The Authentic Atheist

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The earlier excerpt with this title was from my book Adventures in Orthodoxy. As there seems to be some interest in the piece, I am posting the full chapter for those who wish to read it. This is the first section…

There is a picture of God in a painting in Ghent, Belgium. He is wearing a big crown and a red robe, he has a long beard and he is sitting on a throne. Sophisticated people and Protestants would object to this portrayal of God the Father because it is both so literal and so physical. After all, we know that God does not sit on a throne in heaven wearing a crown and a red robe. God is pure spirit. Like the jazz singer, he “ain’t got no-body.”

But we have to picture God somehow, and when we try to imagine a “pure spirit” all we can come up with is a bottle of vodka or rubbing alcohol. Therefore to picture God as the cosmic Father who sits on a throne as the ruler of all is probably the best image we could come up with. Some will protest that he then becomes a fairy tale king, but why is everyone so down on fairy tales? If you read the masterpiece of the splendidly named Bruno Bettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment, you will see that fairy tales connect humanity with the deep unconscious realm, and that’s very interesting indeed. So when we imagine God as the great cosmic Father King, awefully robed and crowned, we’re not being superficial but fishing deep.

We didn’t think up the image of the cosmic Father King. It was given to us. It’s part of humanity. It’s engraved in the history of the human race. It was revealed to us as the sun mounts in the morning and as the first whisperings of love well up in a fifteen-year-old boy. That’s what we call “revelation,” and it is something that echoes in the human heart just about everywhere. It is that hint of something beyond and that glimpse of glory that the atheist squints not to see. Which raises some curious questions, for instance, “Why do that?” Read More.

Note: The only comments that will be published are from those who have clearly read and understood the whole article, and are commenting on the points being made.

  • Kat

    Sometimes I do wonder what GKC would have endured had he a combox. This chapter is a delightful read, Fr. Dwight, and I look forward to ordering your book; it’s now on my list for next month’s discretionary purchases. I don’t doubt my husband and I, who have just finished Orthodoxy ourselves, will enjoy it.

  • Michael

    As an atheist, authentic or not depending on your idiosyncratic definition, I must object to one comment.

    “If such people exist, then we are witnessing a radical and tragic decline in the human race, for it is sub-human to exist without a god of any kind.”

    I thought it had gone out of fashion to refer to other people as “untermenschen.”

    Sorry if I do not share your mass delusion in The Big Guy In The Sky™. By the way, which one is the true god? Allah? Wotan? Huitzilopotchli? Which one of the thousands of gods is the right one? If there really was TBGITS™ you’d think he, she, it, or they would make it obvious which god was the correct one. Of course, being a Christian, you go for the Big Three: Dad, JC and the Spook, but a billion and a half Hindus would strongly disagree.

    When you goddists sort out which TBGITS™ is the right one, let us know. Until then, I’ll go with all deities being figments of some very strange imaginations.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for your comment and your question. Most religions treat the multiplicity of ‘gods’ as different manifestations of the Divine. The Judeo-Christian religion does not teach the existence of a ‘big guy in the sky’ (this is a childish misapprehension) instead of being ‘a person in the sky’ God is understood to be the source of all that is–the essence of Being itself. You are clearly not very well informed about religion and I encourage you to be curious and study more with an open mind. At the moment you come across as making opinionated comments about something you don’t really know very much about.

      • Cuttlefish

        It is remarkable to think that “different manifestations of the Divine” would be worth warring over. Even your choice of the phrase “Judeo-Christian religion” does not accurately portray the history of conflict between the various Christian sects and Jewish sects (between, within, among, there is no shortage of groups willing to kill others over “different manifestations of the Divine”). Your interpretation is a very modern view, quite different from the actual history of conflict between warring sects. At the moment you come across as making opinionated comments about something you don’t really know very much about.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I think you’ll find that different tribal groups who apparently kill one another over religious differences are actually fighting over the usual stuff: money, power and property. Religion was used as a pretext. The idea that different gods are different manifestations of the divine is not modern at all. It’s been part of Hinduism and Buddhism and Animism for ages. Thanks for commenting.

  • Quine

    First I will affirm that I have read and understand all three pages you have posted from your book chapter. My central interest is in the first page which contains the fragment you posted two days ago, and is the page that is most similar to your 2003 publication titled In Search of the Authentic Atheist.

    Although you still call us a sort of “human sub-species” you are due some credit for dropping the more direct “sub-human” characterization you used in 2003. I hope that was an intentional correction. As I wrote in a deleted comment yesterday, “human sub-species” is a scientific term with a specific meaning. It indicates an inheritable physical difference. All of us are atheists at birth, but that is because of what we don’t have, not something inherited by atheist parents. That new-born is the authentic atheist of your piece, in that he or she has no concept of deities or religion and no will to opposition of the same.

    Many of us become religious as we grow up because we are told stories by our parents and teachers, and having no way to check these stories against reality, we go along and often use the innate power of the child’s mind to have a relationship with the imaginary friends these stories give us. Putting away the imaginary friends of childhood and looking for the evidence behind stories of what is and is not real in the world, comes to most of us as we become adults. We are not a “sub-species” we are the adult form of the species.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for your comment. I don’t mean to doubt your word and accept that you have read the whole article, however you have not understood it. Nowhere did I say that atheists were sub human or a sub species. Instead I suggested (later clarifying that it was in jest) that there is a sort of person who plods through life in a dull stupor never thinking of God, heaven, hell or the meaning of life. Ever–and that these dull types were perhaps the only ‘authentic atheists’. Those who have understood that paragraph will actually conclude that the article is not very insulting to conscious atheists and agnostics–rather I express my admiration for such spirited and courageous individuals.

      To your comment: Many others of us have grown up religious and been told stories by our parents which, upon examination we have found to be not only true, but pointers to a much greater, more vivie and disturbing reality than we ever could have imagined in childhood. That’s why I became a Catholic.

      • ah58

        You say you don’t think of atheists as a sub-species, but it seems you still don’t accept them as fully human. Instead, you call them spirited and courageous “creatures”. That’s a strange word choice. I certainly wouldn’t refer to religious people as such.

        I would be interested in what stories your parents told you that convinced you to become a Catholic, how these were proven to be true and pointed to the existence of something supernatural. Please give us your best two or three.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I meant nothing by the word ‘creatures’ and have changed it to ‘individuals’ for you. The stories my parents told me were true and pointed me to the truth which has been validated by a whole lifetime of experiences and study. Some of these experiences I have had are what might be termed ‘supernatural’. Many more have simply been a case of witnessing in my life and the lives of many people around me and in history the hand of God– and therefore his existence.

          • ah58

            Thanks for the change.

            I’m still curious about the specifics of these experiences that convinced you of the existence of the supernatural in general and the truth of Catholic teachings specifically. You don’t have any that really stand out? What you’ve said above is very vague. Purposely so?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker
      • Quine

        Thank you for your reply. In your reply you state: Nowhere did I say that atheists were sub human or a sub species.Yes, I am glad you left the sub-human part back in 2003, but you do write:

        … Members of this sub-species may be sparkling sophisticates or ill-bred boors. They may be the decent and moral folks next door, or they could be despicable murderers. In a frightful way, it doesn’t matter. If they exist, perhaps they have bred and spread like the alien bodysnatchers, and exist in our midst like spiritual zombies—indistinguishable in the teeming mass of humanity except to those few who see them and tremble.

        This is the part that so many who commented yesterday found so problematic. We don’t see those lines a jokes, but rather, as a world view that demonizes and marginalizes those who simply don’t believe in deities, much as you yourself, don’t believe in Zeus or Thor or Krishna.

        I have to ask you if you really think it is possible for any sizable group of people in our society to go through normal life with no idea that belief in supernatural beings impacts the world all around us? Does anyone out there not know that the hijackers of 9/11 expected a supernatural trip to paradise, or that Romney is a Mormon, or that some religious groups work to limit the civil rights of LBGT people? World religions are a major fact of life for everyone, in them or not.

  • Thinkling

    Witnessing GKC in a combox would be a treat…be like reading Heretics or Blatchford in real time.

    Another thing to think about…his combox sparring partners would have been a lot more intelligent, or at least informed, than their equivalents today. Some good, deep stuff, on both sides of the cyberaisle.

  • Susan

    >God is pure spirit.

    What does that mean?

    >It was revealed to us as the sun mounts in the morning and as the first whisperings of love well up in a fifteen-year-old boy.
    >That’s what we call “revelation,” and it is something that echoes in the human heart just about everywhere.

    Calling it “revelation” does not make it so. It is “imagination” until otherwise demonstrated. Humans have profound and euphoric experiences. I don’t see how you can assert that this is directly connected to Yahweh without doing and showing your work.

    >It is that hint of something beyond and that glimpse of glory that the atheist squints not to see.

    No. This is a standard assertion using vaguely poetic language that requires no evidence. No matter how hard the atheist strains their eyes, there doesn’t seem to be anything there but stories that humans have made up.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      What kind of “evidence” do you require for the existence of God?

      • ah58

        Any at all would be a good place to start.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I’m not sure what sort of ‘evidence’ people are looking for, but if they are sincerely searching I encourage them in that search.

          • ah58

            What evidence would it take to convince you that Thor is real?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            It depends what you mean by ‘real’. Do you mean that Thor is real as an important mythical, literary and cultural character, or do you mean Thor is real as a symbol of masculinity, divine power in the cosmos and as a symbol of Norse potency. Or do you mean real in the sense that Thor is an objective spiritual personality–a creature who exists within the daemonic realm and has interacted with other similar spiritual beings?

            Or maybe you mean that Thor is real as a character in a superhero comic and movie. Maybe by ‘real’ you mean that you want Thor to be a physical, historical character like King Arthur or Johnny Appleseed.

            What you mean by ‘real’ will determine what you expect to find as ‘evidence’ and it would determine what kind of evidence would be both possible to supply and acceptable to the inquirer.

      • Susan

        >What sort of “evidence” do you require for the existence of God?

        You and I place quotes in different places. I would type:

        What sort of evidence do you have for your choice of a “god”? I would sure like you to explain why your choice of a god (Yahweh) is pure spirit and what pure spirit means.

        You are making the grandest claims about the nature of reality, about morality and about “meaning” and implying that anyone who doesn’t believe in a deity (and maybe I’m projecting here, but I’m guessing ultimately YOUR deity, Yahweh) has no talent for these things. That’s cheating.

        I have learned to look for evidence when humans make claims. We have so many ways of fooling one another and especially, of fooling ourselves. Leaps of awareness are few and far between when one human claims (without supporting their claims) a direct, unevidenced, revealed path to enlighment. These are meaningless implications.

        Our default tendency is to think unscrutinized premises are axioms. Humans have a special talent for getting things wrong.

        Evidence is our best way around this propensity for delusion.

        In short, my gut-lurching moments don’t lead me to Yahweh and neither does the evidence.

        I’m just asking you to show your work. I read the whole thing and I think I understood it. You didn’t show your work.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          What sort of evidence do you require?

      • RickK

        “Is there really such a thing as an utterly authentic atheist? I think so. I have a dreadful feeling that there exists a sort of human sub-species who have lost their spiritual capacity completely.”

        Sorry, but you can’t lay sole claim to “spiritual”. Just because I don’t think the deity concocted around Bronze Age desert campfires is real doesn’t mean I’m not capable of the same or greater feeling of being a part of this amazing world, a feeling of wonder at the workings of nature, a feeling of joy at winning the cosmic lottery and having this chance at awareness, and a feeling of deep connection to my fellow winners. I enjoy a depth of feeling that is every bit as “spiritual” as any chanter of Latin or speaker in tongues. And mine has the advantage of being based on reality.

        Your language consistently portrays those who don’t share your mythology as being lesser human beings. That’s a very bad trait with a long history of social mayhem. You should work on that.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Another person misses the point completely. I’m not saying everyone who disagrees with me is a sub human brute. I’m saying that there do seem to be some people in my experience who plod through life never once thinking about God or the meaning of life or life after death or the big questions at all. These people seem to go through life waking, eating, defecating, breeding, working, sleeping, eating, being entertained and never once seem to contemplate the big questions. These are the ones I call ‘authentic atheists.’

  • Myoo

    “Why else would the savages of the South Pacific worship the Duke of Edinburgh?”
    Savages? Really? How about you stop lecturing atheists on their lack of morals until you stop being a racist.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      this particular tribe were, until not long ago, cannibals. Sounds savage to me.

      • Adrian Luca

        “this particular tribe were, until not long ago, cannibals. Sounds savage to me.”

        –says the priest whose religion demands the weekly consumption of the flesh of its human deity.

  • oolon

    Hi, I’ve read your article with interest, always informative to see how others see you. The sceptic rather than the atheist in me would like to know on what you base your assertion -> “That’s what we call “revelation,” and it is something that echoes in the human heart just about everywhere”. You go on to expound on how we are fighting against the massively overwhelming view that a ‘higher power’ exists in some way and is interested in our welfare. The millions of atheists around the world would be evidence this is not the case allied with many studies showing the increase in disbelief is gaining ground. If this was such a self evident revelation then how is this explained and why can I not even begin to experience anything like it?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      On the contrary, around the world religion of all kinds is growing faster than ever before. Only in some pockets of the developed world is atheism becoming popular. Why do you not experience revelation or believe? It is difficult to believe because it is difficult to obey.

      • oolon

        Makes me wonder what it is about the ‘developed world’ that makes it more likely to be atheist or less likely to be receptive to this revelation you refer to. Also it is often remarked by us atheists that the farther you go up the science hierarchy to the most successful and therefore (?) most intelligent scientists the more likely they are to be atheists or at worst deists rather than theists. This sort of correlation has led to awful things like the ‘Brights’ (imo) and accusations that atheists are arrogant, even as one I’d say this is sometimes justified. So what is it that makes the developed world less receptive, the scientists less receptive when it is a universal revelation. How does the Church fight against this unidentified property that blocks revelation since it is clearly a threat to its existence given the propensity for the 2nd and 3rd world to become ‘developed’. I don’t think it is a separate issue but how does the Church appeal to those in science and higher education when the link from ‘intelligence’ or better our current system of education and the lack of belief?
        The future is hard to predict but the move towards development and focus on good science education across the world gives us atheists a lot of hope that we won’t be a minority for long. I don’t see the Church doing much to counter this trend, I’m not complaining!

  • Malvenu

    My favourite line is ‘sophisticated people and Protestants’ for two reasons. Firstly, poking fun at Protestants always amuses me – even if it shouldn’t. Secondly, it got heavier and heavier towards the end!
    To suggest that there are people who go through life without a second thought to anything beyond the physical and the day-to-day seems to me to be obvious and entirely uncontroversial. Because of my beliefs as a Catholic most of the middle section was also uncontroversial. What gets me is the glimpse i get of how inadequately i have responded to God when i read the following:
    “To suggest that God really is, in some sense, our Father is to say that he is not only a personal God, but he is de facto in a relationship with all those whom he calls his children.
    Suddenly the question of God being personal or impersonal is not an academic debating point, but an explosive question of the heart”

  • ah58

    I’m replying to your post here since there is no reply button in the thread we were using

    I asked for specific examples that made you believe in the supernatural and Catholic teachings.

    You said:
    Go here for a discussion of miracles:

    In that article, there was one example of an experience you had. Well, actually, you didn’t have it, you were asleep and were simply told it happened by your parents. I fail to find this compelling. Which is more likely; the laws of physics were violated in a way that’s never been factually documented, or your parents didn’t tell you the truth? There are lots of people who claim to have been abducted by UFO’s and had experiments performed on them by aliens. Do you accept their claims too? In fact they should be easier to accept since no basic laws of physics are violated by the existence of alien visitors. Do you conclude that “Even allowing that some are deluded, that there were other explanations or that some were exaggerating, there are enough stories from enough reliable, sensible and sane people to conclude that something miraculous took place.” is true with respect to UFO stories?

    What stories of these types always lack is concrete evidence to back them up. Religious miracles are no more or less believable than sightings of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. They should therefore be viewed with the same amount of skepticism.

    How about you give us an example of something that personally happened to you and not simply something someone told you happened with no proof other than their word? Surely you don’t base you whole world view on hearsay evidence? Does it really take so little to convince someone that all of science and evidence of the natural world is wrong and magic is true?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You asked for stories my parents told me. I gave you one.

      I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t share with you the many supernatural things that have happened in my life. You wouldn’t really understand, and I don’t mind. When most atheists are presented with religious experiences they are rather like a color blind person in an art gallery. They simply don’t get it, and that’s okay. We all have certain areas in which we are incapable of appreciating or understanding something.

      You see, I have this policy. I don’t argue with atheists. I don’t argue for several reasons: first, as I’ve said, they most often have this blank spot where some sort of spiritual capacity should be. Sort of like they’re tone deaf and you’re trying to get them to appreciate music. Secondly, and more importantly, the spiritual quest can only ever succeed for a person who is genuinely seeking the truth of God. If they are not, then they cannot be convinced. If they are seeking truth, then they will find their own way and it will be in their own search that they will most authentically find the truth. Sometimes I am honored to help direct people in their search, and to do so I am more than willing to spend much time answering questions and sharing what little I know. Thirdly, it seems that many of the atheists who come to this blog to argue are laden with an anger problem which is often complicated by genuine ignorance of the topic combined with a pretty big dose of egotism. I find wrestling with them to be unpleasant.

      Finally, arguing rarely convinces anyone of anything. When I have argued in the past I have found myself getting tangled up in my own egotism problems and the worst side of me comes out. Besides arguing and trying to ‘prove’ something or convince someone against their will? It’s not desirable and not possible and therefore not really a good use of time. So I’ll sign off and I wish you all peace and blessings. Thank you for visiting my blog!

      • Quine

        I am sure you must know that most of us have been raised in religions and do remember the feeling of faith, perfectly well. You may have believed in Santa when you were a child. If so, I’ll bet you can remember that feeling. You may also remember the feeling when you got older and came to the realization that no matter how much you loved Santa, he could not possibly be real. That is the way it is for many of us; it does not matter how emotionally attached we were to religious devotion, we came to see that it just could not possibly be true.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I understand this position. It is my view that most atheists who were brought up in a religion and then decided it was untrue have probably made the right decision because the religion they experienced or were taught, or saw exhibited WAS untrue. In that respect they are making the right choice. Sadly, there are many bogus forms of Christianity out there, and they are taught with sincerity by well meaning people, but they are a mixture of half truths and heresies and foolishness. In addition there are many hypocrites and bogus religious teachers who make the religion they teach untrue by their bad examples. I have been lucky to have been brought up by people who not only took their religion seriously, but lived it honestly. In addition, I have been blessed to have been able to analyze various expressions of Christianity and have had teachers who were able to present an intelligent, cultured and credible version of the Christian faith. I have also been lucky to have eventually come to understand and accept the one that holds the fullest expression of God’s truth in Christ. That others have not been so blessed and have decided the whole thing is bogus is understandable. That they often are angry and aggressive is also understandable. That they are angry and aggressive towards the hypocrites and purveyors of a stupid and obviously inane version of Christianity is also understandable. However, not all Christians are like that and there are many who can offer a sane, intelligible and sensible defense of their faith, and there are many more who live that faith out in simplicity, integrity, compassion and self sacrifice. While I acknowledge and lament the charlatans, fools and hypocrites I am more interested and intrigued by those who are genuine.

          • Quine

            Thank you for your reply. In my case I can tell you that I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools, and was taught critical thinking by Jesuits. But I know from further education in science and philosophy that life evolved on this Earth and there was never a human population down to two persons (Adam and Eve), nor a “fall” nor “great flood” nor “Original Sin.” The basis of the redeemer story is gone, and with it, any possible truth to Christianity. We each develop from a single cell by cell division with no discontinuous point for a supernatural connection. Our ancestors evolved by tiny differences, generation to generation, with no discontinuous point from the rest of the animal kingdom. In all honesty I must report to you that all the evidence is stacked on the natural side, with none on the supernatural side of the scale.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I understand your position, but there are many who are Catholic believers who also do not accept a literal interpretation of the story of the universal flood, and who believe that there was an ‘Adam and Eve’ and therefore a ‘fall’ and a redemption while not necessarily holding to a literal understanding of the second chapter of Genesis. There are also many who, while not holding to fundamentalist creationism, still have great reservations about the total veracity of the evolution story.

      • ah58

        You stated that you’d been told stories by your parents that you’d found to be true. I don’t see that in the story you offered. How exactly did you find find this story of cars passing through each other to be true? You weren’t even awake when it supposedly happened.

        I view the religious telling me that I’m the one with the problem because I don’t accept the supernatural to be real without evidence to be strange. In what other area of life do we simply accept things that go against the way we perceive the world to work without evidence? If I say I have a dragon in my garage do you simply believe me? No, the vast majority of people wouldn’t believe me until they’d at least seen it, and quite a few would want more testing before they could accept that it was a dragon.

        I’m flabbergasted that someone who is supposed to be God’s representative refuses to present the evidence that convinced him of His existence. Asking hard questions doesn’t mean we have an anger problem, it means we want real answers, not just the platitudes that are used to soothe those who already believe. All we ever seem to get are dodges and evasions though. It’s that, more than anything else, that is irksome. We ask straightforward questions, questions that would be normal with respect to any non-religious claim, and are called strident and hateful.

        You tell us to search for the truth, but refuse to tell us how you arrived at your understanding of your version. How is that an out of bounds question?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          See my comment on Thor. One of the problems in these discussions is that atheists regularly call for ‘evidence’ but they never specify what sort of evidence they require for the existence of God or the supernatural. What do you mean by ‘evidence’? That you would be able to see or hear something supernatural?

          OK. I will tell you a first hand experience of the supernatural, but I expect you will explain it away. It happened like this. I was working as a priest in a town in England well known for the involvement of some of its inhabitants in witchcraft. These were people who met together to cast spells, summon up demons and engage in black magic sexual rituals. There were a good number of people in town who told me first hand of what they had witnessed or participated in.

          One Saturday morning a fifteen year old girl came to my door in great distress. She claimed that a ‘spirit’ was around her. When I asked what she had been doing she admitted that she had ‘been with the witches’. I said I was going to call another priest who was more experienced in such matters. When I picked up the phone the girl began to scream and then mutter in a foreign language in a guttural, inhuman voice. She uttered blasphemies against God and Jesus. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her skin turned a sickly green color.

          Ten minutes later my priest friend came to the house. He conducted an exorcism rite and as he did the girl writhed and screamed in an un natural and hideous voice. The dog barked and howled and then ran from the room. When the priest spoke the words of deliverance in the name of Christ and sprinkled holy water on her she suddenly returned to normal.

          I should say that the girl had no history of mental illness, and once the experience was over had no memory of the negative events.

          I relate this story because you asked for a personal experience of the supernatural. I have had many more personal experiences, and my own story just related fits in with many stories of exorcisms from around the world from many different cultures and from all time periods.

          In the article on miracles I linked to you will see that the Catholic position on such phenomena is that we allow for the supernatural while first considering all the possible natural explanations. In this case I don’t have any other natural explanations.

          However, this is not what interests me. What interests me is your probable reaction. If you respond as most atheists do you will simply refuse to admit this as evidence for the supernatural. You will find another explanation–even if it is ridiculous. So, for example, in reaction to my other story you simply said, “Your parents must have lied.” Never thinking that they had no motive to lie, and not considering that they were, of all people, scrupulously honest.

          Or you will simply say, “That is impossible” or “There must be some other rational explanation like mental illness, drug use or emotional disturbance. Thus you will understand my policy that I do not argue with atheists.

          • Malvenu

            I think that any discussion on the miraculous should start with the “Miracle of the Sun” that took place in Fatima, Portugal on 13/10/1917.

            The miracle had been predicted to take place in that location and on that day for several months. That meant that on the day, not only did thousands of people turn up to see the miracle but also that among them were government officials, communists, journalists, atheists and sceptics whose presence there was expressly to deny the miraculous and provide proof that there is no such thing. They were to be frustrated in their aim. There were newspaper reports of the miracle across the world including the New York Times.

            Briefly, what happened is that at the appointed time the three children saw the Blessed Virgin Mary and she spoke to them. The 70,000 people who had trudged through the mud and then stood in it and in the rain did not see the Blessed Virgin Mary. They put down their umbrellas when the little Lucia told them to shortly after they saw the sun spinning in the sky “like a firework” and with different colours shooting off of it. Then the sun appeared to plummet towards the earth, towards those watching it. After the miracle all those present and the ground they were standing on was perfectly dry. I read somewhere that it has been calculated that the energy required to have dried all those people and the land would also have wiped out all the people (this, unlike the miracle, I can’t verify – it might be the miscalculations of a credulous believer!)

            The miracle of the sun was also seen in other places several miles from the sight of the apparition so could not be accounted for by some mass-hallucination (if there were such a thing).

            There is plenty of information out there about the miracle. Like anything on the Internet, some sources will be more reliable than others. The original sources (New York Times), etc. provide a very well-documented miracle. Is it possible to discount what 70,000 people witnessed? Including atheists and sceptics?

          • Paul Susac

            OK, so I”m an atheist, and a psychotherapist, and I find your story to be fascinating. One of the areas of interest that I have is the power of ritual and metaphor in shaping our experience. Clearly hypnosis is a great example of this, and it’s often touted out because it’s something that you can do systematically in a psychology laboratory, but we humans can and do shape our experiences through all kinds of processes both social and medical “in the wild” as it were.

            We humans can clearly use ritual, metaphor and drugs to shape our experience, our understanding and even our growth and development. Indeed, this is one of the things that religion is FOR. There is a scientifically valid answer to how and why this happens, but (as a person of faith), you are likely going to view this as support for the supernatural (it’s not).

            The answer is “we don’t know how and why this happens.”

            It is entirely possible that the experience that you are describing was completely due to the hypnotic effects of rituals, but this is like saying that vision is due to light hitting your retina: Understanding some of the steps in the process of shaping conscious experience is NOT the same thing as understanding how and why we have consciousness in the first place. Still, the hypnotic inductions that religious services are famous for are probably a good place to start if you are looking for causal factors. This also explains why your exorcism worked: You offered a counter ritual to break her out of her trance.

            Consider (for example) hysterical paralysis – this is a form of paralysis where a person will have a hand go numb because of emotional issues “hysteria.” It can be treated with hypnosis. Suggestion is a very powerful force in our lives.

            As an atheist though, I want to point out that your assertion that some sort of supernatural forces are at work is tantamount to saying’ “Ok well it’s magic so we will never understand it.” So my objection to your faith-based worldview is not that it is wrong but rather that it is an obstacle to understanding. But then we atheists have long agreed with the evangelicals that science and faith are inimical to each-other.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Thank you for your comment. Please take time if you will to explore some of my other posts on the Catholic reaction to the supernatural. It is our position that when confronted with the inexplicable we are properly skeptical and look for every natural explanation first. In the case of demonic possession, most cases are the result of mental illness, self delusion or some other imbalance in the person. We also expect to find psychiatric problems and the influence of the sort of things you discuss in your comment. We are aware of all these things and look them as explanations first. However, there are some cases which have no other explanation and the best and most workable hypothesis is that there is some sort of malevolent spiritual personality which takes over the human person. We don’t profess to understand it fully and we are open to other explanations, neither do we call it ‘magic’. We witness a certain phenomenon. We try to understand and explain it, and our explanation seems to be the one which best fits the facts. Notice also, that we do not use demonic possession and exorcism as ‘proof’ for God or the supernatural. We simply offer it up as one particle of evidence or experience in the whole discussion.

          • ah58

            Where is the supernatural in the above story? A girl screams and yells and thrashes around. How is that something that is unexplainable by normal means? Did she levitate? Did she do something physically impossible?

            The only thing supernatural is your explanation as to WHY she did those things. I could just as easily say she was cursed by a leprechaun and my explanation would have just as much evidence supporting it as yours.

            I’m curious why you simply rule out other, more plausible explanations and jump to the supernatural. It’s really hard to find an explanation that’s MORE ridiculous than invisible spirits possessing her. That explanation flouts everything we know about how reality works.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I guess you had to be there. All the best!

      • RickK

        “Sort of like they’re tone deaf and you’re trying to get them to appreciate music. Secondly, and more importantly, the spiritual quest can only ever succeed for a person who is genuinely seeking the truth of God.”

        How very convenient. Don’t argue with people who find the path to truth through evidence and proof. Instead, only discuss with people who’ve made the decision to share your faith. Belief in goblins will only come to those who genuinely seek to believe in them. But that is no measure of truth.

        In the world you promote, how would criminal trials work? Would we do without the jury and evidence? Would the judge simply say “Tell me your faith, my son, so that I may determine your guilt or innocence.” Think of the time we’d save.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          May I ask what sort of evidence do you require?

  • ah58

    “It depends what you mean by ‘real’. Do you mean that Thor is real as an important mythical, literary and cultural character, or do you mean Thor is real as a symbol of masculinity, divine power in the cosmos and as a symbol of Norse potency. Or do you mean real in the sense that Thor is an objective spiritual personality–a creature who exists within the daemonic realm and has interacted with other similar spiritual beings?”

    Real in the same sense that you believe the Christian God to be real. What would it take for you to believe Thor (or Zeus, or any other of the plethora of deities that people have worshiped ) is a real god, a divine being?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      We do not believe that Thor is real in the same way that the Supreme Being–the source of all Being is real. If Thor exists he would be in the order of a demi-god–a spiritual creature on the level of angels and demons.

      God, on the other hand, does not simply ‘exist’ he is the ground and source of all existence. ‘Proving’ that he exists is rather like proving that energy exists. I could doubt the existence of energy and you would have a pretty hard time ‘proving’ to me that it exists. That is because some things are so basic as to need no ‘proof’ and no ‘proof’ is possible because their existence is so fundamental to everything.

      • Severaspeciesof

        Are you saying that God is an axiom? If so, you then need to define God in terms that are understandable AND non-contradictory. I have yet to see such a thing…

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Billions have found theological, Biblical and liturgical language for God to be satisfactory. For various reasons you may not be able to do this.

        • Richard

          You say that you “have yet to see such a thing…”
          So, you have not considered the rational, philosophical arguments proposed by:
          St. Anselm (ontological argument) and St. Thomas Aquinas (cosmological argument and his teleological argument)? I would suggest that you study these arguments for the existence of God with an open mind.

          • ah58

            Have you ever encountered anyone who said they became a Christian because of the ontological argument? I certainly haven’t. Arguments of those types are simply made by apologists to make those who already believe think there’s a rational basis for their belief. First cause arguments for God all boil down to special pleading. Everything must have a cause… except this one thing I’ll call God or the creator. He’s special. So you ‘re basically defining God into existence. That’s really not convincing at all.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I haven’t encountered anyone who has become a Christian because of the ontological argument, but then again, I have never encountered anyone who has fallen in love and got married by reading a treatise on love.

      • ah58

        You’ve still dodged the question as to what EVIDENCE it would take to convince you that Thor is real.

        Your explanation of the Christian God is simply an assertion. It would be trivial to prove that energy exists. All you have to do is point a flashlight at a wall. Now show me a God.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          You haven’t explained what you mean by the word ‘real’ or what kind of ‘evidence’ you require? Why do you keep dodging these questions?

          • ah58

            I said in the same way you think your God is real. I realize that you found “what evidence would you require for God” to be a convenient dodge, (as I’ve seen you use it multiple times) but you surely know what is meant by evidence that proves something really exists.

            Also, do you admit that it’s trivial to prove that energy exists? The simple fact is that no one can provide real, physical evidence of the existence of anything supernatural. If they could, it wouldn’t be supernatural. Lots of things are attributed by believers to the supernatural, but I’ve yet to see anyone support that conclusion in a way that is verifiable to a neutral observer. It’s only when viewed through “God-colored glasses” that the supernatural appears real.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Your word ‘evidence’ is too vague. Why can’t you answer a simple question? What form of evidence do your require? Scientific? Historical? Experiential? Documentary? Archeological? Forensic? Psychological? Philosophical? Rational? Come now. Answer the question. You see, if you even begin to ponder this question you will see that your whole request for ‘evidence’ for God is nonsensical.

            Do you think the existence of energy is so obvious? Allow me to play the devil’s advocate with you then and I will take the position (for the sake of argument) that there is no evidence for the existence of this thing you call ‘energy’ and that it is not real.

            You say that it is proved by shining a flashlight on a wall. But that’s not energy. That’s light. It’s just the result of the chemical reactions in a battery which produce electricity which is sent to the bulb which produces light. Where’s this thing called ‘energy’ that you suggest is real?

  • FW Ken

    Thank you to the various parties for engaging in a civil tone and reasonable discussion.

    If I may note, there are many documented cases of spontaneous healing and unexpanded events which a Christian is likely to regard as miraculous. The Catholic Church, particular maintains an cautious openness to the possibility of miracles and documents things fairly well. The evidence is there to examine.

    However, I would like to suggest that the more usual course for developing a Catholic Faith begins with a simple need rather than dramatic needs that call for miracles. It may be a personal crisis or simply a point of psychological (intellectual, moral, or social) change. We reach out and eventually find the answer to our needs, the satisfaction that moved us forward in life. I found Jesus Christ, in his Body the Catholic Church. Others have other answers, but that’s mine. Now, maybe I’m wrong in my conclusions, but as the years go by, my life slowly gains coherence and forward momentum. This is not a matter of my truth and your truth”, but more a matter of people testing their experiences in the crucible of real life.

    • Adrian Luca

      “..there are many documented cases of spontaneous healing and unexpanded events which a Christian is likely to regard as miraculous. ”

      And yet not a single case in recorded history of an amputated human limb growing back. Why? Does the Christian god have a problem with amputees?

      • flyingvic

        No, he’s prepared to save us bit by bit if necessary . . .

  • John Kaiser

    The father’s exorcism story can be explained many different ways. Untill someone investigates this case with a critical mind nothing of value can be said about it. But this priest thinks that it was a part of his life that contributed to his present mindset. He himself just seems to take the events of the exorcism at face value and has not critically examined those events. This is what a lot of folks do through out their lives. It is a shame really because he may have learned a lot about humanity by finding out why that girl acted that way.

    He is a smart enough fellow to know what kind of “real” was referred to in the Thor question. He just evades.

    His description of God seems to be a personification of Energy. And I am talking about the E=mc2 type not the woo – woo type. He is correct that Energy is everywhere and that it permeates us. But he is wrong in thinking that it does anything intentional.

    He seems to be the color blind person in the art gallery. And worse yet is he refuses to even consider that he is seeing things off kilter.

    The reason I don’t direct my comments to him directly is because I’m not sure if he exist. He could be a figment of my imagination. I’m not really awake yet on this Sunday morning. (10:30 am east coast USA). Sleeping in on Sunday is the best reason for being an atheist!

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Just to observe: my question about what the person means by ‘real’ is a valid question. Much of the problem in the discussion with atheists is that many of them do not stop to examine their terminology. What do they mean by ‘real’? What do they mean by ‘evidence’? There are many different types of reality and many different types of evidence for all sorts of things. They throw these very complex terms ‘real’ and ‘evidence’ around without any definition or refinement of terms and they expect their debate to be taken seriously.

      It is a very valid epistemological and philosophical question. Unless I know what a person means by ‘real’ I cannot discuss the matter with him. Unless I know what he means by ‘evidence’ and what sort of ‘evidence’ he would accept or think appropriate for a particular question it is impossible to have a discussion.

      Let me give you an example: Let us say that Joe argues that something called “Love” is real and that he has lots of evidence for the existence and reality of this thing called Love. If I were a ‘love denier’ I might say that he has no evidence and that Love is not real. Joe would be entirely justified to ask me what I mean by ‘real’ and what kind of ‘evidence’ I would need to have in order to be convinced of Love’s existence. If I were a serious ‘love denier’ I would need to examine these questions and try to work out an answer in order to move the investigation forward.

      However, when I pose these questions to the atheists who come here they simply come back and repeat themselves, “Yeh, but there’s no evidence.” or “Show me why you think God is real.” It’s really not good enough and until these questions are examined there’s not much of a discussion.

  • Paul Susac

    First off, I can’t help but notice that my original post didn’t make it past the censors. Huh.

    OK, so “what is real?”

    Yes this is a whole field of philosophy, and one that theists love to hide behind.

    I’m not a professional philosopher, but I’m gonna throw down some basic concepts anyway:

    First, I will assume that reality exists beyond my mere perception of it (just to put solipsism on the shelf)

    Some things are “real” because they exist irrespective of human experience (I assume that the moon, stars and this computer are all examples of this category)

    Other things function as a part of our social realty. Money is a great example here. Money is “real” in the sense that it exists as a relationship between people. This relationship is quantified and symbolized by the numbers on your paycheck, but at the end of the day, money is a trust-based relationship that we all have with each other. One little trick of our psychology is that we treat the symbols for money as “real” independent of that relationship, which is why (for example) Cortez plundered the gold from the Aztecs: He thought that gold was money, and ignored the fact that the relationship was what really mattered. As a result, a side effect of Cortez’s conquest was that he inflated the Spanish economy by devaluing its currency. Ah the irony.

    Next we get to phenomenological “reality.” This is the subjective reality we all experience by living inside our own skins. By this standard, our emotional subjective experiences are certainly real, at least as real as any other part of our subjective experience. Scientists are currently busy correlating physiological processes with subjective experiences. This effort is based on the (very un-Christian) assumption that the mind arises from and is an epiphenomenon of the body – in other words, subjective experience is a result of biology. You can show this correlation easily enough by drinking some alcohol or coffee – changes in the body result in changes in your subjective experience of reality. Still correlation does not imply causation, so people of faith can still hide the soul in the shadow of doubt that scientific rigor requires.

    MANY psychological experiments have shown that subjective experience is highly mutable and greatly influenced by (among other things) the narrative that the culture puts on the phenomena, the frame of reference the person is operating out of, the medical status of the person, peer pressure, hypnosis etc. etc. Religions often use this pliability (sometimes quite artfully) to shape and influence the experience of believers as a part of the “spiritual experience.”

    OK, so now we get to the idea of supernatural beings. This includes demonic possession, Yahweh, and so on. The real question here is not “are these beings real?” The question here is “does the reality of these experiences count as objective reality or do they ONLY exist in the subjective reality of believers?”

    My own opinion: God DOES exist, but he only exists as a pattern of neurons firing in your brain. At least, this is the most parsimonious explanation for the experience of God. Certainly the human capacity to anthropomorphize the unknown is a well-know and robust phenomenon which can (almost by itself) explain away the belief in God.

    Now I’m sure that at this point (if this actually get’s posted – I have my doubts), many theologians will go into overdrive engaging in all kinds of philosophical acrobatics in order to defend the “true existence” of the deity. As a man who distains the entire field of theology, I tend to write this off as people trying to defend the validity of their chosen profession. As a shrink, I understand this tendency, people in my field have issues with validity as well.

    So, check your motivations, and for SURE check you’re a-priori assumptions, because if there is one thing I see a lot of in theologians, it’s the tendency to assume that God exists FIRST and to then explain away any argument to the contrary.

    Anyway, have a nice day!

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for visiting this blog. I didn’t post your first comment because it was too long. These are supposed to be comments on a post–not a whole internet forum. I put this post up because at last someone is attempting what I considered a very valid question: “What do you mean by ‘real’”. Thanks for taking the effort.

      Christian theologians would acknowledge the different categories of ‘reality’ that you posit. We contend that God is “ipsum esse subsistens” That is, he is the pure existence from which all other things derive their existence. He is the foundational essence or ‘Being’ from which all other beings are derived. The question is not whether he is real, but whether there is such a thing as reality at all. We experience reality, but that reality is mutable and therefore not completely real. However, for anything to be truly real (and immutable) we reason that there must be such a thing as immutable or transcendent reality. This ultimate reality we call God.

      You will find Aquinas very enlightening on this:

  • Paul Susac

    As to what count’s as valid evidence that an all powerful. all knowing deity exists, you are quite right – there is, in principal NO empirical evidence that could possibly prove the existence of such a deity. Empirical evidence requires that the laws of causality WORK, and clearly such a deity need not obey such laws (that’s why he’s the deity).

    But here’s the thing. Such a deity could also USE his divine magic to cause all humans throughout time to know that he exists without any doubt. He could simply BE his own proof. The idea that he fails to do so shows at the very least that he is indifferent to our salvation, since belief in this magic man is (according to you) a prerequisite for getting into his divine in-group.

    So either your God doesn’t exist, or he’s a real jerk. Take your pick.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for visiting this blog and commenting. Your comment about God being a ‘jerk’ says more about you than God. Nevertheless, you raise an interesting question and I suggest if you are interested in an answer you explore the Christian concept of Divine Providence and Omnipotence versus Human Free Will.

      • Paul Susac

        Fair enough – just as characterizing atheists as a sub-species says something about you. Well and good.

        Ok, so what you are really asserting is that “God is the pure existence from which all other things derive their existence.” Got it.

        So where do you get the idea that this “pure existence from which all other things derive their existence” get’s to be referred to using the personal pronoun “he?”

        You see? This is kind of my whole point. As an atheist, I look at the great mystery of being and say “Wow, how amazing! I don’t know how this came to be!

        As a theist, you look at the great mystery of being an say “Wow, this is amazing! Some person (a person with a penis no less) made this!”

        My position is more intellectually honest because I’m honestly admitting to myself and to the world that I don’t know why there is something rather than nothing.

        When you believe in God, what I think that what you are doing is projecting your own unconscious self upon this great mystery, and then asserting that this story about a supernatural being explains the mystery. This is intellectually dishonest, because the TRUTH IS that you don’t know any better than I do why there is something rather than nothing.

        Once you make this error in reason, it simply follows that you get all kinds of mileage out of your mistake: You get to feel like the creator of the universe meets YOUR ideals about what is and isn’t moral. You get political power, you get a career, you get status in your community etc. etc.

        As long as your beliefs are the primary source of your status, money and privilege, you can’t afford to believe anything else can you?

        And you use this status and privilege to create a social structure that gives YOU authority in the name of the creator of the universe.

        But here’s the thing: When you get offended that I call God a Jerk, that makes perfect sense to me. After all, I’m really insulting your secret, idealized self aren’t I ?

  • Glenn Juday

    I was struck by the comment “… there was never a human population down to two persons (Adam and Eve) …” (Quine). Without intending to come across as tendentious, I believe it is important for all readers of this thread to understand that the first claim is empirically demonstrable as false. The Judeo-Christian creation story had it right – as a matter of science and against all such “reasonable” expectation.

    All humans alive today are descended from a single woman who lived in Africa sometime between 125,00 and 200,000 years ago. See: Behar et al., D; Villems; Soodyall; Blue-smith; Pereira; Metspalu; Scozzari; Makkan et al. 2008. The dawn of human matrilineal diversity. Journal of Human Genetics 82 (5): 1130–1140. This individual has been named “mitochondrial Eve,” for understandable reasons. It is particularly interesting to note that in the ancient Hebrew, “Eve” means “mother of all the living,” and this is precisely what this individual woman was, as a matter of scientific finding with exceptionally high confidence.

    But that is only half the equation, right? The specific claim in the Judeo-Christian creation narrative is that there was also an ancestral man, Adam. In Hebrew the name Adam is a play on the word adama, meaning clay or dirt or earth material. Well, all humans alive today are descended from a single individual man who lived in Africa around 60,000 years ago. See: Weiss, G.; Von Haeseler, A (1996). “Estimating the Age of the Common Ancestor of Men from the ZFY Intron”. Science 272 (5266): 1359. And, in fact our bodies are made of earth material – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, with a bit of other elements thrown in, just as you would find in earth crustal material.

    These are not crackpot ideas or rank speculation, or massive and unwarranted inference. They are solid finding, demonstrated from advanced techniques to the satisfaction of the virtually advanced research teams in the field.

    Of course, it is still possible to reach the atheist conclusion using the logic cited to Fr. Longenecker, but to do so correctly you must conclude that the Judeo-Christian creation story got correct a string of ideas that were beyond the comprehension of the early authors and audiences. These include “… let there be light …” (the big bang – a burst of unimaginable energy that condensed in to the structure of matter and energy), the sequence of matter, plant life, animal life, human life (evolution), and the correct depiction of human ancestry. As a result, the atheist position is “Just a repeated series of lucky guesses, millennia ahead of their time.” Speaking personally, I would find that position well beyond the bounds of reason and into the realm of obscure non-rational faith mythology.

    This thread has been focused on what constitutes “evidence.” If human understanding is to be advanced, then it is essential to use, to actually apply, all the relevant evidence available to the question at hand. I can well imagine that such an exercise will be uncomfortable to a number of atheists who have constructed their world view on an old, outdated model. But it truly is worth the effort.

  • Quine

    Thank you for letting this thread keep going and for answering the questions you have. Regarding your comments about Thor, back in the time of the Hebrew tribes, YHWH was much the same kind of deity. Some researchers think that YHWH was derived from an earlier Canaanite deity mentioned in the Enûma Eliš, but was giving more attributes when that polytheistic system was squeezed down to make monotheism. Be that origin true or false, YHWH was worshiped with prayers and animal sacrifices and thought of as a rival to Baal in much the same sense. At that time the attribution of personal characteristics and a will to YHWH resulted in law for the behavior of the people who primarily (First Commandment) worshiped YHWH.

    It was only later that ideas such as Brahman “basis of existence” were brought into Christian theology (by the time of Augustine of Hippo, I think, but you could correct me on that) to make a traditional pantheon less in the image of ourselves as persons, and more abstract. Being more abstract made your deities harder to falsify, and gave the Church more latitude to claim authority without challenge.

    But what if Augustine had known what we know today? What if he had known that we evolved from other living things over billions of years? What if he had known that our memories and personalities reside in physical structures of chemicals in our brains, and that the very concept of a “disembodied mind” is without any meaning? Would he have assigned the basis of existence to the Universe itself, or continued on to make a desert tribal deity into something defensible only because it can’t be pinned down?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Not correct. The idea of God as ipse esse substiens comes not from pagan religions nor from later Christian theology but from the formative experience of Moses at the burning bush in the early Hebrew experience and tradition. God said his name was ‘Yahweh’ which means ‘I AM’. From this we gather that the first revelation of God to man in this religious sense was essentially the same description I offered. This ‘Yahweh’–I AM–is totally different from Thor or Baal or any of the other pagan demi gods.

  • oolon

    Your example on the exorcism was very interesting and counts as anecdotal evidence for a phenomenon. As you notice not something that impresses the sceptic-atheists here. I’m not too interested in saying why that was true or false, it was obviously very true and convincing for you. Which raises the obvious question of why you? I’ve had experiences that could be seen as supernatural – in my case they would only lead to me believing in telepathy or ghosts if I had not examined them critically. Why does God choose to give you a convincing experience and not the rest of us? I don’t think you could say that without those experiences you would have the faith you have today since you say as much above. Given you are subject to all the cognitive errors open to human beings these are inherently dubious and all you lack is an ability to question your own experience and examine it critically.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      On the contrary. It is Catholic teaching that we examine all such supernatural phenomenon critically and look for all natural explanations first. Even when we draw a supernatural conclusion we do with the possibility that we are mistake and the explanation was natural after all. We exercise this formal process for all reported healings, exorcisms etc.

  • Rachel

    May God bless you Father for answering these questions & responding to comments. May He sustain you & give you peace. You take on all this here, but many must have read through all of this & not responded, but went on to think & reason & even seek out God (even if they don’t know they are). Additionally, as a life-long Christian & new Catholic, I’ve found this thread to be very informative & strengthening in my own faith journey.

    I’ve had many struggles with being burdened with doubt, and with many thanks to God & St. Thérèse’s writings I feel I understand this burden now. I’m so happy to read through this thread & feel unshaken.

    (Don’t feel obligated to post this comment as it doesn’t directly relate to your initial post or the resulting thread) God Bless!

  • ah58

    You said:
    “You say that it is proved by shining a flashlight on a wall. But that’s not energy. That’s light. It’s just the result of the chemical reactions in a battery which produce electricity which is sent to the bulb which produces light. Where’s this thing called ‘energy’ that you suggest is real?”

    Light IS energy. Electromagnetic energy. Yes, it’s the result of chemical reactions (which use energy exchange) and electricity (which is also energy). You seem to have a strange definition of energy. What do you think it is?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You say light is energy, but that is only because you believe in energy to start with. You haven’t proved energy exists! Light is just light. That’s all. Then you come up with this idea of ‘electromagnetic energy’. I’ve never heard anything so stupid in my life! Energy from magnets? Then you talk about energy from chemical reactions? There’s no such thing as energy. It’s just chemicals.

      It gets worse. You say Light is energy. Then you say chemical reactions are energy. Then you say magnets are electricity. So which is it? You can’t have it all three ways? What next? Wind is energy? Fire is energy? Everything you say is contradictory. How can light be energy and chemical reactions are also energy?

      How do you know there is such a thing as energy? Only because someone has told you so. Do you base your whole experience on hearsay? Obviously. How do you know they were not lying? Have they ever given you any evidence for energy? Can you give me any evidence for its existence? Tell me one personal experience you’ve had with this thing called energy which would make me believe in its existence.

      I looked up energy on the internet trying to understand, but every article was by someone who used lots of complicated language discussing something which is absurd to start with. All these long articles about protons and neutrons and stories about all these invisible little things whizzing about and bumping off each other. There’s no evidence for any of it! Invisible particles? Then after they tell you all that they say they’re not particles after all, they’re invisible waves! None of it’s real! Furthermore all the articles were written by people who already believed in energy so they were biased.

      I looked for pictures of energy and all they could show was pictures of lightning bolts! Is that it??!! Is that all the evidence they could put together? It’s like they believe in this invisible zapping wizard in the sky who goes around zapping people with lighting bolts and they call that ‘energy’.


      You see? I could go on forever in this vein, and anything you could do to try to convince me of the existence of energy I could (with only a little ingenuity) dismiss as foolishness.

      Of course the whole thing is absurd, but what may be difficult for you to understand is that your arguments against the existence of God and the supernatural seem just as absurd to me.

  • John Kaiser

    Their have been billions of experiments confirming each of the various instances of energy you wish to dismis as foolishness. (each cell phone call shakes the electro magnetic field just enough to send the photons to the cell towers so that Suzy can lie to Mom about staying over at Mindy’s) You see that the magic of radio is provable. The magic of deities is not. And probably most likely never will.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      There you go again talking about ‘photons’. As I understand it these are invisible little particles that you believe go flying around in the atmosphere. And now you tell me that they take messages from people to other people. Do you really believe in invisible little things that fly around delivering messages? What do they look like? Do you have any evidence for their existence? Are they real? How do you know? Do you just take the word of people who do ‘experiments’? As you’ve said, they are only confirming the things they already believe in. Every instance of these ‘experiments’ you trumpet about are done by scientists who already believe in energy. Of course the experiments are going to ‘prove’ the existence of energy. It was a foregone conclusion. Why do you have to come up with these extravagant theories about invisible radio waves and this invisible power called ‘energy’? It’s all un necessary. Radios just work. That’s all. You don’t need to come up with bizarre theories about invisible and mysterious something called energy.


      This is my last ‘energy doesn’t exist’ comment. I could go on endlessly dismissing the existence of energy. Of course the exercise is absurd and of course I believe energy exists. My point is that the atheist’s dismissal of God and the supernatural sounds just as absurd to me.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Comments on this post are now closed.