Yesterday, someone shared this picture with me.

 

 

Well, that's silly. The statue labelled "Semiramis" and "Nimrod" is clearly European and clearly Medieval, which is about as far from "Ancient Babylon" as you can get. A few hardy souls went to the source of the meme and let its anti-Catholic authors know that the statue of "Semiramis" was, in fact, indisputably a Madonna and Child who reside in the South Portal of the Cologne Cathedral.

And guess what? No one cared. They didn't even have the good grace to feel sheepish over the goofy historical error. What mattered to them was that Catholics are wrong, Catholics are always wrong, and if Catholics defend themselves with demonstrable facts, then that's just further evidence that they're covering up how wrong they are. Why? Because they are Catholics, and everyone knows that Catholics are wrong, because they are wrong Catholics, the end.

Now, most of us know better than this. Most of us, when caught in a flaming error,  wouldn't just retreat into accusing the source of being impure and thus irrelevant.

OR WOULD WE?

My dear ones, Catholics do this all the time. All the stinking time. Take, for example, a comment I got this morning on a post I wrote last week, encouraging Catholics to read very widely from a lot of different types of sources before making up their minds about complicated matters. I wanted to list several sources of scientific information which I thought would be less familiar to Register readers, because that was my point: don't just read things you already agree with. Read a lot, from all different points of view, and then you'll be more equipped to decide which ideas are right and which are wrong. More equipped, in short, to make up your mind fairly. So I provided a list of links, saying:

Here are some links to get you started, if you find yourself wondering if the latest flashy meme is giving you the whole story.

And then I added this caution:

(NOTE: Some of these sites are written for religious people; some are neutral; some have an anti-religious slant. I tried to include a wide variety, and cannot vouch for every single bit of information contained in them. The point is: read widely and be smarter!)

I wrote this because I am an optimist,or maybe a narcissist, thinking that if I write something, people will read it. I thought my point was clear: you'll always do better when you start with more information, rather than less. 

Alas, my dewey, girlish hopes were soon crushed, and I got a slew of comments summed up nicely by this one from this morning:

Why are you linking to Skeptical Raptor blog? On July 6, 2104, Dr. Dorit Reiss, a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, wrote a guest article called “Hobby Lobby and Religious Exemptions: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly." (http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/hobby-lobby-religious-exemptions-good-bad-ugly/)

It is rather mind-boggling that you are directing people to a website that is arguing contrary to the cause of the Catholic and Christian filed HHS Mandate lawsuits.

Yarr, "mind-boggling."  It is mind-boggling, in other words, that a Catholic should consider reading a website that contains articles that haven't been sanitized and homogenized and labelled as certified agreeable for Catholic ears. 

Hogwash, my fellow Catholics. Hog to the ever loving wash. This is how we build up immunities to bad ideas: by exposing ourselves to them, so that we're equipped to fight them off when they try to attack us. Do you know what happens when you only read things that you already know you are going to agree with? Your brain becomes a marshmallow: soft, white, undifferentiated, and incapable of doing anything besides sitting there harmlessly until someone decides to take a bite of you.  

Imagine your faith is a hot air balloon. What do we do with hot air balloons? We fill them up and we take them on an adventure. 

That's our task, as Catholics: to get ready, to prepare ourselves for the voyage, and finally to take flight into an atmosphere which is, by its very nature, inhospitable to us. And how do we stay afoft?  We keep the flame burning so that the air inside the balloon is warmer and lighter than the air outside. But we have to expose ourselves to the open sky, or else what is that balloon for?

We do not have to expose the inside of the balloon to the open sky by poking little holes in it. That would be suicide. But neither can we keep ourselves totally safe by leaving our balloons tidily folded in storage because the sky is a dangerous place which doesn't always agree with balloons. Someone who owns a balloon but refuses to take it for a ride is someone who, in effect, does not actually have a baloon.

It's not a sin for Catholics to learn about things that are non-Catholic. (If it is, Aquinas is in deep trouble for asking all those non-Catholic questions in his Summa.) It's a sin for Catholics to immerse themselves in hostile ideas and nothing else. It is a sin for Catholics to be uncritical, to be gullible, to be willfully ignorant of our own faith. We should not venture out on an adventure before we are ready: if, for instance, we are very young, or if we haven't yet learned how to navigate. It's a sin, or at least very foolish, to behave as if all ideas, Catholic or not, are equally worthy or equally true.

But it is not a sin, and never has been, and never will be, to find out what's written on a page that doesn't have +JMJ+ at the top.