Thanks for your patience and persistence. Here are some charts.

I really want to thank everyone for the tone of the replies so far.  Some of the comment threads elsewhere on the internet have gotten a little unpleasant, but over here, it looks like the regular readers are taking this with mostly civil anger.  Which is a totally reasonable response.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have a lot more respect for people who do pick fights when the stakes are high than “Oh, everyone’s entitled to their opinion” types.  Ideas have consequences, so it’s weird to say you can somehow be disinterest in other people’s beliefs.  I look forward to wading back in to the comment threads and fleshing out my position a little more, but I’ll be mostly catching up on email today.

But never fear, I’ve got something even better than apologetics on offer today: data visualization!  After looking at my excel charts for the latest round of the Turing Test, commenter Mark offered a redesign if I sent him the spreadsheets.  And after seeing what he did with them, I can tell you my next conversion is going to be being a Tableau enthusiast.  Go check it out!

 

(and for the more recent readers of the blog, check the Ideological Turing Test tab for more information about what Mark charted.  Basically it’s a chance for atheists and Christians to see how well they understand the way the other side thinks by trying to impersonate them.  Here are links to the Christian and Atheist rounds from this year, along with the answer key.  Plus some contestants gave us a behind the scenes look at how they wrote their entries.).

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • David

    Given how large your readership has become, this comment will only be appreciated by a very small fraction of it, but your conversion seems like evidence to me of the powerful and long-lasting effects of POR membership. Has anyone investigated whether it is in fact not a student debating society, but rather a retrovirus?

    Also, though I see how your previous (quite unusual) set of beliefs led to theism, it still sort of shocks me that you became Catholic. Though your blogging over the past few years has sort of made it clear that Catholicism would be the choice if you did convert (so it’s not a surprise in that sense), it’s so at odds with the person I knew at Yale (who put up posters with pictures of the development of animal fetuses in order to mock CLAY’s Baby Lucy campaign) that it’s hard not to find the transition weird. In that regard, I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to suggest that you ended up becoming Catholic because you chose to immerse yourself in Catholicism (rather than say, Hinduism, or Mormonism, or, heck, even a non-theistic but very well developed and long standing moral tradition like Confucianism) for reasons unrelated to its relative merit. I mean, the premise of the blog for its initial years was trying to deal with your boyfriend’s Catholicism. I know this is one of the things being pointed to as an unfair attack on your conversion, but the blog does make very clear the lengths you went to understand and participate in Catholicism in the hopes of making that relationship work, lengths you did not go to for Hinduism or Mormonism or Confucianism.

    On another note, let me just suggest that you look for opportunities to study the history of the church in a non-religious, but still academically serious setting. That’s probably hard now that you’re not in school, but I find it quite annoying to deal with the internet Catholics who lecture atheists/non-Catholics on how little we know about their religion, while ignoring the very serious intellectual work that’s been done on it from a perspective outside the church. As someone who did a fair bit of medieval church history in college, I can’t really take, for instance, being told that the physical torment of hell is (and has only ever been) metaphorical (as popped up in one of the threads from yesterday); if the church really teaches that now, it’s a massive shift from what it taught in the Medieval period; heck, from what it taught in the early 20th century. Anyhow, to retreat from that digression, let me just reiterate that I think more Catholics would do well to seriously study the history of the church outside of whatever it teaches about its own history. And, I swear, I’m not saying this because I think that history conclusively demonstrates Catholicism’s depravity.

    Finally, I really hope your next announcement is that the reason you’ve become a Catholic is because you’ve decided to thrown in your lot with Liberation Theology. And not only because I think that would make most of your Catholic commenters’ heads explode.

    • http://cumrecordaremursion.wordpress.com Kevin

      Oh, I miss those pictures of cat fetuses.

      And you could totally tell the difference — it was in the ears.

    • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

      David, having read your comment patiently, I got the impression that the whole comment is about you and not about Leah, you are trying to explain yourself the conversion of Leah and want to make her conversion look trivial. I don’t really think it is really very charitable to hobby psycho-analyse Leah’s conversion. Why not leave the individuals to decide for themselves and mind your own business David? Why are you so troubled by Leah’s conversion, could it be that you feel insecure because someone gives up your ideology?

      • http://www.noctua.org.uk/ Paul Wright

        Conversely, why are you (in many comments here) so keen to tell people engaging in rational argument to mind their own business?

    • Martha G

      I second David’s question in the second paragraph – the rigor with which you approached and analyzed your beliefs was fantastic to read. And congratulations on it bringing you to theism. But what about bringing your same rigor to deciding between the many ways to approach God? Catholicism, based on your previous writings, seems to be a much further stretch given your stated beliefs than, say, Judaism, Episcopalianism, certain strains of Lutheranism, etc. And if you believe there is only one way to approach God, a la Catholicism, please defend it!

      • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

        Martha, you said “please defend it”, but why must Leah defend her choice? In a free society she enjoys the freedom of religion and she is not obliged to answer the challenges raining upon her.

        I don’t think it is appropriate to ask her to justify herself in this stage as she is taking the RCIA course and not yet baptised and confirmed. The challenges you pose here are very very old and all already answered by the best thinkers of the past 2000 years. Why not start reading the early Christian apologetics written by ancient Christian philosophers, and why not start reading Chesterton and Newmann? I think you should all give her a break.

        Catholicism is not just a set of beliefs, Catholicism is a form of living, a form of existence, a form of living in love and respect for each other, living in the Communion of the Church. We can’t spend all of our time debating in a “philosophical club”, we must live according the Gospel and pray. Without prayer and partaking in the liturgy and charitable endeavours of the Church, there will be no real faith. James 2: 20: “Faith without works is dead”.

        • anodognosic

          Given that this blog actually is a kind of philosophical club, and given that Leah herself is fond of being challenged on her beliefs, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask these sorts of questions.

          • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

            Well, I am only saying that with hobby-philosophizing alone it is not useful to improve one’s faith.
            My point is that religion is not hobby philosophizing and that we should live a religious life and not just debating to “win a point”.

          • Matthais777

            This is a forum for debate however, so she should be expected to be challenged. And well, as her past readers, we’re all kinda waiting to see what brought her not just to thiesm, not just christianity, but catholisim. I mean, i can get athiesm to thiesm, i can get thiesm to christanity, and i can get christianity to catholisim, but all that in one jump? It’s just way to intriguing to not as “Why?”

          • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

            I acknowledge the legitimacy of posing these questions. But I am not sure whether everything one does is really explainable. I’ve learned from my own experience that sometimes you have to stop asking why and accept the fact.

            As for the journey to Catholicism and why Catholicism, I doubt whether there will a rational answer. After all, we are not buying some consumptions products and explain to other buyers, just like in a TV-advertisement, that I chose product A because it is better in performance, has better price-performance-relation etc.

            If Leah made this leap and she continues to grow into Catholicism despite of all the imperfections and failures of her fellow Catholics, and if she feels at home in the Catholic Church, she has made the right decision for her life, and won’t it suffice?

          • Martha G

            Hi Teresa – to the question in your last paragraph, absolutely yes! I’m not even necessarily looking for a rational answer from Leah as to why she chose Catholicism. I simply want to know /her/ answer.

          • Martha G

            Teresa – to the question in your last paragraph, absolutely yes! I’m not even necessarily looking for a rational answer from Leah as to why she chose Catholicism. I simply want to know /her/ answer.

          • leahlibresco

            Totally in agreement with anodognosic. I will try to deliver, but these posts take longer to write than other ones I’ve done.

          • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

            I’m not surprised at all. My two best friends are atheists, but they agree with me that if they are ever convinced God exists, then Catholics they will be.

            My atheist friends said that “atheism and Catholicism are the only two internally consistent belief systems.” I would add Judaism, but generally agree.

          • http://www.rosariesforlife.com Dave

            In what atheists call “a strange coincidence”, and what we Catholics call “God-incidence”, I came upon this article immediately upon writing my above post:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/suicide-or-catholicism

        • Emily

          I think it’s a fair question because others may also face that kind of choice. Catholicism isn’t the only Christianity out there, nor the only one that’s about living it and being part of the Church, and some of the issues that might give a contemporary would-be convert pause are actually not ones that people have been writing about for hundreds of years.

          Say you have some recent Christian convert who says, “hey, I want to join this Church because I think it’s the best one in many many ways, I believe it is real and true, but we just can’t handle a baby this year, and I really don’t want to give up my birth control for the sake of an abstract principle that just doesn’t seem compelling to me. If I did, it would cause a major rift in my already existing marriage.” Or “But my sister and her partner have a strong, loving relationship and a new baby girl, and I can’t wait to go to their wedding.” (Yes, this is personal. Sorry. Some things really are NOT abstract, and they’re the kind of things you have to deal with.)

          I get that a lot of people raised in the Catholic church disagree on these issues, but as a convert, are they deal-breakers? Why shouldn’t someone just say, “Man, I wish…but I guess I’ll be an Episcopalian, after all, God’s there too”? These are actually important conversion-point questions, not things you want to read from old-school male theologians or church fathers or even, necessarily, people who are very well versed and established after decades in the faith.

    • Ted Seeber

      How did you miss reading the Divine Comedy as a medieval theorist, even as a secular one? After all, the seeds of Hell as a NON-material highly ironic allegory are all there, not to discount the way the Eastern Churches have *always* looked at it- Hell as a physical place was always a Latin idea before it was a Protestant one.

      Having said that; I think, as part of two generations of my family that have converted our spouses, that conversion for love is one of the better, more rational reasons for conversion that there is.

      • David

        First off, I certainly have read the Divine Comedy. Second, I’m a historian, not a theorist (and though Medieval Europe was a major interest in college, it’s not my region of focus). Anyhow, given the latter, point, I hope you’ll forgive me if my understanding of the church comes more from a historian’s perspective than a literary scholar’s, or a theologian’s, or a philosopher’s. And, from that perspective, it’s undeniable that the church has used fear of the physical (not allegorical) torments of hell as a means to terrify believers and unbelievers alike for most of its history.

        Anyway, the very reason I’m advocating the study of church history is that I think it gets outside the more theoretical lenses with which most of the Catholics who comment here seem more comfortable with, and provides a very different, and interesting perspective on the church. There are times this makes the church looks bad (and I’m sure my fellow atheists will be delighted to list them) but there are also times it makes the church look very good, but for reasons different from those found in more theological approaches.

        As for your second point, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with how Leah came to convert. I just think it’s worth thinking about how and why she came to the faith she came to.

      • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

        Heya Ted,

        I gotta jump in here. The Church has never taught that hell *isn’t* a physical place. Of course it is. We believe in the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, to receive judgment, either of which begins at death, even before the general resurrection.

        The Catechism teaches that what makes hell a punishment is primarily spiritual – self-exclusion from communion with God, who alone can provide our happiness – but this in no way precludes physical suffering; anymore than heaven excludes physical blessing.

        The Eastern churches, Catholic and Orthodox, are certainly in perfect agreement upon these points.

  • Erica

    Welcome home to the church! As another Catholic convert I am very happy for you. Best wishes and prayers.

  • Gerry

    I was gonna make a joke about all things “seen and unseen” – I mean, “visible and invisible”, but nah …

    The requested URL /views/TuringTests2012/Dashboard1 was not found on this server.

  • deiseach

    Ooooh – pretty shiny charts!

    As to the comments by other atheists, my out-and-out favourite rationale for Leah’s conversion is this one:

    “What’s really scary is how dozens of Catholics are flocking to the comments of her posts, gushing about how happy they are that she’s come home. Providing social incentive to adhere to certain beliefs? Nope, nothin’ culty about that. Seriously grosses me out.”

    Yep, it’s true – Leah chose Roman Catholicism because she just couldn’t live another day without my approbation :-)

    • Kerry

      Considering it has been posted on a number of Catholic blogs and boards linking back here, that really can’t be unexpected. I find it interesting when I hear someone stepping out of their known realm of belief and going into another.

      • deiseach

        Kerry, I was just amused by the rigorous scientific detachment and strict examination of fact alone with which the freethinkers addressed this matter :-)

        Seriously, saying someone only changed their mind about X because of all the love-bombing the weirdie culty types were doing? I believe over there in America you have what are known as “baby showers”, where family and friends of an expectant mother have a kind of party where they have streamers and banners saying “Congratulations” and the likes, and they give presents of things like baby clothes and items for the care and upkeep of a newborn.

        Obviously, this is all merely social incentive to adhere to the impetus to reproduce, and women are becoming pregnant only for the goodies they will get at these “showers”, which are a scary cult tactic to recruit more brainwashed converts to the notion of ‘motherhood’. Why else would anyone bother to offer congratulations to another on what they consider a good or happy occasion? It’s all down to social engineering!

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    Welcome home!

  • PJ

    “that the physical torment of hell is (and has only ever been) metaphorical (as popped up in one of the threads from yesterday); if the church really teaches that now, it’s a massive shift from what it taught in the Medieval period; heck, from what it taught in the early 20th century”

    It cannot be fire as we know it, because it does not consume what it burns and it torments spirit as well as body. “Fire” is used in many curious ways in Scripture. Indeed, God Himself is called a “consuming fire” in Hebrews, and in Daniel the “Ancient of Days” is pictured on a flaming throne with a “river of fire … coming out from before Him.” Furthermore, God appears to Moses as fire that burns but does not consume (the “Burning Bush”).

    It therefore seems likely to me that Isaac of Nineveh (among others) is correct in surmising that everyone dwells eternally in the presence of God, yet some experience this “fiery” love as pain and others as pleasure.

    He wrote:

    “As for me I say that those who are tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful. That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.”

    Nevertheless, these mysteries confound even the holiest saints. There is no point on speculating about them.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      If there were no point in speculating, you’d think saints would have known better.

  • Acadian Girl

    AMDG!

  • PJ

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with speculating, but it can be dangerous, especially for the spiritually immature, which is why I try to avoid it at all costs. All I meant is that, ultimately, our tiny minds cannot begin to fathom these eschatological enigmas. The end is called the “apocalypse” for a reason: when it comes, all things will be unveiled. Until then, “eye has not seen, ear has not heard.”

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      Fair call, and better way to say it. (Didn’t mean to quibble. Sorry, if apologies are needed.)

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        On second thought, what of the admonitions for us to meditate on the Four Last Things? I’ve heard tell that this without sufficient contemplation on Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell we are lost, though this advice certainly comes from private revelation or pious sources.

    • Matthais777

      I’m sorry, i just really can’t understand that viewpoint. It might hurt my faith, so i won’t think about it? Seems the height of intellectual dishonesty to me. It’s like Glados screaming “Don’t think about it!” over and over again with a logic paradox so that it doesn’t hurt her. I think we’re all just waiting with baited breath to see what brought her to this conversion, since her previous post on the matter was rather vague about it and sharply unconvincing.

      • http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com teresa

        PJ was talking about not speculating on the last things, that is the enigmas after the Death, and the reason is quite clear: nobody can know about what it is like after our Death so there is no point speculating on it.

      • Kyle

        If you have a sapling that you would like to let grow into a solid tree, do you expose it to the harshest elements all at once before it is stronger? So it is with faith.

      • http://www.somewhither.net Darrell

        Theologoumena is not discouraged in Orthodox Christianity, and I would assume the same to be true in Roman Catholicism, but the potential danger is in forgetting that it is speculation. Whether Hell is separation from God (Roman Catholicism), the presence of God as experienced by some (Orthodox Christianity), or something altogether different is human speculation and not divine revelation. You can, however, see the impact of speculation treated as dogma in how many atheists and some Christians react to Hell as being clear evidence of a depraved and monstrous god that revels in torture.

        • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

          I think of hell as worse than the worst unrequited love you can imagine. I hope that no one is there.

  • http://industrialblog.powerblogs.com IB Bill

    As a fellow convert, welcome home.

  • Ryan

    Those charts make me want to come up with an excuse to use Tableu.

    • leahlibresco

      Then I can die happy, knowing this blog has accomplished its most important goals. :)

  • http://themerelyreal.wordpress.com Chana Messinger

    Those are beautiful! Charts are the best things.

    Hey Leah, if data visualization is your constant, why don’t you make a table of the most fundamental/common Catholic beliefs and then have columns for your current agreement with them (scale of 1-10), a list of influences (major, to keep it from being too long) on that particular topic, and your probability estimate for where they will be a month from then. Then we can track your beliefs, the changes in them (derivatives, anyone? best fit lines?), and how accurate you are about your own shifts.

    • deiseach

      You could do a lot of charting on this topic: Weirdest Saint, Most Gross Relic, Craziest Devotion, Worst Modern Hymn (there’s a wide choice for that one), Most Villainous Pope (you would not believe – or maybe you would – some of the carry-on the successors of the Fisherman got up to, and the ones everyone thinks they know about like the Borgias were only in the ha’penny place by comparision).

      :-)

      • Peggy Hagen

        Christina the Astonishing or St. Denis; Catherine of Siena’s head; burying a statue of St. Joseph upside-down so your house sells quicker; Hosea (forget the theology, the words don’t even make sense!); Alexander, natch.

        • deiseach

          I actually don’t mind St. Catherine of Siena’s head or St. Anthony’s tongue. for me, the most “why did they ever think this was a good idea???” relic is martyr’s paste, which is exactly what it sounds like: take some ashes of martyrs (or grind up some bones really fine, if that’s all you have), mix with beeswax, shape into sacramentals such as Agnus Dei or into ornamental features such as images and icons.

          For bad popes, the 10th and 11th centuries can give the Renaissance a run for their money anytime. Popes like Benedict IX, whom even the stodgy 1912 “Catholic Encylopedia” calls “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter” (though they don’t tell you why, that’s left up to the Wikipedia article). By comparison, the 16th century Medicic pope, Leo X (who generally gets the blame for the Reformation by not taking Martin Luther seriously), looks much more the part, since he only blew all the money his predecessor Julius II had raised (by squeezing it out of selling church offices and raising revenue wherever he could by war) on endowing and supporting learning and charitable institutions (for which the Roman people adored him). And on his pet white elephant, Hanno :-)

          • Peggy Hagen

            I don’t mind her head either, it’s the absence of the rest of her… just kidding, she was just the oddest I could think of (aside from certain spurious medieval relics of Christ). But martyr’s paste certainly beats her…did it start out the same way as the “bone churches”, a solution to the lack of burial ground?

          • Ted Seeber

            A large part of the “relics of the saints” problem is applying 20th century standards of respect for a corpse to the Roman and Medieval eras.

        • Ted Seeber

          Funny- Hosea made so much sense to me that I used it as the Groom’s March in my wedding. My wife, being more secular, choose Butterfly Kisses, and our first dance was to Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls.

      • leahlibresco

        The Cadaver Synod wins in a landslide.

        • deiseach

          Oh, they were only getting warmed up with the Cadaver Synod! Stephen VI (0r VII, depending on whether or not the pope-elect Stephen who died before being consecrated Pope is counted as a pope) was himself imprisoned and strangled to death that summer; his successor was deposed by one of the noble factions running Rome after a few months, his successor died a month into the job (rather like Pope John Paul I, God rest him), the next guy managed to last two years, the one after him three years, and then it all got exciting :-)

          The 10th century decided to get things off with a bang about the year 903 when Pope Leo V was overthrown, two months into his reign, by the Antipope Christopher, who was himself succeeded three months later by Sergius III. Sergius decided to take the short cut about who was really pope or not by murdering his rivals/predecessors Leo and Christopher.

          In between annulling all the ordinations and bishoprics carried out by Pope Formosus, lavishing high office on and putting real power into the hands of his noble backers and rebuilding the Lateran Palace, he also found the time to make the infamous Marozia his mistress and father the future Pope John XI on her. You have to read that article about her; that’s a family tree that could have looked at the later Borgias and gone “Pfft! Amateurs!”

          :-)

      • Peggy Hagen

        The Diet of Worms has to earn a special mention. Just because.

        • leahlibresco

          It gets a good line in this song: 95 Theses.

          • Peggy Hagen

            …All arguments are hereby invalid.

  • http://www.twitter.com/fodigg Matt

    Wow those charts are a lot clearer to me. The previous ones showed my faker entry (C8) as down on the totem pole, which it was, but that’s what I focused on. Looking at these ones, it seems like an almost even split. Does that say the effectiveness of my entry was basically neutral?

    • leahlibresco

      It depends on what you think the baseline should be. Should the ‘average’ vote end up above 50%, because they all sound plausible? Or below, because people get pretty intensely skeptical.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    Oooooh, shiny.

  • http://www.pavelspoetry.com Pavel

    Faith in God is right because it’s faith in what is real. All else is mimicry, counterfeit, inadequate, distorted, wrong.

    Whenever I’m at Mass I feel as if I am taking shelter with the real from the unreal, with sanity from the less than sane.

    REST UNTIL THE DAWN

    Children out of school,
    A free and happy mood,
    Crowds fill up the highway,
    A pilgrim multitude

    Daylight spreads before them
    A city at the end
    As if to see the blessed
    Beckoning to friends

    What fantasy by night,
    What phantasm to dread?
    Now upon the roadway
    Where once the traffic sped

    Multitudes that journey
    Along a straight highway,
    Nothing to oppose them,
    Nothing to dismay

    Crowds upon the highway
    Traveling on foot
    Old and young together
    Saunter as they would

    But overhead the shadows
    Spread enormous length,
    Presences above them
    Hideous in strength

    Stop a while to rest here
    Before you carry on,
    A shelter will receive you
    Rest until the dawn

    Pavel
    June 19, 2012

  • John

    You all try to make everything too hard either you believe or you don’t. Bless those who believe and have not seen. As far as any of your questions about the church and god they are in bible but not necessarily straight forward but they come down to one reading. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest. The thief is the devil you can’t believe in god without believing the evil one exists. Now keep this in mind when you have questions like with homosexuality everyone points to leviticus saying it is an abomination but do not say why. According to Catholicism/christianity sex is mainly for procreation god just sweeten the pot by making it so enjoyable. If you remember in the begining god created man and woman. When you believe it is god sharing creation with you and the family structure is most basic structure where the rolls of the man and woman are different but just as important. Homosexuality takes what was ment to shared by god and perverts it hence the abomination, but it is not our job to hate those that violate that it our job to pray for them show them through example while never denying the truth because if you accept the lifestyle you state through your actions that it is an acceptable option.

  • Joseph

    I hope that you keep struggling and working through the issues you have with the Catholic church, it is beautiful to see people engaging the faith and taking it seriously enough to question and discern the fullest truth.

  • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Zimmermann

    ” If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have a lot more respect for people who do pick fights when the stakes are high than “Oh, everyone’s entitled to their opinion” types. Ideas have consequences, so it’s weird to say you can somehow be disinterest[ed] in other people’s beliefs.”

    Oh, good, then. Being Christian, I could never take a swing at anyone’s honest, heart-felt, conversion (quite the opposite!), but being one of your (few, or just quiet?) Christian yet non-RC readers, I will take this as an invitation to wade into theological debate with you, as led. There are very few faith blogs where open, ecumenical debate is encouraged, *especially* written by women.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    You’re fantastic! That’s all I really want to say. God bless.

  • Glendon Cheshire

    1. Heaven and Hell exist independent of creation, and since time is the fourth dimension of creation, Hell and Heaven are eternal because their is no temporal element to them. Theologians refer to God as Eternally Now. Hell is the same way, though the damned are aware of the unending character of their existence due to the pain of loss. Hell is a simple construct. It is where God isn’t, and He puts people there that don’t want to be with Him. In reality, this means there is absolutely nothing good in Hell, since God is by definition perfect goodness. Heaven is perfect goodness, and Hell is perfect absence of goodness. Take every moral evil and the absence of every good, and compound it with the presence of trillions of spirits and souls of the damned consumed by their own evils: hate, lust, sadism, envy, fear, masochism, ridicule, derision, pitilessness, sloth, greed, avarice, intoxication, rage, domination, cowardice, and it is all turned on one another in a place you can’t escape. I think the medieval depiction is actually tempered and pedestrian in the face of the reality of being without God, and good, in a place that has no element of time, and is therefore unending. But make no mistake, since God has every attribute to a perfect degree, justice is equally balanced with mercy, so if a soul, or a spirit, was sent to Hell, it deserved it, and wanted it. The damned hate God, and want nothing to do with Him, and everything to do with persuading us they don’t exist, evil doesn’t exist, and that Hell isn’t a real place.

    2. The concern I have with anyone who is intellectually inclined in a serious and rigorously academic way, is that you dissuade yourself of the idea you can think your way through Catholicism. Understanding the source of belief in God is God, and not yourself, is the beginning and end of belief. You can think all you want, and understand to the capacity of your mind to understand, but you cannot ultimately think your way to God. Your intellect is fallible, and prone to errors in logic, and judgment. So long as you understand God gives you the necessary assistance to know Him properly, and that you aren’t doing it of your own force, you will be fine. It isn’t about you, its about letting Him show you Him.

    3. On homosexuality, it is fundamental to understand the nature and function of the human person, and that for a myriad of reasons, it is not just immoral, but fundamentally illogical to equate homosexuality with normalcy in the context of the human person.

    4. One can apply intellectual rigor to Catholicism, and to belief or unbelief relatively easy. But as others have pointed out, monotheism is a small school of thought to study, pantheism another and larger school of belief, and the unbelief of atheism is the third and far larger because of the endless schools of thought.

    You can generally exclude everything that lacks a complete system of thought because its unknowns are known, and it quickly sums up as personal preference, not a genuine world-view or religious system. Preference would be modern day fertility cults (radical feminist choice and the sex obsessed culture), Scientology, self-help cults, body worship cults (the exercise, physical fitness, and body image obsessed), epicureans and modern day stoics, psychology and psychotherapy cults, the hedonists, the money obsessed, and the modern pagan pagan variations with their personal beliefs and practices and superstitions.

    You can generally exclude pantheism because it lacks the ability to answer some of the most basic questions like which gods created what, and what created them, since they couldn’t have created one another nor have existed forever, and have made no reasonable appearance in thousands of years. This includes the uncreator pantheists or panentheists, since they assume creation exists on its own and has existed forever, which still ignores the question of the prime mover and still ignores morality and ethics along with violating the laws of science like entropy and the dynamics of the big bang, which assume matter shouldn’t exist at all, even if you are a re-banger.

    So you are left with the variants of monotheism, since they more logically point to a single source of creation, the natural laws, and a source for the notions of morality and ethics that have been a constant source of understanding and inquiry for the whole of human existence. This includes Jews, Catholicism, heretical factions of the early Church, larger factions like Islam (which is considered a heretical variant of Christianity based on another latter day prophet, Muhammad), Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism along with latter day variants of Christianity like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.

  • http://www.godspace3.com Tota Tua

    Leah – What a brave public decision to make. Know that this Catholic will hold you up in her prayers during your RCIA process. and you can call on me if you have any girl type questions :-)

  • http://www.godspace3.com Tota Tua

    Leah – What a brave public decision to make. Know that this Catholic will hold you up in her prayers during your RCIA process. and you can call on me if you have any girl type questions :-)

    (wrong email addy)

  • Joe

    Leah,
    Im still a little dazed by your conversion reveal. I went to work yesterday thinking “Well I guess I guess thats it.” and wondering what else I was going to do or think about now that Leah has finally converted. Then I got home and saw how you were being bullied by all the these tolerant atheist folk. How could I have been so naive? Im sure you knew what to expect. I look forward to seeing how you respond. I can’t believe Im saying this, but this Blog just got a lot more interesting.

  • FrSteven Beatty

    Hi! I’m one of the legion who first read your writing in the wave of reposting/linking/sharing/tweeting you just provoked. I just want to say that if you announce tomorrow that you’ve discovered a fatal flaw in your conversion-reasoning and are returning to the atheist fold, I will still want to follow your writing. Your Turing Test project is just brilliant… and really quite fun. I don’t know if you get all the credit for it or if credit is shared, but either way thanks. I wish I’d discovered your blog long ago, but I’m a new fan – occasioned by, but by no means conditioned upon, your recent announcement.

  • Brian

    Well, David, any Catholic today who says that the Church teaches that pains of hell are only metaphorical is simply mistaken about what the Church teaches. Perhaps you misunderstood them, though? What I think they may have said is something similar to this: the pains of hell are depicted metaphorically in the Bible and in various (small-t) traditions in the Church. Well, that actually IS true and has always been true since the beginning.

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