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If Catholicism is True, Then What?

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ThenWhat1

Maybe you're an atheist who has been reading and commenting here for a while. Or perhaps this is your first visit to Strange Notions. Whatever the case, the question remains: what should you do if Catholicism begins making sense? Leah Libresco faced that question head on in June 2012 when, after months of wrestling with her lifelong atheism, she decided to enter the Catholic Church. In this article, Leah offers advice for those in the same boat today:
 

So you think you might be a Catholic?

Maybe you’re a former atheist who plans to convert to Catholicism, or maybe you’re still an atheist but are a little uncomfortable with how plausible Catholicism seems as an alternative hypothesis. Either way, you want to spend a little time exploring Catholicism and figuring out how and whether to convert. This article is for you.
 

But I don’t know what to decide!

Luckily, you don’t have to decide. Catholicism is either true or not, before and after you change your mind. Gravity doesn’t fluctuate between true and false depending on your beliefs, and neither does the Church. So your job isn’t so much about deciding as it is learning about and recognizing the world you already live in.

Recognition does carry certain responsibilities. If you try to ignore gravity, you’ll quickly find yourself bruised or worse. If Catholicism seems to be true, but you choose to ignore it, you deny yourself opportunities for healing and strength in the face of Man’s broken nature. So, if you think Catholicism might be true, due diligence calls for at least some further investigation.
 

Ok, what then? How do I investigate?

Sites like Strange Notions will certainly help, but you may also want to join a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) class. Contact a nearby parish and ask to be connected with the RCIA teacher (the priest or office staff should be able to help.) If you’re looking on the parish website, you probably want to email the Director of Religious Education (DRE). RCIA classes are meant to help you understand Catholicism, so you can figure out whether you accept it. When you say ‘Amen,’ we want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into, and are consenting with a willing and joyful heart. RCIA classes cover basic Catholic theology and help you get a handle on how your new faith is lived.
 

But what if I’m not sure?

Enrolling in RCIA classes isn’t a promise to convert. The first time I attended RCIA classes, I didn’t plan to convert; I just wanted to learn about Catholicism directly from the Catholic Church. And I was still unconvinced by the time Advent rolled around. The other students in the class were making a public declaration of their intention to convert, so I dropped out of the class. The next year, after a bit more reading, arguing, and thinking, I enrolled again, this time meaning to stay to the end.
 

What should I tell my parents/friends/coworkers/cat?

It’s fine to take a little time before discussing your thoughts with friends and family. You’ll want to speak to them eventually, but you’re allowed a little time to come to peace with your decision before you wade into fights or discussions. Remember, there’s a lot of philosophical diversity among atheists, so the points that were convincing to you may not be compelling to someone who starts with very different assumptions. I find it helpful to approach stressful discussion not as debates, but as explanations. At the end of the conversation, I want my friend to understand what my reasoning was even if she may still disagree with.
 

But what if a friend brings up a question I don’t know the answer to?

It’s alright not to have answers to every question you get asked. If your friend says something like, “But isn’t the translation of the third word in the second Epistle contested?” It’s fine to say, “I don’t know. But that word isn’t really what my conversion hinged on. So I might be curious about looking it up, but I don’t know the answer now, and that’s not what changed my mind.” It can also be helpful, for you and your friend, to table a disagreement until you speak to an expert or consult a reference. If you weren’t already an expert in Church history or other specialized topics, you should expect to encounter a lot of questions you don’t know the answers to offhand. Your friend’s questions may help spur your interest, but you shouldn’t treat them as a high-stakes pop quiz.
 

What if my strained interactions are with the Catholics I’m newly meeting, not the atheists I already knew?

The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints, but that saying is a lot more comforting when we’re thinking about how we’ll be welcomed and healed, instead of about who we’re likely to encounter in the waiting room. The Church is small-c catholic—it’s for everyone—so you’re at least as likely to run into some people who rub you the wrong way as you are at a dinner party.

The Church is different, not because it promised that everyone you meet will be well suited to you or kind, but because it informs you that you have a familial relationship to all these strange, abrasive people, and they to you. Catholics across the world are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we sometimes struggle to live together as a family, but we always desire it.

When you enter the Church, you may find it easier to receive patience or to know how to love your less-than-neighborly neighbor when you can ask Christ for grace and light through the sacraments. For now, ask for help in prayer, and ask other people or priests for help navigating a difficult relationship.
 

What will happen after I convert?

I would say that the terrifying and wonderful thing is that you’re in direct, personal contact with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Every moment of wonder you’ve experienced as the resolution chord booms in a symphony, every moment of humble awe as a stranger or friend went out of their way to show you love (or every moment of surprise as you discovered the depths of love you were capable of giving), and every moment you felt the sudden relief of pieces falling into place (whether doing a puzzle, writing a math proof, or reaching the denouement of a mystery novel) were all shadows and images that were trying to point you toward God, the Person they resembled.

Think of what you would do if you were trying to teach someone a new language. First you’d point to objects and declare the nouns that corresponded. You might be able to act out verbs. And, after a while, your student might begin to pick up grammar by trial and error.

God shares himself with us through these glimpses of the transcendent. He meets us where we are, and tutors us in the language we speak. But, as you cleave to Him and His Church, you begin to have the opportunity to speak back and learn what was always meant to be your natural language.

Leah Libresco

Written by

Leah Libresco was raised in an atheist household before graduating from Yale University in 2011 with a BA in political science. She gained notoriety as an atheist blogger who focused on such diverse topics as math and morality. She often wrestled with Catholic ideas and her blog, titled “Unequally Yoked,” started as a place where she could interrogate and consider arguments raised by her then-boyfriend, a practicing Catholic. Readers were startled in June 2012 when Leah announced her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Leah has since been interviewed by CNN, MSNBC, and several other media outlets. Follow Leah through her blog, Unequally Yoked.

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  • TheodoreSeeber

    Ok, I guess even on a Catholic blog talking about Atheism, I'm just as snarky as on a Atheist blog talking about Catholicism. Probably a flaw in my Character I should take up with a Father Confessor.

    Still, I couldn't help posting this link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA7imD94a54

  • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

    I left Catholicism, I'm not an atheist, but I do have these questions:

    1. What about the Ordinary Universal Magisterium? How can this be a way of discovering facts?

    2. What about the Theology of the Body? Modern psychology seems to suggest that many of the church's teachings about sexuality are wrong, if not harmful (that masturbation is wrong, that engaging in sex with a person of the same sex is disordered and injurious.) I also find the church's insistence on NFP to be outright malicious. Using NFP can require married men and women to abstain for weeks if not months. Does this man

    [I]t's going to crush me.. my soul... and my marriage to cut it out. I
    literally feel like my internal energy is gutted out over this.
    ....
    I just don't even know what to do. I feel like just scraping all the
    sex, and only doing it when we want our next kid... sort of a petty,
    childish "if I'm not supposed to enjoy it, then fine- I won't enjoy it"
    thing.
    ....
    HOW do I go about destroying these desires that I have?

    or this woman:

    I am one of those who glares at women with less than four children and judges them. I judge them because I envy them. I wish I could ignore the
    Magisterium sometimes. I wish I didn’t have to live with the burden of
    trying, yet again, to figure out NFP.

    sound like they are spiritually fulfilled by this doctrine?

    • http://www.RestatementOfTheObvious.com/ JonMarc

      My experiences are no more universal than those cited, however my wife and I have had a great experience of NFP. Of course it required some additional communication and self-mastery, but we were open to both and very much benefited by them. In fact, coming to marriage as I did, recovering from an addiction to pornography and its corollary habits, I feel that the experience of NFP really helped me separate learned sexual needs/drives/desires from my love for my wife.

      "Using NFP can require married men and women to abstain for weeks if not months." Hmmmm... I certainly was required to abstain from sex for weeks and months before marriage and I would certainly do so again if my wife was away on a trip or if having sex were dangerous to her health due to a health condition. Why is it so unthinkable to abstain for what we discern to be grave reasons to postpone having children? (in our case a few years back: just married, no house, deep in debt, almost no money, etc) It is not like we stop loving each other! We go out on dates, I bring her flowers, we kiss, hug, and cuddle, we dance, we have long conversations on deep topics.

      We now have a 2 year old son and a daughter on the way and remain very joyfully married.

      • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

        It works for some people. But not for everyone. I see no empirical evidence that masturbation (solo or mutual), or oral
        sex are harmful to a person's physical well being or relationship with a
        spouse.

        I understand the doctrine very well. And there might be some people who really do think that if a husband wears a condom or pulls out that they are withholding their fertility from each other and that it harms their marriage. For those people, go ahead and NFP happily ever after! But what about all of the people who don't feel that way? It's something that never ever occurred to me, and when I did learn about it I found it laughable.

        My problems with the Theology of the Body and also with the Ordinary Universal Magisterium come down to this - they tell me to trust *The Church* more than not only my own conscience, but more than scientific consensus and empirical evidence. And I can't. And that's why I'm not Catholic anymore.

        • Amy

          I would ask you: why do you think your conscience should be trusted more in this or any other area? What is about your conscience that you believe makes it particularly inerrant?

          • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

            I don't think my conscience is inerrant. But I don't think the church is either.

            I think that, in general, anyone or anything that tells a person not to trust their own perceptions or feelings is dangerous.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000651744387 Jim Russell

            And yet it becomes clear from observing human behavior that sometimes it is our very own feelings and self-percpetions that are dangerous both to self and others. How are we to distinguish which feelings/perceptions are trustworthy?

          • Boris G

            Hi Elizabeth,
            I think if you dig a little deeper in to the science you will find that there is currently a lot of scientific evidence coming forth on the harmful effects produced by some forms of sexual practice. For example masturbation has been shown to produce drug like addictions in individuals through dopimine release in the brain.
            Also think of conscience as a clock.If its set to the wrong time you will always be late no matter what you feel.Our conscience needs to be formed and synchronised as it were to the truth in order for us to make good choices.The Magisterium is there to help us towards that end and free us up to live life fully.

          • epeeist

            For example masturbation has been shown to produce drug like addictions in individuals through dopimine release in the brain.

            Reference please, and to an article in a scientific journal not to a discussion of a summary of a blog post.

          • Michael Murray

            I thought all orgasms caused dopamine release. So what's special about masturbation ?

          • epeeist

            I thought all orgasms caused dopamine release. So what's special about masturbation?

            Well you know that, and I know that, and there is lots of evidence about orgasms and dopamine. I was really hoping to find out what was so special about masturbation.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            The problem is that the pleasurable feelings become associated with an object/fetish instead of being attached to a person in a relationship who could provide additional pleasurable feelings in a variety of situations in addition to procreation.

          • Micha_Elyi

            And when the reference is produced and turns out to be solid science you'll convert, right?

            Or will you dishonestly find something else to quibble about?

            Pick one.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine, especially reference 21. ^ a b Arias-Carrión O, Pöppel E (2007). "Dopamine, learning and reward-seeking behavior". Act Neurobiol Exp 67 (4): 481–488.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Elizabeth, thanks for the comment. I think I'd challenge the assumption that something is wrong, or to be discouraged, only when it's "harmful to a person's physical well being." How would you apply that moral criteria to something like lying or verbal racism?

          • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

            I didn't say that's the only reason something is wrong.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            Aren't those things often damaging to people's physical well being too? Lying often produces significant stressors in a person's life that can affect their mental well being. Racism may cause people harm in any number of ways.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000651744387 Jim Russell

          Maybe one good question to consider is, "How can I know whether my personal conscience adequately reflects what God's will is for me?"

        • Maximus Meridius

          Wasting seed, masturbation does drain the genuine and pure relationship between husband & wife. Why? Because you are giving your 'time' to contemplate over masturbating thoughts where that time, as precious as Gold should be with your Family, Wife, & Children.

          No matter if just both of you are sitting on a grass giggling, its precious time 'TOGETHER'.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000651744387 Jim Russell

      Hi, Elizabeth--could you elaborate on what you mean by your first question? The ordinary universal magisterium isn't always easy to pin down, so it might be good to know what aspect you have in mind.
      Regarding TOB and NFP: TOB is a beautiful explanation of the human person and God's plan for us, only part of which relates directly to sexual behavior. A lot could be said on that point. NFP, too, means much more than abstinence--though I'd hardly imagine a case in which a couple had to abstain for *months*...but both of these areas require a certain acknowledgment that marriage, sexuality, and procreation are all sacred aspects of God's plan for us, all requiring more from us than what human psychology or any other human plan could ever suggest...

      • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

        Here's the definition I'm using:

        But when the Pope and the Bishops throughout the world have taught the same doctrine of faith and morals, definitively to be held by the faithful, over the course of some length of time. It is then, when that ordinary teaching has been taught universally by the Pope and the Bishops, that it no longer falls under the non-infallible Ordinary Magisterium, but now falls under the infallible Sacred Magisterium. At that point, it is called a teaching of the ordinary universal Magisterium.

        Ordinary teachings are non-infallible. Ordinary teachings that have been taught universally are infallible. The Ordinary Magisterium is non-infallible; the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is infallible.

        From what I understand, this is one of the reasons why the Church will never ordain women, and why the Pope rejected the findings of the Pontifical Commission on Birth control.

        You may not have a problem with putting faith in the Bishops and Pope - but I specifically put this question here because as far as I know Leah is a materialist/empiricist even after her conversion. She said on CNN that morality is something that can be uncovered or discovered - something that I agree with. But if we can discover morality, doesn't that mean we could discover something new that we didn't know before? I think so.

        I'd hardly imagine a case in which a couple had to abstain for *months*...

        If a woman has irregular periods or ovulates more than once per cycle the window which she can be certain that she is not fertile can be very small or nonexistent for months at a time.

        marriage, sexuality, and procreation are all sacred aspects of God's
        plan for us, all requiring more from us than what human psychology or
        any other human plan could ever suggest...

        Psychologists observe human behavior. The way I see it, they are exploring (God's) creation and reporting back on what they have found. There is so much to learn about the world and about each other. I reject Catholicism because it requires that I close my mind to any new information which contradicts what the Church says is true.

        And this has real impacts on people's lives. If even one person contracted HIV because of the words of Cardinal Trujillo it was too many. I know that Pope Benedict later said that condoms are ok if one partner has HIV, but it was years later, and there were no consequences within the Church for Trujillo's words which may have killed people.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000651744387 Jim Russell

          Hi, Elizabeth--you wrote:

          "From what I understand, this is one of the reasons why the Church will never ordain women, and why the Pope rejected the findings of the Pontifical Commission on Birth control."

          The Holy See has indeed made clear that the teaching regarding women's ordination has been taught via the ordinary universal Magisterium and is infallible. And the Catholic view is definitely that such a teaching enjoys the protection of the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ, to lead us into "all truth." As to the Papal Birth Control Commission preceding Humanae Vitae, I don't believe the Commission, divided as it was (producing both a "majority" and "minority" report that made it to the Pope), had anything directly to do with the ordinary universal (infallible) magisterium.

          You wrote: "You may not have a problem with putting faith in the Bishops and Pope - but I specifically put this question here because as far as I know Leah is a materialist/empiricist even after her conversion. She said on CNN that morality is something that can be uncovered or discovered - something that I agree with. But if we can discover morality, doesn't that mean we could discover something new that we didn't know before? I think so."

          Well, let me say that my "faith" is not in the Bishops and Pope--it's in Jesus, who gave the Church the Holy Spirit to guide the Pope and bishops and safeguard them from teaching universal error.

          As to possibly discovering something about morality that we "didn't know before," there is one sense in which this is true and one sense in which it is not. It is true that we can *deepen* our understanding of what is moral and what is not, based upon what exists in the traditional moral teaching of the Church; and it is possible to see change in the non-magisterial moral teaching of Catholic theology. But what we will never see is a "reversal" of *magisterial* moral teaching that falls under the protection of the Holy Spirit as I describe above. So, our "discoveries" may deepen our understanding but never reverse it (when it comes to the positive universal moral teaching of the Pope and bishops).

          RE the NFP thing, the symptothermal method allows for reckoning the infertile time regardless of the irregularities, because it's based entirely on observing what is happening in real time with a particular woman's cycle. And if it really is a "cycle", then there will be an "existent" infertile time to observe...at least that's my experience as a former NFP teacher and user...

          You also wrote: " I reject Catholicism because it requires that I close my mind to any new information which contradicts what the Church says is true."
          And yet, on the contrary, the Church would insist that you always keep your mind *open* to new information--even information that appears to contradict what the Church says--as long as you remain open to measuring such contradictions according to right reason--since the Church teaches that reason and faith will indeed never contradict. It's up to the *Church* to provide reasonable explanation for its doctrine, perhaps, but it's up to us to avoid closing our minds either to the Church or to where the full truth leads us.

          • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

            What we will never see is a "reversal" of *magisterial* moral teaching
            that falls under the protection of the Holy Spirit as I describe above.
            So, our "discoveries" may deepen our understanding but never reverse it
            (when it comes to the positive universal moral teaching of the Pope and
            bishops).

            Ok, I still would like to hear what Leah has to say on this point and how her views have changed (or not) since her conversion.

            And if it really is a "cycle", then there will be an "existent"
            infertile time to observe...at least that's my experience as a former
            NFP teacher and user...

            Yes, for many women, but not for all women.

            Sixty-eight percent of women exhibited two waves of follicle development during the IOI and 32% exhibited three waves.

            It seems as if some women can ovulate more than once, some of the time, and there's no way to predict what cycles will contain more than one ovulation.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000651744387 Jim Russell

            The possibility of more than one ovulation is taken into consideration with the symptothermal method--again, since the charting is based on observing what is going on in real time in "this" cycle, an infertile time can be identified pre- and post-ovulation (even if ovulation occurs more than once). So, the method effectiveness of symptothermal NFP is excellent, even for women whose cycles are not so regular and who experience double ovulation...but in any case, I'm content to be responsive to any other more "religious" (so to speak) questions or comments you may have regarding the bigger issues. Just wanted to offer reasssurance of the stability of NFP.

          • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

            Elizabeth, I think there's a more fundamental difference underlying your questions on and objections to NFP. What the Church has consistently taught is that contraception is immoral, not that NFP is required.

            So what is contraception? It is not condoms and birth control pills. It is acting against (contra-) the new life that the marital embrace may bring about. A couple using NFP to avoid pregnancy simply to avoid pregnancy is contracepting. There is a difference between delaying it for a grave reason and avoiding it for any reason.

            What contraception does is quite deeply tied up in psychology. The sexual act has a unitive aspect that is not only spiritual but physiological and psychological, and at a deeper level than attitudinal studies on the subject delve.

            The Church does not require NFP, nor does the Church condemn any act that is not mechanically procreative. What the Church teaches is that sex has more to it than physical pleasure (and She recognizes that!) - it has union (physical and psychological) and procreation to it as well.

            There is a vast divide between "don't use your spouse as an object" and "have mechanical, productive intercourse - and don't you enjoy it!", and that divide is filled with a lot of different things and - quite frankly - they're a lot of fun.

          • http://twitter.com/MissCherryPi Elizabeth

            The
            sexual act has a unitive aspect that is not only spiritual but
            physiological and psychological, and at a deeper level than attitudinal
            studies on the subject delve.

            Why do you think this?

          • Matt

            I think there is very convincing psychological evidence that porn is terrible for you, and I don't think it takes all that much of a stretch of the imagination to see that that could be true of lust in general, which would also cover masturbation. I can't find the video, but there was one that explained how looking at porn releases dopamine which causes addiction.

            Even beyond that, I find the philosophical argument convincing. Things are properly ordered when they achieve their purpose. The purpose of the reproductive system is to reproduce (obviously). Therefore, if you use the organs of the reproductive system while intentionally denying them their end of reproduction, your actions are disordered. This makes masturbation, oral/anal sexual acts, and contracepted sex disordered.

            Do you deny final causes? That seems to me to be the only way to get out of that reasoning and I think it would be somewhat difficult to derive any ethics without them.

          • Elizabeth

            There is no psychological evidence that masturbation is harmful. Can you cite some sources?

          • Boris G

            Hi Elizabeth,

            Actually there is empirical evidence that masturbation is harmful.Research has been done that demonstrates the addictive and drug like effects that this can have even to the point of shrinking the brain and impairing brain function.

            Here is a link to an article that cites research references.

            http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php

    • Randy Gritter

      At the end of the day we have to trust something. What you are appealing to here is known as sentimentalism. That makes our emotions the final word. The truth is that emotions change. A year from now this man and this woman might think NFP is the greatest thing. I don't know them but I know my emotional reaction to something has changed wildly over time on many issues.

      The question is, if God wanted to tell you you are wrong how could He do it? For me that was big because I knew I could get deeply entrenched in a positions and argue it very well. Did I leave any door open for God to lead me in a different direction? The church is that door. It turned out God wanted to do a lot more correcting than I imagined I needed but when I got over that it became amazing.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      1. The same way any other peer reviewed system can be a way of discovering facts- through observation, trial, and error. From this perspective- I am hoping that the pain of the sex scandals will reveal the basic error in secrecy.
      2. Modern psychology is designed to create neurosis and feed patients to therapists. There are more invented diagnosis in the DSM than in any other science.

      Now, my wife and I have been using NFP in reverse for 13 years. Result, exactly one child.

      But your two examples need to talk more. If the wife doesn't want kids and the husband doesn't want kids, then I suggest getting a hot tub instead.

    • http://twitter.com/ColdDimSum Dark Star

      I focus on the big questions like Biblical Slavery & commanding the murder of children. Makes the choice very clear. I posted it over here: http://www.strangenotions.com/barron-hitchens/#comment-892650666

    • Sage McCarey

      Hello Elizabeth, I don't understand how any woman can be spiritually fulfilled by the RCC. The church has always been run by men who live an unnatural life. They don't marry. They don't have to wrestle with the problems of women or even see woman wrestling with them. They don't have to wrestle with any family problems at all. They never have. None of the wisdom of women has ever been incorporated into the church. If it had it would be a far different organization and far more spiritually fulfilling for women.

      • Adam

        Jesus chose men.
        Being celibate is a discipline not doctrine. They choose to live that way. Why? Jesus praises those who accept celibacy
        for the kingdom of God. Matt 19:12. St.
        Paul recommends celibacy: “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the
        affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious
        about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. …
        I say this for your own benefit to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
        1 Cor 7:32-35. Women have always played
        a role in the Church and have been respected by the Church way before the world
        respected women. The mother of the
        Church is Mary. It’s been that way from
        the beginning. How much more respect
        could the Church have for a woman.

        • Susan

          > The mother of the
          Church is Mary. It’s been that way from
          the beginning. How much more respect
          could the Church have for a woman.

          They could have picked a role model who wasn't a virgin AND a mother. Not exactly representative of actual women.

          More importantly, they could have picked one who wasn't impregnated without giving her permission.

          Just for starters.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            More importantly, they could have picked one who wasn't impregnated without giving her permission.

            Whether one believes the Gospels were invented out of thin air to dupe the gullible, taken down word for word and event by event by scrupulously accurate and objective eyewitnesses, or something in between, the idea that Mary was made pregnant against her will (or without her permission) and that this is some kind of human rights violation on God's part is profoundly silly.

            It is such a bizarre idea, and so contrary to the text of Luke, that it is difficult to believe it doesn't spring from some kind of irrational hatred of Christianity and Christians. It is as if someone rewrote the Gospels and substituted a 21st-century atheist feminist into the role of a 15-year-old pious Jewish girl of 1st-century Palestine. Perhaps in the new version Mary could bargain with God, agree to bear the child, but demand that Joseph be a stay-at-home father while she ran a carpentry business. Perhaps she could demand a percentage or royalties on sales of the New Testament. The revised Mary would, of course, never say the following:

            “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
            my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

            It is one thing not to believe in God. It is another thing not to have a clue what the concept of God would mean to a first-century Jew or a 21st-century Christian to the point of thinking the Virgin Mary's rights to "control her own body" were violated by choosing her to be the Mother of God. The nerve of God! Maybe Mary wanted to have a career and at least put off having children until she and Joseph were settled.

          • Adam

            She freely consented to God’s will - Luke 1:38 Mary
            said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to
            your word”.

          • Susan

            >She freely consented to God’s will

            You and David are right. In the story, she consented. I went back and read the story from Luke and I had the timing wrong. I'll bet I'd make some errors on Theseus and Ariadne as well as it's been a while and the details get murky. I take back what I said on that point. I was wrong.

            It was not motivated by an irrational hatred of Christians. I would think that if I hated Christians, that would have been obvious by now, wouldn't it? Call me on my error and I will accept it. Accusing me of irrational hatred is a little unwarranted. It's a false accusation. I don't hate Christians. Why would I?

            I stand by my first comment though. To hold up a virgin mother as the highest example of a woman is not a sign of respect for actual women.

          • Adam

            We don’t hold her to that high honor simply because of her
            virginity. She was a virgin by necessity
            to give birth to the Son of God. It
            fulfilled prophecy as well. Certainly we
            can see her virginity as pious and pleasing to God though. When Jesus was on the cross he gave His
            mother to us. Also, if you look at
            Revelation 12:17 “Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off
            to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s
            commandments and bear witness to Jesus.”
            The woman is viewed as Mary and we her offspring because we bear witness
            to Jesus Christ. She is truly our
            Christian mother. Thank you for being
            kind and listening to my points. I hope
            it didn’t come off abrasive.

          • Susan

            Thank you for being
            kind and listening to my points. I hope
            it didn’t come off abrasive.

            Not at all. I got the story wrong. You succinctly pointed out my error.

        • Sage McCarey

          Jesus also chose women = Mary Magdalene for one. And she was the one who stood with him through everything. But the later church got rid of those women and what they might have learned from the wisdom of those women (if the tale has any truth in it!)

        • Doug Shaver

          How much more respect could the Church have for a woman.

          It could open some doors for women in general.

          • Michael Murray

            It could open some doors for women in general.

            I thought they always open them before Mass so the women can arrange the flowers on the altar ?

    • Isabella Rose

      I am sorry that you left Catholicism. Unfortunately, it sounds as though you perhaps did not understand Catholicism in its truth, for as Fulton Sheen has said (and I paraphrase) no one could hate the Church (or leave it in that regard) if they correctly understood it.

      Psychology is infiltrated with Masonic ideals meant to tear down the ideology of the Church. Sound crazy? Go back to the 1800s and read what some of the Popes had to say about what the Masons would do to the faith in the 20th century. Or read the centuries old prophecies.

      Not every soul who comes to Catholicism will become a saint. Holiness is not easy - just because one says they are Catholic does not mean they truly are. There are many out there who do not understand their faith, do not understand spirituality, and wrestle with deep inner conflicts.

      Souls who speak in the way you mentioned could perhaps use strong spiritual guidance, better education, and maybe a minor exorcism along the way to give them some strength. (Mother Angelica herself has said that if a person feels oppressed, to ask their local priest to say a short prayer of minor exorcism over them. It is not crazy - simply a time-tested option that can help some souls in some cases.)

      God bless you, and I hope you will come to understand a little more about the true faith, holiness, and the struggles that we all go through.

    • Maximus Meridius

      Yes they are Spiritually fulfilled in ways that you and i won't be able to know. You see, the Mystery Part is left for the God of Mystery. Our part is to embrace his Will, Let go and Let God do everything.

      Something spectacular will happen. Something you and i both never ever knew AS LONG AS we are Faithful in following his commands.

    • ylarryb

      Elizabeth
      I to left the Catholic Church, in favor of Judaism. My wife and I used NFP, and it was no big deal at all. Worked just fine. By the way, it's days a month not weeks and months.

    • Chad Eberhart

      Something I observed in my past experience in Catholic young adult circles is the crippling perfectionism often associated with people enamored with ToB - at least those infatuated with the popular distillations from people like Christopher West and Jason Evert. Instead of the old school Catholic understanding that marriage is merely a less sinful way to deal with concupiscence, we have something possibly even more psychologically damaging which is an over idealization of sex and marriage. This often resulted in people having such high expectations for love and sex that they were never able to find someone good enough. This didn't always stop them from having premarital sex, though...usually with non-Catholics. When things got serious there was always that trump card in the back pocket, "I wish we could continue but...you're not Catholic".

      Just like JonMarc's experience with NFP there are some that it works for...but there's also some for which it doesn't work.

    • Bryan

      Elizabeth,

      Those are great questions and I've read through most of the responses below and have a slightly different take that I pray may be useful to you.

      When asking questions like this it's important to understand the Church does not create or define theology or beliefs. The Church receives the deposit of faith from God. The Church's role is to share that faith with the world through the Holy Sacraments, service and love.

      My point is, the burden does not lie on the Church to prove it's points scientifically. The Church is sharing with us what the Lord of Lords and the creator of heaven and earth wants us to know about His creation - us.

      So the question would be, does (or can) science prove that things like masturbation and homosexuality are healthy both physically and spiritually with no negative side effects? Can it prove that the alternatives to NFP (or contraception in general) is better for us physically and spiritually?

      You can't ignore the spiritual in favor of just the physical. Otherwise, all kinds of unhealthy practices that result in satisfying dopamine releases could be justified.

      That being said, science is very late to the party in teachings that we as Catholic Christians have know for thousands of years. For instance, only in the last few decades has science proven:
      - That regardless of income, the happiest people are those who give the most.
      - That the most successful people according to the longest sociology experiment ever conducted were those who "loved - full stop"
      - That servant leadership is the most effective and powerful way to lead and inspire a team, company or any organization.
      - That in a culture with 50+% divorce rates, the power of the Eucharist is so real that married couples who attend mass together every week experience a 2% divorce rate.
      - Catholics have understood since Jesus that "eternity" is not time stretching out forever but existing outside of time. Something Einstein was the first to postulate scientifically.

      You could continue with those proofs indefinitely.
      Since the Church has never changed on a single point of Dogma (and why should it since God never changes?) we can take great comfort in knowing that we are being taught the fullness of Truth as God intended.

      Traditions, like priests not marrying, are a different discussion.

      Does that mean we will understand every aspect of faith fully or can explain it eloquently to everyone? St. Augustine wrote around 10 million words in Latin and still had a vision that his attempts to explain God and His Church were like him trying to use a bucket to empty the ocean.

      That is the beauty of faith in an immeasurable God!

      Specifically as to the mechanism of OUM, again the burden lies on science to disprove the teachings that God has shared with us through His Church.
      I can't explain WHY God has given us OUM as His mechanism to use the Holy Spirit to ensure His full Truth is shared with believers. Who can know the mind of God?

      Godspeed,
      Bryan

      P.S. The Catechism does teach us to trust our rightly-formed conscience as a guide in life. By definition, a rightly-formed conscience couldn't be at odds with God's teaching, though.
      P.P.S. The people of the Catholic Church are certainly not perfect however Dogmatic teachings along with Holy Scripture are absolutely inerrant. The Catholic Church is the only church that even attempts to claim theological infallibility since every other church knows it's receiving their teachings from human interpretation while only the Catholic church receives teachings directly from God.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.hane Roger Hane

    If Islam is true, then what?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Then you become a Muslim. Are you not willing to following the evidence where it leads?

    • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ NoahLuck

      Similarly:

      If the evidence is inconclusive, what do the Catholics here suppose they ought to do? How low does your level of confidence (in the proposition "Catholicism is true") need to be before you leave the Church? 80%? 50%? 10%? 1%?

      • Martin Sellers

        Fortunately/ unfortunately confidence vacillates often. Personally that's why I need the church and steady doctrine.

    • Maximus Meridius

      If Islam is True, then what?

      Depends on what you see where Islam is doing things right and things wrong.

  • http://profiles.google.com/smuckitelli Michael Neville

    This post is starting in the wrong point. If you're trying to persuade atheists to join your cult then you have to do three separate things. First you have to produce convincing evidence that gods (note the plural) exist. After you've done that then you have to show that your favorite god is the default. Then you have to give satisfying reasons why your creed should be preferred over all of the thousands of other Christian sects available.

    Personally I haven't seen anyone get past step one but, after thousands of years of trying, maybe one of you goddists might stumble across some evidence for gods that isn't completely off the wall ridiculous. But I'm not holding my breath.

    • QuanKong

      Exactly, all the mumbo-jumbo, arguments, theories, doctrines that God or gods exist are mere mortal mental constructs even if they sounded logical, philosphical or scientific. With thousands of years and millions of people gloating over this subject, it is still a controversy.
      if God is true, then what? Ask yourself, what if you are God?

      • Micha_Elyi

        To borrow from Woody Allen, if Michael Neville is God then he's paying too much for his apartment.

    • Nayrael

      First: It is not goddists, it is Theists. The "A" in Atheist means you are the opposite religion of the Theists. Please, learn the terminology at least. It is always embarrassing when you don't know the meaning of name of your own religion (religion is a "What do you believe in?" classification so YES, it is a religion).

      Second: Using a programing language (like C++), decent hardware, efficient AI algorithms and with careful modeling, I can theoretically create another world where people live, believe, fight, pray, die, etc. I can also make it so that the world follows a different set of rules (physics and such) if I don't feel like copying ours. I can also predict what will happen to every unit, change it, reset the timeline, control the timeflow, etc. I can also filter what every unit did so that once they die, they can be uploaded to another world I created in another directory on my PC which I will call Paradise.
      And if I can create and control a world, how can you claim this world was not created and is not controlled by someone from another one? And that one from another one, all until we reach whom Abrahamists call God who created the existence and who is master and creator, directly or indirectly, of every theoretical world.
      In conclusion, saying concept of "god" is wrong is very unscientific.

      Third: if you want to know more about certain Theistic religions, you should seriously first learn what word Religion means and how it differs from what we call Metaphysics... and why we use word "Belief" instead of "Knowledge" or something. it would also be worth wondering why so many intellectuals through history find religion important and why religions (like Christianity) have different denominations if we worship the same God.
      And learn again and again, because it holds a different meaning from person to person.
      Not that any of what I said will matter: if I learned one thing, than it is that for most Atheists religious belief, sadly, starts and ends with "Me mad at Church so me go oppose!" rather than actual religious belief

      Fourth: as for article itself, it is for Atheists who decided to explore a religion. Though I can't say I like it, even if I am a Roman Catholic.

    • Maximus Meridius

      I hath found that Mammon could be a form of God for atheists. So there is no actual evidence that atheists exist. Agnostics yes, but atheists ... hardly, because their pet can be their god as well.

  • alexander stanislaw

    Leah

    It seems to me that surrounding oneself with high status catholics in an RCIA class is a great way to convert independently of whether or not Catholicism is actually true. Substitue RCIA classes with Buddism classes and you would be well on your way to converting to Buddhism. Hence RCIA classes are not a great way to seek truth.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

      Alexander, I think you're giving Leah rather little credit, that if she took class x, then she'd naturally just go along and believe x. Do you think her so credulous?

      It seems entirely reasonable that if you want to know if Catholicism is true, you'd study Catholicism. How do you study Catholicism?

      Let's say I want to know if evolution is true. I ought to speak to and learn from teachers that believe evolution and understand it well. Otherwise, I may reject a caricature of the idea or take poor instruction as a sign of the weakness of the theory. Now, am I more likely to accept evolution when I'm learning about it from biology professors and the like? I assume so. But why am I more likely? Is it solely because I've surrounded myself with believers? No; that is true only if I am unable or unwilling to learn and reason on my own.

      If I'm an attentive and thoughtful student, then I'll accept the belief because I've studied a good, accurate presentation of it and see it to be true (at least to some degree of probability).

      • physicistdave

        Joe Wetterling wrote:
        >Alexander, I think you're giving Leah rather little credit, that if she
        took class x, then she'd naturally just go along and believe x. Do you think her so credulous?

        I’ve been following Leah’s blog since long before her conversion, and, yes, Joe, I most assuredly thought Leah to be “so credulous” even when she still claimed to be an atheist.

        I’m not making this as just a blanket statement: I have in mind specifically her unwillingness to consider seriously the points made by many commenters on the question of whether there was some ultimate and absolute objectivity to morality. In the end, her response just boiled down to saying that she really, really, really felt that morality was absolutely objective, and so there!

        Well, I really, really, really feel that the ground I am standing on is not moving.

        But there is compelling evidence that what I feel is wrong. “Eppur si muove.”

        Your question is really a sort of reverse ad hominem by which you challenge anyone who thinks the obvious truth about Leah to publicly embarrass themselves by saying it out loud because it would seem to be insulting Leah.

        That trick often works because most people in our contemporary oh-so-sensitive society do not want to seem “offensive” even when you invite them to be..

        But it does not advance the cause of truth.

        Dave Miller in Sacramento

        • http://www.facebook.com/joewetterling Joe Wetterling

          Okay, I don't agree about her character, but I don't think it affects the general point I was making.

          He said that studying Catholicism through the RCIA is a sure way to convert regardless of whether its true. What is the alternative? Learning about it solely from non-believers? Yes, a non-believer in any topic *could* (and should!) be able to adequately, accurately articulate their opposition's position. That's the ideal.

          But even assuming the ideal - that all Mac users can accurately recite the reasons PCs are great and vice versa (sorry to bring up such a divisive religious subject!) - why rely on only that?

          • physicistdave

            Joe Wetterling wrote to me:

            > He said that studying Catholicism through the RCIA is a sure way to convert regardless of whether its true. What is the alternative? Learning about it solely from non-believers?

            Well... I think it is first important to recognize that most human beings have an extremely intense desire to “fit in” to a group. That desire is so intense that it can sweep across an entire nation and lead it into catastrophe (the obvious case is Germany in the ’30s, but there are countless historical examples).

            If you followed Leah’s blog during the time leading up to her “conversion,” it was pretty obvious that this was what was happening.

            Frankly, it has seemed obvious to me since I was a kid that there is little more to religion than this: “religion is a badge of group identity.” The implausibility of religious beliefs is not a negative feature but rather the whole point of those beliefs: claiming to believe in highly implausible, even ridiculous, beliefs is how you prove your loyalty to the group, rather like proving your loyalty to a frat by putting up with “hazing.”

            So, my short answer to your question would be: why bother learning about the details of any religion with an eye to whether it is true or not? Of course, it is not true: that is the whole point of the thing.

            It would be like studying the intricate details of the doctrines of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus: that would be missing the point of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, which is to amuse children and/or the adults who have children.

            But, if, for some reason, someone had an irrepressible urge to study the details of Catholic doctrine, surely there are books that lay this out much better and more clearly than a typical RCIA leader. And, most people find it much, much easier to stand back from a book and consider its arguments critically than to resist the social pressure of a social group. So, if the goal is to consider ideas dispassionately, reading books is much more effective than being part of some group, such as RCIA.

            But, of course, if your true goal is to be part of a group, the reverse would be true, which is my point.

            Dave

            P.S. Yeah, the PC vs. Mac debate does indeed focus in much the same way on "group identity," which is why your example is both on-point and amusing.

          • Micha_Elyi

            Frankly, it has seemed obvious to me since I was a kid that there is
            little more to religion than this: “religion is a badge of group
            identity.”
            --physicistdave (a.k.a. Dave in Sacramento)

            Frankly, what's obvious is that you assumed "religion is a badge of group identity" and have spent your childhood years and beyond using that assumption to prove it true.

            Break out of the circle, Dave. I realize your self-image as a brave iconoclast means a lot to you but it's false. You're just trying to keep proving your loyalty to a group; you're here to find people who'll disagree with you so you can prove how picked on you are or how wrong other people are - you and Jehovah's Witnesses are alike that way.

          • Martin Sellers

            "Well... I think it is first important to recognize that most human beings have an extremely intense desire to “fit in” to a group."

            Coming from a Catholic Man in his mid to lower twenties, I can assure you that living a Catholic lifestyle is NOT about "fitting in".

          • Doug Shaver

            I can assure you that living a Catholic lifestyle is NOT about "fitting in".

            Does the church no longer condemn heresy?

          • Martin Sellers

            Yes it does. And that is the point. In an increasingly secular relativist society, the Church stands as one of the last vestiges of solid moral absolutism. Its orthodoxy to doctrine is a means to that authority.

            But more to your point- how does condemning heresy foster an atmosphere of "fitting in". I think it causes division to dare and speak about what is good and what is not.

          • Doug Shaver

            how does condemning heresy foster an atmosphere of "fitting in".

            It's about in-groups and out-groups. If you identify with one particular group and are comfortable conforming to its rules, then you are fitting in with that group. The fact that it might be a minority group is irrelevant.

          • Martin Sellers

            I assure you conforming to doctrines of Christianity is not "comfortable." In fact, rather the opposite in many cases. But let me make sure I understand you correctly- are you suggesting that my Christian identity only comes from an innate desire to "fit in" and feel accepted?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why are you Catholic?

          • Martin Sellers

            Great question! One I actually was asked recently by a good friend. She actually asked why I believe in God. But my answer would be the same. Here- ill copy and paste my exact answer to her.

            ""Marty Why do you believe in God?" Well, there are many reasons all of which I could write on and on about- but for the sake of time ill just make a list (most important reasons come first) 1) He has been there with me as a comfort in dark times in my life when no one else has 2) I have an unexplained (sometimes irrational) desire to know God better 3) Certain experiences in my life have replaced doubt with more certainty 4) Many of my role models have displayed a christian world view 5) I have seen some terrible outcomes in my own experience of a "non christian" mentality from my peers and friends 6) The christian worldview is satisfying intellectually 7) the christian worldview is satisfying emotionally 8) The christian worldview is satisfying spiritually 9) I have studied the horrifying historical evidence of trying to do away with religion-- the list could go on"

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1), 2), 3), 4), 6), and 7) are all based on subjective life experiences. I don't have a problem with that, I think much of what we think and do is based on our life experiences.

            5) I have seen some terrible outcomes in my own experience of a "non christian" mentality from my peers and friends.

            I have seen horrible outcomes that stem from a Christian mentality. There are people who are worse off for being raised Catholic.

            9) I have studied the horrifying historical evidence of trying to do away with religion

            I assume you are talking about Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Did they do anything that you could say a Christian could not have done? One of the reason their atrocities are of such a great magnitude is that modern science gave them the tools to commit them, while also making belief in gods less likely. Furthermore, doesn't Hitler's anti-Semitism have roots in the anti Semitism of Christian Europe? Wasn't Germany a Christian nation? Isn't this more indicative of the dangers of abandoning your moral autonomy to an outside source, whether it be the state or a church.

            Furthermore, genocides have been committed in religions states.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            I have seen horrible outcomes that stem from a Christian mentality. There are people who are worse off for being raised Catholic.

            Like John Kennedy Toole, who penned A Confederacy of Dunces? And Walker Percy, who got it published?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't think we can really know how Catholicism affected JKT.

            It is a mixed bag. For some people it gives them an identity and gives them a way to cope with their troubles. For others, it is a cause of anxiety and depression.

          • Doug Shaver

            are you suggesting that my Christian identity only comes from an innate desire to "fit in" and feel accepted?

            No, not only that. I'm just disputing your apparent claim that a desire to fit in has nothing to do with it. All human beings with normal minds have a strong desire to fit in with some group.

          • Martin Sellers

            I actually thought a bit more about this today. I'll have to concede the point. It is true- I do become overwhelmed with joy when I actually do meet someone my age also struggling to live Christian values. And for that community (however rare) I am grateful. But as a contributing factor motivating me to seek and living Christian values, i'm not convinced "fitting in" is my reason (at least right now in life) I suppose if I had a family and was looking for a parish and school to raise my kids- I think at that point perhaps my motivations may shift more in the "fitting in" direction.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's not the sort of motivation one tends to think about. It's only in hindsight that I can see how much it had to do with many decisions I have made over the years. Again, not saying I had no other reasons for those decisions, but I did have a need to feel like I belonged with the people I was associating with.

          • Martin Sellers

            Fair enough.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In an increasingly secular relativist society, the Church stands as one of the last vestiges of solid moral absolutism.

            Is it not intoxicating to know the truth? That is one of the perks of being in the Catholic group. Which is why we have belief based groups such as conspiracy theorists, libertarians, archconservatives, environmentalists, vegans, etc.
            it is both easy and rewarding. Easy in that once knows the truth without actually having to do any serious work and avoids an uncomfortable uncertainty about the world. Rewarding in that one has the good feelings that comes with "fighting the good fight" and belonging to a group.
            There is certainly a strong catholic group identity (especially if we are talking about the very conservative). As a former catholic, I agree that there is also a sadness that comes with not "fitting in" with the rest of the society, and that it is difficult to do. Perhaps this sadness/difficulty is proportional to how much you doubt the fundamental truths of Catholicism. However, that is part of the catholic identity: "be in the word, but not of the world". Furthermore, I do believe that there are Christians, who are not bothered at all by not "fitting in", in fact they rejoice in it.
            The catholic group also has some very negative attributes, i.e. fear and guilt, used to keep the faithful in line. Not to mention the fact that willful doubt is a ticket to hell.

          • Martin Sellers

            "Easy in that once knows the truth without actually having to do any serious work and avoids an uncomfortable uncertainty about the world."

            Did you leave Catholicism because it was too easy?

            In my experience Moral Relativism is actually the "easier" route. We take solace in suggesting that all truth is truth (all morals are moral) and thus we never have to look at ourselves critically. We then ignore religion altogether or suggest it as merely a hobby for the delusional. Having to actually face our faults against an objective standard of right and wrong (God)- Now that's a challenging philosophy. And a good one IMO.

            "Rewarding in that one has the good feelings that comes with "fighting the good fight" and belonging to a group."

            True for most. But not for all. Just ask the Martyrs.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Did you leave Catholicism because it was too easy?

            ?

            No. Although it is not an easy thing to leave Catholicism either. You have to overcome a fear of hell that is ingrained in you since before you can reason. You have to overcome some pretty serious brainwashing. I think recovering catholic is a very good term.

            To make matters worse, Catholics are forbidden from encouraging doubt. Which is a necessary teaching to keep Catholicism alive, otherwise we would all be overwhelmed with doubts such as:

            A) The old testament reads more like the work of a Bronze Age people trying to make sense of the world than the inspired work of God. I.E., when good things happen, it is because they are right with God, and when bad things happen, it is because God is displeased. Furthermore, the patriarchs all make very questionable moral decisions, as does God. In fact, God comes across as rather capricious and spiteful. Finally, the moral code given in the old testament is not what I would expect form an all knowing and all loving God.

            B) The gospel accounts contradict each other on basic facts, such as the length of Jesus's public ministry. There are also various instances when Jesus does not come across as a nice person. Wantonly destroying a fig tree, and comparing a gentile woman to a dog. Finally, the gospel writers do not understand all of the old testament prophecies.

            C) The amount of unnecessary evil and suffering is irreconcilable with and all loving, all powerful, all knowing God.

            D) It is not rational to believe that masturbation, drunkenness, and birth control (among many other things) is wrong, let along will send you to hell. Furthermore, it is not logical that a finite being could commit and offense so great that they would forever burn.

            In my experience Moral Relativism is actually the "easier" route. We take solace in suggesting that all truth is truth (all morals are moral) and thus we never have to look at ourselves critically. We then ignore religion altogether or suggest it as merely a hobby for the delusional. Having to actually face our faults against an objective standard of right and wrong (God)- Now that's a challenging philosophy.

            That is a false dichotomy. It is possible to be an atheist and a moral absolutist. I would not want to base my morality on God, as many things that we now consider evil, such as slavery, were supposedly condoned by God. Furthermore, if morality is absolute, would God not be bound by it? God seems to do some very immoral things in the Old Testament.

          • Martin Sellers

            Thanks Ignatius- you raise some really great points- All of which have been addressed on this site. Fr. Robert Barron actually does a great job of addressing many of these questions- so for some of your points I’m just going to send you to a quick YouTube link.

            First- A fear of Hell is not a very compelling reason to accept the tenants of Christianity. I am not surprised you left if that is the only reason you stuck around in your younger years. In fact, I applaud you for expanding past
            such a narrow early view.

            “To make matters worse, Catholics are forbidden from encouraging doubt. Which is a necessary teaching to keep Catholicism alive; otherwise we would
            all be overwhelmed with doubts such as….”

            No- the Catholic Church encourages doubt. Belief comes from a foundation of faith and REASON. It’s true that some people require less logic/reason than others to accept Christianity. I for one fall into the skeptic category and for that I am thankful that the church fathers are so grounded in “reason” for their philosophy. I encourage you to explore more on this issue. Perhaps read some of the early church fathers.

            A) “The old testament reads more like the work of a Bronze Age people trying to make sense of the world than the inspired work of God…”

            This is a classical misinterpretation of the way the Bible is meant to be read. Fr. Barron actually makes this point
            much better.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htxOjJHB5-8

            B) “There are also various
            instances when Jesus does not come across as a nice person….”

            I actually just heard a homily on this passage last week. Jesus is essentially putting up barriers that the gentile woman knocks down. Matthew is showing a contrast between how the respectable Jewish males reject Jesus While this Gentile Woman who Jesus even
            goes so far to insult continues to follow Jesus (gentile women where the least respected people in that society and time). If you continue reading, Jesus goes on to praise the woman’s faith. This story is about the lowest among us rising up- not a commentary on 21st century notions of social justice. This is why we need clear interpretation of the bible, which the church provides.

            C) “The amount of unnecessary evil and suffering is irreconcilable with and all loving, all powerful, all
            knowing God.”

            You are speaking about the problem of evil. This site addresses this extensively- but again ill refers to the good father.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vx8ZMkWL8hw&list=PLq8htg4pwrjrmbuYQ4vskMJS8AIkK7rlC

            D) “It is not rational to
            believe that masturbation, drunkenness, and birth control (among many otherthings) is wrong, let along will send you to hell.”

            Why yes there are “rational” explanation as to why each of these things is wrong (Other than God says so) I encourage you to explore the reasons. Here are just a few of my thoughts.

            Masturbation- addictive in nature, leads to objectification the body etc…

            Drunkenness- alcohol and other drugs are not forbidden by the church. What is forbidden is a dependency on these drugs. Wouldn't you agree an unnecessary dependency is a bad thing?

            The pill- implications on the family, responsibility of fatherhood, sexual objectification, medical issues, environmental issues etc…

            "It is possible to be an atheist and a moral absolutist."

            I don’t see how this is possible. You must be suggesting
            that “society” in fact dictates morality. But society is ever changing so by its nature it cannot define absolute
            morality.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To make matters worse, Catholics are forbidden from encouraging doubt.

            It does seem to me that that tendency has been part of the tradition, but that is a very incomplete picture. Here is just a little snippet of what Pope Francis has to say about doubt:

            The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

            The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever.

            http://americamagazine.org/pope-interview

        • Micha_Elyi

          Well, I really, really, really feel that the ground I am standing on is not moving.
          --Dave Miller in Sacramento

          By Galilean Relativity, the ground you are standing on is not moving. So go ahead, trust your senses - at least as long as you stay clear of California's state capitol building. In there, you'll find many Bay Area and Southern California politicians who are trapped inside their personal reality distortion fields.

    • Maximus Meridius

      Alexander Stanislaw, do you know me. If i were in RCIA class with Leah, would you know I am a high status or low status? Besides those in the Class were not High Status Catholics, they were not Catholics at all. So you have an Error in thy Question. All of them were trying to become Catholics.

  • Elijah

    First and foremost, Jesus Christ is our Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and we should follow Him. I'm not advocating any specific denomination, per se, but I'm saying that we need to make sure we're in a church that affirms the teachings of Christ.

    Catholicism is so messed up....it's against the Bible, it's infested with sinful man's ideas, and I don't believe it's what Christ wanted. Can't judge something by its past, but the history of Catholicism is so terrible, it's close to being literally unspeakable. It's so shameful. John MacArthur once said that if a person is a true, believing Roman Catholic, he or she will not get into heaven. And I'd agree. One does not have to agree with everything John MacArthur says to realize that's true. Research the Catholic church, compare it to the Bible, and see how it's different.

    • JohnnyVoxx

      You need to study more, Elijah. The Bible is a Catholic Book. If you believe it is inerrant, then you must acknowledge the Church that compiled it was infallible (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit). You cannot deny the Eucharist (John 6), or the Sacrament of Reconciliation (John 20:19-23), or membership in the Church Christ founded (Matthew 16:18), or Petrine Primacy (throughout the Gospel), and claim to be following Christ the way he left himself with us. You have been misled, and for a dark purpose.

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Leah, thank you for your public conversion and your contributions. I have done privately over the last ten years what you are doing publicly. Thank you for having the courage to go through this process openly and with transparency. It is a great service to others. Please do not be discouraged by mean comments from all sides. You are definitely on the right track!

  • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

    I am what I guess is now called a Catholic Re-vert. Anyway, I found this site deeply moving, and would like to share it with you all. http://sharecatholic.com/video/Evidence-for-Miracles-in-Modern-Times---The-Incorruptible-Saints

  • LaJustica

    How does one jump from atheism to believing in god? Assuming that one does accept the possibility or the concept that there may be an intelligence behind the universe, the big bang and the evolution of life and the universe as we know it.

    Assuming the acceptance of the possibility of that intelligence existing, that some refer to as "God"....which is a big jump for some, then how does one jump from that to a religion, one that claims to know or be "Truth"? There are many religions that make this claim...and many that wander from one to the other seeking wisdom and truth.

    Even if one accepts the concept of a creative intelligence behind the universe, why should we assume that this "creative intelligence" even cares about its' creation any more than the wind cares about the shaping of the sand dunes or any more than the volcano cares about anything in the path of it's lava. If there is a god, who cares and is all powerful, this entity keeps well hidden indeed.

    We as humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize even concepts....hence the need to do the same with the concept of a god. I am more than half way through my seventh decade of life.....was raised as a Catholic, went to Catholic schools, including Catholic high school. Was married in the church, was a devout Catholic until ten years ago, and raised my kids in the faith....they have since fallen away from the faith, as have I and for all intents and purposes so have most catholics that I have known. I am now an agnostic.....I doubt if there are any real atheists....though some call themselves such for lack of a better description.....agnostic/atheist....pretty much one and the same for all practical intents and purposes.

    I know that people are afraid of "oblivion" when they die and a drowning man will grasp at a straw....and it is a hard pill to swallow......but really, when I look around at the world and reality, I see no real indication of a loving god....the majority of mankind has been suffering and dieing under horrible conditions for millennia. It is not a matter of being angry with a god, anymore than it is at being angry with the volcano that destroyed pompei....or a disease.

    In my conversations I don't make it a point of contention, the fact that I no longer believe, as I don't wish to discourage others from their grasping their straw of hope. I am not one of the new "angry atheists".

    The universe is not malevolent, just indifferent.

  • Hartic

    The Big Question

    How does one jump from atheism to believing in god? Assuming that one does accept the possibility or the concept that there may be an intelligence behind the universe, the big bang and the evolution of life and the universe as we know it.

    Assuming the acceptance of the possibility of that intelligence existing, that some refer to as "God"....which is a big jump for some, then how does one jump from that to a religion, one that claims to know or be "Truth"? There are many religions that make this claim...and many that wander from one to the other seeking wisdom and truth.

    Even if one accepts the concept of a creative intelligence behind the universe, why should we assume that this "creative intelligence" even cares about its' creation any more than the wind cares about the shaping of the sand dunes or any more than the volcano cares about anything in the path of it's lava. If there is a god, who cares and is all powerful, this entity keeps well hidden indeed.

    We as humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize even concepts....hence the need to do the same with the concept of a god. I know that people are afraid of "oblivion" when they die, and a drowning man will grasp at a straw....I know it is a hard pill to swallow......but really, when I look around at the world and reality, I see no real indication of a loving god....the majority of mankind has been suffering and dying under horrible conditions for millennia. It is not a matter of being angry with a god, anymore than it is at being angry with the volcano that destroyed pompei....or a disease that destroys a loved one.

    In my conversations I don't make it a point of contention, the fact that I no longer believe, as I don't wish to discourage others grasping their straw of hope. I am not one of the new "angry atheists"......just weary of all the hoops that religions expects their adherents to jump through and I grow weary of death and suffering.

    The universe is not malevolent, just indifferent.

    • Martin Sellers

      "the majority of mankind has been suffering and dying under horrible conditions for millennia."

      The majority of mankind has also loved, respected, empathized, created, humanized, wondered, awed, laughed, cried, lived, danced, ate, drank, made merry, conceptualized, criticized, envisioned, etc for a millennia as well.

      Why do we always focus on the doom and gloom, and then use that as a rational for there being no God.

      • Doug Shaver

        Why do we always focus on the doom and gloom, and then use that as a rational for there being no God.

        We don't always do that.

        • Martin Sellers

          sorry- Scratch the adjective "always".

    • Doug Shaver

      How does one jump from atheism to believing in god?

      One doesn't. It's more like a climb than a jump.

      No one can become a believer just by an act of will. However, if one wants to believe, then one can place oneself into a situation that is likely to instill belief in a receptive mind.

  • CoF89

    I'm a former atheist too, I used to have some prejudices about the beliefs in God, it was strange idea to me, but, once I stated to look at the evidences for God, ang for the bible, it's all make sense, much more sense than a atheist world. It requires much more faith to be an atheist than a believer.

    • Michael Murray

      It requires much more faith to be an atheist than a believer.

      Ah that old one. It doesn't require faith. It just requires you to accept reality as it is including

      (1) some questions probably don't have answers

      (2) some questions haven't been answered yet

      (3) there is no purpose to human existence beyond what we make of it

      (4) the universe has no morality beyond that which we invent

      Is that so difficult ?

      • CoF89

        "It doesn't require faith. It just requires you to accept reality as it is including"

        What would that be? Accept that the universe came from nothing, nothing created everything that we know, with no purpose, with no meaning...Why there is something instead nothing them?

        (1) some questions probably don't have answers

        (2) some questions haven't been answered yet

        If you say that they don't know the answers, why atheists descard the idea of God?

        (3) there is no purpose to human existence beyond what we make of it.

        We make your own purpose?? LOL! Honestly, I don't wanna live in your atheist world...

        (4) the universe has no morality beyond that which we invent

        Oh really?!!! We invent the morality patterns? Why they are so high then? Why we would invent a pattern that we would never achieve? If we had invented morality, killing wouldnt be bad, since morality would have evolved differently in each country...If you think that way, based in what moral pattern you would consider wrong the actions of Nazi soldiers in the death camp?

        Based in your opinion, morality would be just a point of view.

        And indeed, It requires much more faith to be an atheist than a believer.

        • Michael Murray

          Why there is something instead nothing them?

          I don't know. Notice though that the fact that I don't have an answer does not make your answer correct.

          If you say that they don't know the answers, why atheists descard the idea of God?

          So if you don't have an answer then any wrong answer will do ? Is that your approach ? So if we don't know what causes crop circles it must be aliens ? LOL as you like to say.

          If you think that way, based in what moral pattern you would consider wrong the actions of Nazi soldiers in the death camp?

          Golden rule. Look it up. It predates Christianity. Just what you would expect as a behaviour rule for social primates. But I guess you don't believe in evolution by natural selection.

          • CoF89

            I see what happens...you've created your own pattern, and doesn't matter what I might say, or anybody, your mind is closed, you just believe in what you want to.
            And you guessed wrong.

    • Doug Shaver

      It requires much more faith to be an atheist than a believer.

      Over the years, I've seen Christians offer so many definitions of faith that I'm never quite sure any more what they mean when they use the word.

      That noted, I can say that I used to be a Christian. What I needed in those days to believe in God, I do not need nowadays to disbelieve in God.