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Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Theology

Religion, freedom and respect

Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:59:00 +0000 Published in Religion Confidential

God is not only topic of religion, but above all of reason, a reason based on the most intimate experience of the human being open to something that transcends him. God has made himself accessible to man, among other reasons, because he has made him capable of reaching him.

Man can reach God with reason and with the experience of the heart, because he is a being open to the transcendence of truth and goodness. This is affirmed by theology, which justifies its own existence and path in this fact: that God can be reached by reason alone, and that this reason is strengthened by prayer and reflection with the power of love. A fact that is both a fact of experience and a fact that Christian faith confirms.

That God can be "reached" by mere reason (concretely the fact of his existence, and of his fundamental attributes such as that of being rewarding) is above all a fact of human experience: many are the wise and also the simple who have sought and reached God with their lights alone and their most intimate experiences. Faith confirms this horizon of man's knowledge and, guided by Revelation, leads him to understand many aspects of the intimate life of God.

The rational rejection of God, which until a few centuries ago was found only in isolated thinkers, has become in a certain sense systematic and typically anti-Christian in the modern world. This is affirmed in a text of the International Theological Commission: "God the Trinity, Unity of Mankind. Christian monotheism against violence", 2014 (cf. p. 67).

Reaching God through reason is possible, above all through the openness of reason to love. This is a path of human wisdom in which the moral dispositions of the person are involved (cf. n. 71), and therefore authentic freedom.

Indeed, it is not difficult for honest people who are open to beauty and truth, who trust and care for others, to come to the conclusion that there is a supreme, perfect and just Being who gives meaning to life, and especially to all the things that seem meaningless here. The Christian faith elevates this path by introducing us to the divine life itself.

Today programmatic atheism tries to deny the universal experience of the search for God. It tries to reduce the religious fact and the affirmation of God to a kind of anomalous result of biological evolution, result which should be dispensed with in an enlightened and adult age like ours (cf. n. 74). But the Withdrawal to think about the question of God is, according to St. John Paul II "an abdication of human intelligence which, in this way, Withdrawal simply to think, to seek a solution to its problems"(General Audience, July 10, 1985).

Along these lines," the text to which we refer proposes, "in order to show the disconnection between monotheism properly understood and violence, it is not enough to affirm that God is unique. It is necessary to examine in greater depth what sense God is unique, how he is unique, and what this means for his relationship with the world and with mankind (cf. n. 78).

Christian theology financial aid in this search with its own lights. Let us take as an example the so-called "perichoresis" of the three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Greek term is used to indicate that these three divine Persons are one in the other, so that they are the one, one and eternal God. This might seem to be a pure abstraction without consequences for us. But it is not, because it helps us financial aid to understand better the relationship between God and the world: the Father and the Son love themselves and us through the Holy Spirit, says Thomas Aquinas.

And here comes the implication for us: "God is not closed 'in himself': on the contrary, precisely from his being communion, he disposes himself to the creation of the world, to the exercise of his providence, to the intimacy of his presence in creatures. His creature is his interlocutor out of pure love, not by force" (n. 80).

As Christian theology understands it, God reveals himself as wisdom and love. Therefore his omnipotence is not a threat to human autonomy, as modernity has typically concluded. But neither can God's omnipotence be interpreted as a basis for the aberration of violence in the name of God.

On the contrary, God is the guarantor of human dignity, of justice and hope, of the meaning of human life. A meaning, as Viktor Frankl said, that we cannot fully attain on our own, but must open ourselves to it through faith. A meaning that implies the overcoming of enmity between peoples and cultures, and thus leads to the search for understanding and peace.

Hence - the text of the International Theological Commission deduces - the need to purify ideas about God, overcoming the temptations of the domination of some men over others.

That's right. These temptations are often given in our days in the name of God. At other times, also frequently in the West, they are given in the name of civil service examination to a God understood as pure human imagination.

It must be said, however, that neither the corruption of religion nor the autonomy of man who seeks to dominate himself apart from God-and who seems incapable of respecting the religious sensibilities of others-can help to respect human dignity and avoid violence among men. This can only be done by curing selfishness and opening oneself to the love of God and of others (cf. nn. 93-96).

At final, it is a contradiction and a deformation of religion for religion to be used as a pretext for violence. At the same time, it is a contradiction and a deformation of reason for reason or freedom to be used as a pretext to silence that great topic of reason which is God, and to try to suppress - often also with physical violence or ridiculing and obscene aggression - religion's search for God.

Reason and religion can and must go hand in hand, listen to each other, and criticize each other in case one of them deviates from what is authentically human, which is the only sure foundation for man, as Pascal said, to reach his vocation, which consists in infinitely surpassing himself.