An Atheist’s Conversion and Last Blog Post

Did you see this? Leah Libresco’s last post on the atheist portal; she has converted to the Christian faith and is now in RCIA.

For several years, a lot of my friends have been telling me I had an inconsistent and unsustainable philosophy.  ”A virtue ethicist atheist whose transhumanism seems to be rooted in dualism?  Who won’t shut up about moral lapses as wounds to the souland keeps trying to convince us it’s better to be sinned against than sinning?  Who has started talking about mortifying her pride and keeps pulling out Lewis and Chesterton quotes?  C’mon, convert already.”

I could see where they were coming from, but I stayed put.  I was ready to admit that there were parts of Christianity and Catholicism that seemed like a pretty good match for the bits of my moral system that I was most sure of, while meanwhile my own philosophy was pretty kludged together and not particularly satisfactory.  But I couldn’t pick consistency over my construction project as long as I didn’t believe it was true.

While I kept working, I tried to keep my eyes open for ways I could test which world I was in, but a lot of the evidence for Christianity was only compelling to me if I at least presupposed Deism.  Meanwhile, on the other side, I kept running into moral philosophers who seemed really helpful, until I discovered that their study of virtue ethics has led them to take a tumble into the Tiber.  (I’m looking at you, MacIntyre!)….

I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant.  It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.  And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth.  I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since).  Then I suggested hugs and playing Mumford and Sons really, really loudly.

After I changed my mind, I decided to take a little time to make sure I really believed what I thought I believed, before telling my friends, family, and, now, all of you.  That left me with the question of what to do about my atheism blog.  My solution was to just not write anything I disagreed with.  Enough of my friends had accused me of writing in a crypto-Catholic style that I figured no one would notice if I were actuallycrypto-Catholic for a month and a half (i.e. everything from “Upon this ROC…” on) .  That means you already have a bit of a preview of what has and hasn’t changed.  I’m still confused about the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, I still need to do a lot of work to accept gifts graciously, and I still love steam engines.

Starting tomorrow, this blog is moving to the the Patheos Catholic channel (the url and RSS will remain unchanged).  Meanwhile, I’m in RCIA classes at a DC parish, so you can look forward to more Parsing Catholicism tags (and after the discussion of universalism we had last week, I think it will be prudent to add a “Possibly Heretical” category).

 

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • jim

    I need me some “possibly heretical” categories too :)

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    Here’s a honest question for all Catholic converts (especially those philosophically inclined) from a history loving type:

    When deciding to swim the Tiber, so to speak, did any of the historical baggage (i.e. Medieval Popes, burnings, Imperial Popes etc.) ever enter to your mind when deciding? Did the strong tradition of Thomistic Aristotelian philosophical bent within Roman Catholicism draw you most? Was it even considered? Does a Magisterium add credibility or depth over say a Reformed, Lutheran, Mennonite etc. congregation (all except your bubble-gum megachurch Americo-gelicalism type)?

    Truly curious from an outsider Anabaptistic-Reformedish Christ-follower.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    As an addition:

    Was sprinkled in the RC and grew up nominally inside of it (never made it to confirmation), had an idea of it but in my early intellectual life I became virulently anti-clerical and cheered as I read Voltaire (all before I was regenerate).

  • Greg D

    Here in Albania we say, “Lavdi Zoti!” Praise God! Welcome to my new sister in Christ.

  • Vicki

    @ Jim – you made me LOL! I agree…I think we all need some possibly heretical categories.

  • metanoia

    It has always been fascinating to me that so many come to faith after seemingly exhausting a truckload of questions. My experience was the exact opposite. I’ve got more faith questions now after 39 years as a believer and yet still have an undying peace about faith. Here’s hoping that Leah’s faith will be sustained going forward.

  • http://inandoutoftheditch.blogspot.com/ Matt H

    Carl:

    You act like A) Catholics don’t study history or B) nothing good ever came from them, such as good Popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests. Or literature, theology, etc. for that matter.

    I find the Magisterium does add credibility as well.

    Lastly, if you grew up nominally and never really made an effort as a child/teen to understand, you decided later on in life that there was nothing there and somewhere else was better?

  • Fish

    My girlfriend is an atheist who spent much of her earlier years in church two or three times a week. While she doesn’t automatically tune out the Methodist doctrine I share with her, you probably could burn her at the stake before she’d convert to the RCC due to their position on women in general. Which is sad, because I have contemplated swimming the Tiber myself many times.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    Matt:

    I didn’t mean to give off the impression that Roman Catholics don’t know history (or their own at least). Or that there isn’t anything good (hence mentioning the Aristotelian Thomistic tradition, while not agreeable to me, I appreciate the rigor).

    I was curious in the context of seeing converts to Roman Catholicism (such as Leah) and some others I’ve read and that there is only mention of the RC and not anything else. Was wondering why that’s the case when there is many dimensions to its legacy.

    That being said, in and around my conversion, I did look around (even outside of Christianity) and I did really consider “going Rome”. However, I could not agree to it for reasons I won’t get into.

    I’ve abandoned my Voltairian dispositions anyhow.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Since the Roman Catholic issue got brought up and Bev likes quotes, here are a few from one of the most brilliant thinkers within the Roman Catholic Church (and one of my favorite Christian writers), G. K. Chesterton:

    1. “The Catholic church is the only thing that saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.”

    2. “In addition to the higher critics and textual critics and historical critics . . . the highest form of criticism is self-criticism.”

    3. “If every human being lived a thousand years, every human being would end up either in utter pessimistic scepticism or in the Catholic creed.”

    PS – Unless non-catholics start reading the catholic legacy and history as “our history” and not just “their history” then we perpetuate the myth that there was no church for thousands of years and suddenly Jesus church arrived on the scene in not some distant past (now insert your ecclesial tradition). Or better, I always love it when people see the problem in this and therefore try to trace throughout history certain individuals throughout the centuries and past two millinium who were faithful Christians (of course, on those lists are always a bunch of faithful Roman Catholics or faithful Eastern Orthodox who aren’t supposed to be real catholics or real Orthodox).

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    CGC:

    I would say yes and no. It is a flat error to be a restorationist and think the Church disappeared until (insert denom.) showed up.

    Yet, it is terrible oversight to say that the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox were the only churches until the Reformation. If we’re talking about glorious, continent spanning institutions then by those requirements you’d be right. However there has always been dissent of those who were outside or loosely affiliated. The “heretics” were all over the place, they just don’t show up until the Papacy took its Imperial flavor and its attempt to clamp down on dissent and un-Roman practices taking place across Europe. The East Orthodox had the same problems.

    It is apart of the Christian legacy, but as much as Santeria or the LRA. Churches can lose their candle stick, so to speak.

  • Heather

    Brilliant, brave post. Keep playing Mumford really, really loudly.


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