One Man’s Amazing Journey Toward the Catholic Faith

Richard Cole was not much of a believer:  By his own admission, he didn’t pray, he didn’t worship.  He was in recovery following years of alcohol abuse.  Raised Methodist, he had fled the church of his youth to dabble in Zen, t’ai chi, New Age, witchcraft.

But then for his 49th birthday, his wife gave him the gift of silence:  a three-day stay at a Benedictine monastery, where he could read, study, write and simply “de-stress.”

Why Richard’s wife thought that would be a suitable gift for a nonbeliever, I don’t know.

And why it affected him so profoundly, initiating the life change that would propel him into the Catholic Church, I don’t know.  The Spirit moves where He will.

What I do know is that Richard’s book is a page-turner, a deeply personal recounting of his journey of faith.  Like the English poet Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven,” God pursued Richard Cole, gradually revealing Himself in the Church.  But the story’s not all love and roses:  Cole, compelled by an inner voice to study and pray and learn more and more, also had doubts and difficulties, strained relationships with his family, and challenges at work.  His honesty about these challenges makes one all the more joyous when he is finally received into the Church.

*     *     *     *      *

I’ve read plenty of conversion stories through the years:  Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home, Steve Ray’s Crossing the Tiber, Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth with its testimonies from eleven converts and its sequels, Surprised By Truth 2 and Surprised by Truth 3, with 25 more.  Those stories have usually focused on theological reasons for embracing Catholicism.

Catholic by Choice: Why I Embraced the Faith, Joined the Church, and Embarked on the Adventure of a Lifetime is  not like those other “conversion stories”.   The force which drew Cole to delve deeply into the Catholic faith, to study the Scriptures, to attend Mass as frequently as possible, was not its historicity or its plausibility or its veracity.  Richard Cole’s faith journey seemed driven by deep emotion.  Cole describes it as “an intense, painful and utterly dazzling two-year period during which I fell in love with God, became a Christian, and finally entered the Catholic Church.”  

Reading Catholic by Choice, I was struck by Cole’s breathless amazement at things cradle Catholics may take for granted.  Seeing anew through his convert’s eyes, I found myself stepping back and appreciating the Mass and the familiar devotions.  Here, for example, is Cole’s description of his first encounter with Eucharistic adoration.

One evening after Mass I was wandering around and I discovered something called a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration.  When I first walked in, the place seemed dark and creepy.  All my Protestant feelers were twitching.  The air was stale and sweet with an odd smell, either incense or cheap disinfectant.  Three or four people were seated in the little pews, some praying, some just sitting.  In the front, there was a silver cross with a disk in the middle, which I later learned was the Eucharistic Host.  A young woman wearing a scarf looked up at me, then returned to her reading.  An old air conditioner was working hard in the background, kicking on for a few minutes, then kicking off.

I looked around and discovered a sign-in log beside the door.  And then I understood what was going on.  People were praying in this chapel, in front of the consecrated Host, but doing this around the clock!  Day and night, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day!  I looked through the log.  Sure enough, there were names for every slot.  Venancio was signed up for 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Lucille checked in at 6:00 a.m. every day for an hour.  Maria at 7:00 a.m.  I was astonished and fascinated.  It was a window into a part of Catholic devotion that I’d heard about but never seen before.  I said to myself, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I stayed a few minutes longer, but I couldn’t breathe in there.  I needed fresh air.  At home I told Lauren what I’d seen.  Oh yeah, she knew all about Perpetual Adoration.  “You’ll be there someday, taking a shift,” she said.

That night I kept thinking about the chapel.  All night long there would be someone there, praying, maybe just sitting, but keeping watch.  Like a power utility, it never closed, never shut down.  Each person stayed until the next person showed up.

The next time I visited San Jose, I went straight to the chapel.  Outside I read a little bit about adoration:  neighborhoods where this occurs have lower crime rates, etc. etc.

I opened the door.  The minute I stepped inside I was almost overwhelmed with the impulse to throw myself down on the carpet in front of the host.  Suddenly the whole idea of devotion to the Eucharist made all the sense in the world.  This chapel was holy.  On the wall I noticed a small, handwritten notice:  “Do Not Lie on the Floor.”

May I suggest that you read Catholic by Choice for yourself?  Whether you are an interested observer of faith, wondering why Catholics do the things they do, or a life-long Catholic who could use a booster shot of enthusiasm, you’ll enjoy Richard Cole’s honest, highly relatable and often funny story of his adult conversion to Catholicism.

*     *     *     *     *

Catholic by Choice is a selection of the Patheos Book Club.

For more information, to read an excerpt, or to join the conversation, click here.

  • James Hunt

    Great article, but Francis Thompson, not Bacon, wrote Hound of Heaven.

    • kathyschiffer

      Oh man, I know that–careless fingers! Thanks, James; fixing it right now.

  • Guest

    “I was struck by Cole’s breathless amazement at things cradle Catholics may take for granted.”

    As a recent convert from atheism, when I read that statement I had a good 2 minutes of goosebumps — it still baffles at times how how much cradle Catholics take for granted, and how many fail to appreciate what a gift they have been given! (Well then there are the legions of poorly cathechized Cradlers, which could attribute to the nonchalant-ness?)

    • AugustineThomas

      I’m also a convert from atheism. We should start a club!
      (I’ve been constantly annoyed by cradle Catholics, but I’m trying to learn to be like Christ and forgive and live without resentment.)

      • Biff Spiff

        Well, I can tell you that entering the Church as a revert after 16 years away, I saw things that I had taken for granted as a cradle Catholic in a new light– to the point that I have sometimes wept at having taken them for granted.

        • JohnnyVoxx

          Agreed. The point about “cradle Catholics” being oblivious is well taken AugustineThomas and Guest, I was one of them. Things have changed. Hallelujah for all of us together.

      • Thomas Augustine

        Cradle Catholics are the workhorses of the faith. A little respect, please.

        • Aldo Elmnight

          Most cradle catholics are no longer catholic. If you use birth control, vote for pro abortion politicians (e.g. Obama), support “gay” marriage, etc then you are no longer a Catholic.
          Catholic is a verb.

          • Thomas Augustine

            On what evidence do you make the claim that “most cradle Catholics are not Catholic”? Thanks be to God that the Church has many converts, but thanks be to God as well that there is a core group of people, from infancy, who keep our dioceses and parishes functioning. This nonsense that somehow cradle Catholics need to be forgiven by converts would be laughable if some people weren’t so self-righteous about it.

          • Aldo Elmnight
          • Thomas Augustine

            Yes, as converts do. Stop setting up Catholics against each other.

          • Aldo Elmnight

            Stating the truth is not setting up anyone. BTW if a person who claims to be Catholic does any of the actions listed in the surveys I referenced then they are already latae sententiae excommunicated and an apostate.

          • Panacea

            And you’re the Pope ? Get off the horse, it’s too high for you you self righteous hypocrite, And this us TRUE charity. You play with fire and and headed for a severe roasting. Take note – you’ve been warned.

          • Jon Fermin

            http://www.gallup.com/poll/154799/americans-including-catholics-say-birth-control-morally.aspx

            the data from this 2012 gallup poll is a piece of evidence which says the majority of Catholics, at least in the US are not on the same page as the church. 82% is a large number. as a revert, I remember the reason I left the church is because if those around me were not taking their faith seriously I felt no reason why I should continue with the pretense of holding onto a faith falsely. to your credit it was the example of solid cradle catholics that did help immensely in my return to the church. to them I owe an immense debt of gratitude, but by that same token, let us not kid ourselves about the 800 pound gorilla in the room here. cultural Catholicism is a serious endemic problem in cradle catholics and it will only hurt the church further if we pretend it does not happen.

          • JefZeph

            Again, I’ve got to object to this generalized demeaning of cradle Catholics. Your examples describe liberal Catholics, lapsed Catholics, lukewarm Catholics, poorly Catechized Catholics, and/or dissenting Catholics.

            Seriously, if someone asks you to describe a cradle Catholic, would you honestly say it is a Catholic who uses birth control, votes for pro-abortion lawmakers and supports gay “marriage”? No reasonable person would, because it’s preposterous.

            Cradle Catholics can be found at all levels of holiness. It is therefore unjust to perpetuate a stereotype that anyone (or everyone) born into the faith is either an ignoramus or a de facto apostate. Use the correct term for whatever your point happens to be. You’re sure to find it in the list I made above.

          • Aldo Elmnight

            Let me quote myself “Most cradle Catholics are no longer catholic.”. Note the absence of the word “all” and use of the word “most”. Most Cradle Catholics are “liberal Catholics, lapsed Catholics, lukewarm Catholics, poorly Catechized Catholics, and/or dissenting Catholics”. That is if they do not leave the faith formally. Our Bishop told us that currently 85% of people who attend OF parish’s and are confirmed leave the faith within 5 years. The number for EF parishes is around 5%. The “divorce” rate for Catholics in OF parishes is around 50%. It is 5% for EF parish’s. What we are seeing is the fruit of the reforms that were made in the 1970′s and dishonestly used Vatican II as their justification.

          • JefZeph

            I’m not interested in your numbers. They are shameful, but they are an estimate of all Catholics, not only cradle Catholics. Unless you’re claiming that no converts are liberal, these numbers are useless to the point at hand.

            I’m railing against the stereotype that cradle Catholics are liberal, lapsed, lukewarm… No, no and no. Liberal Catholics are liberal. Lapsed Catholics are lapsed. Lukewarm Catholics are lukewarm.

            The only true thing you can say about a cradle Catholic is that they were born into the faith. Nothing more can be said about where an individual has gone from there.

          • Thomas Augustine

            Excellent reply. These strange stereotypes fail on so many levels. It’s an equally phony stereotype that converts are all on fire for God. Talk to priests about how often people enter the Church because of perceived family pressures. Many of those people melt away after being received into the Church.

            Again, thanks be to God for great converts. Thanks be to God, as well, for wonderful cradle Catholics

          • JoyInTheLord

            I am a cradle Catholic and I love the Catholic Faith. Yes, I am one of those ‘shifters’ for Perpetual Adoration in my parish for11 years now. At first, I was this nonchalant adorer, but lately, I’ve been ‘praying’ more, I guess. There were times when I didn’t feel like going there but the thought that Jesus will be ‘alone’ by Himself is something I cannot pass. I go to Mass daily and I pray for those who do not know the love of our God yet. I also make it a point to pray for our priests, that they may be holy and faithful. And yes, I am trying to learn our Faith, and getting more in love with It as my knowledge grows.

            Thank you for standing up for a cradle Catholic like me.

          • Thomas Augustine

            Catholic is not a verb. What would the past tense be? “Catholiced?” What’s the future tense?

          • Aldo Elmnight

            I apologize for not being obvious enough for you. To be Catholic you must do something. You must believe in the Church’s teachings and you must live them out. That is an action. If you are taking birth control, vote for pro abortion politicians, support homosexual “marriage” then you are not doing the actions required to be Catholic.

          • Panacea

            Your politics speak more loudly than your faith or your Catholicism.

            What name/s did you take at your Confirmation – Mary Poppins ?

            “Practically PERFECT IN EVERY WAY.”

            Just as well we depend on the love of God to ‘convert’ us and not the likes of your good self.

        • Romulus

          In percentage terms, this cradle Catholic sees much more energy and commitment coming from converts and reverts — and I ought to know. Conversion is a life-long experience that ought to be part of every Christian life. For most cradle Catholics, it isn’t. Even when they remain close to the sacraments (as most do not), they take too much for granted.

          • Romulan

            Most? How do you know?

          • Romulus

            Reliable surveys consistently reveal that most of those baptized as Catholics rarely or never attend Mass or receive the sacraments, and that, of those who do, a very large percentage does not retain a Catholic understanding and belief.

          • Romulan

            I would be interested in seeing the sources you mention and looking at their reliability.

          • Nalumor

            Still waiting? That shouldn’t be surprising. People who talk about these “reliable surveys” seem too frequently unable to produce evidence when asked for it.

      • JefZeph

        Would there have been a Church for converts to discover if the Holy Spirit hadn’t supplied generations of faithful cradle Catholics to maintain Her prior to your illustrious arrival? Of whom are you resentful? How about resisting nonsensical feelings of resentment with gratitude?

        It seems silly to need to point out that the words “cradle” and “oblivious” are not synonyms, but apparently I do. There are some of us who were falling down on the floor before our Eucharistic Lord at the age of eight. Yes, even among those of us Catechized in the ’70′s and ’80′s.

        It might be more accurate for you to admit to being put-off by lukewarm Catholics, in which case I would stand with you. There is a reason Christ will expectorate them. They are many, and they need our prayers, not our resentment.

    • Pofarmer

      Well, as a pretty recent convert to Atheism, I got breathless too, but probably for an entirely different reason. Certain things that Catholics profess to believe nearly give me panic attacks?

      • Jim

        Hey there, Mr. Pofarmer, I do have a suggested reading for you…Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book comes out on the 29th. She has a blog, as well. Maybe you could dialog with her, if you like. Peace!

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve watched her on some Catholic apologetics show. Same bad emotional reasons.

          • kathyschiffer

            “bad emotional reasons”

            I know Jennifer Fulwiler, Pofarmer. She’s a pretty smart cookie. Perhaps God has touched her heart; we will pray that He touches yours, as well.

          • Pofarmer

            I didn’t say she wasn’t smart. But what I’ve seen, she is doing the same thing that Leah Libresco does/did. She is rationalizing a conversion for emotional reasons, not giving reasons for a rational conversion, because the rational reasons aren’t particularly well grounded. There are powerful emotional reasons to be Catholic, if you shut off the parts of your brain that ask cogent questions.

          • Romulus

            Not at all. Faith and reason are complementary, not opposed: faith builds on nature. A faith in a supernatural creator is entirely possible (indeed, almost impossible to avoid) for one relying honestly on natural reason alone.

            You ought to have a look at the collected letters of Flannery O’Connor. She understands that most people in your shoes think of faith as a security blanket to cope with existential anxiety. In truth, to (high-functioning) Christians, the Faith is the Cross. Even if O’Connor never makes a believer out of you, you might benefit from a more unsentimental and systematic consideration of the question. Most who call themselves atheist do so for deeply sentimental reasons. “Emotional”, in other words.

          • Pofarmer

            Yes, if I just read one more apologist book, I’m sure it would come to me.

          • Romulus

            Flannery O’Connor wasn’t an apologist. She was an artist and in so far as she approached her art in a considered and integrated way, a critic. If you care about art or even just about rigorous thought, she’s worth your time, even if you won’t be open to her religious views.

          • BHG

            Serious suggestion–read Night of the Confessor by Tomas Halik (do not be put off by the title) and some of your real and serious questions (like about the Garden of Eden–there is another way to look at that which fully comports with your sense of reason–and mine as a Catholic who has no desire to leave the Church) might be answered in a way that speaks to you. It’s worth the time. Not apologetics at all, ruminations.

          • Pofarmer

            Sure, there’s all kinds of ways to look at it that make sense of it. It’s how the church teaches it that’s the problem.

          • Pofarmer

            Ya know, faith only builds on nature if you fundamentally misunderstand nature. Faith says that we die because of the sin in the Garden of Eden. Reason says that we have always died. Faith sasy everything was perfect before “The Fall,” Reason says that in the last 100 years reason and science have made our lives measurably better. Faith says a loving God killed everyone on earth but 7 people in a Ginormous flood, for our sins. Reason says that there was no Ginormous flood. Faith says that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for our sins. Reason says, haven’t we already been here? Isn’t this kind of a repeat? Faith says that humanity is flawed, and apart from God. Reason says that we are evolved primates, living in advanced social structures, similar to all other animals on the planet living in social structures Faith says that man was created specially. Reason says that we have the same organs, same reproductive system, same brain( with a little more wattage) as most all mammals and all primates. So, no, Faith and reason are not complementary. Faith( or rather religion) seeks to overpower reason to it’s own ends.

          • Jon Fermin

            let’s not play strawmen here. this is a Catholic blog, not a fundamentalist blog. that means claiming we all adhere to a literalist interpretation of Genesis and reject evolution does not work. that being said. one can reasonably come to the conclusion that humanity is flawed and that apart from God impossible to perfect. second, humans are significantly different in their own reasoning capability to make one wonder, if indeed we do posses all the same organs, similar social structures and material, where does our own consciousness come into play? even in trying to answer this question you too express a kind of faith in assuming that reality is intelligible. whether you like to admit it or not, we all have our dogmas, Catholics have just learned to be more honest and embrace this fact.

          • Pofarmer

            The problem with “Dogma” is that it doesn’t change with evidence, or changes cery slowly. Catholics certainly have plenty of that.

          • Pofarmer

            “if indeed we do posses all the same organs, similar social structures
            and material, where does our own consciousness come into play?”

            Isn’t this just a God of the Gaps argument? We don’t fully understand something so??????

          • Romulus

            Reason says that there are non-physical realities, including some that pertain to the human person. (I have already mentioned free will). Non-physical realities cannot be subject to physical phenomena, including death and corruption.

            You perversely insist on characterizing free will in materialist terms — as fine a display of fundamentalism as any shoutin’ snake-handler ever displayed. Would you like to explain how a purely material universe — governed entirely by physical law — can change its mind, or have a mind to change in the first place? Can you seriously maintain that your posts on this thread are accidents — the deterministic response of quarks and neutrinos set in motion billions of years ago? And if that’s your opinion of yourself (whatever self is), can you explain why anyone should listen to you?

          • Pofarmer

            I would be interested to know what non-physical realities you are alluding to here.

            “Would you like to explain how a purely material universe — governed
            entirely by physical law — can change its mind, or have a mind to
            change in the first place?”

            I don’t think the universe has a mind to change, or did you mean something else?

            “Can you seriously maintain that your posts on this thread are accidents
            – the deterministic response of quarks and neutrinos set in motion
            billions of years ago?”

            I never said they were.

          • Romulus

            “I would be interested to know what non-physical realities you are alluding to here.”

            Then you need only read my earlier posts on this thread.

            “I don’t think the universe has a mind to change, or did you mean something else?”

            You and I are part of this universe, are we not? Especially you, as you believe this universe is all-there-is. Do you have the power to change your mind, or not? Are you able to make a decision for yourself? Do you even have a self, or is it all only an illusion, pre-determined entirely by physical elements following physical laws?

          • JohnnyVoxx

            Oh you mean like Leah Libresco’s discovery of the “moral law” which all cultures and philosophies have wrestled with and which the Catholic Faith outlines, based on the Gospel, in such a way that its truth based on observation is inescapable. lol. Try again, Pofarmer. Dig deeper.

          • Pofarmer

            I’ve dug pretty deep in the well. The Catholic idea of morality and “natural law” fundamentally misunderstands us as humans. It’s not only useless, it’s damaging.

          • Romulus

            I’ll grant you that it can be inconvenient, but “useless”? How do you grapple with the mystery of the human person while excluding faith?

          • Pofarmer

            What’s there to grapple with? We are our brains. We are our biology.

          • Romulus

            There are metaphysical phenomena that biology (or physics or chemistry) can’t explain, analyze, or otherwise speak to. Is free will a real thing? What about numbers? What about the past or future? What about self-sacrificing love? If these are real things, where are they, and of what are they made? If they don’t exist in any tangible, empirical sense, what does this imply about the reality of non-physical modes of existence?

          • Pofarmer

            “what does this imply about the reality of non-physical modes of existence?”

            Absolutely nothing. What it implies is that we are ignorant of some of the things that make us tick. Self sacrificing love? We can love other people. We can empathize with other people. Therefore some people choose to sacrifice something for the ones they love. Numbers? Humans invented a way to make sense of the world around us. Free will? Actually, Science DOES speak to that. Very good episode of “Through the Wormhole” on free will. Past or future? These are concepts. None of these need be physical things, yet they are, in a way, they exist in the electrical signals inside our brain.

          • Jon Fermin

            Here’s a few rational questions. if man is merely a composite of material substance which is subject to willed alteration, where is the mind, or free will for that matter? if we understand morality to be subjective, what logical reason do we have to object to evil that is done? is logical positivism not a self contradictory premise? As a former atheist these are a few questions I’ve had to work through and have found the materialist system of thought thoroughly inadequate for addressing philosophically these very same questions. once atheism is stripped from the trappings of whatever culture it attached itself to, it’s constancy shrinks. even the scientific method makes no sense in a materialistic worldview because in a world where there is only the physical and no metaphysic, the scientific method (itself a metaphysic) fails as an axiom. because of this one has to consider philosophically the elegance with which the existence of God as Aquinas understood it resolves the infinite recursion paradox that makes objective morality possible, rationally allows for the existence of free will and finds harmony between faith and reason. If anything I have found it has been since my return to the Church with the resources of Her theologians and philosophers, my ability to reason and think critically have only improved because there is actual ground for reason to work from.

          • Pofarmer

            “where is the mind, or free will for that matter?”

            Does a dog have free will? A cat? Our mind is the electrical impulses that exist in our brain and nervous system. We can watch parts of the brain “light up” when we are performing various tasks, thinking about various things, or having emotional responses.

            “if we understand morality to be subjective, what logical reason do we have to object to evil that is done?”

            There is an evolutionary part to it, and a social part to it. It is an evolutionary adaptation to live in groups, either large or small. People with certain traits perform better in groups. The people with negative traits were weeded out. Nearly every species on earth exhibits very similar behaviors in this regard. We are taught right and wrong, good and evil, from the time we are very small in each of our societies. The concept of what is right and what is wrong varies from society to society and group to group. What is moral to a Hindu isn’t moral to a Muslim, etc, etc. Morality also changes over time. What was moral 5000, 2000, or 200 years ago, is not moral today. Objective morality fails.

            Science isn’t a metaphysic. Science and the scientific method are human concepts, ways of understanding our world. The idea that science exists on some “plane” separate from us is absurd. Aquinas wasted what could have been a brilliant career trying to consolidate God with science. How much more could he have accomplished if he had just concentrated on discovery, instead of rationalization? What a waste of a great intellect.

            “my ability to reason and think critically have only improved because there is actual ground for reason to work from.”

            No, you’ve put yourself in a box conveniently provided by the Church.

          • Jon Fermin

            “Our mind is the electrical impulses that exist in our brain and nervous system.”

            if the mind is nothing more than electrical impulse that means strictly speaking you have no free will.
            Also if you want to consider yourself upon taking the scientific tack, its best you should know that the consensus among psychologists and neuroscientists is that the mind is not the same thing as the brain, that in fact neuroscience has a perennial problem in trying to locate the mind. you take it upon faith guided by reason which says the mind is the brain based on body chemistry, though you cannot prove it. but the philosophical consequences of that means that will is purely deterministic. by that measure why should you feel in yourself a compelling interest to come here, post messages and respond? did you do so freely because you have a topic for which you feel very strong about simply on a chemical level or a philosophical one? have you ever changed your mind, or made a blind decision? even been held responsible for your actions? then you have exercised free will, an outcome which is impossible in your hypothesis. therefore I too will make a decision in faith also guided by reason. mankind has a free will (which requires a non material mind) and a brain which science has mapped back to front and cannot locate the mind at best they can say the brain responds to the mind in predictive ways. if both of these premises are true, then it is reasonable to conclude that the mind is not the brain and is a non-material reality. if your premise is true why should you bother to write here and attempt to persuade us otherwise? we would be unable to make a free choice for atheism and in a deterministic reality it should not make a difference either.

            “Objective morality fails.”

            good luck with that. God (yes Him) forbid should a burglar come and steal all your possessions, the best thing you can tell the cops is “I don’t like that the burglar came and took my stuff” but you certainly couldn’t call it wrong. neither could you consider murder, rape, torture, pedophilia, zoophilia, enslavement or infanticide wrong by any measure other than you personally do not like it. there is no reasonable recourse, only emotion and coercive force of will (which is funny since a material mind would make even coercive force of will ineffective) I remember once a quote from Mussolini, it goes as such:

            “Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and those who claim to be the bearers of objective immortal truth … then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity… From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

            if morality is subjective, then what real logical recourse do we have to powerful tyrants who aim to use their will to overpower the will of others?

            “Science isn’t a metaphysic. Science and the scientific method are human concepts, ways of understanding our world. ”

            what is a human concept other than a metaphysical manifestation of our own agency as human beings? the scientific method yes is one such metaphysical tool begotten by man (by the franciscan friar roger bacon specifically). but the scientific method is not itself intelligibility, it is the systematic methodology by which we come to rational conclusions based on the premise that reality is intelligible. everything I’ve just said from free will to meta ethic to intelligibility exists metaphysically. there is no way for science to come to any conclusions about any of this, and the conclusions brought about by materialists who deny the reality of metaphysics are all the more absurd because their own process for rationalizing such a conclusion is a metaphysic. the entire thing is a self defeating hypothesis. because of that, what you call a box is in reality a platform, from which to stand. the materialist has their feet planted firmly in midair and when they cut themselves off from the metaphysic base from which they reject, they have no base by which to stand from. all that would remain is the simulacrum of reason.

          • Pofarmer

            Combining circular reasoning with pressupositonalism certainly makes for an entertaining argument.

          • Jon Fermin

            rather than sit there and snark, explain your response and defend your position.

          • Pofarmer

            I will later, too busy at the moment. Question still stands though, what about consciosuness in other species? Dogs, cats, cattle, horses, primates? They all exhibit some level of cognition and emotion.

          • Jon Fermin

            For animals consciousness exists at the level of instinct and emotion. Human consciousness exists at the level of abstract reasoning (like for example the ability to think about thinking) and also possessing instinct. because of this, human consciousness is not the same as animal consciousness, though they share some characteristics. saying this in no way invalidates my previous statements.

          • Pofarmer

            To varying degrees animals can learn behaviors, solve puzzles, display affection or rejection, etc. I’m just trying to figure out why our consciousness has to be described in various abstract metaphysical terms when the simple answer is that our intelligence is more highly evolved for things like abstract reasoning than many of the other animals with whom we share DNA. The similarities ars probably greated than the difference. The great advantage that humans have is that we can pass on complicated information by language ( as do many animals to some degree) but also by written language, which allows us to share information over time and distance. And this ability has been used and refined with time. Homo sapiens sapiens hasn’t always had the capabilities we have now. The written language has given us enormous advantage. Why it’s necessary to overcomplicate things with metaphysical woo is beyond me. Occhams razor applies.

          • Jon Fermin

            Occam’s razor actually is more in favor of the existence of metaphysical and physical reality than a purely material reality. for one thing in a purely material reality occam’s razor can’t exist, it itself being a metaphysical concept. purely material and deterministic systems may be simpler systems, this is true in a sense in that it makes very little explicit assumptions. but the problem is that it makes many implicit assumptions that come with it’s corollaries that are unsustainable. for example, let’s compare.

            a metaphysical/physical reality reasons that free will can exist because free will as a metaphysical does not have a necessarily causal relationship to physical being. materialism makes an assumption if free will exists, it just works. if it were purely physical in origin it would cease to be truly free, therefore it is assumed it works though no rationality can be provided for it’s existence.

            though the metaphysical/physical proposition is more complex in it’s explicit assumptions, it is a system with consistency leaving less room for implicit assumptions. trying to reconcile metaphysical phenomenon like free will, meta ethics, ontology, or even intelligibility of reason within a purely physical system is the philosophical equivalent of saying “just because”. sure it’s a simple explanation, but one with many assumptions that would fail the occam’s razor test.

          • Pofarmer

            You are confusing things with concepts, which I assume is your point. William of Ockham formulated Ockhams razor in his brain. Without him, that specific formulation does not exist. He told others of the concept, wrote it down, so that it was transferred to other to paper, where the concept would be saved, where it could be understood and conceptualized by other brains. Without the brain, there is no concept. It’s not metaphysical, it is an abstract construct physically maintained and understood. Then you use the non sequiter of “just because” since you just wrote an extremely verbose post which amounted to “Goddidit”. So I ask. When my dog dreams, is he partaking in the metaphysical?

          • Jon Fermin

            Pofarmer, even if william of Ockham did not exist, his razor would in a manner of speaking exist, albeit perhaps under another name or undiscovered. the truths which intelligibly lead to its discovery of these other truths are universals. take for example the axioms of Aristotles’ laws of thought. the first one being the law of identity or “A is A”. even if this concept was never formulated or written down, it is a self evident concept. reason could not function if “A” and “not A” were simultaneously true statements. If aristotle never discovered this concept someone else could’ve, likewise Occam’s razor just as easily been called something like Joe Bob’s razor named for Joe Bob of Arkansas.

            the mind by utilization of the brain connects the dots which in turn discovers these truths, but it does not create them. because such universals exist, science is also possible. This is where William of Occam got things mixed up in nominalism, if we as William of Occam did deny universals, reality would be subjective to the point of unintelligibility. hence, why the concept of occam’s razor is as it is, it was formalized in such a way as to try and ferret out which set of conceptual particulars have more probability of truth than others. while Occam’s razor is a tool that is useful for estimating the likelihood of whether a given hypothesis is true, it has no way in itself of determining if it is true.

            now it may sound like im shooting myself in the foot since in the last post i wrote I said that Occam’s razor as a tool favors a metaphysical/physical reality, but I’m not. as I said before Occam’s razor needs a rational reality to have any practical use. the principle of the razor works better in a reality with these rational universals that it did in William’s own nominalism. hence why one can accept the razor and reject the nominalistic philosophy which led to it’s discovery.

            I brought up the paradox of how a purely material and deterministic reality can consciously accept free will but cannot rationally explain it. My question to you is how can a materialist reconcile this paradox, and you have chosen instead to ignore the question entirely. I’d like to know what you think of this paradox and whether you think it is reconcilable, and how.

            P.S. whether your dog dreams or is awake his or her very act of being participates in the metaphysical, albeit unconsciously. He or she participates in the universal of “dogness”, or the ontological state of being a dog.

          • Pofarmer

            “the mind by utilization of the brain connects the dots which in turn
            discovers these truths, but it does not create them. because such
            universals exist, science is also possible”

            But these “truths” are not independent. Without the physical world, these “proofs” would not exist, and besides, what we consider a “truth” Gravity for instance, might be understood completely differently by a different intelligence, and in fact, it is understood differently now, thanks to General Relativity, than how it was initially understood. What we conceive of as “truths” or “laws” are often only approximations which allow us to understand and predict the physical world in which we live and act. If not for the physical world, the concept of the metaphysical would be pointless.

            “brought up the paradox of how a purely material and deterministic
            reality can consciously accept free will but cannot rationally explain
            it. My question to you is how can a materialist reconcile this paradox,
            and you have chosen instead to ignore the question entirely. I’d like to
            know what you think of this paradox and whether you think it is
            reconcilable, and how.”

            I’ll admit that I’m not entirely familiar with this paradox, but don’t see how it is anything but pointless. Do we have purely free will? Well, obviously not. We don’t get to choose where we’re born, who we’re born to, what religion or wealth, we are born into, etc,etc. Even in day to day life, our behavior is not inherently “free” as we have to meet the demands of our bodies needing food, interacting with other humans and animals, etc, etc. Does this mean that we don’t have our own thoughts and control our own actions? Or that our fate is determined before we are even born? No. It just means that we, as sentient humans, operate within the reality we find ourselves.

          • Jon Fermin

            “But these “truths” are not independent. Without the physical world, these “proofs” would not exist”

            if we go back to the existence of free will, we must consider the existence therefore of non material truths. if a non material truth exists, then by definition it exists independently of a material world for it to exist in. let’s assume for the sake of argument a completely non-material world (however one can imagine it). this is a world composed of logic and reason. there are things which exist and things that do not exist in this world. for example rocks and trees do not exist, but truth exists, will exists, etc. and though one in such a world lacks material sensation, one does have the ability to use the intellect to explore this world (though purely on an intellectual level) universal truths, like the law of identity, act as signposts of intelligibility in helping to reason what is and what is not.

            let’s then apply this to your gravity example. Gravity as we know it is not a universal truth. Gravity as an extant force in the universe is. what do I mean when I say this? our understanding of gravity is a reflection of our intellect exploring the (universal) gravity. when new knowledge of gravity is discovered it does not will a new gravity into being, but rather it reveals more of the universal gravity into our understanding. if it were the other way around, it would violate logical sense. it is reality that shapes understanding, our understanding contextualizes reality but is not reality itself.

            “Do we have purely free will? Well, obviously not. We don’t get to choose where we’re born, who we’re born to, what religion or wealth, we are born into, etc,etc. ”

            you are not using the word will here correctly. when you use will, what you mean here is agency. Agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity) to act in a world. A being may have free will but not free agency (I will to have tacos for lunch, but I don’t have any money and therefore lack the agency to buy them.) to will means to choose, to have agency is the capacity to act on that choice.

            I’ll repeat the question. if our mind is our brain then it is purely material and also deterministic (being the result entirely of deterministically knowable reactions to stimuli, chemical reactions etc.) therefore in a material universe free will, the ability to change one’s mind is an illusion making free will untrue. agency has nothing to do with it. my question is in a materialist world, if we freely choose to update our intellect to new revelations in science, do we do so because we will to or because we solely are chemically aligned at that moment to do so? if it is the former, how is this possible in a purely material universe, if it is the latter, was it really a free choice? this paradox though seemingly pointless to you, is a rather important philosophical matter and touches on I think the crux of the problem in materialism. Materialism has no way to account for free decisions in the intellect making science or intelligibility itself less a discipline of the mind, and more a grand and complex chain of chemical reactions. it’s the kind of hypothesis of loaded assumptions that would make William of Occam roll over in his grave, for this reason it should be treated as improbable.

          • Pofarmer

            Yet another God of the Gaps. What is your evidence that our mind and consciousness resides somewhere other than within the chemical and electrical reactions of our nervous system?

          • Jon Fermin

            I’ve offered philosophical evidence thus far. you can’t necessarily offer physical evidence for a metaphysical, if that is what you are asking for. where is your evidence that it is, and how does the brain/mind in light of such a position resolve the free will paradox? by the way this is not a God of the gaps argument since by itself it is not an argument for God, merely a demonstration that intelligibility and universals are a prerequisite for scientific understanding. logically following from that is the fact that our observations do not change what exists, but widens our understanding of that which exists. namely our existence precedes our perception of existence. because this statement makes no theological claim it cannot be considered a god of the gaps argument.

          • Pofarmer

            So, have you empiracally tested your philosophical evidence?

          • Jon Fermin

            I’ll get around to doing that after you empirically verify that all true statements are necessarily empirically verifiable.

          • Pofarmer

            Thank you for demonstrating why philosophy is largely useless to modern science.

          • Jon Fermin

            useless how? you called me a presuppositionalist, but realize that what I have been saying here all along is that the logical positivism that modern scientists adhere to have been making a ton of presuppositions their own philosophy has no explanation for:

            1. all useful facts are empirically verifiable
            (is this fact empirically verifiable?)

            2. uniformity of nature, and causality
            (It cannot be demonstrated empirically why nature and causality are preserved, this has been attempted to be resolved by the many worlds theory but this presents it’s own problem)

            3.many worlds theory
            (many worlds theory is itself a presupposition, since these many worlds are by definition unobservable and empirically unprovable and thus according to logical positivism’s own tenets, useless. secondly occam’s razor would favor a philosophical realist’s proposition that a single world of uniform nature and and causality and a humble incomplete understanding of quantum mechanics is far more probable than the many worlds theory)

            these are just a few places where the logical positivist will claim metaphysics dead and useless but rest on “axioms” that are not axioms at all. for one thing they are not self evident, and secondly they are rejected by the rules of their philosophical system. rather than saying metaphysics is useless to modern science consider the sheer hubris of the logical positivist system when it makes that statement while resting it’s entire understanding of physics on metaphysical universals!

          • Pofarmer

            Modern scientists are not making presuppositions, they have made conclusions based on evidence. I know this is the hot new buzzphrase with apologetics, but it’s fundamentally dishonest. Science is entirely open to the possibility of supernatural causes, it’s just never, ya know, found any, and when someone has claimed they have, invariably they haven’t. The multiverse theory is not a presuposition, it is the result of mathematical models explaining observed phoenomenan. Sean Carrol has good explanations of multiverse theory, and why it may or may not be correct at his blog.

          • Jon Fermin

            if you are saying scientists make no logical presuppositions, after I have already at great length discussed the presupposition of intelligibility (among others) and the self refuting nature of logical positivism, then I really don’t know what else to say. there is no reasoning with such a position. it’s insisting for the sake of insisting. we’ll have to agree to disagree.

          • Pofarmer

            Science started out looking for God in Nature. That was kind of Aquinas whole bit. Unfortunately when they looked , they just kept finding nature, to the point whete they no longer expect the supernatural, they expect natural explanation. To my understanding, that is methodological naturalism. Could be mistaken. Yes, you discussed he presupposition of intelligibilty, and the idea, itself, is maybe not unintelligible, but unnecesary. That natural objects behave by naural laws seems elementary. Things will operate whether we understand them or not. To say that something must be understood by some intelligence to exist seems to me, quite frankly, absurd. And this is the problem, once again, with philosophy. By setting the correct priors, you can philosophically prove just about anything. When I asj about emperical proof, you then come up with another riddle about at. Keep throwing up enough smokescreen and clouding the issues with philosophical metaphysical mumbo jumbomand I’m sure you can convince yourself of just about anything, and not learn anything useful in the process, because without the addition of inductive and deductive reasoning, aka science, philosophy is pretty much useless. Sorry, just the way I see it. Oh, and something like high 70% of philosophers are Atheists, so I can’t be too far on the wrong track.

          • Jon Fermin

            the demarcation line between useful statements and useless statements being drawn at empiricism is not only arbitrary but also has been proven self refuting. not empirically proven, but analytically proven. the statement “all things that are true and useful are empirically provable” is itself empirically and mathematically unprovable. now, you may disagree about any other positions I may have after that premise has been set, I mean every time I discuss this point this is what you seem to do rather than discuss this problem. fine, that is a whole other discussion, but before that discussion can be had, we must get past this faulty premise of logical positivism. if you can offer proof to the contrary with regards to your logical positivist stance, then offer it, otherwise if we do continue this conversation it will be with the explicit presumption that logical positivism is false.

          • Pofarmer

            “good luck with that. God (yes Him) forbid should a burglar come and
            steal all your possessions, the best thing you can tell the cops is “I
            don’t like that the burglar came and took my stuff” but you certainly
            couldn’t call it wrong. neither could you consider murder, rape,
            torture, pedophilia, zoophilia, enslavement or infanticide wrong by any
            measure other than you personally do not like it. there is no reasonable
            recourse, only emotion and coercive force of will (which is funny since
            a material mind would make even coercive force of will ineffective) I
            remember once a quote from Mussolini, it goes as such:”

            How many bad examples can you come up with? In modern western society we consider all of these things wrong, but rape, murder, torture, pedophilia, enslavement, and infanticide are all condoned or commanded in the Bible, of all things. What would have been immoral 2000 or 4000 years ago is not the same today.

            The problem here with metaphysics, and maybe we are just on different terms, is that the idea that metaphysics exists without a human mind to create it, is itself, unprovable. I think where we get into trouble, is where we try to overlap ideas of metaphysics, created by human minds, with ideas of things like the divine. All of the things you listed are products of human intellect, passed down. So does it follow that the ideas of the metaphysical divine and alternate metaphysical realities are also a product of the human mind?

          • Jon Fermin

            I am not sure what you mean when you say metaphysical divine, however if you mean God, here ontologically defined existing as eternal good and eternal truth, then God by definition would have pre-existed human minds and would have had to exist continually as truth in order for us to be able to conceive any of His metaphysical attributes. we observe an intelligible reality which predates us therefore we must conclude this intelligibility, or truth predates us. empirically, humanity is not eternal, one because we die of old age, and two because we have not existed infinitely into the past. if intelligibility does exist it must have existed before us eternally and if so it also means an eternal intellect, or God.

          • Pofarmer

            I knew you were a presuppositionalist. Well played. Establish that things such as thoughts can exist outside of human experience(they can’t) and then construct that since metaphysical constructs exist which describe the interaction between physical objects, that metaphysical only objects must exist. Only, you haven’t shown that metaphysical only objects can exist, sure, philosophically it may be possible, but is it actual? I sould say no, amnd. Would suggest you seek out an astrophysocist like Sean Carroll or Laurence Kraus or Neil Degrasse Tyson to explain why your construct isn’t necesary, useful, or correct. One more thing though. just because something might be intelligible to us, doesn’t mean that an intelligence had to precede us to understand it first. That is a leap of logic with no goundong in actual, ya know, science. This might have been persuasive philosophy in the 13th century.

          • Jon Fermin

            Pofarmer if you want to disprove that thoughts can exist outside of human experience then why stop there? why not go all the way into solipsism? if truth is a matter of personal experience why can I not then be a sophisticated robot who’s managed to pass the turing test? I assure you I am a flesh and blood human being, but really how would you know? my existence and intelligibility predates your own personal experience of it, just as the intelligibility of the world predates our own observation of it. and of our ancestors. do we deny the insights of our ancestors because we have no personal experience with the subject of their experience? and this chain goes back to the dawn of humanity itself before human beings were, intelligible reality was. now if you want to get theological with that and say I am a presuppositionalist for making that claim, I was trying to clarify what you meant by metaphysical divine. I know full well and admit that philosophy can pull as far as deism. and I make no assumptions otherwise, but that does not mean I don’t appreciate the elegance with which Aquinas dovetails his theology so well into his philosophy. for all intents and purposes consider this a stand for philosophical realism and nothing more.

            now a few questions on metaphysical objects…
            do you love your mother? do you have a sense of justice? is anything objectively true? these statements are examples of metaphysical-only “objects” love, justice and truth cannot be empirically proven, but they are philosophical realities and no less real because they are metaphysical. as to your suggested reading, the problem with modern astrophysicists is for what talent someone like a Neil Degrasse Tyson offers in his field of physics, their adherence to logical positivism makes them poor philosophers. just because a philosophy is old does not make it unsound. granted you claim my view is out of date, and this is your opinion, but it is still miles above more valid than logical positivism.The logical positivism that emerged out of the vienna circle in 1931 was stillborn on arrival, failing even to pass it’s own test. it is widely considered a failure of philosophy that major philosophers wouldn’t accept. asking Neil Degrasse Tyson to teach philosophy when he should be teaching physics is like asking my mechanic to act as my dentist. it’s just asking for trouble.

            now once more, how does a materialist reality resolve that free will paradox or prove the intelligibility that science works by?

          • Pofarmer

            The chance of you and I solving the free will paradiox here is slim. I already gave my answer. I understand Daniel Dennet has a new book either out or coming out on it.

            Love, justice, and truth, once again, describes the interaction between physical entities. We can even describe the physical mechanisms by which live developes. Animals have a sense of juatice, to a degree. Did you know that if a dog is doing a task for no treat, and sees another dog doing the same task for a treat, some percentage of dogs will stop doing the task until they get a treat as well?

  • http://xcontra.wordpress.com X Contra

    Hilarious: “Do not lie on the floor.”
    Only in a Catholic church house!! :D

  • jbeal48

    I am a cradle Catholic and visit the Blessed Sacrament many times a week.
    We are forever blessed that we can spend time with Jesus who is truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. God Bless You!!

  • Morrie Chamberlain

    Guest, Augustine – I am a cradle Catholic who loves the Church and I spent a lot of time studying and praying. I pray a lot for the conversion of atheists but should probably pray for cradle Catholics as much. It really is the duty of parents to teach the faith but also live it. Be patient with cradle Catholics and help where you can to build up their faith.

  • irena mangone

    Just got the book from amazon for my kindle. Look forward to a good read and a renewal in my own life

  • http://www.dariasockey.blogspot.com/ Daria

    Wonderful book. I read it a week or so ago. As you say it’s different to see that more intuitive approach rather than the intellectual journey of the protestant ministers who convert.

  • johnnyc

    I am a life long Catholic but I always enjoy reading of others who have come to know the Truth of Jesus Christ and the Church He founded, the Catholic Church. Of them all (of the one’s I have read) I enjoyed David Currie’s book Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic the most. I look forward to reading this new one. Some of these comments here from converts and reverts are kinda silly with the “I’m a better Catholic than you are’ taunts against life long Catholics. If anything save it for the liberals/progressives who are basically protestants.

  • D

    Why was lying on the floor forbidden?

    • Jhawk77

      Probably for safety reasons, tripping, etc. The “proper” position to honor Jesus’ presence would be to lie prone in front of him, but, in its wisdom, the church has chosen genuflection instead, an ancient form of showing respect. During an ordination, those being ordained, lie prostrate before the altar.

  • alexsvd

    I want to buy these books but how? Im in congo africa. Is it possible for me to join a book club that will send me books? How much should I pay? Thanks! @alex

    • kathyschiffer

      I’ve included links to Amazon for all of the books I’ve listed. Follow the link–I’m pretty sure Amazon can sell the books for shipment overseas, as well as domestically.

      • alexsvd

        I tried opening an amazon account but unfortunately we do not have credit cards here… Is it possible to pay amazon through western union? Thnx.

        • kathyschiffer

          I’m sorry, I have no idea. This book is gaining popularity–Don’t you have a local Catholic bookstore where you could order it? It’s published by Loyola Press.

  • kelso

    Profarmer, do not bother to read any apologetical books. Do what you will. By so doing, by making a choice based on ideas, not physical things, you are exercising your “will.” The soul of man has the spiritual powers of intellect and will. That is obvious and needs no explanation. It is self-evident. Animals do not have these powers because their principle of life (soul) is not spiritual; it is tied to matter and cannot transcend the material. If it could, animals would be making use of the internet and writing comments in blogs. Maybe even make a symphony or write a poem or something other than doing the same instinctive things they have always done. Parrots have fine vocal organs, but all they ever do is repeat what they hear a thinker speak.

  • Swami Joy

    And why would there be a sign about NOT lying on the floor in surrender to the Father? If I were Catholic and I felt the need–that’s what I would do–be on my face before the Lord!

    • BuckeyePhysicist

      I’ve done that in the Blessed Sacrament chapel before. I wanted to experience just a small inkling of what Pope St. John Paul II’s Eucharistic devotion must have been like. I lay face down in front of Jesus.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X