This second video starts with the question; if there is no God where do you get your morals? Christianity believes that the idea of morality was placed by God, built into the hearts of men. The question is, what benchmark or moral standards does one use without God?
The speaker thinks God is merely a grand arbiter of right and wrong. This view of God, like a child who sees his parents as mere resolvers of disputes among siblings (I can relate to this), is very juvenile. Yes man can be moral without a knowledge of God but without the knowledge of God and His commandments as a benchmark, morality becomes subjective. Morality becomes subject to the “will to power.” A perfect example of this are the atheistic regimes of the last hundred years, Stalin. Mao, Polpot and communist eastern Europe, killed far more people in the name of Atheism, than the so-called religious killings of the last thousand years.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS MISUNDERSTOOD
Mr. Bercerro says that the ten commandments are disappointing because it came late and it was not like people didn’t know these things were wrong already. A better understanding of biblical hermeneutics shows that the ten commandments were initially written as a law for the covenant people, the Jews. In ancient cultures, kings gave a set of inviolable commandments or laws to his people to show his dominion over them. To view the commandments as redundant or boring is to misunderstand the entire context of the covenant kingship of God over the Jews. He goes on to critique the commandments as faulty, citing among others, the denigration of women and wives as possessions. Mr. Bercerro does not seem to understand the cultural context of those times when women, not just in the Jewish culture, were subject entirely to their husbands. This did not however meant that husbands or men in general could maltreat or malign women, far from it. The best example of this is Jesus Christ who associated with even the women considered to be outcasts and sinners. Ancient Greece for all the innovations we so highly esteem, actually treated women (and children) with an even lower regard. Those times were a paternalistic culture in so far as authority was concerned. Was this wrong? It certainly does seem wrong within the context of today’s social framework. Because of how western civilization has developed, heavily influenced by Christianity and its tenet of equality of all men under God’s eyes, we have arrived at a better understanding of each persons rights and responsibilities in this world. It is simply erroneous to read literary material, even if it is the bible, in the context of today and criticize it using present-day socio-anthropological criteria. Are the ten commandments the best God can do, he asks. Well Mr. Bercerro in a sense for a people who were probably given to immorality (like us) the answer is yes. Let me ask you this; What is meant by best? Do you mean that God should have made a theological exposition of the commandments? Should He have used flowery ideas? God uses the simplest way to give His laws to His covenant people so can could understand them without misinterpretation.
He takes further issue with the commandment prohibiting coveting, which means in this case, a disordered yearning for something. In ancient Aramic/Jewish terms it means to yearn in an envious way …remember David and Bathsheba, we all now where that coveting led to. It is a bit of a stretch to call it condoning the treatment of women as mere property! It is not evidence of God treating women as mere possessions. The point of that commandment, in case Mr. Bercerro missed it, is not have any disordered desire to possess what belongs to your neighbor. He adds further that the commandments don’t seem to tackle important stuff. Really? It’s not like the ten commandments pertain to what we know to be the deadly sins and aren’t these sins the real cause of the world’s miseries?
The talk goes on and on, cherry-picking scriptural passages then interpreting them as teachings that the Catholic Church espouses. Far from it. If there was a little honesty in the presentation, the first thing that Mr. Bercerro should have done was to get a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. which is a summa of the teachings on matters of faith and morals.
WOMEN AND THE CHURCH
Quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about the behavior of women in church he cites this as proof that the Catholic Church holds women in low esteem. The current official church documents on the role of women in the church appear to be against his favor. Why does he selectively interpreting scriptural passages and jump to his erroneous conclusions about what the Church teaches without looking at what the Church actually teaches? The reason is honesty, he doesn’t care to be. In a letter of Bl. Pope John Paul II in 2004: LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE COLLABORATION OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD, he says in Part 3, no. 13, par. 3; “Although motherhood is a key element of women’s identity, this does not mean that women should be considered from the sole perspective of physical procreation. In this area, there can be serious distortions, which extol biological fecundity in purely quantitative terms and are often accompanied by dangerous disrespect for women.” and in Part 4, no.16, par. 3; “Women are called to be unique examples and witnesses for all Christians of how the Bride is to respond in love to the love of the Bridegroom.” Does this sound like a church who hates women?
SCIENCE AND HAPPINESS
Mr. Bercerro mentions that we should no longer believe in age-old religions because we have progressed in science and his most ridiculous claim is that science can or will eventually determine what can make us happy. He says that “to say that science cannot answer this question (of what makes us happy) is to say that reason cannot be used to decide what a good life is…” furthermore he argues that the progress in neuroscience makes thinking that science cannot answer the deeper question seem “antiquated”. He goes on and on stating that science in principle “…can tell us what will result in greater happiness or suffering”. I think Mr. Bercerro meant to say “theoretically” and not “in principle”. The argument is flawed because in the first place, happiness is an extremely subjective experience that is not even measurable in any accurate sense. Which leads me to believe that he confuses pleasure, which has been mapped out in the brain, with happiness, which is an emotional experience. He interchangeably uses happiness and well-being which in themselves are two different things. Well-being has more to do with both mental and physical health and yet many people who have achieved this level of well-being are not happy. He reduces the experience of happiness (in a deep sense, joy) to a shallow and superficial one (pleasure). That is what science can provide, pleasure, but happiness, I really doubt!
Touching on morality, he claims that there is no such thing as objectively wrong acts and makes lying (bearing false witness) an example but he does not expound. Again, there is the confusion between acts, circumstances and intentions. Consider what Dr. Peter Kreeft writes in his lecture, “A Refutation of Moral Relativism”: “The good life is like a good work of art. A good work of art requires all its essential elements to be good. For instance, a good story must have a good plot, and good characters, and a good theme. So a good life requires you do the right thing, the act itself; and have a right reason or motive; and that you do it in the right way, the situation. Furthermore, situations, though relative, are objective, not subjective. And motives, though subjective, come under moral absolutes.”
Another one of many self-contradictions of Mr Bercerro is in saying that religion decouples suffering from right or wrong. Does it? Of course he knows that the Catholic Church has always taught that the relationship of happiness and suffering is directly related to man’s propensity to do right or wrong, morally that is (Divorce, Abortion, Contraception Adultery). Isn’t this the reason why so many hate the church because of its outspokenness on the moral issues. What I think Mr. Bercerro means is that the church is not open enough to allow people to have pleasure and happiness even if the acts themselves are morally evil. The solution he proposes is to deny the existence of objective morality or at least accept the relativistic view of proportionalism. Consider the holocaust which, no one will disagree, was the single most barbaric act in modern times. Hitler and the supporters of the Nazi party considered the termination of the undesirables of society as “good” for the well-being of society. The same can be said for the genocide wrought by the atheistic regime of PolPot or the will to power of Mao and Stalin. Read: (The Black Book of Communism).
Because the church is not short-sighted, she looks at the natural law to seek a better understanding of how man and society must operate to be truly happy. The church has always taught that only when we operate within what is true to our nature can we achieve true happiness. An example of this is the teaching (Evangelium Vitae) on the inherent dignity of all persons born and unborn. He bashes the church for its opposition to embryonic stem cell research without realizing the double standard of the question “what about the life of that embryo that is destroyed.” Of course, then they will have to redefine when life begins. This then introduces us to the holocaust of abortion which is the culmination of, what moral relativists refuse to acknowledge, failed contraception.
THE ALTRUISTIC ANIMAL (if there was one)
Finally, he explains compassion as an evolutionary mechanism brought about by the theories of kin selection, gain theory and what Richard Dawkins wants to term, the “selfish gene.” The failure of these theories in explaining compassion is that there is such a thing as altruism, a true selfless and disinterested concern for others. Atheists cannot explain how evolution can bring about altruism because altruistic acts are counter-evolutionary. My discussion with an atheist once led him to explain it in terms of our unconscious self’s programming to extend our “kin” to those we do not know. The problem with this argument is that acts of altruism are conscious and willful acts. If they weren’t conscious and willful acts, then they would have to be called instincts and instincts are never selfless or altruisitc. If instincts can be altruistic, why is it we cannot see this in other species. When apes in one part of the forest are decimated by say a forest fire, you don’t see their fellow apes going after them and risking their lives to save them. Dinesh D’souza has a fantastic debate of this with Christopher Hitchens on YouTube.
Mr. Bercerro and Mr. Tani are probably not to blame entirely because their confusion may have stemmed from the skewed philosophy that they have been exposed to. There was a time in my life when I was young (and stupid) and thought that unbelief was cool and hip. Perhaps these fellows are also testing that tide. Take it from me guys, its not worth the time you waste on it.