I’ve been listening to Catholic Stuff You Should Know for a couple weeks now, because I’m interested in different religions and the way people think. I usually try to be pretty objective about things, but the [Four Approaches to] Politics podcast made me mad.
I’m sure you get emails like this every day, but bear with me.
Help me understand how someone can believe in Separation of Church and State, and Religious Liberty, and still feel that their own religion should set the rules for an entire country not explicitly governed by that religion. It seems contradictory. I know that you believe there are universal truths, and so do I. Still, the idea that one religion’s rules can dictate an entire country is foreign to me. I’m Jewish, and in Judaism there is a pretty extensive set of rules. No Jew would expect a non-Jew to follow all these rules…even the seemingly innocuous “moral” ones! That doesn’t make the rules any less universal or true. After all, how could Jews expect someone to, say, keep the sabbath, if they don’t understand why or how? That doesn’t make keeping the sabbath any less important. It’s not the Jew’s job to impose either his ideas or religious rules on anyone else.
That being said, I know you believe in universal truths. So do I. But you’re Catholic, and I’m Jewish, and these don’t exactly look the same.
For instance, you mentioned abortion. For Catholics, abortion is never an option, am I correct? In Judaism, abortion is an option if the mother’s life is in danger. This is our law. I completely understand prohibiting abortion for Catholics, or even in Christian hospitals…but on the other hand, trying to prohibit abortion throughout the entire country would violate my religion.
You also mentioned same-sex marriage. (I would be interested to know the Catholic view on homosexuality, by the way.) Same-sex marriage is also antithetical to Jewish law. But I don’t find it contradictory to say that it’s prohibited for Jews under Jewish law, but to have secular marriages legal. A gay couple could be married civilly, and still not be recognized under Jewish law. Judaism has basically the same conception of marriage as does Catholicism, but we also know that it makes no sense to try to govern non-Jews under Jewish law! Why can’t it be the same in Catholicism? To use one example, the fact that divorce is legal in the US doesn’t make divorce any less “wrong” in Catholicism. (And outlawing divorce in the US would violate my religion, because divorce isn’t prohibited in Judaism!)
Isn’t it our job to help people see why we disagree with abortion or divorce, rather than imposing our will on them with hardly an explanation?
There’s a saying in Judaism: “Worry about your friend’s physical well-being, and your own spirituality.”
Thanks for your time,
Dec. 24, 2012: Response!