The Real Alternative


The Dislike of Catholicism: Understanding the Holy in the Catholic Tradition – 6 – Philosophical and historical reasons

Roman Catholic by digitalexander via Flickr

Roman Catholic by digitalexander via Flickr

Philosophical Reasons

Philosophy is an ancient pursuit that has branched out in different, sometimes conflicting directions. So it’s difficult to write just a few lines about why people dislike Catholicism from a philosophical perspective.

Having said that, a broad distinction can be made between two types of philosophers:

  • those who rely solely on conceptual thinking, or believe they do
  • those who believe that reason should follow divine revelation or that reason, itself, may be inspired by God

For convenience I’ll call the first type A philosophers. These thinkers often seem entangled in a web of concepts, perhaps never learning anything beyond the range of their own abstract thought processes. They take great pains to define certain concepts – e.g. love, meaning, being, knowing, caring, commitment – and then say why their definitions and elaborations are best.

Type A philosophers may address the importance of experience, but their experience is mostly gained from the five senses. Type A individuals may or may not believe in God. Any kind of unconventional experience informing their ideas tends to fall within a limited form of the numinous (say, through drug use).

The latter group, type B, believe that thought may be informed not just by the senses but also by religious or numinous experience. Type B believe in some notion of God, a higher power or a divinity within. Their beliefs may be pantheistic or theistic. Even so, their ideas and convictions are often colored by their interpretation of a particular numinous experience (or series of experiences).¹

Concerning the dislike of Catholicism, if neither A nor B had experienced the numinous within a Catholic setting, they’d have no direct way of understanding Catholic spirituality. On the other hand, many Catholics do consciously sense the Holy Spirit upon entering a Church and through the sacraments (such as the Eucharist), so they have reason to believe in Catholic spirituality.

Catholics may not agree with all aspects of Catholic teachings at this point in history, but they do believe in the core elements. After all, the true elements of Catholicism, if they really are true, must be holy and everlasting. And any spiritually sensitive person should pick up on that, provided they meet with the opportunity.

English: Catholic church in Tehran

Catholic church in Tehran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Historical Reasons

Finally, there are historical factors contributing to the dislike of Catholicism.

Sometimes when I mention words like Mass, Church or Eucharist, those disliking Catholicism instantly point out the dark aspects of Catholic history. To outline a few:

  • the Crusades and the murders, robberies and rapes committed during them, crimes that had nothing to do with any supposed holy war
  • the Inquisitions and the cruel torture and murder of so-called witches, which some say had more to do with the Church seizing property for economic gain
  • greedy, reprobate Popes
  • the silly trial, condemnation and house arrest of Galileo when he saw four moons around Jupiter with his telescope and advocated a heliocentric cosmology

Clearly the Catholic Church has made more than a few dark blunders throughout history. While it’s important to acknowledge past atrocities of any social or religious institution, it’s also important to recognize how things have changed for the better.


History deals mostly with recorded events. Another side of the coin is psychohistory. Psychohistory is an odd sounding discipline. Rest assured it has nothing to do with Norman Bates or disturbed individuals and their violent rampages. Instead, psychohistory combines psychology and history in suggesting that past generations influence contemporary individuals through a mix of genetic and socio-historical factors. In other words, psychohistory does not assume we are born into this world with a blank slate.

From the perspective of psychohistory, it’s noteworthy that many individuals come from non-Catholic families. And these families might go back for centuries. When family roots are deeply entrenched in a given tradition, it’s more difficult to adopt a new set of beliefs. Not impossible, of course. But difficult. So for psychohistorians, some individuals dislike Catholicism because they’re biased by their non-Catholic genealogy. They may see themselves as open-minded, but longstanding biases, stemming back generations, close them off from exploring Catholicism in the 21st century.

Church of Sándorháza (Sandra)

Church of Sándorháza (Sandra) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Final Word

Some self-perceived freethinkers maybe aren’t quite as hip, liberated and progressive as they seem to be. Many shut down when it comes to talking about Catholicism in a mature, adult way. They’ve got it all figured out. At least, they think so.

But to be truly open-minded, we have to consider things we don’t like. For me, converting to Catholicism was about coming full-circle and getting past my preconceived beliefs about intellectual and spiritual freedom.

I realize these articles only scratch the surface. People dislike Catholicism for many reasons. And this series only covers a handful of those reasons. I had little interest in covering many of the known objections to Catholicism. A quick web search will reveal several non-Catholic sites opposing Catholicism. Instead of regurgitating all the known objections, I wanted a fresh approach. One that came from my own personal involvement within this, at times, irritating but also magnificent spiritual tradition.

¹ For instance, some Christians in the first century believed that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. For them, the end of the world was near.

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Copyright © Michael Clark, 2014


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The Joy of Statistics: Hans Rosling (BBC)

I saw this the other night on TV and really enjoyed it. Great shots of Sweden, and the quirky professor really does bring statistics to life. Not sure about his history, though. Wikipedia tells a different story. Oh well, most countries do that. Pump up their own importance at the expense of accuracy. Still, a fun video. Highly recommended. —MC

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Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish – Jewish Reconciliation by Louise Steinman a book review by Haim Dov Beliak, Jewish Journal

Poland in the 1990s by HBC

Poland in the 1990s by HBC

One of our contacts, Rabbi Allen Maller, suggested that I take a look at this book review by Haim Dov Beliak. It brought to mind some connections my own family has with both Poland and WW-II.

My father completed his officer training a short time before the war ended. Lucky for him, I guess. And I suppose lucky for me. If he had been killed like so many in that hideous conflict, I wouldn’t be here now.

Later in life, he and my mother did volunteer work with CESO in Poland. Although I didn’t go along with them, I did some editing for CESO and heard many stories about Europe from my parents, enhanced by my mom’s photos, which were featured at the old Earthpages (before we became a blog).

So in a roundabout way, Rabbi Maller’s link spoke to me »


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DVD Review: The Rosslyn Frequency


Title: The Rosslyn Frequency
Genre: Knights Templar, History, Conspiracy, Occult, Paranormal
Production Company: Reality Films

The Rosslyn Frequency takes us to Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel, which some say has esoteric links with the Knights Templar. The DVD author, Brian Allan, adds that the chapel could be a kind of mystical portal to another world.

Allan tells how he and a team of investigators set up an audio frequency modulator to play an augmented fourth, based on their reading of cryptic symbols found within the chapel itself.

The results of this experiment leave Allan and his team firmly convinced that something strange is going on at Rosslyn, something so unusual that one of his team members gets too upset to continue the investigation.

Essentially, Allan believes the chapel is a kind of architectural amplifier for spiritual powers. And his own unique experiences within its walls seem to support the idea that the building is structurally tuned to something out there—just what, he’s not sure.

"Green Man" of the

“Green Man” of the Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One might be tempted to dismiss this as sheer bunk, but instead of coming across as a flake or scam artist, Allan appears to be an intelligent, level-headed investigator seeking to get at some mysterious truth within the chapel.

Allan’s reflections on quantum physics, gnosticism, DNA and the mediation of otherworldly powers suggest he’s a sober thinker using everything at his disposal to try to make sense out of the paranormal experiences he’s had within the sanctuary.

The Rosslyn Frequency doesn’t give all the answers but, then again, it doesn’t pretend to. Like all good science and alternative history, hypotheses are presented for further research, testing and analysis.

Some of Allan’s ideas may irk traditional religious persons—for instance, the assertion that prayer and magical spells are identical. But for those who don’t mind reexamining their habitual or cherished beliefs (instead of reacting defensively), this film should leave them feeling better informed about what’s happening in the world of parapsychology today.


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DVD Review – God Kings: The Descendents of Jesus


Title: God Kings – The Descendants of Jesus
Genre: Documentary – Ancient History, Religion,Occult
Production Company: Reality Films

Is the Jesus story an ancient Roman marketing plan? Did Christ have a wife and daughter? A twin brother? These and other controversial questions are posed in God Kings: The Descendents of Jesus, a new DVD by Philip Gardiner.

Borrowing from the Gnostic Gospel of Philip (which was discovered near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945), retired professor Hugh Montgomery openly challenges mainstream Christian belief by arguing for an alternate history of Jesus and the Christian Church.

Legend has it that Constantine, the very first Christian Roman Emperor, conquered the pagan Romans in the name of Christ. Apparently Constantine was empowered by a vision (in some accounts, a dream) of a cross in the clouds that he encountered on the road to Rome, just before the Battle at Milvian Bridge.

On this and similar points Montgomery believes he’s dispelling 2,000 years of Church propaganda by suggesting that Constantine was a clever manipulator, seeking to control the lives and afterlife beliefs of the masses. Montgomery says that important details of Jesus story were allegedly fabricated and sold to the public to ensure Constantine’s complete control over their temporal and eternal aspirations.

But not only that. Jesus also had a wife and daughter, Montgomery says. And he interprets certain key Coptic words in the Gospel of Philip to support his idea.

Not every scholar would agree with Montgomery’s translation of the Coptic terms in question. But that doesn’t deter him from saying that Jesus’ powerful descendents can be traced along the bloodlines of the Germanic Odin and biblical David. Those of Odonic and Davidic lineage are said to have a quiet, inner power not necessarily exerted over others but which nonetheless can be sensed. And Montgomery, funnily enough, says he’s one of them.

Montgomery then proceeds to speak out against The Da Vinci Code, claiming it’s a work of plagiarism and, except for the idea that Jesus was married and had children, is largely hogwash. Montgomery also offers some seemingly Freudian influenced comments about language, rhythm and musical preference and presents a vision of God that fits with the idea of naturalistic pantheism—that is, God is everything and everything is God.

This is an entertaining video but it’s doubtful that all contemporary scholars would agree with Montgomery’s claims. However, he does point out – and I think rightly so – that the Jesus stories we’ve been told are not necessarily the whole story, and that power and politics may have played a part in their formation and promulgation.

Montgomery is a well-spoken man with not a few credentials to his name. Having said that, my main reservation with his work is that it might lead some non-experts to hastily replace one set of assumptions with another. Instead of leaping from one position to the next, it seems a better way to approach the history and, perhaps, heart of Christ’s life and teachings is to carefully study the existing evidence. True, a difficulty arises here in that it’s virtually impossible to read everything that’s been said about Jesus. But with the power of the internet, we can at least check to see if different perspectives can be found within surviving textual accounts.

And I highly doubt that Jesus would object to this. After all, he did advocate personal responsibility and the freedom to choose.

—MC (revised from 2009)

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DVD Review – Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend

Reality Films

Title: Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend
Genre: Documentary, Robin Hood, Action and Adventure
Production Company: Reality Films

Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend is a documentary by Philip Gardiner. The film opens with contemporary actors playing Robin Hood and his band of noble rebels, with enchanting scenes of Sherwood Forest and some medieval ruins and artifacts.

Within this authentic setting, Robin Hood digs into historical records, folkloric possibilities and mythological parallels around the legend of Robin Hood, the pervasive culture hero who “steals from the rich and gives to the poor.”

The film is rich and informative and the recreation atmosphere is convincing. While the actors portraying the outlaw community are obviously modern, they seem to resonate nicely with the Robin Hood myth, probably because most are local forestry workers who volunteered for the film.

The first half of Robin Hood covers all the proverbial bases. Then the film shifts to advance the filmmaker’s Gnostic leanings, which closely resemble those of the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung. At least, this seems to be the case. I’ve never met Philip Gardiner and am assuming that Gnosticism reflects his own beliefs. This seems a reasonable guess because many of his films depict Gnosticism as a shining counterpoint to a tarnished old Christian Church.

Christians who see the New Testament as a theological work containing elements of fact, myth and exaggeration, might balk at Robin Hood’s claim that Jesus Christ and John the Baptist are equals.

Consider the New Testament:

John replied to all of them, “I am baptizing you with water, but one is coming who is more powerful than I, and I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps. It is he who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Despite what the New Testament story pretty clearly says, Robin Hood suggests that the archetypal pair of Jesus and John also manifests in the images of Robin Hood and Little John, the Graeco-Roman twins Castor and Pollux, and in countless other mythic exemplars and cosmological models.

Carl Jung, who devised the modern idea of the archetype, also made liberal use of analogy in world religion and myth. Jung claimed that the basic truths underlying diverse archetypal imagery were discernible through his own brand of “analytical” psychology.

Some scholars, however, have little sympathy for Jung’s approach, maintaining that the extensive use of analogy is usually too loose and not connected to actual historical and cultural contexts. Unrestrained analogizing, they say, yields specious arguments and ultimately detracts from a given study’s credibility.

Scholars like this say that contemporary scholarship is quickly falling into a kind of black hole where any pseudo-historical truth claim is passed off as fact—as long as it sells. Meanwhile, other authors and researchers promote the liberal use of analogy, equating it with seeing “The Big Picture.”

Does the unrestrained use of analogy really give us the Big Picture. Or does it just seem to, if we don’t know any better?

Enter the Christian theologians, particularly Catholics, who say the contemporary Church doesn’t mindlessly bash Gnostic and Pagan elements but ennobles their worthwhile aspects within the higher, more comprehensive perspective afforded  by Christian belief. That’s why, they’ll argue, we find various artworks depicting Pagan themes within the Vatican museums.

Not a few Protestants, of course, object to this scenario. Some even pejoratively call the Catholic Church the “Whore of Babylon.” But this isn’t the place to delve into the complexities of religious rivalry.

Robin Hood has something for everyone. It brings to life the timeless tale of a notorious sinner-saint who, like many before him, takes refuge in the woods while seeking justice in the face of an ignoble ruler.  Even the most discerning of scholars might learn from this film, lest they get lost in the minutiae and miss the forest for the trees.

Special features include more commentaries and Gnostic/Pagan pop music videos.


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Review: Gardiner’s World 2, The TV Show (DVD)


Reality Films

Gardiner’s World: The TV Show, Series 2 is a great introduction to various metaphysical ideas, alternative histories and holistic psychologies.

This is the second in a new series for Sky TV (UK) hosted by the acclaimed and controversial investigator Philip Gardiner.

First up on the show is Hugh Montgomery, a retired professor whose views about Jesus not dying on a cross, possibly traveling as far as India and apparently having two wives will no doubt raise a few eyebrows among the Christian orthodox.

Next, author and journalist Philip Coppens talks about connections among the New Pyramid Age, (which he believes began in 1994), the Grail Story and Sacred Stones. Among other unconventional ideas, Coppens says the Grail shouldn’t be viewed as legend but as a family history.

Third, visionary musician and artist Nick Ashron appears unplugged live after talking about the healing properties of music. This is a classic instance of theory and practice working together. One can literally feel the peace as Ashron works his magic on the guitar.

To wrap up the program, the international author and speaker, Brian Mayne, discusses the power of positive thinking, suggesting that looking on the bright side of life increases serotonin levels, which in turn activates the whole brain. With all of our cerebral cylinders firing, Mayne says we can solve problems better.

This DVD is testimony to Gardiner’s versatility. Part scholar, mystic, film producer and now TV host, it seems there’s practically nothing he won’t try. And perhaps it’s that innovative, “can-do” spirit that keeps Reality Films fresh.