lies are not the basis for OUR culture. They are the basis for the opposite side of the present culture war.


25 posted on 02/03/2014 5:12:06 PM PST by zot
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To: NYer

Lie number sixteen:
The system of timekeeping used by most of the world’s cultures, lead by places like America and the United Nations, includes calculated calendars that give precise timekeeping far more accurate than God’s creation or God’s calendar..

culture based lies can start with things like the Gregorian calendar ( and all calculated sun based calendars) that ignore God given timekeeping in Scripture and Creation.

And then you get seemingly harmless things like the standard man made five day business work week and man made holy days that are easy for all in the culture to observe, but stand in opposition to Scripture and Creation.

If a culture has an understanding of time , that itself is a lie not of God, and a counterfeit, what absolute truth couldn’t be able to be passed off as subjective and not absolute?


26 posted on 02/03/2014 6:42:08 PM PST by delchiante
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To: NYer
The first and most obvious lie embedded in our culture is that abortion does not kill a specific, actual human being.
This lie is the lie that some others on the list stem from, the lie that must be turned around for any semblance of order to again take place in this world.

What I would ask Father, is if tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, good-meaning people gather to March for Life every year in Washington, why isn't the Author of Life invited to head out the pack?

I believe that a blessed statue of Mary led the march this year, but her job has always been to take everyone to her Son. Where was He?! — Simply put, and these are not my words, but the words of Mother Teresa, Father John A. Hardon, and several other religious, the Eucharist holds the key to the end of abortion.

Could many of us be too tied into our own blah, blah, blah, when the time could be better spent with Jesus in adoration, begging, pleading with Him, to stop this daily slaughter of our young, and the ensuing destruction of the mother and of the father?

http://adorationrocks.com
27 posted on 02/04/2014 7:33:59 AM PST by mlizzy ("If people spent an hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration, abortion would be ended." --Mother Teresa)
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To: marron
I believe he's trying to say that government has used "rights" as they do with their claim that the Constitution is a living, breathing (changing) document.

Government is all about ascribing as "rights" whatever they find fashionable today, unlike the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which concerned itself with unchanging, inalienable rights.

Government has "palmed off" the essence of inalienable rights, to the point of making the term useless.

HF

28 posted on 02/04/2014 8:55:36 AM PST by holden
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To: mlizzy

You raise a good point. I’ve often thought more public exhibitions of the Blessed Sacrament would be very helpful for our society in general. However it’s not something to be done casually and/or just because a priest somewhere decides to do it. (Not that you’re saying that...just sayin..)

The local bishop must be involved and prayerful consideration given first. This is Jesus we’re talking about here so every care must be given for proper norms and procedures.

I don’t see why though, at a major event like the March for Life, this couldn’t be properly prepared and done. And as you imply, do we or do we not believe in Jesus? I think it would multiply the power of the March a hundred fold to have our Lord lead the way.

Maybe though, there are ecumenical concerns.


29 posted on 02/04/2014 10:43:37 AM PST by FourtySeven (47)
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To: delchiante
If a culture has an understanding of time , that itself is a lie not of God, and a counterfeit, what absolute truth couldn’t be able to be passed off as subjective and not absolute?

I'm not so sure that's true, with all due respect, as understanding anything of God's creation is not a "counterfeit", it's (merely?) understanding something more about God. And this learning something more about God. This is why the persuit of knowledge in general is a good thing. Since God created everything, by learning something about His creation, we actually learn something about Him. This is how it is said in Scripture, for example, that all of creation testifies to Him.

Where I may find agreement with you is in the notion that, in our increasingly fast paced culture, we have forgotten the lessons of Scripture and the instruction of time management there. For example, many people don't give a second thought about working on the Sabbath. This is bad, not for legalistic reasons, but because our own nature is such that we need rest from our work, not only for natural reasons but also so that we don't forget the Creator in our work.

So in that sense, our more accurate time keeping has been a disservice. But it's not, if we don't forget our human nature because of our calendars and watches.

30 posted on 02/04/2014 10:59:28 AM PST by FourtySeven (47)
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To: FourtySeven
I think it would multiply the power of the March a hundred fold to have our Lord lead the way...Maybe though, there are ecumenical concerns.
Happy to hear you say that. I've written to the head of our local life organization, and while he had one of his underlings write me back right away, there was really no answer given as to why Jesus hadn't received an "invite." As far as ecumenical concerns, this is what concerns me the most, if true.

When I participated in an ecumenical evening prayer vigil in front of a local PP years ago (Fr. Pavone was the host), he did not recite the rosary afterwards with the Catholics in attendance, but instead, chatted on the sidelines with the organizer of the prayer vigil (also a Catholic), while local priests led the rosary. I was astonished. Completely stunned that the rosary was not led by the [Catholic! priest!] leader of such an enormous life organization. I was told later on by another priest, that that wasn't Pavone's style, that people of other faiths donate to PFL, and.... well.... you know...

Do you see how the devil has his hand in everything which is good, and pure, and holy? Why would any life organization (run by Catholics) put the collection of $$ in priority over Our Lady's beads in solving the aberration of abortion?

http://rosaryforpeace.com
31 posted on 02/04/2014 11:40:19 AM PST by mlizzy ("If people spent an hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration, abortion would be ended." --Mother Teresa)
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To: PapaNew
Good post. I would, however, go further and say that the Left's "culture" really is anti-culture. So "our culture" in the title is wrong on two counts: it isn't "our" and it isn't "culture". Indeed, culture is how a society builds something of value out of its thoughts and habits. The anti-culture of the Left is how they tear down what Christianity had built.

The distinction needs to be made between man-made human rights and God-given human rights.

Very much so. In fact, it is because the role of government is to protect natural rights that it is the obligation of government to punish abortion alongside other kinds of murder.

32 posted on 02/04/2014 1:10:55 PM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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