Atheists and The Great Quest for Truth #1

In this life, we cannot ever fully know Truth. This is tough for me to say, as I am in the habit of defending the existence of objective truth so zealously that even the slightest hint of relativism will have me piling wood and straw. (For a fantastically interesting debate on whether it is alright and dandy to burn heretics go here.)

But seriously, it shouldn’t be news to Catholics that we cannot know the Truth. The Catholic Church itself states that it – the Church – is merely the fullest revelation of Truth that the world has. In other words, Catholicism is the best shot we can give it.  Not to say that the Church is wrong in any of Her teachings. She’s not. But she cannot possibly know everything. Yet.

I should probably define a term here. Truth is reality free from perception. Therefore, creatures of perception cannot possibly know truth. We have a grand total of 5 senses and one intellect, and the best we can hope for is a really good perception of reality. (Actually, a little more, but I’ll get to that later).

Now if you are a materialist, that largely discredited yet lingering religion, then “all there is is all there is” a faith-based assumption, nay a dogma, that you must make every day.  Just make sure you don’t take a high school physics class. Or think any thoughts:

Nietzschean Materialist – Ja man, dere ist nothing but the material, vat ve kan sense around us.
Old Jewish Rabbi – What about your thoughts, you schmuck? They have no material bearings, they’re about as material as ghosts, yet you treat them as if they were real as day.
Nietzschean Materialist – Nein, mein thoughts ARE material. Dey are merely the results of the movement of atoms in mein brain, das ist alles.
Old Jewish Rabbi – Oh really. So the thought that “all thoughts are merely the motions of atoms” is merely the motion of a few atoms, and can thus be discounted as such?
Nietzschean Materialist – Gaar! Why did I have to be ze foolish one is this contrived debate?
Old Jewish Rabbi – Life’s rough ubermensch.
Nietzschean Materialist – Curse you, Jew!
Old Jewish Rabbi – Woah now.

Atheists tend to admit that our senses don’t reveal everything, because atheists tend to be educated. And white. Losers. And yet somehow the existence of an angel is absolutely repulsive to the human intellect. Why is this? I really am curious. We know we are limited in our senses. For instance, we don’t have the ability to uses sonar like a bat or a whale. For the Christian this is no big deal, as there’s a whole spiritual world that we can’t humanly sense. For the atheist, this brings up some massive questions. You are claiming a massive, universal negative, that there is no God, when you are absolutely aware that you only have 5 senses. Isn’t that a little like like claiming you know exactly what’s outside your house because you have a window? I say this because atheists say “There is no God.” When really they mean, “in the experience of the 5 senses and intellect I have, there is no God,” which is much less inspiring.

Truth is reality freed from perception. But a being of NO perception would know nothing at all. Therefore the only being that could know Truth fully would have to be of INFINITE perception. As Christians, we believe that infinite-perception, or omniscience, is a characteristic of our God. Our search for truth then, is not this flawed sensory pursuit that atheists so pridefully state as the “scientific way” of doing things, the rational way of doing things. No, the search for truth must necessarily be the search for a being of infinite perception. Granted, this takes humility to admit that we cannot fully know Truth, that we must rely on God. But whoever promised that this religion would make you feel good about yourself?

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So here’s where I want to inform atheists. And if you are an atheist, I ask you to believe that I’m not just lying to prove a point. I wouldn’t be able to deal with that. When we humble ourselves to God, we  experience things not available to human senses. This makes sense from a logical point of view; if we are allowing a being of infinite-perception to inform us, than we will be informed beyond our five senses. Thats not to say there aren’t things we can feel, things that aren’t made present to our senses. We cry, feel good, and all sorts. But there are things God puts before us that are quite literally indescribable. We can give these spiritual experiences all sorts of wonderful adjectives, but they will all fall short. We Christians experience things outside of our senses, and since our language is built around our senses, we are forced to turn to art to express what happened, and then get made fun of for not being pragmatic. I just want you guys to be aware of what’s happening, and what you’re missing.

But here I would make the argument that EVERYONE; atheist, Christian, and whiny agnostic alike, experiences that which is indescribable in terms of the 5 senses. We call these emotions.  They cannot be defined besides themselves. Being in love is just that: being in love. It is not sensible, it is ineffable. You could say, “there are chemicals in my brain that makes my heart beat fast, my breathing to heighten, my head to swim etc. etc. But these are physical responses that could equally describe fear. I don’t have the post length to go into great detail on this, I will address it fully in another post. Know for now that we all experience that which is outside of our senses. for the christian this is no surprise, for the atheist, this must be positively mystifying.

I realize this post is scatter-brained; I am over-caffeinated. Christians, take from it this: We have it easy. All God asks of us is that we have the faith to move mountains. Atheists are obliged to move entire universes into existence, rely on 5 tools to build intellectual kingdoms, deny emotions, and ignore the blindingly obvious fact that our senses are limited. Atheists, take from it this: you’re missing out on a lot of crazy experiences, comparable to hallucinogenic drugs, and yet beyond anything sensory. People are confused when I agree that religion is the opiate of the masses. It’s the craziest opiate ever. It is the intoxicating, mind-blowing experience of reality.

  • thesoftanimal

    Yes, human beings are limited to 5 senses, but science is constantly increasing the scope of our perception. Take your sonar example for example. :) Our physical bodies cannot perceive sonar in the same way a bat or whale can, BUT human beings have invented machines that can. Machines have also been invented that allow us to see wavelengths of light that we were previously blind to. There are so many examples: MRI, CT scan, x-ray, radar, etc. All of these things are used to see beyond simple 5-sense perception.

    Most atheists do not say, “My 5 senses (or my scientific instruments) cannot perceive God; therefore, he doesn’t exit.” Most atheists, myself among them, would say that science has increased the depth of our understanding of the universe so much that we can understand it without the need to fall back on the idea of all-powerful deity to explain it. God is unnecessary. Not a single thinking atheist I know would claim the universal negative that there is no God.

    Forgive me if my comments are unwanted. I just came across this and felt that the atheist worldview was being over-simplified. (I expect Christians hate it when atheists do the same thing.) It would cause an atheist not to take you seriously.

    • Marc Barnes

      Yes, but what exactly are these machines doing? They are not giving us sonar, they are merely translating sonar into a visual representation for us. We still do not know what it is to experience sonar — we simply decode. This is not to say that scientific advances aren’t important, only that they are ALL, without exception, dependent on our 5, limited senses, and thus never have the fullness of truth.

  • Luke Purswell

    I think it’s better if we call things as they are. The best definition of truth is sure words about reality. If we call “truth” “reality”, then when we want to describe the idea that you’re describing, that we can have sure words but never last words, we no longer have a word to describe those “sure words”. It’s far better to call reality what it is, reality, and then explain that reality is something divorced from perception. We perceive the physical world, which is a sometimes flawed depiction of reality. We call those parts of what we perceive that we know are real “truth”.

  • NewCatholic

    “Atheists, take from it this: you’re missing out on a lot of crazy
    experiences, comparable to hallucinogenic drugs, and yet beyond anything
    sensory. People are confused when I agree that religion is the opiate
    of the masses. It’s the craziest opiate ever. It is the intoxicating, mind-blowing experience of reality.”

    I just experienced this today after my first confession and Mass. It was mind-blowing Grace that left me in tears, joy, feelings of utter liberation and freedom. I went do go do a rosary afterwards but couldn’t get through it because I became stupefied with a feeling of utter holiness, silence, and divinity. Really there is no words to describe. This Catholicism stuff is literally better than weed!

  • paizlea

    As an atheist, I’m aware of the amazing, bewildering, awe-inspiring, ineffable states of consciousness our brains are capable of producing. I also understand that our bodies filter and distort the information presented to us by the outside world, which creates an interesting problem to solve in the scientific quest to explain everything. These facts in no way convince me that there’s a supernatural explanation for anything. “God” only adds an unfalsifiable layer of complexity to an already complex reality. I can marvel without faith.


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