Carl Olson on Lumen Fidei

This is really prophetic:

If asked what is the opposite of faith, most people will respond,“Disbelief” or “skepticism” or even “atheism”. But Pope Francis explains that what really opposes faith, in the end, is idolatry. We either seek God or we seek, knowingly or otherwise, to replace God with false gods. History certainly bears this out, as do our own struggles with temptation and sin. Idolatry, the pope explains, “is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another.”But faith “consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call. Herein lies the paradox: by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.”

Calling Elizabeth Scalia!

There is no such thing as an atheist.  There are just people who have chosen to worship some creature who is no God.  Evangelical atheists are just people who make excessive noise about the fact that they dislike the God of Abraham.  But they all worship something since humans are creatures no more able to refuse to worship than they are able to refuse to seek their happiness. And indeed, the search for the latter is usually profoundly bound up with the offering of the former.

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  • Martin


    ‘Superstition is the bedfellow of scepticism’ –

    Fulton Sheen.

    You’re right, from the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II Stupor Mundi to Napoleon III, history is littered with examples of superstitious sceptics. The way to atheistic enlightenment is found by avoiding the cracks in the pavement.

    As ever, may God bless you, your family and your work.

  • Noah Nehm

    The opposite of faith is not skepticism but idolatry. Precisely. Have you noticed that the opposite of the virtues is not always what the dictionary would define? I’ve often said that the opposite of love is not hatred, but rather, pride, and it seems like that opposite of hope is not despair, but acedia.

  • A Philosopher


    You’ve sounded this theme a few times, and I’d really like to understand what you mean by it. What, in particular, do you mean by “worship” that makes the claim that everyone worships something plausible? Not, I take it, anything like CCC 2097:

    “To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the “nothingness of the creature” who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name. The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.”

    There is no object or entity to which I have that attitude, and I certainly don’t see any plausible evidence or argument that everyone must have that attitude toward something.

    So maybe you mean something less than that? If you make it something much less, such as “regard as important”, then more or less I agree. (I guess there could be a total practical nihilism, who really did regard nothing as important. But it’s pretty psychologically implausible.) But then I don’t see why I should particularly care about the observation. And I don’t see why you should think that it’s bad to worship other than God. (I’m assuming, from the idolatry gestures, that you do.) Presumably pretty much everyone does and should “worship” much of the non-divine in this sense.

    So where’s the room for an interesting sense of worship here? Maybe by “worship” you mean “regard as the most important thing”? But then I deny your claim again — I don’t regard any one thing as the most important thing, and I don’t see that there’s any argument or evidence that I do. (In particular, if value is not a linear ordering — which I think it trivially isn’t, given the incommensurable dignities of persons — then there needn’t be, and typically won’t be, a maximum. Even given linearity, without finiteness you’re not easily going to get a maximum.)

    Anyway, you seem to think you’ve got some important criticism of atheism here, but it’s really completely obscure to me. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

    • chezami

      Everyone places themselves at the disposal of some perceived highest good which they believe will give them happiness.

      • A Philosopher

        So that sounds like my final option. As I said, I don’t see any reason to accept it, because I don’t see any reason why I have to believe in a highest value (let alone think that pursuit/achievement of that value will bring me happiness). Is there some reason I’m missing? (In any case, thanks for the clarification.)

  • 42Oolon

    How would you distinguish worshipping, from conduct that is not worshipping?