With his unapologetic outspokenness, Jordan Peterson is a controversial figure who tends to rub many in the wrong way. He is also quite popular in the Catholic Church, and sometimes for not-so-good reasons. Yet he uses Scripture and Christian stories in his works and talks about Christ – but does he believe them?
Jordan Peterson is a Christian but doesn’t believe in God. This makes him an agnostic or “someone who does not know or believes that it is impossible to know if a god exists”, according to the Cambridge Dictionary. But with his recent illness, he is said to be inching toward accepting Catholicism.
But who exactly is Jordan Peterson, and what does he say about Catholicism? Continue reading to find out.
Who is Jordan Peterson?
Jordan Peterson is a well-known Canadian psychologist, online educator, and retired professor at the University of Toronto. His podcast is also popular, frequently topping the charts in the Education category. Moreover, he is an author with three books under his name: Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules for Life, and Beyond Order.
The “Maps of Meaning” is an academic work that breaks down the structure of religion and political belief and presents them in a new theory that’s based on science. In the bestselling book, “12 Rules for Life”, Peterson came up with 12 rules that aim to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose. His third book, “Beyond Order”, is a follow-up to the 12 Rules for Life where he offers 12 more rules to live happier, successful, and more fulfilling lives.
Aside from his books, Jordan Peterson is also a YouTube personality. In his channel, he covers many philosophical and psychological topics, including human nature, people’s rights, and relationship between religion and science, and values and perception.
That said, Jordan Peterson is about rationality, empowerment, and helping people, especially young men, to find their own meaning and become better citizens.
What Does Jordan Peterson Say About Catholicism?
While Jordan Peterson does not follow the Christian faith and doesn’t believe in God, he does quote Scripture and the Bible a lot. He also uses Christian stories in his interviews, videos, and podcasts. Plus, he speaks about Christ and the Christian belief and attends speaking engagements at Catholic universities. So what does he say about Catholicism? Here are just some of them:
The Catholic Church’s Approach
In an interview, Jordan Peterson looks back on Carl Jung’s position and quotes him by saying: “I think that Catholicism… that’s as sane as people can get.” He also said that Catholicism is a “great drama”, an “inclusive encompassing ritual and drama as well as a system of beliefs”. Furthermore, he mentioned that “religion isn’t politics” and that it is the structure that contains politics, commenting that it’s far deeper.
Now, what I found interesting in this particular interview is how he was able to get young men interested in his lecture series on the Book of Genesis, which the Catholic Church can’t seem to do. He criticized this and explained that the reason the Church can’t tap or reach that same crowd is because in its attempt to popularize the faith especially in the 60s, the Catholic Church ended up not asking enough of people. He even quoted Kierkegaard, saying: “Once everything has become too easy, there’ll be a massive outcry for voluntary difficulty.”
As someone who was raised in a Catholic home and entered a Catholic school from preschool to college, I find this true. As Catholics, we are not asked of too much, and a lot of what we are getting is “fluff”, watered-down versions of what our faith is really about. I wasn’t even aware of a lot of things about my religion until I started researching, reading, and getting married that I fully embraced the Church and my faith.
So going back to what Peterson said, he recommends the Church to offer a challenge and say something like: “That’s the straight narrow path. This is very, very difficult but it’s an alternative to hell”.
Jesus Christ and God
For Peterson, Jesus is not the risen Lord who saved us from our sins through his death and resurrection. Instead, he sees Him as a mythical hero who can show us the way through chaos and order.
During his conversation with Jonathan Pageau, he showed more openness to Jesus Christ. He said: “What you have in the figure of Christ is an actual person who actually lived plus a myth, and, in some sense, Christ is the union of those two things.”
Furthermore, when asked whether he believes in God in the program Q&A, Peterson answered: “I act as if God exists… and I’m terrified that he might”. So Peterson acknowledges that Jesus existed and, in a way, he does believe in Him and God. Yet, he’s also still afraid to truly believe.
In a podcast with Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson shared his thoughts about the Bible. He says, “It isn’t that the Bible is true”. He further explains: “It’s that the Bible is the precondition for the manifestation of truth, which makes it way more true than just true. It’s a whole different kind of true. I think this is not only literally the case, factually. I think it can’t be any other way. It’s the only way we can solve the problem of perception.”
Furthermore, on his own website, Jordan Peterson says that the Bible “contains the most influential stories of mankind. Knowledge of those stories is essential to a deep understanding of Western culture, which is in turn vital to proper psychological health and societal stability. These stories are neither history, as we commonly conceive it, nor empirical science. Instead, they are investigations into the structure of Being itself and calls to action within that Being.”
While there are many elements in Jordan Peterson’s thoughts and statements that we (as Catholics) find problematic, which is expected for someone who doesn’t identify as one or even as a Christian, one thing is for certain: with his reach and ability to tap into crowds that the Church cannot, he is helping people who don’t believe in God to reconsider and understand the Bible. This is great for the Church and the community as the Bible and Scripture can really help us to live better lives and find meaning.