Where to send your kids to school – private or public school? As a former teacher in both worlds let me suggest private school reigns supreme. Not that private school, in particular Catholic education, is perfect. More so because Catholic education offers one more advancement of the human intellect than merely covering the study of the material realm. Yes, Catholic education thoroughly encompasses the study of the physical world of the sciences and mathematics. But, Catholic education goes beyond the sciences and tackles those critical questions that lay in the spiritual realm. Conversely, secular education remains silent on pertinent matters outside the realm of the sciences. The bleakness in secular teaching is at first subtle to notice. However, as one digs below the surface, the flaws of secularism are on full display.
At a typical secular university, there exists a separation between science and religion in which the sciences are geared to truth-seeking in an objective manner whereas religion studies are bracketed to the wing of obscure social studies. You can see this by just looking at the words that describe the various disciplines. For example, under Brain Science, Ohio State University employs words such as “research,” “study of cognitive processes,” and “acquisition of knowledge.” These words display that there is a single, authoritative, firm truth associated within this study. Additionally, when one pursues this discipline one will experience intellectual achievement and advance the human experience. Now, this is all true, and indeed, noble. However, instead of pointing to religion to have the person continue the intellectual and moral advancement, the university abruptly stops at the sciences and treats religion as a drain on the truth-seeking experience.
When you look at the study of religion in secular institutions, the aspect of truth is diminished and the description becomes more loose and ambiguous with little concreteness. Here, we notice such phrases as “this research is diverse” and that “religion is affected by cultural and societal change.” Ohio State further employs the phrase “society” when they indicate that religion surfaces from “the larger social and cultural contexts in which they exist.” In short, what this statement is indicating is that religion consists of many ideas that came about from a wide variety of cultures. Here, there is no truth, rather just a grouping of numerous concepts that emerged from a vague non-authoritative source known as “society.”
What Ohio State is doing is typical of what every secular university does. They teach that religion originates from various social customs, and since social customs are ever changing and non-binding there exists no truth, no right or wrong answer within religion itself. What is going on here is merely clever word crafting in which the university takes out the truth element in religion and instead simply implants the word “society.” Thus, all religion is reduced to a meaningless truth-less concept.
However, to track this subtle word crafting, you need to zoom in on these words. The word “religion” stems from the Latin word – “Re-Ligare,” which means “to bind” or to “connect.” What is religion binding a person to? To a deity, most specifically in Christianity to a deity who defined himself as the truth (see John 14:6, 18:37) and also declared that the “truth will set you free” (see John 8: 31-32). From the early writings of the Church in St. Augustine, St. Jerome, to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas in the middle ages and every pope in history, a crucial theme emerges – Catholic education is devoted to the truth and fully embraces the unity of faith and reason.
Therefore, Christianity very much aligns itself to the truth much like the sciences. However, to hide this, secular universities repeatedly recite the word “society” so Christianity is reduced to the level of the many mythological and cultural religions that have existed. Here, Christianity becomes one of numerous ideas that sprang from society in which there is no right or wrong answer but simply one differing view among a plethora of others.
Their approach removes religion from reason and truth and places it into a random, non-binding authority known as “society.” This concept is actually similar to what Karl Marx proposed. As Marx stated, “Man makes religion, religion does not make man.” When Marx says “man,” he is simultaneously saying “society” as he articulated that mankind comes from society. As Marx declared, “Man is the world of man – state, society.” Marx’s whole goal was to take the concept of society and elevate it to the level of God. In this way, mankind or “society” can create its own utopia free from God.
To see the wordplay Marx employs here it is helpful to understand what society is. Webster’s defines the word “society” as “a broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.” The key words are “grouping of people” and “common.” In short, society is a large group of people who think similarly. Thus, society is when many liked minded people come together. What gives society influence is that it comes with strength in numbers. Because society is many like-minded “selves,” when you hear the phrase “originated from society” you can also plug in the word “originated from the self.” Now that we know the connection, we can see the genesis of Marx and the secular universities strategy. They collectively want people to come together under the banner of “society” so they as a group they can determine the truth. And there “genius” idea in religion is there is no truth. Thus, one does not need to bind himself to a deity as an authority. Rather, he can bind himself to – himself or “society” (i.e., many selves) as the central authority.
However, this concept of “society” or the “self” as the ultimate source is logically incoherent. First, society did not create itself. Society and the individual within society stands in position of the effect, not the cause. There must be an entity outside of society that created society in the first place. Therefore, ultimate power cannot be society. Rather it must be the entity that produced society and the individual in the first place. This entity logically would have to be God – the grand designer of the universe and the person.
Second, in all the sciences, the person must seek the truth in an analytical, objective fashion. However, when it comes to religion, secular universities cheapen this experience to a vague concept in which the self determines the truth. What does the even mean? A person does not define the truth. Rather, he discovers the truth by seeking it outside of himself. To state the obvious, Isaac Newton did not create the law of gravity. The law of gravity was governing the universe and the rotation of the planets long before 1687. Newton merely discovered the mathematical formula that describes how the law worked.
The “society” defining concept is merely the echo of old-fashioned self-worship that dates back to Renes Descartes (and even earlier to Satan himself). Philosopher Rene Descartes’ motto of “I think therefore I am” indicates that the individual is the primary source of what is true. Rather than start with the objective realm of being and existence, Descartes starts with the subjective element of the “I.” With Descartes, truth is no longer outside of the person. Instead, the person inwardly establishes the truth. How different from Thomas Aquinas who indicated that one must start with the objective perspective of natural law as primary. Then, once a person follows the natural law that lies outside him, the person will encounter the truth in a way that will advance his intellectual and spiritual development.
Sadly, because of their emphasis on “society” and the individual, secular universities treat religious truth claims as relative. That is, a truth statement that goes beyond the science is “relative” to the individual. And since religion covers truth claims in the moral and theological sphere, their motto declares, “You determine the truth in the moral and theological realm.” This statement is not freeing the individual. Instead, it is trapping the person into the self-worship idea that was echoed by Marx and Descartes in which the self and society become the ultimate source of the truth. Here, the self and society attempt to unseat God as the supreme authority. Self-worship sadly removes the person from his true source of being and knowledge (God) and ushers him into a false source (the self).
In fact, the entire educational structure (K-12th grade) emphasis on the importance of self-esteem over self-discipline has lead to this rise of individualism, which, in turn, has lead to the fulfillment of the self-indulgent, narcissistic, hedonistic concept in self-worship. As Matthew Archbold writes, the idea of “self-esteem” is really the ugly teaching of self-worship camouflaged with a nice slogan.
Moreover, to bracket religion into obscurity in which truth does not exist is to prevent the human brain from seeking the most essential questions in life. Questions such as: What is a human person? Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did morality come from? Why am I alive? What is my purpose in life? Is there life after death? Does God exist? Because secular universities never address these important questions, people are left assuming that if life has any meaning at all it must come from themselves or “society.”
However, Catholic education points far beyond this bland idea in which meaning comes from the self and connects people to a reality beyond themselves. Indeed, to a reality that created the human experience in the first place. Additionally, Catholic education stands as a pillar that both draws people into the sciences and then launches them into those pressing human questions through the study of metaphysics, philosophy, and theology. This discipline includes some of the most famous works of all time. From Augustine’s Confessions, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Pascal’s Pensees, and Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Furthermore, Catholic education expands one’s contemplation of the sciences by illuminating that the material world is not merely a by-product of a random meaningless process. Rather, creation has a point to it. The universe is rational and follows precise laws because the vast intricacies of the universe is a reflection into God’s mind.
When students understand that the law of gravity is a small slice into the psyche of God, they will study this law (and all the laws) with more curiosity and consideration as to what the law points to in God’s larger design. Indeed, it was a Catholic priest, Father George Lemaitre, whose love of God, lead to his intense interest in physics, which, in turn, lead to his cause for discovering the formula of the big bang.
The secular universities continue to drift further away from reality. How ironic it is as the entire university system came about because of the Catholic Church. It was the Church that invented the university institutions as nothing like it had existed in ancient Greece and Rome. The first universities at Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge, Toulouse and others all possessed a papal charter and were ran by the clergy of the Catholic Church. These institutions were the vehicle that initiated Europe into the Renaissance period. In fact, historian Thomas Woods states, “In the universities and elsewhere, no other institution did more to promote the dissemination of knowledge than the Catholic Church.”
Because Catholic education can trace itself back to the start of the education system and even more so trace itself back to the one who definitively declared himself to be the truth, Catholic education can free people from the lack of meaning and self-centered nature in secular universities. Catholic education shows how uncorking the reality of natural law, and God’s existence will ultimately expand the person’s mind and soul. Here, Catholic education integrally forms the whole person in learning, activity, prayer and Sacrament. This experience delivers one the truth, and the truth will certainly set them free.