I’ve told how my sunday school teacher got nervous when I told him that I intended to study all religions of the world with a view to testing my theory that they were really the same story told with different accents, with different understandings and misunderstandings. Mr. Dade had told us that he’d already told us the truth, there was nothing left to study. No one warned me that the generations ahead of me were already filled with would be scholars, would be saints, would be saviors: all of them, or most anyway, long ago cut off at the knees, and at the neck. He, my parents, my teachers, my friends could have saved me a lot of trouble, or at least tried to. But then, to do so, to try to do so, at least one of them would have had to understand what I was talking about. And if the world had people in society who understood more than one or two of each other, society would be a very different thing: maybe we wouldn’t have crucified Jesus, tortured Hypatia, dropped bombs on Laos …
So, my point is that I was an ecumenical youth in a non-ecumenical world. Joseph Campbell, a guy with a related agenda, was kept poor, I was kept from meeting him, I was kept even poorer … Anyway, by my teen years I was becoming embarrassed that I’d never attended a Catholic mass. So I did, with my buddy John. Ah, thought the other Catholics, a patsy! Soon Bob Morvillo asked me if I wanted to substitute for him at the confraternity meeting at the cathedral. Bob asked me to pretend to be him when the priest called the role, he’d never attended, the priest had no idea what he looked like, would I do him the favor? Sure, Bob.
Anway, I listened to the priest with interest. But it turned out I had more to contribute than misinformation. The priest asked his class if anyone had seen the movie Martin Luther. I’d just seen it, in the basement of my Presbyterial Church. I didn’t know that the movie had been proscribed by the Church. Why did the priest bother to ask if anyone had seen it? that would be like the Tammany Hall kingpin asking his sergeants if any of them had voted Rupublican! Of course not, forbidden! I though had seen it. Propaganda, counter propaganda, refreshed propaganda: I had few ways at that period, 1953 or so, of judging the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of representations. (Since I’ve come to be of the judgment that it’s not all lies, just mostly lies.)
Anyway the priest asked if anybody had seen it. I said I had. Now the priest really didn’t know what to make of this Bob Morvillo!
The priest proceeded to tell us of many ways in which the movie was unfair and false in its presentation of the facts and events. The priest said that the movie showed such and such as happening. “No it didn’t,” I said.
The poor priest, he was stuck. He had to contradict me. But he hadn’t seen the movie, I said that I had!
It’s the same old conflict: authority versus experience.
Everyone in the class, the RCs, were committed to “believing” the priest, though he hadn’t seen the movie, he said that he hadn’t seen the movie; everyone in the class was committed to not believing little Paul, the Pretestant, after all. The priest was the only one who didn’t know who I was. Monday to Friday, in school, all those RCs were committed to believing in evidence; but on Sunday, and in Confraternity, they were committed to Authority!
In the rational world, experience is supposed to overrule abstractions (like authority). In our artificially imposed hierarchies experience has to be denigrated. That’s why the Scholastics had to so insist that only God was real: so humans would know not to trust their experience.
OK. I don’t trust my own view of things, I’m a moron, I realize that. But why should I trust somebody else? a priest? a pope? a teacher? a scientist?
When you catch them lying shouldn’t you mistrust them as well as yourself?
In fact, when the priest is lying, why should I trust his god? or his church? It doesn’t matter whether I trust myself. I don’t have to be capable of the truth to be sure the priest is full of shit.
I trust the actual god, not their phony trumped up puppet god.
If I trust the truth, I don’t have to trust myself: just the truth.