The Catholic Thing
Heresy Print E-mail
By Michael Coren   
Thursday, 17 May 2012

My earlier book, Why Catholics Are Right, sold well enough to amaze its author as much as its publisher, and prompted the latter to ask for a sequel. The secular world is finally realizing that there are many millions of informed Christians, who, though marginalized, buy books.

And they resent heresy, which has always been the most common and toxic of the attacks on Christianity: Jesus didn’t exist; Christians oppose progress and are scared of science; they’re obsessed with abortion; they’re racist and supported slavery; Hitler was a Christian, and so on.

Thus the premise of my new book, Heresy: Ten lies they spread about Christianity is this: Christians are not treated fairly by media.

Take the case of the Norwegian mass-murderer, Anders Behring Breivik. After his arrest, it took only hours for the media to label him a Christian, even though he identified himself as a “cultural Christian.” Anyone who understands religion recognizes the shorthand for “only a cultural Christian,” a matter of birth not belief. Then Breivik’s manifesto was revealed:

Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God.

But that mattered not, any more than it did when we were told that bomber Timothy McVeigh was a Christian – even though he left the Church when he was a youth, writing that “science is my religion.”

The reason so many in mainstream media are so hysterically eager to call Breivik and McVeigh Christians, or claim that abortionists are regular targets for armed pro-life fanatics, is not only that they are opposed to Christianity, but that they are obsessed with relativism.

These same commentators take every opportunity to report Islamic terror as something other than Islamic. Because, they argue, all religions are equally capable of producing violent fundamentalism.

But Christian fundamentalism is extremely rare. When it does occur, it rejects evolution, not law and order; embraces snake-handling, not dynamite-handling.

For the media to admit that different religions lead to different assumptions about pluralism and human dignity would lead to the invincible conclusion that there is a qualitative distinction – even a hierarchy – and to the moral and intellectual relativist, that is heresy.

The examples of anti-Christian behavior are legion. In the west it takes the form of ejection from the public square and the workplace, legal restrictions, mockery, and abuse. In the developing and Islamic world it is far more serious: persecution, arrest, torture, and murder.

Objective, secular sources agree that Christians are the most oppressed group in the world right now, and the number and intensity of attacks is staggering. A mere book cannot do very much for the millions of believers who risk life and limb, but it can empower and perhaps even embolden Christians in the West who feel weighed down every time a critical remark is made.

Heresy is a book about Christianity and is in the forgiving business. But forgiveness of error does not mean forgetting the truth. So I’ve taken on the most frequent arguments used against followers of Christ.

Some are simply ludicrous, the stuff of Internet wisdom and website philosophy, as in the notion that Hitler was a Christian. That’s schoolboy stuff and profoundly insulting to the Christians who opposed the man and who he in turn slaughtered.

      Michael Coren

Of course, there were people calling themselves Christian who were Nazis, but this says nothing at all about Christianity and a great deal about hypocrisy. Nazis were often street thugs, but National Socialism itself was an ideology, replacing Messiah with Fuehrer, Church with party, love with hate, soul with will, protection of the weakest with survival of the fittest.

It’s the same with the alleged Christian opposition to science and progress. The Christian Church has in many ways been the handmaiden of science. Opponents dwell on Galileo because he’s one of the few scientists Christianity didn’t treat properly, but his story is far from the caricature too often presented.

The same applies to the claim that we have no conclusive evidence that Jesus existed, or that The Da Vinci Code is credible, or the fact that bad things happening to good people is somehow a difficulty for Christians.

That last one is especially annoying, because it’s so badly thought out. Not only do bad things happen to good people, but – just as annoying – good things happen to bad people. But this is a problem for the atheist, not the believer.

We understand that God guaranteed not a good life, but a perfect eternity. The dying child and the cancer-stricken philanthropist are dilemmas for the materialist, not for someone who knows there is an immortal soul and that life does not end in the hospital sick bed.

Neither this nor any of the other atheist talking points that I discuss in the book are terrors to anybody who knows his faith. The problem is that too few Christians fully understand it, and many of those who do have been cowered into silence (if not submission) by a culture that imposes uniformity in its purported lust for diversity.

It’s time to shout back a little, time to stop worrying about the consequences, time to, well, become a bit of a contemporary heretic.

Michael Coren is a TV and radio host based in Toronto, Canada. His syndicated column runs each week in many newspapers. He is the author of thirteen books, including Why Catholics Are Right. His website is
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (11)Add Comment
written by Gian, May 17, 2012
This all is true but it is also true that racial slavery in America was justified on the basis of biblical story of Noah cursing his son Ham.

The Catholic Church too had a complicated relationship with slavery in Latin America.
written by Manfred, May 17, 2012
You make excellent points, Mr. Coren. There are 183 Ordinaries (heads of dioceses) in this Country and I hope you get a copy of your book to each of them. You see, Cdl Dolan, the president of the USCCB, just admitted that there has been no catechetics taught in this Country for forty years and as a result, there are millions of Catholics, many considering themselves loyal and true, WHO DO NOT KNOW WHAT CATHOLICISM TEACHES. They vote, they serve on parish councils, they even agree to serve as commencement speakers at what were formerly "Catholic" colleges and universities. For them Catholicism has become merely Social Justice. Your books should be quite helpful.
written by Brian English, May 17, 2012
"This all is true but it is also true that racial slavery in America was justified on the basis of biblical story of Noah cursing his son Ham."

And the abolitionists were secular humanists?
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., May 17, 2012
Thank you very much, Manfred. Many of us can tell horror storeis about absolute heresy being taught from the pulpit and of people receiving Confirmation without even knowing what Purgatory is. Now is the time for the leaders to gird themselves for battle and insisit that every priest tell people exactly what Holy Mother Chruches inerrantly teaches. I hope you can bear an anecdote I believe illustrative of our current situation: Recently at a large KofC event I was speaking with a memeber who, like myself, had graduated froma Jesiuit college decades ago. When I decried the pro-sodomy activites being carried at one Jesuit college, my new aquaintence angrily asked me where my charity was. I asked him if he thought it charitable to confimr people in thier sinfulness and to misrepresent the immuyabel Teachings of HOly Mother Church, to which he simply repeated his question about my charity. I have no doubt that this poor fellow sincerely believd that it is charitiable to tell people who suffer from that disorder to act on their urges. Back to the Balitmore Catechism!
written by jsmitty, May 17, 2012
"Not only do bad things happen to good people, but – just as annoying – good things happen to bad people. But this is a problem for the atheist, not the believer."

Frankly your grasp of theology/theodicy is very shallow if you think this. (which might, also I might add, be tied into the problems you're having getting your message across in the public square to people who don't already share your premises.) The problem of evil is a much more serious one for believers as well. Ancient minds such as Augustine and Aquinas knew that the hardest problem for theodicy was the problem of evil, especially physical evil–earthquakes, tsunamis, mud slides that strike and kill thousands of people with no warning. Did God have to make the world this way? Why couldn't he be a bit less haphazard in ensuring that genuinely wicked people bear the brunt of the tragedies?

Aquinas and Augustine both surmised ways in which God's goodness could be undiminished in the face of evil. But they did not (and could not) explain the existential horror of evil as people experience it, and why the world is so constituted.

My friendly advice to you then is, before writing your next book, don't "shout louder" but, get into the rich tradition and think deeper!
written by Tony Esolen, May 17, 2012
Thank you, Michael.

Alas, Christians sometimes behave no better than pagans, but it surely is a left-handed tribute to Christianity that even the pagans among us expect Christians to be perfect or nearly so, while they make all kinds of excuses for the indiscretions of Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Hitler, Margaret Sanger, Jack Kevorkian, Alfred Kinsey, etc. Sure, Stalin slaughtered many millions of his own people -- just ask the Ukrainians -- but the Catholic Church sent Galileo to live in a villa in Florence.
written by Thomas C. Coleman< jr., May 17, 2012
Point very well made, Dr. Esolen. But I would expect nothing less from you. Now Jsmitty, really, Old Boy. We Christians have alwayy held that the world as it is a fallen world since the sin of Adam. Now you might not beleieve in Oringinal Sin, or the Creator of Adma and Eve for that matter, butn that should not get the way of understadning how our ounderstanding of how the fallen nature not only of man but of all creation is the source of all imperfection and suffering. Also, we do not presume to be albe to fit the Amighty into a box in which He can be understood according our limited understanding of even those basic aspects of the world that God has made for us. Who among us knows the true nature of matter and energy and time? Of course you have read Job. Please do so again. Another problem that th athiest has with any of this is that of establishing a basis for dinstinguishing between good and evil. If God did not create us why should we reckon human consciouness any more valuable that the speed of a cheetah or the ablity of a falcon to distinguish color at mcuh greater variations than we can. If we are really but products of thoughtelss radnom chemical changes, then the most you can say to the worst criminal is the equivalent of pointing out that people in your country club just don't wear white shoes after Labor Day. But God did make us, adn good and evil are real.
written by jsmitty, May 17, 2012
That's a nice trick Thomas to bring up original sin to explain it all, and then throwing in a bunch of non-sequiturs to boot and attributing to me all sorts of things that I didn't say and don't beleive.

Yeah, I could buy original sin explaining human evil. But tsunami's??? that's a bit of a stretch no? When a volcano erupts in a densely populated area and kills thousands and maims hundreds of thousands the volcano is behaving according natural laws created by God. TO what extent can Adam and Eve be implicated in this? As Aquinas might say, a volcano is seeking its own perfection by doing what volcanoes do naturally.

When a drought hits and human beings starve to what extent is Adam to blame for this? Human beings need to eat as do all things with a body (wasn't that part of the original creation).

What I am trying to get to is that there is a great deal about the world that we really don't understand (as your post smugly admits). But this silly apologetic, intellectually overconfident mindset that pervades this site, keeps people from acknowledging our limits here. We treat things that are truly mysterious as intellectual problems of others that we've "solved" and when people point out that we really haven't solved them then we claim were being victimized.
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., May 18, 2012
@jsmiitty: Who is claiming to be victimized over the question of evil? When people like Mark Twain and Voltaire mock our attempts to expalin the existetnce of evil we not do not play the vicitm but just as oftne as not join in the fun, for many of us can do so without ceding an inch of ground. After al, crying "why me, Lord?" is our natureal response as fallen beings. It has never occurred to to blame Adam for anything, since, for one thing I might have done the smae thing. I do not think that I can change the mind of anyone for whom the problem of evil is still a problem, but I hope I c na share at least of glimpse of why for some it is not a problem to bleief both that God is almighty and that He does not cause either floods of birth defects. My own inablity to understand things is so limited that I canot fathom why you took myadmission concerning the limits of human knowledge to be smug. Now, THAT is a real problem with which I sahll struggle with for days, which will make my wife happy beucase it will keep out of the kitchen and away from the piano.
written by jsmitty, May 18, 2012
Well Thomas the tone of the entire piece is the paradoxical attitude of smug victimization. i.e. that thoughtful Christians like the author are being abused and maligned by dimwitted atheists who misunderstand and mischaracterize their beliefs at every turn.

My point is that one problem is that such authors actually create problems for themselves sometimes by exaggerating what they do understand and by being too dismissive of the significance of what they don't.

To treat the problem of evil as "solved" from the point of view of Christianity and only a problem for chuckleheaded agnostics is naive to say the least. I think many Christians make this mistake, but this piece is unusually obtuse where the problem of evil is concerned.

Only a person who lives a comfortable Western existence,with no real prospect of material deprivation, with few natural disasters, no memory of major wars on the homefront, tyranny or civil disturbances could so blithely dismiss evil as a problem for theodicy.

Evil does not destroy the basis for faith of course. But Christians would be more effective in communicating their faith to others if they took the first step by acknowledging that evil as humans experience it (and atheists have often experienced it) is a very terrible thing.
written by Alan bec, November 08, 2012
Before Breivik was identified, some media reflexively suggested an Islamic attack. The heresy you define is prejudice, drawn from centuries of Reformist propaganda. Sadly, freethought unorthodoxy is also defined as heresy, as in the case of Teilhard de Chardin. What is the position on liberation theology, which involved religious in Latin American political action? The notion of heresy belongs in the medieval court that tried Joan of Arc. Magisterium can do better.

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