Insight on the News
Church and Totalitarianism
The New York Times Book Review recently published its review of the new book The Papacy in the Modern World, by J. Derek Holmes, a teacher of Church history at a Catholic seminary in England. When discussing Vatican dealings around the time of World War II, the Church historian naturally takes a sympathetic view of papal policies. Hence, it is interesting to read the following admissions: “When Fascists were on the march in Italy,” said the review, “the Vatican’s main concern was to retain the allegiance of the young to the church-controlled Catholic Action movement. Father Holmes puts the case simply: ‘Pius XI was willing to treat with any government or regime of any political color or ideology in the interests of the Church’”!
Defending the Church against charges of having warmer feelings toward the Axis powers than the Allies, the Church historian pointed out that the neutral tone adopted by the Vatican in 1940 “would seem to suggest that the ecclesiastical authorities no longer had any confidence that the Allies would be able to defeat or even resist the Nazi forces and that the Holy See must therefore learn to live in a Europe dominated by Nazism and Fascism.”
In conclusion, the Times reviewer observed: “The Papacy has managed over the years to be tougher on Communism than on Fascism, but the church that attempts to make a deal with any brand of totalitarianism places its fundamental claim in jeopardy. For the one thing that cannot be surrendered to the state by the church is control over men’s beliefs, precisely what totalitarianism demands. The sympathetic approach of this reverend historian explains much about Vatican activities before and after World War II but offers little to soften the memory of that cruel time.”
Light on “Afterlife” Experiences
The German medical journal Fortschritte der Medizin (Progress in Medicine) has reported on the results of a study of reanimated patients who had been “clinically dead.” The study did not include persons whose cardiac arrest and resultant unconsciousness had been caused by drugs, medicines, poisons or severe metabolic disturbances. The investigation revealed that “reports about a withdrawal of the soul from the bodies of persons who had almost died . . . could not be confirmed.” The medical authorities believe that the “experiences” that news reports tell about probably result from an impairment of brain functions, not by an interruption. The evidence points to the strong probability “that impaired brain functions lead to hallucinations such as those caused by drugs.” Thus the German study confirms those made by others that the so-called afterlife experiences are hallucinations.
With regard to persons who have experienced cellular death from which there is no possibility of revival, the Bible makes clear that there is no consciousness at all. Says Psalm 146:4: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” (See also Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.) Not all such “afterlife” experiences may be hallucinations, however, since demonic influence may play a role in some cases.—2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14; see also The Watchtower, June 1, 1981, p. 26.
“Slipping into a pair of designer jeans or designer anythings,” says University of Southern California psychologist Chaytor D. Mason, “can raise the insecure from the doldrums of nothingness to the fantasy level of ‘I’m somebody, and if you don’t believe me, just look at my label!’”
Mason goes on to warn: “But I see emotional danger in paying extra for clothing or a car or a cravat primarily because you want to show off the brand name. First of all, you’re reinforcing your insecurity by getting hooked on artificial status.” The Bible also warns against this tendency toward such artificial “showy display,” saying at 1 John 2:16, 17: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away.”