Some religions are superior to others, and, in my belief, Christianity is the best; and of the Christian denominations, I believe that Catholicism is the best. Yes, I know this isn’t really politically correct. You’re supposed to pretend that all religions are equal – e.g., the Comparative Religions professor (who often has comparatively no religion) teaching all religions are human inventions based on unique, interesting historical circumstances and cultures. The theory is that religions developed from animism, when cavemen grunted at the sun, moon and stars and made up stories about the people who lived there. Then they made up stories about gods, which became myths, and they started making sacrifices to the “sky people” and then they made more stories and eventually they added rules and so all the different religions just developed. Like most heresies this is a half-truth, and like most half-truths, is more believable than the full truth. At first, the full truth always seems incredible, but is completely credible on deeper examination.
Are all religions equal? If you have one of those posters with a sunset and a slogan that says, “We are all climbing the same mountain but by different paths,” then you might draw the sentimental conclusion that all religions are equal. But they’re not! Think it through for a moment. Is Judaism, with its monotheism, rituals, rules and regulations equal to an Aztec religion, with genocidal human sacrifice? I don’t think so. Is Hinduism, with its ornate mythos, ancient rituals and fascinatingly populated pantheon of gods equal to Jehovah’s Witness? Is Islamic Wahhabism, which condones violence, equal to ceremonial-rich American Episcopalianism?
Religions are not the same and they’re not equal. Some religions are theologically, morally and philosophically superior to others, just like some composers and artists are superior to others. McCartney wrote many nice tunes, but he’s not a Mozart. Rockwell painted some fine pictures, but he’s no Rembrandt. Similarly, some religions are better than others. But, Christianity is the best; and of the Christians, Catholicism is the best.
I’m not saying all other religions are rubbish. The teachings of our Catholic Church say that all other religions have elements of goodness, truth and beauty; and we affirm the goodness in those religions. But I’m saying that Christianity is the best, and I do so for one simple reason that I’ll soon explain. Yet, I’m not saying that Christians are the best people. Christians are hypocrites and sinners just like everybody else. Though we’ve had some great accomplishments in our history we’ve also had our fair share of stinkers. So, I’m not arguing here for how brilliantly the religion has been lived out, but how brilliant the religion is. G. K. Chesterton was right, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has not been tried.”
Why is Christianity a superior religion? Because of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is the only religion that does not ignore or skirt the issue of suffering. Indeed, much suffering is at the very heart of our religion. Our central icon is a crucifix. Our central act of worship, the Mass, is a commemoration and re-presentation of the execution of an innocent victim. Other religions somewhat skirt the real issue of suffering. Buddhism and Hinduism teach that suffering is part of the karmic cycle and the way to avoid suffering is to rise above it through detachment from the material world. Epicureanism avoids the issue by teaching one to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.” Stoicism teaches that one must accept suffering, if possible, with dignity, do one’s duty and pass on. Islam teaches that suffering is God’s arbitrary choice, and don’t ask questions. Primitive religions have no problem with suffering because they do not have a God who is good. Suffering for them is simply “part of the cosmos,” and fatalism is their creed. Judaism comes closest to Christianity in that the Jews accept suffering as an inexplicable part of being the chosen people of God. But consider what we do with suffering. We struggle over the question, “How can a good God allow suffering?” We debate it, and some people become atheists because of this terrible conundrum.
Christians (and most especially Catholics) say, “Yes, it is a problem, but the whole reason for our religion is God’s answer to the problem.” This is not something we sweep under the carpet. This is not something we ignore. Suffering is the whole problem, and the answer is the point of our whole religion. “We preach Christ, and Him crucified.”
We see suffering as a result of free will, and free will as the requirement for true love to exist. If you cannot love freely you cannot love. That free will ultimately produces bad choices and those bad choices produce suffering.
We acknowledge that suffering is the problem, and innocent suffering is really the heart of the problem. But, within the problem is the solution, and within the question lies the answer. We see the cycle of pride which blames others, excludes others and eventually kills others. But, Jesus Christ comes into the midst of that cycle of pride and takes the blame. He reverses the cycle, and by rising from the dead defeats the power of suffering from the inside out. Christianity is the one religion that plunges into the depth of the suffering, wrestles with the darkness and comes out the other side, bloodied but triumphant!
This is what our hero, the Lord Jesus, did on Good Friday, and this is why we say he is our Savior — because he wrestled with the devil, went through the dark and came out the other side. From that time on suffering had lost its sting and death lost its stench. For those who would follow Him, there was hope. For those who would walk with Him, there was light on the other side and calm after the terrible storm. It’s what brings sense out of the reality of suffering and gives new meaning to those who believe as Catholic Christians are called to do.