Atheist Former Fundies

I have spent some time this afternoon reading the combox for Leah Libresco’s last post for the atheist portal.

The comments from the atheists are very interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it is amazing how many of the commenters speak rather aggressively about religion being “irrational”. We must believe that this is their honest and sincere perception of religion. They must have got this impression from their experience of religion, and therefore we must blame the Christians who have preached and followed a religion that is indeed irrational, ignorant and stupid. While I admit that there are plenty of poorly educated Catholics, the Protestant fundamentalists have a lot to answer for here.

Not only are too many of them uneducated and irrational in their approach, but they intentionally adopt a certain anti-rationalism and anti intellectualism. When I was at Bob Jones University I can remember how the “preacher boys” the guys who were training to be Baptist preachers would often assume a Southern country accent when they got into the pulpit. There was a certain country preacher style they would put on. They deliberately adopted this country style and an aggressively anti intellectual posture to go with it.

The second impression from reading the atheist comments is how much of their understanding of Christianity and the Christian God is determined by Sunday school and revivalist fundamentalism. They think it is real smart to ask how kangaroos got on Noah’s ark or to throw stones at a “loving God who would torture somebody forever in hell.” Sadly, they never seem to have experienced any form of Christianity which actually proposes intelligent answers to such Sunday School questions.

The third thing I notice about this sort of atheist is that they are very angry and aggressive. I suspect they have been wounded by their fundamentalist upbringing or the fundamentalist culture in America. They have seen through Christianity if that is what Christianity is, and they can’t help lashing out. I understand.

The saddest problem with atheists of this sort is that along with the stupid fundamentalism they were given, and the ignorant version of Christianity they were taught, they were also taught that Catholics were, among all other religions, the very worst. Their ignorance of intelligent and articulate Catholicism is complete. What they do know about Catholicism is made up of the lies, half truths, scandals and foolishness they have picked up first from their fundamentalist background and second from the anti Catholic propaganda in the academy and thirdly in the prevailing anti Catholic propaganda in contemporary media, and fourthly from bad Catholics.

For them to actually stop and discover the true Catholicism–an ancient religion that is compassionate, humane, intelligent, beautiful, strong and true–a religion that scales the heights of human achievement and deals with the depths of human depravity–a religion that is at once poetic and prosaic, magnificent and humble, glorious and simple, hilarious and tragic, a religion that is both noble and poor, majestic and plain, wise and innocent–a religion that offers the complexity of the worlds great philosophers and the simplicity of the unlettered–all bundled up in a faith that encompasses all cultures, races and nations–the old and the young, the poor and the rich, the outcasts and the elite…

For them to stop and see such a Catholicism–such a Christianity.

It seems impossible–except for the miracle of grace.

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  • Mr. Patton

    …” Catholicism is made up of the lies, half truths, scandals and foolishness “…

    That is how atheist see Catholicism.

  • dboncan

    Hi Father, In the Philippines the growing atheist movement (I say growing only because they are noisier) are mostly made up of former Catholics, college-age and usually from families with “father” issues. The amusing thing is that they always attack a caricature of what they think Christianity is. You are right, they attack the Lorraine Boettner type of Catholicism. it is also funny that when they preach against religion, they target the Catholic Church all the time. I have started complaining that they are not “equal opportunity aggressors” and have since tried to elicit their views on Islam and other faiths but they are just too cowardly to even do that.

  • dboncan

    …exactly what Fr. L said, a country style, fundamentalist view of Catholicism

  • Mark H.

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Father. There is so much anger in some of the combox discussions, and a lot of it seems to stem from a misunderstanding of true Catholic teaching. It’s hard to even discuss issues because misinformation about Catholicism is so accepted in large segments of society.

  • Rick DeLano

    The fundamentalists do enjoy the advantage of taking the Bible seriously, as opposed to many Catholics who consider it to be essentially a collection of ancient Semitic myths, and blithely to be reinterpreted as the ephemeral consensus of the scientific period dictates.

  • Lori Romes

    I think everyone is angry and aggressive these days, especially the gay community and athiests…how much of it is only because sin is sin and they don’t want to deal with that! How many people have said lately, they are not done sinning yet? I have heard that alot! Like they are assured of a right time to get it right?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    The problem is not that the fundamentalists take the Bible seriously, but that they do not take any other intellectual disciplines seriously.

  • Rufus Pinochle

    That is a museum-quality specimen of inductive fallacy right there, Padre.

  • Mr. Patton

    I am not aware of any colleagues being angry but concerned that this faith isn’t properly tempered with the facts of this day and age.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    It is okay to use generalizations to make a point. If the generalization is so broad as to be obvious (as this one is) then it is recognized as a rhetorical device.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Can you give me an example of intelligent and intelligible Christianity which is not tempered with the facts of this day and age?

  • Scott W

    But how valuable are intellectual disciplines that do not take seriously the enormous causal impact of grace and demonic activity (through framing our beliefs and desires)? If orthodox Catholics pursue such disciplines through the eyes of faith then we DO sound crazy to an atheist, and if we don’t, then our analyses are partial/incomplete and when we die we will view our secular academic work as worthless dust. Athanasius’ “Life of St. Anthony” is wildly improbable (to put it mildly) to an atheist (and most catholics today), but I would defend every line. I remember reading Aquinas and Augustine during my doctoral studies at UMichigan, and we ignored the supernatural and tried to salvage what we could from our secular point of view. But faithful Catholic knows by grace that the real action is in the realm of the supernatural. The atheist cannot accept this, and they actually seem more reasonable–which is why there are so few Catholics in the West who are fully orthodox and at home in every century of the Church.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Thank you, Father, for an excellent post. My local Catholic community is currently struggling with miss-informed Catholics who are die-hard creationists. This is precisely the kind of ignorant, fundamentalist, trailer-park protestantism that encourages the derision of the gentiles. Not at all representative of the thoroughly intellectually satisfying faith of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, von Balthasar, JPII, BXVI or a countless host of others.

  • Mr. Patton

    Father, I am not interested in an Ad Ignorantiam argument with you. I think that many of your angry “atheist” are your own that wish to agitate those in the more conservative power structure that is currently directing magisterial issues in your Church. You will find that the Catholic defined atheist, are concerned with this shift also but I seriously doubt there would be anger associated with such restrictions that neither bind nor direct us.

  • David Ferguson

    I am an evangelical Protestant and I find myself disagreeing with what Fr. Longnecker has written. I am also puzzled at what seems to be an angry tone. I also note that his bio mentions that he is former evangelical. I am sure he knows, there is a difference between ‘Protestantism’, ‘evangelicals’ and ‘fundamentalists’.
    For the record, I am happy to see the resurgence that the Catholic Church has experienced in the last couple of years. It is called the refining fire of persecution. The Church always prospers when it is persecuted. In fact, we are told, by Christ, to expect persecution. If we want to reflect with a bit of perspective, we would remember that most of recorded history describes poor environments for the free exercise of Christian faith.
    Now, I don’t disagree that there are Protestants who are poor testimonies of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there are several sources of bad attitudes towards the Christianity. The first and foremost is called ‘pride’: atheists are proud people who put their own intellect in opposition to divine truth. They are looking for reasons to reject God. They are lost. And there, but for the grace of God, go I. Atheists need our love and patience.
    Of course there are bad Protestants, and bad Catholics, (but not Marc Barnes, natch). Even worse are the neo-pagan zombie denominations who jettison core Christian doctrines in favor of political correct social issues. What conclusions should an atheist draw from the Archbishop of Islam-o-bury in England?
    Father Longnecker’s argument seems incomplete. He seems to be saying, “Atheists have a bad image of Christianity and Catholicism in particular. That bad image is the fault of the ‘Fundamentalists.’” So what then should Catholics do about that? Is he imply that Protestants have a responsibility to teach unbelievers about the truth of the Catholic Church? I doubt that the good Father wants that, even from those of us who consider ourselves to be brethren and allies of Catholicism.
    It seems to me that the solution is for orthodox Catholics to assertively reach out to unbelievers in love and obedience. They should not expect the thanks of a fallen world, though.
    p.s. If I were the cranky sort, I might frame an extended rant about American Catholics compromising their own testimonies with leftists when the topic was building houses for the poor or advocating for immigration amnesty. But Catholics are now energized since the wolves of the American left have shucked their sheepskins and are attacking base liberties such as free practice of religion. Question: if the energizing effect of Obamacare disappears, will Catholics forget the aggressive atheism and heavy hand of the American left?

  • Mitchell

    Very beautiful closing thoughts Father

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    If you read the post again you will see that I have also blamed ‘bad Catholics’ for the negative anti Catholic prejudice.

  • elcid

    It was the Protestants who separated reason (philosophy/rationalism) from faith, yet its the Catholic Church who gets pin with this, all one has to do is read Plato/St Augustine and Aristotle/St Thomas Aquinas.

    Not sure where your going with ” American Catholics compromising their own testimonies with leftists when the topic was building houses for the poor or advocating for immigration amnesty”, sounds like a straw man argument to me, i.e., Catholics like me who are conservatives don’t care about the poor..bah..bah, I’m not against helping people who need the help via our tax dollars but its one thing to subsidized someone on welfare as a livelihood versus helping someone get back on their feet and become independent and not have to depend on the government for everything…which I think is a form of slavery, I’m sure there are many conservatives like me who give to their church and charities to assist people…just my two cents!

  • Howard

    I think you paint with a bit too broad a brush. Most, possibly all, of the atheists I know are simply not honest, and their fundamental philosophy boils down to “But I wanna I wanna I wanna!” Only after the decision has been made to reject God — usually to achieve “freedom” from divine law — are rationalizations for this decision sought out.

  • Rick DeLano

    Father, there is a scientific consensus that the cosmos began in a Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, and that the Earth formed about 9 billion years later. Various evidences are advanced, none of which are the result of crucial scientific experiment, but instead are the result of interpretation of observations through a world view which *assumes* what it would be very fruitfully engaged, instead, in putting to the test.

    The PR of the modern scientific Goliath is impeccable, and this is not to be wondered at since the opposition of the Catholic Church essentially has disappeared (certainly a textbook example of abandoning the bastions if ever there was one).

    But science can prove none of its assertions concerning the origin, age, development, or even fundamental laws of the universe. “The universe is 99% composed of dark matter and dark energy”- except we can’t find the dark matter after fifty years of looking, and we don’t even have an hypothesis concerning the particle physics identity of the dark energy.

    So the theoretical bases of the modern scientific worldview are themselves in grave danger of self-refutation.

    The late Scholastics were justly criticized for arguing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

    How ironic, were the Copernican enterprise to end in an endless series of arcane speculations of the number of multiverses, none of which can ever, even in theory, ever become the object of scientific observation in the first place.

  • Rick DeLano

    Excuse me, Dan, I do not have the papal bull to hand declaring “die hard creationism” an heresy.

    Please do be assured that until you can locate and provide it, I consider it perfectly Catholic to hold to the apostolic unanimous consensus of Scripture concerning the (relatively young) age of the Earth.

    Of course I won’t ask you for scientific proof of the age of the Earth, since there isn’t any.

  • Joe K

    Respectfully request to reprint/reuse your article for a confirmation class. I am a catechist at my parish and will give you credit.

  • Brother Juniper

    The Catholic Church has the richest intellectual tradition known to humanity, and we are irrational. I have to believe that people just make up stuff because they don’t really know about much of anything.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    please email me about your request.

  • Lynn

    David Ferguson makes a good point. I came out of an evangelicalism which worked very hard to distinguish itself from fundamentalism, but was still very suspicious of the intellect, and very likely to throw the pride card around whenever thoughtful arguments came about. Oh, how many times I was called “unteachable” because I couldn’t just swallow things without explanation. Unfortunately, my first few encounters with Catholics did not challenge what I had been taught, namely that Catholics weren’t Christians. It was actually an Orthodox convert with a degree in Catholic theology who finally straightened me out on that one, and once I actually made it through the church doors to Mass, it was a done deal. I’ve definitely found that catechesis programs like Why Catholic?, while not rigorous enough to have satisfied me then, have still become a good jumping off point for people who have the desire to know more but don’t know where to start. My perception has been that atheists object to fundamentalism or evangelicalism, but it’s the fundamentalists and evanglicals who oppose Catholicism.

  • Malvenu

    Not quite sure what point you are making, but Father Robert Spitzer, SJ who is an absolute genius provides a very good description and analysis of the origins of the universe, philosophy and how through the Catholic Church God provides the us with life, meaning, love, everything, etc. here:

  • Julie

    I can’t help but think that a lack of empathy has an effect in there also. I read once that people as a whole have varying degrees of empathy, with a great number of people having not much empathy at all, and a smaller number having a LOT of empathy. Combine that with varying degrees of intelligence, with Christianity, and the picture is not pretty sometimes. But some of these pastors, they SHOULD absolutely be taken to task. I don’t believe that any pastor who calls himself Christian should grow and sustain his flock by using misinformation about other churches, either deliberately or not. I think too much of this is coming from the pulpit.

  • Malvenu

    The relatively young age of creation is not a credible position scientifically and comes out of a too literal interpretation of some of the Bible. Have a look at Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ’s, site. Very interesting, and includes information about how evolution is not inconsistent with the teaching of the Church (except the bit where God intervenes to breath life (spirit/a soul) into man – that is to say, the Church believes this but it goes beyond the (naturalistic) limits of evolutionary theory!!) His site is here:

    I think this would be a good site to direct atheists to, particularly those for whom Catholics are ll apparently dumb idiots needing a crutch to get through life. As Fr. Spitzer might say, it is highly, highly, highly improbable that anyone reading this site could go on to attack the Church as being anti-intellecual or contradicting science!

  • Malvenu

    not sure where the 11 came from, there probably 10 other dumb idiots in the Church, though ;)

  • George

    Rick, there might be scientific consensus now but when the theory was first put forth it was met with a great deal of skeptisism and derision. When Georges Lemaître published his theory science turned their back on it. Of course, being a priest, Fr. Lemaitre saw the hand of God in his theory. Science didn’t embrace the Big Bang until they had removed God from the equation, which of course leaves large gaps.

  • CW

    I agree with you and would like to add a point: I live in WI (’nuff said?) and we see the sinning (the obnoxious, rude and dangerous actions to those who were in disagreement with the protestors) at the Capitol (and many see this in other areas) as the whiny babies not liking the candy being taken away. Yet, they know that they must eat their broccoli and are fighting it tooth and nail. Only, they are more immature than children are and refuse to go with what they know is good: at the very least reading and trying to understand what the RC Church is really about. God gave us free will and they sure are following their own, but like the child who only eats candy, they could get an eternal tummy ache. May God help them!

  • Ismael

    “. Firstly, it is amazing how many of the commenters speak rather aggressively about religion being “irrational”. We must believe that this is their honest and sincere perception of religion. They must have got this impression from their experience of religion, and therefore we must blame the Christians ”

    ” I notice about this sort of atheist is that they are very angry and aggressive. I suspect they have been wounded by their fundamentalist upbringing or the fundamentalist culture in America. They have seen through Christianity if that is what Christianity is, and they can’t help lashing out. I understand.”

    I disagree, partially, father.

    1- Firstly I do agree that sometimes Christians are to blame and that often some Christians are anti-intellectual and anti-science, especially in the protestant fundamentalist movements. Also, the scandals, sometimes blown out of proportion by the media certainly do not help. These have hurt the image of the Church, hence causing many to lose trust.

    2- On the other hand many atheists today have little or no direct experience with Christianity. They are young people who probably never set foot in a church, due to their parents lack of religious education.

    3- Most of their information about religion comes from the media, especially shows that ridicule religion (e.g. Family Guy) or the internet where many sites are devoted to show how stupid, irrational and anti-science religion is.

    Combine this with mass-behavior, where when popular subject A says “X” then less popular subjects B…Z also say “X”. This happens in schools where many kids follow the more ‘popular kids’… but this happens also on the internet. This phenomenon also is strengthens itself, the more people say “X” the more are likely to join.

    So it is ironic that atheists call religious people brainless sheep, when they are the very example of being ‘brainless sheep’.
    I say this because your average angry new atheists spits against religion but usually has no competent knowledge in religion, philosophy or even science.
    Even Dawkins, who is ‘the most popular kid in school’, you could say, lacks this knowledge, yes even in science. He might be a good Biologist but as soon as he starts talking about physics or chemistry he’s already being ridiculous. Not to mention theology or philosophy.

    4- Finally I think their anger is not with religion but with their own lives. They project their anger towards religion, but that is rather a sign that something is wrong with THEIR lives.

    While I agree that Christians should set a good example and that often fail doing so, I think the reason for the New Atheism movement and atheism in young people has more to do with bias media information (especially the internet) and personal problems.

  • Peno Malaputo

    I fully admit not being completely up to speed on Catholic teachings, but I am willing to learn.
    In particular I would like to know exactly what the justification for child rape really is, that the perpetrators should be protected and the protectors promoted.

  • Sally Wilkins

    The Church neither requires nor prohibits Young Earth Creationism, but to suggest that NOT believing in YEC is heretical is to declare that a number of recent magesterial and papal statements are heretical, and that is dangerously akin to sedevacantism.

    It is also clear if one reads the Church fathers that they did not impose the kind of literalism on the Scriptures which is de jure for American fundamentalists, both Protestant and Catholic. (I would direct you to chapter 3 of Dei Verbum for a clear statement of the Church’s way of reading of Sacred Scripture.)

  • Steven

    I’m just baffled at the attention this girl has gotten. Who is she? It’s not like she was an atheist philosopher or anything. I’ve gone through some of her posts and it doesn’t seem like she’s very well read in philosophy of religion. In fact, her reasons for converting a quite telling, atheists should get their panties in a bunch over this lol.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Child rapists and those who protect them violate the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  • William H

    This is not from the pulpit; this is from a blog and is not a sermon. It was written in a style for those who follow blogs and the random thoughts of others. So, it is just an opinion piece to further conversation. Even then, would not disagree that there is an issue of Fideism within Fundamentalist Churches?

  • dean steinlage

    I believe it was either Michael Flynn’s blog or Quodlibeta that was saying the “angels on a pin thing” didn’t really happen. It was another made up fact.

  • Bill Guentner

    Rick wrote in part; “many Catholics who consider it to be essentially a collection of ancient Semitic myths, and blithely to be reinterpreted as the ephemeral consensus of the scientific period dictates.” I canot disagree more. I wonder where Rick gets this idea.

  • Gregory

    It’s not often I disagree with you Fr L – even partially, but…

    …writing from a UK perspective, I think it’s too simplistic to say that the New Atheists in the US may, say, have been bruised by the fundamentalist scene across the pond. It may well be true, to a degree. But it’s a red herring. One which Satan wants us to fix on in order to divert us from the real war being waged. For the New Atheists in the UK and north-western Europe have no such fundamentalist experience to backlash against. They really haven’t. Religion in the public square is dead here. The pro-life debate? Forget it. Non-issue. Yet, for all the unfettered secularism that prevails, they still find their “reasons” to vent their venom against religion (*), even though the majority of their life experience has been dominated by liberal mores and almost entirely free of the (perceived) restrictions of any faith-issues. Yes, they are as venomous as you say, Father, but they arrive at their point via a different route than, say, those who rebel against the fundamentalist scene in the US might do. I have no doubt that the New Atheists in Latin America, Asia, Africa etc also have different trigger-points to the ones that those in north western Europe cite as spurious grievances. Nonetheless, they are all as teeth-baringly vituperative as each other. They just have different goal posts that they kick-through, or move to suit their agenda. The real point is not so much to focus on WHAT has caused this, all-too-plain-to-see, new wave of invective against religion, or indeed WHY it has been caused, but to identify WHO is orchestrating it. For make no mistake, whether the New Atheist in England, or Belgium, or Spain, or the US, or Ukraine, or Bolivia, or South Africa or Australis is aware of it – they are part of a highly orchestrated, pretty sophisticated (in the truest sense of that word) and devastatingly effective post-modern, nihilistic movement. Sure, they are all individual pawns, but their collective, corporate might is significant and growing. Daily. There is no doubt about it, the New Atheism we are all witnessing – just that it might have different start-points – is quite different to the Old Atheism of, say, only a decade ago. It really is. The Internet, globalisation, the convenience of 9/11 (religion causes all wars), mass media, social media, knowledge of smart tactics, “bait and switch” rhetorical techniques…the landscape has changed beyond recognition in almost the blink of an eye. Mightily so. And it would need someone with a power do effect that. It has been achieved so seamlessly, so evidently and blatantly but almost invisibly (certainly to an unsuspecting eye). Within a decade. It would need someone with the status, say, of being The Prince of this World in order to do that – with all his theological expertise and anti-craft to fall back on (as Pope Benedict said, we make a mistake to ignore the reality that Satan is one of the greatest theological experts there is). And he is moving his army around like puppets. In a combox here and a combox there, here a Twitter, there a Twitter, everywhere a Facebook.

    So, okay, it may be a backlash against fundamentalism that has caused the New Atheism in the US. But that’s local level puff. On a global level, that’s just a small, convenient detail in a universal war that has already been spectacularly lost by a protagonist who will not exit the theatre of destruction without every last kick-and-scream, bite and spit. Satan has upped the stakes of his doomed end-game. He cares not what havoc he now wreaks.

    (*) Religion, I said. Well, yeah, but let’s not kid ourselves. The New Atheists, deep-down, really aren’t bothered about “religion” per se. Sure they’ll scorn the Protestants and despise the Muslims, pity the Jews (whilst thinking them nuts behind their backs – but they daren’t ever say so) and they tolerate the “wackos” of Buddhism etc. (“if it works for you, great, but leave me out of it”). They have no love at all for any of the above. But that pales against the hatred, the sheer demonic derision they reserve for the Catholic Church and the papacy. They are Romophobes (you can have that!). Catholicism is the only game in town. And Rome is the playing field. And Satan has made sure they know it and he keeps on re-fuelling them. The priestly sexual abuse scandal? A present, a gift, all neatly wrapped-up for them with a nice big bow and gift-tag: “Best wishes, Enjoy! – The Prince of Darkness.”

    And why wouldn’t he? If you were Satan, and you knew the truth, and you’d seen the film through to the end and you wanted to make one last bile-riddled stand – where would you train your sights?

    We need to be more awake than ever.

  • Cafeeine

    Any concept of a god that includes omnipotence and inscrutable motives is obviously well suited to plug gaps. Catholic thought, having the benefit of hundreds of years to refine itself, still hasn’t managed to overcome the issue that an explanation that can explain any possible observation, that can be invoked no matter what the facts in question are is a superfluous one.

  • Ron Moses

    I thought it might be refreshing (or at least useful) to hear from a non-angry, non-judgmental, non-theist.

    I label myself an Agnostic Atheist. I don’t accept the existence of God as fact. Nor do I accept His non-existence as fact. (Actually, I consider the latter belief far more absurd than the former, simply due to its logical unprovability.) I simply have no position on the matter; I don’t feel I have any compelling basis for either belief, nor do I feel any sense of sadness or emptiness due to my lack of an answer on that topic.

    I feel absolutely zero anger toward religion or the religious. I don’t have room for that sort of pointless anger in my life. Nor do I have any interest in proudly exclaiming my non-theism. I don’t even consider it a thing… it’s a non-thing. Not a rejection, simply a lack of acceptance. Why would I shout that from the rooftops?

    I hold no disrespect toward theists of any stripe. I have no basis upon which to demonstrate that they are mistaken, so I don’t consider myself entitled to criticize their faith. By the same token, I don’t find myself with any reason to embrace it either.

    I am always willing to listen to any theist with an open mind, and take what they have to say in a respectful manner. The problem I have experienced in the past is that, when approaching someone like me, the argument for theism typically boils down to three basic points:

    1. The Bible tells us so. Not exactly a valid reference if you don’t believe in the Bible to begin with. I don’t like to play “gotcha” games, but I think anyone can see the circular logic there.
    2. Because it fills my life with happy joy feelings. I’m genuinely happy for you, but with all due respect, I’ve heard people say the same thing about heroin. And just because believing something makes me happy, doesn’t mean I’m believing in something real. Millions of kids find joy in believing in Santa Claus.
    3. Because how else do you explain it all? I don’t. I can’t. And I’m quite at peace with that. I can’t dunk a basketball either; if I can’t do something as simple as that (at 6’4″) why would I be surprised or distressed over my inability to explain the nature of the universe?

    So if anyone would like to try and persuade me with some approach other than those three, I’m all ears. You’ll get no Sunday-school questions from me. I already went to Sunday school, and no one can hammer agnosticism into your head faster than a Catholic nun.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Due to recent statements on the issue by the last two Popes (see two quotes below), it is clear that the tragectory of tradition is making it increasingly difficult for one to be a YEC and be a faithful Catholic. I did not say “heretic,” but I believe that YEC is a position that distances you from the magisterium.

    “Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe.Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach us how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven.”
    (John Paul II, “The spiritual heritage of humanity should accompany and control scientific research,” Address given on October 3, 1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.)

    “At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy’s way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being.” Pope Benedict XVI, “HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI,” Saint Peter’s Basilica, Holy Saturday, 23 April 2011

  • Evangelical Dan

    I didn’t say it was a heresy. Please see my post below about very recent magisterial statements on the issue. I need no papal bull. Most often, doctrine develops slowly with the magisterium taking baby steps. It is doing precisely this in the area of YEC, which is, of course, derivative of the broader issues of Scriptural inspiration and inerrancy.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Oops. Please see my post ABOVE…

  • Charles Stearns

    No, rather a recognition of the lies, half truths, scandals, and foolishness inherent in the Roman Catholic beliefs. You really think many atheists aren’t ex-Catholics?

  • Linus

    First of all, you can’t believe anything you read on a blog concerning a person’s motives for this or that position on anything. We don’t know who these people are, it isn’t any better than listening to gossip. As far as athiests go, those who really are athiests as opposed to those who just have an ax to grind, David said it long ago, ” …a fool says in his heart ‘ there is no God , these do abomnabile things…’ ” And after him St. Paul after speaking to the Athenians. said ” …from now on I will speak only of Christ and Him crucified…” It is absolutely pointless to argue with them, to debate with them, to appear on talk shows with them. This just gives them a platform to vent and ridicule something they know little about. If they are serious seekers, they can do it quietly. Could Christians give a better example, sure. But remember, we have been giving good examles for two thousand years ( along with the bad examples too) and that hasn’t impressed them. So we slogg on doing a tiny bit of what we should be doing. God will take care of the rest.

  • Stephen J.

    I’m a huge devotee of science and logic and rational philosophy, but I have to admit it’s hard to fault people for being “anti-intellectual” in a world where Peter Singer can get taken seriously as an ethicist, Richard Dawkins can get taken seriously as a philosopher and Michael Baigent can get taken seriously as a historian. Nietzsche, Marx, Robespierre and Mao were all “intellectuals”, or are taken to be so by all too many people.

  • Julie

    I wasn’t talking about Father Longenecker when I said that too much misinformation is coming from the pulpit. Sorry I wasn’t clear. :)

  • Malvenu

    Have a look at Fr. Robert Spitzer’s website:

    Honestly, i am not on commission. I have seen some of his shows on EWTN and marvelled at his gesticulations while trying to get my head round some of the mind-blowing stuff he is talking about. Here’s one to tickle your fancy (if i understand it at all correctly):

    The odds of the universe having come into being by chance are 10 to the power 10 to the power 123. Apparently, if this number was typed out longhand in 10 point type the universe could not contain the text. In other words, the odds of the universe being random are so great that the volume of the number referring to these odds is greater than the universe itself!!!!!!!!!

    I’m not saying this to convince you. I respect your honesty and include this fact (with apologies to Fr. Spitzer if it is inaccurate) more because i am still struggling to get my head round it than anything else.

    In terms of a persuasive approach, although i am already convinced, it seems to me that Fr. Spitzer’s work is compelling in both its depth and breadth in science and theology. At the very least i would hope you would find it fascinating!

  • A Particular Atheist

    The Vatican tacitly condones pedophilia. Why are you pretending as if it’s only Protestants that have this sort of baggage? Clean your own house before judging others’.

  • Howard

    Julie might have been talking about Fundamentalist or Evangelical pulpits. Like Fr. Longenecker, I come from just such a background, from churches that had Jack Chick booklets right next to Our Daily Bread in the back, and believe me, it is not hard to find examples in which their pastors “sustain his flock by using misinformation about other churches.” As a rule, though, the nastier things tend to be said outside of the service.

  • Al Bergstrazer

    Well said. Despite not believing in heaven, hell, God or sin or the need for a savior from said sin, even athiests seem to have a need for a devil. That is, victims need to have someone to blame for the predicament they’ve gotten themselves into; and if they don’t really have a good reason for placing the blame a lie, a half truth, a stereotype, a charicature will do nicely. Especially a charicature because it makes your enemy more than an enemy. The Devil is indeed the great accuser, he excells at accusing the righteous of the wrongs he does, he excells at accusing the pure of his depravity, he delights in accusing the saint of their sins.

  • Gerry

    Nope – I find a lot more stupidity in mainline Protestants and secular humanists that in “fundies”. One example – blatantly stolen from Dennis Prager – who believes that men and women are basically the same?

  • S. Murphy

    Assuming for the sake of argument, that that silly statement is true. All it means is there are sinners, and even really callous criminals in the Vatican. It’s sad and scandalous, and has more or less always been true. It has no bearing on the truth of the Faith. The hierarchy exist to preserve and interpret the teachings handed down from the Apostles – the Tradition. It’s nice when a bishop (of Rome or not) is also a saint. Most of them aren’t.

    As to the shite about tacitly condoning pedophilia – you think bishops send weekly sitreps with information about allegations of criminal conduct, and the Vatican instructs them in whether to go to rhe police or not? Catholic moral theology says we owe obedience to legitimate authority- bishops are expected to know that. I seriously doubt the Vatican has the wherewithal to exert the kind of operational control that would make your accusation meaningful.
    A couple year ago, we had about 19,000 Marines in Afghanistan. Marine Forces, Central Command has a 24/7 operations center and an entire staff in Tampa to oversee the 2- star and his entire staff and multiple 24/7 combat operations centers in Afghanistan that were conducting operations. They had the chain of command, lawyers, legal and administrative authority, and administrative and logistical respurces to investigate, prosecute, and if necessary, punish all crimes and misconduct in the AOR. The Vatican has none of that. The Church is entirely reliant on the secular governments of every country in which the Church can be found, to arrest wrongdoers. they have no coercive power to tell a bishop in his own diocese, how to handle an abuse case. They don’t even have the staff to keep track of it all, if they did want to micromanage.

  • Rex

    So atheists reject Christianity because of fundamentalism? Fundamentalism is a very recent development, yet atheists have been mocking the Church for many centuries.

  • Kay

    I think that this statement reflects precisely the kind of thinking which makes the astute observations in Father L.’s post so relevant and on target.

  • Kay

    Oops, my response was to “A Particular Atheist.” It doesn’t seem to have posted to that comment.

  • Rick DeLano

    I got it first and most astonishingly in my RCIA, Bill, but I think a careful perusal of certain astonishingly novel footnotes of the New American Bible will serve to lend strong support to my observation’s accuracy.

    Here, let me give you a choice sample:

    “[21-23] This first prediction of the passion follows Mark 8:31-33 in the main and serves as a corrective to an understanding of Jesus’ messiahship as solely one of glory and triumph. By his addition of from that time on (Matthew 16:21) Matthew has emphasized that Jesus’ revelation of his coming suffering and death marks a new phase of the gospel. Neither this nor the two later passion predictions (Matthew 17:22-23; 20:17-19) can be taken as sayings that, as they stand, go back to Jesus himself. However, it is probable that he foresaw that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death, but was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated by God (see Matthew 26:29).”

    This bit of subterfuge is asking us to accept that Jesus Christ Himself had no ability to foresee His Own Passion.

    Now this kind of drivel is sprinkled through the commentaries, which are foreign to Tradition and poisonous to the formation of the faithful in the dogmatic understanding of the inerrancy and divine inspiration of the entirety of the Scriptures.

  • Geoffrey

    As someone who used to be bothered greatly by the NABRE footnote you’re referencing (cf. Mt. 16:21-23), let me take this opportunity to defend it. First of all, the commentator is simply noting that Matthew’s statements of the passion prophecies are very concise, interpretive summaries of a much longer, drawn out, ambiguous, more complicated revelation given by Jesus. It is highly unlikely that the apostles understood the meaning of Jesus’ hints that his ministry would entail suffering until after the resurrection. Why? Context. They continued to expect Jesus Christ to be a triumphant, earthly king who would restore the political fortunes of Israel right up until his arrest. That would make zero sense if he told them the whole story in advance. It is only in retrospect that the apostles connect the dots.

    This kind of summarizing is quite common in ancient literature, and really isn’t a problem. We still give interpretive summaries today, such as when a co-worker goes on a five minute rant about how busy they are and when our boss asks us if they can attend a meeting later, we simply respond, “They said they can’t come.” We’ve used context to draw out an implication from their words that wasn’t explicitly stated.

    The part that probably concerns you most, however, is the assertion that “it is probable that [Jesus] foresaw that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death, but was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated by God.” However, I see know issue with this comment at all. It is merely asserting that Jesus probably was signaling them, and their retrospective interpretation of his words and actions was accurate.

    Did Jesus know he was going to die? Maybe he had a good inkling about it. I don’t know, and Matthew certainly doesn’t require that Jesus had certain knowledge given the mechanics of this interpretive summary device. But if you don’t want to reduce Jesus Christ’s humanity to a mere puppet show, and fall into claiming that the whole incident in the Garden of Gethsemane with him asking God if there was another way beside death to accomplish his mission (i.e. “let this cup pass from me”) was some bizarre act for our edification…you might want to think twice about claiming Jesus was simply following a script.

  • Geoffrey

    Please forgive the minor grammatical and syntactical anomalies in my previous post. I’m eating delicious ice cream, and it’s distracting me.

  • David Ferguson

    I think that the evangelical objections to Catholicism have diminished in the last several decades as the cultural wars have heated up in the US. Catholics and evangelicals are spiritual and cultural allies. Also, I think that seculars/atheists have a pretty bad attitude towards Catholics. Just look at the bilge that Hollywood produces regarding religion in general and Catholicism specifically. It is the seculars who scream ‘pedophilia’ reflexively and refuse to contemplate the repentance and acknowledgement of the error by the Church.

  • David Ferguson

    I am making the opposite point. I am criticizing progressive Catholics, not conservative Catholics. Many American Catholics have embraced the left in our nation because of superficial issues such as welfare while ignoring the deep evil of the left’s support for abortion, atheism and radical socialism.

    My question remains: will the Catholic church oppose the rest of the immoral agenda of the American left AFTER Obamacare is defeated? Or will they settle back into comfortable co-existence with the left once the threat to the hospitals is gone?

  • Rick DeLano

    Geoffrey, may I say that your response is highly problematic.

    You state:

    “Did Jesus know he was going to die? Maybe he had a good inkling about it. I don’t know, and Matthew certainly doesn’t require that Jesus had certain knowledge given the mechanics of this interpretive summary device.”

    This is direct evidence, and direct confirmation, of my initial complaint at the top of this thread.

    You deny- with what degree of culpability of course I cannot say- but you deny both Our Lords’ Own Words, and also a dogma of the Catholic Faith, and all because of the ruinous failure of whomever you have entrusted to teach you the authentic Catholic interpretation of Scripture to fulfill that sacred obligation.

    First, the denial of Christ’s Testimony of Himself:

    Mt 16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

    Mt 26:24 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him. But woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed. It were better for him, if that man had not been born.

    Second, as to the dogma you deny:

    CCC #606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do (his) own will, but the will of him who sent (him)”,413 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”414 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”415 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”416 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “(for) I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”417

  • Rick DeLano

    I am happy to hear this, although the relevance is not lessened by the mere fact that a myth may have assumed the status of fact.

    This happens quite often, especially in cosmology.

  • Rick DeLano

    “…The relatively young age of creation is not a credible position scientifically ”

    Credible, sir is not a category of scientific knowledge.

    Scientific knowledge is susceptible of experimental demonstration.

    Consensus typically belongs to political committees.

    It is a very sad thing when “credibility” and “consensus” are hijacked and dressed up as if they constituted scientific demonstration, which they do not.

    But that ism precisely the problem with the Goliath of scientism today- who would dare to confront him, he is so large and terrifying.

  • Rick DeLano


    Since the only attack on permitted opinion here came from the gentleman attacking the ancient and apostolic and Scriptural interpretation of a relatively young cosmos, it is a relief to be reminded that, apparently, where you come from, the YEC’s are accusing the evolutionists of heresy.

    I would love to find such a parish.

  • Rick DeLano

    There can be no possible “development of doctrine” concerning a scientific consensus on the age of the Earth or cosmos.

    Doctrine concerns the Faith once delivered, and there exists not the slightest shred of support for the ever-shifting consensus of scientists who proceed from a materialist metaphysical assumption, through which all data are filtered.

    A prudential decision has been made, according to many, to allow a degree of liberty in attempting to harmonize the two diametrically opposed conceptions of cosmology and cosmogony- that which comes to us from Scripture and Tradition, and that which comes to us from the current, rapidly collapsing consensus of overwhelmingly atheist scientists.

    History will judge the prudence of this pastoral decision.

    But the bastions have certainly been abandoned, and how embarrassing it shall be when those most vigorously selling the “harmonization” of these two creation stories discover that the scientific one is crashing in the face of observation.

  • Rick DeLano

    “Trajectory”, Dan?

    I am obliged to hold fast to the dogmatic and doctrinal expressions of the magisterium.

    There is not a syllable of any such that bind me to any age of the Earth, and I sincerely look forward to correcting the rather astonishingly widespread notion to the contrary whenever I find it.

  • Rick DeLano

    It is important to note that both of your citations of papal allocutions must be read and considered within the entirety of the Church’s doctrinal and dogmatic teaching.

    Then highest exercise of the authority of the magisterium on this question, which has never been reversed, consists in the condemnation of Galileo’s two theses by the Holy Inquisition in 1633.

    There certainly exists a tension between the teaching of the Church as expressed in that condemnation, and the allocutions you quote above.

    Perhaps some future Pope will exercise the authority of the office to remedy this condition.

    Until then, I like the Scriptures, the Fathers, and St. Bellarmine, and humbly await any correction which my bishop might see fit to offer.

    So far, despite my fairly extensive defense of the ancient Faith concerning these matters, I have never received it.

  • Rick DeLano

    Fr. Lemaitre’s notion of an expanding universe was quite a good one, providing an explanation for the otherwise devastating observations of Hubble, who saw galaxies arrayed in regular,periodic, concentric shells with Earth at the center of the distribution.

    Of course, subsequent observations have required numerous lash-ups, in the form of invented mathematical fictions ascribed ontological reality under the names “inflation”, “dark matter”, and “dark energy”.

    It is worth noting that the universe is asserted to consist 99% in these invented entities.

    It is also worth noting that none have ever been observed.

    It is finally worth noting that the WMAP observations of the cosmic microwave background have revealed Earth-oriented structure in the universe’s largest visible object.

    It is finally worth noting that said structure is impossible to explain under Msgr. LeMaitre’s, or any and all subsequent elaborations, of a “Big Bang” cosmology.

    I assure you we are entering very interesting times for Goliath indeed.

  • Rick DeLano

    Fr. Spitzer, I am assured, does an excellent job in his task of harmonizing the two diametrically opposed accounts of cosmology and cosmogony.

    But Fr. Spitzer is no more in a position to scientifically demonstrate the origin, age, development, or fundamental laws of this universe, than are the cosmologists currently expounding about inflation, dark matter, and dark energy, as if these were objects of scientific observation.

    They are not.

    They are, instead, invented mathematical entities designed to bridge the 99% discrepancy between theory and observation, in this astonishing universe.

  • Korou

    It’s very good to hear that. But in that case, it means that large and important parts of the Catholic church are violating their own teachings, and that the vast majority of Catholics feel that this is less important than other issues such as contraception, abortion and opposition to gay marriage.

    Can you point me towards any of your own writings in which you have condemned the scandals and cover-ups of child abuse by the Catholic Church? Looking at your collection of tags, I can’t see one for “child abuse.”

  • Evangelical Dan

    The development of doctrine in question concerns inerrancy and inspiration of Sacred Scripture. The age of the earth is tangential to this for obvious reasons, given the claims made by the book of Genesis. You can take the Scriptures, the Fathers, and Bellarmine. I will take all of these AND the current magisterium. Apparently, the magisterium to which you appeal is a museum piece. Come out of the dark, your Catholicism does not require you to dwell there.

  • Julie

    “it means that large and important parts of the Catholic church are violating their own teachings, and that the vast majority of Catholics feel that this is less important than other issues such as contraception, abortion and opposition to gay marriage.” Did you really say that? Awesome display of ignorance and ill-will toward the average Catholic. We are against ALL of them. Don’t pretend to speak for us. And we are VERY MUCH against child abuse. Myself as a mother in particular. That is why I dislike SNAP so immensely. What a chance they have to help stop abuse of children. And how spectacularly they are wasting it in trying to enrich lawyers and bring down a the church by working to bring up 40-year-old un-proveable cases and ignoring (rampant) child sex abuse in our society today.

  • AnneG

    Please pick another, less vulgar pseudonym. But if your mother named you that, you really need mercy. Also, did you know the most likely place for a child to be molested is at home with a live in boyfriend or step father? Second is in a public school. Then, we can talk about statistics.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    The Big Bang theory was devised by a Catholic priest, Msgr. Georges Lemaitre. It was called the “big bang” in mockery by the atheist scientist Fred Hoyle. Many atheists rejected it because it sounded too much like a moment of “creation” and spent great effort in devising “eternal” universes like the steady-state model as alternatives. But too many data have confirmed it. Fr. Lemaitre predicted from it the red-shift of galaxies and the cosmic background radiation, the first of which Hubble got credit for and word of the second of which was delivered to Fr. Lemaitre as he lay on his deathbed.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Apparently, Rick is not aware of the New Testament.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Well, Augustine thought that the six days were symbolic and creation was in fact instantaneous. Thomas considered the six “days” to be categorical rather than a time sequence. Both of them said that one should not adhere to a particular interpretation after knowledge and reason have shown it to be untenable. Thus, even in their day they did not believe that the earth was flat with a tent thrown over it and that passages that seemed to imply a flat earth must be read in one of the other three senses of scriptural interpretation.
    Since 19th century American frontier protestantism was largely obsessed with the OT, it is almost always those books that give folks agita. There were even such folks around in Augustine’s time, which is why he wrote “On the literal meanings of Genesis,” showing how many different literal readings could be found. (What does “evening and morning, the nth day” mean on a sphere, he asked for example; since it is always evening and morning somewhere.)

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    St. Paul. “In Christ there is … no man and woman.”

  • Rick DeLano

    Exactly, since he just quoted it several times.

  • Rick DeLano

    Though Msgr. Lemaitre did not live long enough to learn about the Earth-oriented Axis in the CMB (which was not discovered until 2003, and which is so utterly incredible from within the assumptions of the Big Bang that the last decade or so has been industriously devoted to trying to make it go away)…..

    We can certainly hope that he knows all about it now, and from the viewpoint of the Designer.

  • Rick DeLano

    Since it has never been a unanimous consensus of the Fathers that the Earth was flat with a tent thrown over it, but it is a unanimous consensus of the Fathers that the Earth was created in six twenty four hour Days (Augustine alone advancing the possibility that it was actually One Day, but he admits he did not receive this as Tradition, but advanced it himself as a solution to a lack of an account of the creation of the angels)…..

    I believe I’ll stick with Scripture and Tradition, especially since science has not the slightest ability to establish the origin, age, development, or fundamental laws of this universe.

    I note with amusement the attempt on the part of Dan to equate the literal sense of Scripture, as unanimously interpreted by the Fathers, with “darkness”.

    It provides a remarkable insight into the consequences of abandoning the bastions.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Rick! What’s up with the Galileo reference? That was all about geocentrism and heliocentrism being declared heretical.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Rick! Ever heard of secondary causality? Your metaphysics needs some work. Also, reference the Catechism concerning how to interpret the literal sense of scripture.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Also, Rick, it is people like you that make it harder for intelligent people to become Catholic. You are asking reasonable people to check their reason at the door of the Church. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN NO WAY REQUIRES ONE TO BE A YEC!! My quotes above demonstrate that clearly by indicating where the current living magisterium stand on this issue.

  • Evangelical Dan

    Rick, I just read some of your posts closer to the top. It just occurred to me that you are a geocentrist…which explains the irrelevant reference to the Galileo affair. Having come to that alarming realization, I hereby rescind all of my reasonable argumentation. Those efforts have been, and any future efforts will be, wasted. I love you like a brother in Christ, and you are in my prayers. I mean that very honestly.

  • Rick DeLano

    Actually, Dan, the Galileo reference was about the rejection of a unanimous consensus of the Fathers on Scripture, by a fellow claiming (falsely, as it turns out) to have obtained a scientific demonstration of its falsehood.

    A very relevant precedent for what is happening today.

  • Rick DeLano

    Dan: I shall certainly give your objections all the consideration to which they are objectively entitled, and thanks for the prayers!

  • D. G. D. Davidson

    And yet, even though the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin was never really asked, it is a perfectly reasonable question of metaphysics: does immaterial form have extension?

    It is no more absurd than the question in physics of what happens when you drop an encyclopedia into a black hole; the question is illustrative, but is not really about encyclopedias, just as the metaphysical question is not really about dancing or pinheads.

  • Korou

    Yes, I did say that. And it’s not hard to see that what I said was true. Plenty of protests against contraception, feminism, abortion and gay marriage – but not against abuse of children by priests.
    It’s very good to hear that you are against this. Can you point me towards some groups of Catholics who are protesting against the Catholic Church’s abuse of children and the covering up of that abuse?
    Still, thank you for pointing me towards SNAP.

  • Korou
    The Church has made its position quite clear: if abuse is reported, it is to be hushed up. No, they are not expected to report it to the secular authority; they are expected to hide it from them, to handle it internally.

  • Korou

    I don’t think that makes much sense. How can you know what the odds of the universe coming into existence are? Have you observed many universes trying to come into existence?
    The odds of you and I coming into existence are also incalculably vast. I don’t think that proves anything much either.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    This is simply wrong. I am a Catholic priest and I know what the policies are. We are obliged to report all child abuse cases to the authorities immediately.

  • Gail Finke

    In online discussions I’ve had with angry atheists, a lot of anger on their part seems to be personal. They seem to have been told “no” at some point, and they don’t like it. Even if they have never been personally told no, they know (or think they know) that “religious people” would deny them something they want to do. The discussions have frequently come down to “Who are you to tell me how to live my life?” rather than any actual interest in the existence of God or tolerance/non-tolerance for religious doctrines. Interesting.

  • Korou

    Gaile, I’d be very happy if you were to post your reasons for people to believe in God so we could discuss them rationally.

  • Patrick

    The Catholic Church is both the most consistently rational, and most consistently irrational institution, body of thought, or social movement in human history.

    That said, consider the human being. We are both rational and irrational by nature, and by utterly denying one in favor of the other, the denied half corrupts the preferred. A purely rational approach to life has only one destination, that is madness. For this reason, poor Nietzsche is to be lauded as one of the world’s truly principled atheists.

  • Rick DeLano


    Since no natural thing can be the cause of its own existence, it seems more reasonable to suppose that a supernatural thing is required to initiate the existence of all natural things.

    This we call God.

    PS: Additional confirmatory evidence of the validity of the above reason to believe is abundantly provided in the recent “Something From Nothing” school in physics and cosmology. The desperation of this ploy is palpable; first “nothing” must be remarkably redefined as “something”, which pretty much settles the question of whether the proposition is reasonable.

    It isn’t.

  • Rick DeLano

    Here, conveniently, is a dozen-or-so paragraph demolition of the entirety of the present “eternally inflating multiverse” project of modern physics.

    It is quite thorough:

  • Korou

    Rick, you are resorting to God of the Gaps, and I’m afraid it isn’t convincing. You don’t get to say God did it when nobody knows the answer to something.

  • Rick DeLano

    No, Kornou. I am resorting to the certain truth, experimentally verified since the beginning of time, that no material thing can be its own cause.

    Surely it is not your intention to claim the contrary?

  • Korou

    The first clue to your argument being off is the way you quite openly say, “this we call God.” You have no reason to say that God was the cause of the universe – you are just finding a question with no answer and asserting that the answer could have been God, and therefore it was. You’ve literally invented the answer you wanted to get because you can do so without being proved wrong. Unfortunately, not being proved wrong isn’t good enough – you need to prove yourself right; which you haven’t.
    I was also interested in your referring to “material things.” Can you give an example of an immaterial thing? Can you show that any such things exist?
    Did something cause the universe to come into being? Apparently. Do I know what it was? No, I don’t. Do you know? I’m afraid not. No matter what you decide to call it.

  • Korou

    That’s not what I would call very convincing. Asking a religious writer to review an atheist’s new book?
    As he said: We know it isn’t going to end well.

  • Korou

    Just out of interest, what percentage of the Philippine population is Catholic?

  • Korou

    It’s really not so much that abuse occurred, on a huge and horrifying scale; it’s that the institution of the Catholic hierachy acted, deliberately, to cover up this abuse and to protect the cover-up measures taken.
    Now I know this will be badly received, but it is a fact that abuse occurred and that it was not disclosed. A bad attitude towards Catholics? Can you blame us for being bothered at the thought of protected child abuse?
    Repentance and acknowledgement? Can you give me some meaningful examples of that, please?
    By the way – I agree with your first point. Catholics and evangelicals have been discovering common ground against people who have no religion, and people whose values and ways of life are condemned by both their religions.

  • Korou

    It might be a little late to post this, but still…

    Ismael, I’m about to disagree with most of what you’ve said. And I hope I can do it politely. I wouldn’t want to reinforce your belief that people become atheists because they’re angry.

    None of your four points are completely wrong, but all of them miss the mark.
    Number one: I would disagree that the scandals have been blown out of proportion. Considering that the events coming to light have been concealed for a considerable period of time exposure is exactly what they need. This is something non-Catholics can and should be angry about, by the way.

    Number two: again, it’s true that people these days do spend less time in church. But it would be ridiculous to think that people don’t know enough about religion to be able to reject its arguments. Theology isn’t that complicated. Also, people spending less time in church is a good thing in that it means they have been exposed to and come to belive fewer religious arguments.

    Number three: Yes, it’s true that there is a lot of misinformation about religion which more familiarity with the religion would correct. On the other hand, there are a lot of misconceptions spread about by religion, which people who don’t go to church are therefore able to avoid.

    Number three, part two: Have you heard of the “Courtier’s reply?” It refers to the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The atheists are the people saying, “But he hasn’t got any clothes on!” And apologists are the courtiers are the ones who say (to quote P.Z. Myers, who framed this response after seeing many reviews of Dawkins missing the target):

    “I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.
    Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.
    Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed — how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry — but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.
    Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.”

    Dawkins may, as you say, not have much of an understanding of theology; but if there is no God, then theology has no substance to understand. Countering the apologetics of the religious is not very difficult, and Dawkins’ main achievement in writing The God Delusion is to assemble all of the counterarguments in a single book and to communicate them clearly and concisely.

    Point four: it must be a great comfort to think that people who disagree with you do so because they have personal issues, and can therefore be discounted. In fact, atheists arguments are generally along the lines of “that doesn’t make sense, and this is why.”

    Finally: it’s not particularly ironic that atheists call religious people sheep when they describe themselves as needing a shepherd. “Brainless” is unkind, impolite and inaccurate, but saying that you believe in your religion for logical reasons which should persuade any logical person is, I believe, incorrect.

  • Korou

    Oh, and on Dawkins: you might be interested to read this critique of one of his critiquers:

  • Rick DeLano


    Please do not avoid the question:

    Are youm prepared to dispute the universally established experimental fact, observed without exception from the beginning ofm science, that no material thing can be its own cause?

    Yes, or no, please.

    If you are having difficulty understanding that an immaterial thing might be, let me give you some examples:


    And here are some more, that have the additional advantage of directly impacting how we perceive material things:


    Since you admit that something caused the Universe, you are half way home.


    Since the universe cannot be its own cause, and no material thing exists apart from the universe….

    It follows, with complete certainty, that the universe cannot have been its own cause, and therefore the universe cannot have had a material cause.

    Please signify your understanding and agreement.

  • Korou

    “Are youm prepared to dispute the universally established experimental fact, observed without exception from the beginning ofm science, that no material thing can be its own cause?
    Yes, or no, please.”
    Yes, I am. When it comes to universes, we do not know what causes them. It may well be that they do cause themselves. Can you prove otherwise? If you can’t, then you have no business saying that it is impossible for the universe to exist without an “immaterial” being. Your introducing a new factor, calling it God, and then simply defining away the problem of asking where it comes from is not a valid answer.

    “If you are having difficulty understanding that an immaterial thing might be, let me give you some examples:

    A revealing answer! Justice, truth and honesty do not in fact exist in and of themselves. They are thoughts which we have; they exist only within our minds. If you claim otherwise then you are claiming that justice, truth and honesty are independent beings. All they are are names that we give to certain types of thinking; thinking, of course, is an electrical and chemical phenomenon based wholly within our material brains. You have the same problem with hypotheses and intentions – although I did have to look up “well tempering” – do you mean tuning instruments?

    I’m afraid, Rick, that you are simply missing the point: we do not know what caused the Big Bang. It is possible that we may never know. Giving a name to our ignorance does not create an answer. As you have failed to give any example of an immaterial thing, then your chain of logic has fallen apart. I’m afraid I’m not halfway to becoming a theist; I’m quite happy to admit that I don’t

  • flyingvic

    . . . in which the reviewer who reviews the reviewer attempts to undermine Orr’s comments by making fatuous definitions of theology and unsupported comments about believers, followed by the ultimate in written arguments from a scientist, “I’m willing to gamble that . . .” And that is all in the first handful of paragraphs. Rather like Dawkins’s book itself, writing like this hardly inspires the reader either to take seriously what is being written or to go any further into it.

  • Rick DeLano


    Thank you for your answer.

    We see now that you are prepared to abandon the most universally established, scientifically certain principle in all of history- no material thing can be its own cause- in order to escape the logical consequences.

    It is you who proposed a rational discussion, and it is you who has explicitly departed from the most rationally certain principle in all of human knowledge.- no material thing can be its own cause, no thing can precede its own existence.

    I consider the point thoroughly established, that your position can only be based upon ignorance and superstition, since it explicitly refuses to base itself upon certain knowledge obtained through the exercise of scientific rationality.

    As to the other points:

    ” Justice, truth and honesty do not in fact exist in and of themselves. They are thoughts which we have; they exist only within our minds. All they are are names that we give to certain types of thinking; thinking, of course, is an electrical and chemical phenomenon based wholly within our material brains.”

    >>How strange, then, that our conceptions of justice, truth, and honesty universally agree in broad outline.

    If these “thoughts in our minds” are, as you imply, merely the illusions produced by the random firings of neuron synapses, then how is it that all the random neurons end up agreeing on broad outlines of all of these “thoughts”?

    “You have the same problem with hypotheses and intentions – although I did have to look up “well tempering” – do you mean tuning instruments?”

    >> I am afraid it is you who has the problem, and it is much bigger than you presently suspect.

    Well-tempering is a complete and irrefutable demolition of your assertion concerning the material nature of hypotheses, and I will briefly show why.

    Strings (or pipes) divided at certain ratios yield pitches which, taken together, define scales and modes.

    But these ratios are incapable of allowing music to be played in all of the modes and keys associated with those ratios.

    No one ever “sensed” the solution whereby all modes and scales could be traversed- the solution was an intellectual object, unattainable by naive sense perception.

    Only the attainment of the intellectual object- well-tempering- (first) provided the senses with the confirmation, that well-tempering yielded a solution to the problems encountered by hypothesis of musical scales based on naive sense perception.

    Therefore it is false that knowledge is comprised of sense perceptions.

    Sense perceptions in fact always lead to contradiction and paradox, and it is the application of the spiritual (psychological if you prefer) faculty unique to the human species- creative hypothesis confirmed by crucial experiment- that demonstrates, unequivocally, that materialism is not only false, but is self-refuting.

    Since the source of new, creative hypotheses, subject to crucial experimental validation, is neither sense perception, nor random firings of neuron synapses……

    You have now come face to face with an actually-operative, physically-determining force which cannot be reduced to any material cause whatever.

    The soul.

    I will respond to any substantive points you may have, or any questions.

    In the absence of these, I believe we have come to the logical conclusion of our debate.

  • Korou

    Hello Rick,

    Well, it’s a shame, but at least we had a civil conversation. That’s something.

    Seriously, now: do you think you’re the first person to come up with this idea? Do you think it hasn’t been considered and answered before? I’m afraid you may want to recheck your logic and consider why it wasn’t convincing. Among other things, your mischaracterisation of the thinking process as “neurons firing randomly” and your misunderstanding of basic psychology that makes you think that because we are all different people we should all have wildly different social values.

    However, as to your final argument – look, it just doesn’t make any sense. You’ve taken an interesting idea, extended it much too far and run away with it. Intuitive musical sense means that there is an immaterial soul? If this really were true there would be many more people interested in this than some anonymous commenter online. An idea this revolutionary deserves to be properly written up.Or at least find a few other atheists, present them with your ideas and see how convincing they find them.

    Anyway, thank you for the pleasant conversation.

  • Rick DeLano

    You’re welcome, Kourou.

    I notice you did not refute any of my points, and of course whether I was the first or the fifty seven millionth to think them is completely irrelevant to the question of whether they stand unrefuted, which, in this case, they do.

    You have not grasped the significance of well-tempering, but I hope, as a parting gift, to have given you reason to look more carefully into what it is, and especially how J. S. Bach developed it with reference to- of all things- Johannes Kepler’s derivation of elliptical orbits.

    As for persuading atheists, I have no interest in this.

    They can persuade themselves, just like anybody else.

    I am simply interested in examining their points, and seeing whether they can refute mine.

  • Korou

    I wasn’t, in the last post, trying to refute your points. I was saying that they had been refuted, and that you ought to rethink them before using them to make a case.

    I’m afraid I haven’t grasped the significance of well-tempering. This could be because there’s no significance to grasp. After reading your explanation of well-tempering I am unable to understand how it proves the existence of anything immaterial. Perhaps you can link to an article which explains its significance?

    The thing you haven’t grasped about “the most universally established, scientifically certain principle in all of history” is that when discussing the causes of the Big Bang we are entering a new realm in which the laws we currently live under do not apply. Did you not know this? That’s why I asked how many universes you have seen created. I assume that the answer is “none.” Therefore, you aren’t in a position to speculate about what causes them and neither, of course, am I.

    You still haven’t acknowledged that the examples of thinking you gave are strictly materially based. Saying, “How strange, then, that our conceptions of justice, truth, and honesty universally agree in broad outline” is not a response – it’s not strange at all, we’re all humans with very similar types of physiology and psychology. We are social and thinking animals, and evolved similar codes and concepts of behaviour. Are you seriously arguing that two human beings would think that truth, to give an example, should mean different things? (Not, that is, that two different things should be true, but to have two different ideas about what it means for something to be true).

    I’m still waiting for an example of something immaterial. I think it is significant that, when I asked for examples of immaterial objects, you gave me examples of things we think or think about. I can give you one more example which would fit in perfectly with yours, another thing which exists only in our thinking: God.

    I’m sorry to tell you that your arguments are not just refuted, but fall apart themselves.
    1. Neither of us knows what caused the universe, and your inventing a cause doesn’t answer the question.
    2. To be immaterial is to be nothing. There is nothing that is not material. Your examples have been shown to be material in nature.

  • Rick DeLano

    “I wasn’t, in the last post, trying to refute your points. I was saying that they had been refuted, and that you ought to rethink them before using them to make a case.”

    >> Remarkable. You p[ropose a rational discussion, decline to refute my points, and insist they “have been refuted”.

    No wonder you have no apparent difficulty in believing that something can precede its own existence.

    You’re going to have to do better than that- for a *rational* discussion.

    Of course there is always the option of simply ignoring the points, but that, as I said earlier, would indicate we had reached the logical conclusion of our exchange.

  • Korou

    Okay. One more time.
    You said that every material thing was caused by something else, not by itself. I pointed out that the rules change when it come to universes, since whatever it was that started the universe did so before the beginning of time. Your point has therefore been refuted.

    I further pointed out that you saying an immaterial cause had to create the universe was illogical, since immaterial things were only nothing, and we had no examples of things which did in fact exist without being material. You countered with examples of things which turned out, in fact, to be materially based in our brains: thoughts. They’re entirely material. We can trace them, identify how they work, and prove that they disappear completely in the absence of a brain to produce them. Your point has been refuted.

    You claimed that I hadn’t understood the phenomenon of “well-tempering” and haven’t yet explained it to my satisfaction. It doesn’t sound hopeful at the moment.

    To proceed further in this discussion, you are going to have to:
    (a) give me examples of universes you have observed being created, because at the moment I, who have never seen any, do not know anything about what creates them, and cannot speculate wildly and anthropomorphically without something to go on.

    (b) give me an example of somethign immaterial that exists. Please don’t give another example of a thought.

    I will check back here to see if you can. If not, thank you for your time.

  • Rick DeLano

    Ah, thank you Korou, I believe we have the basis for another round or two here.

    K: “You said that every material thing was caused by something else, not by itself.”

    >> This is utterly certain. In fact, if this were not the case, then science were impossible.

    K: “I pointed out that the rules change when it come to universes,”

    >> First, there can be no “universes”. “Uni” – verse. Korou. There can be only one, or it is not a universe. And there is no logical basis upon which to assert that “the rules change” when it comes to the universe. There is no evidence whatever for this. The universe came to be, it cannot have been its own cause, since that would involve preceding itself in temporal existence.

    This is an impossibility.

    “since whatever it was that started the universe did so before the beginning of time.”

    >> And here you grant my point in your own words! “whatever it was” that “started” the universe did so before the beginning of time, and hence before the beginning of the universe.

    How remarkably easy that was, wasn’t it?


    You have-in your own formulation!- granted my initial point.

    Something started the universe, before time began, and hence the universe cannot have caused itself.

    I wonder why you didn’t simply grant this right off, since you (of course, just like any other rational person) certainly believe it.

    Can we agree that this point is now completely established in accordance with my initial post to you?

    If we can, I would be delighted to proceed to what might be a very fruitful examination of your other rebuttals.

    Please signify your understanding and agreement, with your own words above:

    “whatever it was that started the universe did so before the beginning of time”

  • Korou

    I’m afraid I misspoke, Rick. I shouldn’t have said something “started” the universe. The universe began, yes, at the Big Bang – but I don’t know how or why it began, as I’ve said.

    Now: your statement. “Something started the universe before the beginning of time.”
    How exactly do you think anything could have happened before the beginning of time? There would be no time for it to happen in.
    So I’m going to have to disagree with your statement. I cannot, honestly and logically, agree to it. Anything happening before the beginning of time is an impossibility.
    In fact, I’m surprised you don’t see the contradiction yourself. Don’t you realise that saying “something happened before time began” is meaningless? In the absence of time, what does “before” mean?

    So I’m afraid I’m going to have to return to what I’ve always maintained: we don’t know how the universe began. To speculate without evidence is foolishness.

    Meanwhile, I’m still asking for examples of immaterial objects. It really is a question I’m interested in – is there a difference between something which is made of nothing, and nothing?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    To understand these things you would need to have a paradigm shift away from your assumed materialism. Until that happens your questions are meaningless and a waste of time. Trying to discuss spiritual matters in material terms is like the dull boy who took apart the clock to find time, or dismantled a lamp to look for light.

  • Rick DeLano


    ““whatever it was that started the universe did so before the beginning of time”


    “So I’m going to have to disagree with your statement. I cannot, honestly and logically, agree to it. Anything happening before the beginning of time is an impossibility.”

    This is a dialogue between you and yourself, Kourou.


    I will leave you two to battle it out.

    Thanks for the rational discussion.

  • Korou

    Yes, you said already.
    You first of all have to prove that there is a spiritual world. Since you haven’t, I will continue to assume that you can’t.

  • Korou

    I think I’ll let this comment speak for itself:

    “I’m afraid I misspoke, Rick. I shouldn’t have said something “started” the universe. The universe began, yes, at the Big Bang – but I don’t know how or why it began, as I’ve said. ”

    I’m afraid your script has been derailed. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to follow it for you. I’m afraid, at the end of it, your proof for God didn’t stand up.

  • Korou

    If you can’t explain the reasons why you believe in something in rational terms, maybe you don’t have rational reasons for believing in it.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    There are many things that are ‘irrational’ which we accept as part of life. Love for instance.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    It is as impossible to prove the existence of a spiritual world using material evidence as it would be to prove the existence of thought using mathematics.

  • Rick DeLano

    In the end, your commitment to a rational discussion was derailed by your fatal self-contradiction.

    Now the purpose of this discussion is not to persuade you, Kourou.

    “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.

    The purpose of this discussion was to assess the relative logical consistency of our positions.

    I believe this has been accomplished.

    I acknowledge that you misspoke, but the deeper point is that you cannot avoid the thickets of self-contradiction which lie implicit in your worldview.

    The Catholic does not suffer from this grave disadvantage.