...Gallio spoke to the Jews, "If it were a matter of some crime or malicious fraud, I should with reason hear the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a question of arguments over doctrine and titles and your own law, see to it yourselves. I do not wish to be a judge of such matters." And he drove them away from the tribunal.
Most Americans would support Gallio's ruling; they can't be bothered with religious arguments of doctrines, titles and laws. It is better not to discuss religion since you'll only meet disagreement.
I participated in a webinar recently about suicide among Veterans. As you know, suicide has become an epidemic in the United States and around the world; it is particularly severe among Veterans of our Armed Services. The presenter spent the first 25 of ninety minutes analyzing the statistics: trends, men and women, age groups, etc. He then spoke of some effective programs that VA chaplains might use in collaboration with psychiatric caregivers to mitigate the tragedy.
I raised the question, "Is suicide wrong and, if so, why is it wrong?" The presenter generously responded to the question, admitting that some historical cultures have permitted suicide. Some regard it as heroic. But today, counselors, psychiatrists and chaplains might not agree on an answer. We seem to be so averse to discussing "religion" that we must avoid philosophical questions also. Even the value and meaning of life are off the table, while suicide remains on it.
I attended the Festival of Faith last year in Louisville, KY. The theme was "compassion," a worthy topic; and I was impressed with the zeal and insight of many presenters. But the faith dimension, represented by different religions, was only window dressing for the philosophical agenda: how to promote and practice compassion in a complex world. No one would come to a "Week of Philosophical Discussion" so let's call it faith.
I am no philosopher; or at least, not well-schooled in contemporary philosophical discussions. I have heard that university philosophers have withdrawn into ivory towers of esoteric discussion. If they discuss the question, "Why are we here?" they ponder the meaning of the question, and attempt no answers. They leave that to religion.
Nor do Christians discuss the question. As Robert Bellah said in Habits of the Heart, many Americans cannot teach their children fundamental principles like marriage, family or civility; they don't know the words. If asked, "Why do you love your wife?" a husband might say, "She's a good cook!" He would hesitate to say anything as deep as, "The Lord gave her to me." or "I cannot imagine life without her."
Catholics might not know how to address the meaning of life, but we must live the answer. We are servants of God; we love the Lord who gives us life; we abhor the killing of human beings in all its forms. We are willing to assist pregnant women to carry and raise their children; we are willing to assist elderly people as they approach their last hour. We are willing even to treat murderous criminals humanely, with shelter, food, medical care and opportunities to serve others. We disavow any authority to kill helpless, imprisoned, vulnerable human beings. We prefer state departments to war departments. Our freedom makes us peculiar, and we're willing to discuss it.