Homily for the 30th Sunday of the year by Msgr Charles Pope:
There’s an old saying on pride that goes: “Faults in others I can see, but praise the Lord, they’re none in me!” It’s a steel trap statement because one is snared in sin by the very act of claiming they have no sin. And it’s the biggest sin of all: Pride!
In today’s Gospel, the Lord illustrates this very point in speaking to us of two men who go to to the temple and pray. One man commits the greatest sin of all, pride, and leaves unjustified. The other, though a great sinner, receives the gift of justification through humility. Let’s look at what the Lord teaches us.
1. Prideful Premise – Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness. When it comes to parables, it is possible for us to go right to the parable and miss the introductory statement that often tells us what spurred Jesus to give the parable. Many simply see this parable as being about arrogance. But there is more to it than that.
Jesus is addressing this parable to those who are convinced of their own righteousness. They are under the illusion that they are capable of justifying and saving themselves. They think they can have their “own righteousness,” and that it will be enough to save them.
But the truth is, there is no saving righteousness apart from Christ’s righteousness. I do not care how many spiritual push-ups you do, how many good works you do, how many commandments you keep. It will never be enough for you to earn heaven. On your own you are not holy enough, to ever enter heaven or save yourself. Scripture says, One cannot redeem himself, pay to God a ransom. Too high the price to redeem a life; he would never have enough (Psalm 49:8-9)
Only Christ and HIS righteousness can ever close the gap, can ever get you to heaven. Even if we do have good works, they are not our gift to God, they are his gift to us. We cannot boast of them, they are his. Again Scripture says, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:8-10).
But the Pharisee in the Parable has a prideful premise that is operative. Jesus says he is convinced of his OWN righteousness. Notice how, in his brief prayer he says “I” four times:
- I thank you
- I am not like the rest of humanity – greed, dishonest, adulterous
- I fast
- I pay tithes
It is also interesting that the Lord, when telling of the prideful Pharisee, indicates that he “spoke this prayer to himself.” Some think it merely means he did not say the prayer out loud. But others suspect that more is at work here, a double meaning if you will. In effect, the Lord is saying that his prayer is so wholly self-centered, so devoid of any true appreciation of God, that it is actually spoken only to himself. He is congratulating himself more than really praying to God, and his “thank you” is purely perfunctory and serves more a premise for his own prideful self adulation. He is speaking to himself alright. He is so prideful that even God can’t even hear him.
Hence we see a prideful premise on the part of the Pharisee who sees his righteousness as his own, as something he has achieved. He is badly mistaken.
2. Problematic Perspective – and despised everyone else. To “despise” means to look down on others with contempt, to perceive others as beneath us. Now the Lord says the Pharisee did this. Notice how the Pharisee is glad to report that he is “not like the rest of humanity.”
Not only is his remark foolish, it is also impertinent. For, it is a simple fact that you and I will not get to heaven merely by being a little better than someone else. No indeed, being better than a tax collector, prostitute, drug dealer, or dishonest business man is not the standard we must meet. The standard we must meet is Jesus. He is the standard. And Jesus said, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). Now, somebody say, Lord have mercy! It is so dangerous, and a total waste of time, to compare our self with others because it wholly misses the point.
The point is that we are to compare our selves to Jesus and to be conformed to him by the work of his grace. And, truth be told, any honest comparison of our self to Jesus should make us fall to our knees and cry out for mercy, because the only way we stand a chance is with boatloads of grace and mercy.
It is so silly, laughable really, that we compare ourselves to others. What a pointless pursuit! What a fool’s errand! What a waste of time! God is very holy and we need to leave behind the problematic perspective of looking down on others and trying to be just a little better than some poor (and fellow) sinner. It just won’t cut it.
There’s a lot of talk today about being “basically a nice person.” But being nice isn’t how we get to heaven. We get to heaven by being Jesus. The goal in life isn’t to be nice, the goal is to be made holy. We need to set aside all the tepid and merely humanistic notions of righteousness and come to understand how radical the call to holiness is and how unattainable it is by human effort. Looking to be average, or a little better than others, is a problematic perspective. It has to go and be replaced by the Jesus standard.
Let’s put it in terms of something we all can understand: money. Let’s say that we’re on our way to heaven and you have $50 and I have $500. Now I might laugh at you and feel all superior to you. I might ridicule you and say, “I have ten times as much as you!” But then we get to heaven and find out the cost to enter is 70 trillion dollars. Oops. Looks like we’re both going to need a LOT of mercy and grace to get in the door. In the end, we are both in the same boat and all my boasting was a waste of time and quite silly to boot. We have a task so enormous and unattainable that we simply have to let God grant it and accomplish it for us. And this leads to the final point.
3. Prescribed Practice – But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ Given everything we have reflected on, we can only bow our head and cry from the heart, “Lord have mercy!” Deep humility coupled with lively hope are the only answers.
And here too, being humble isn’t something we can do. We have to ask God for a humble and contrite heart. Without this gift we will never be saved. We are just too proud and egotistical in our flesh. So God needs to give us a new heart, a new mind. Notice that the tax collector in today’s parable did three things, three things we ought to do:
- Realize your distance – the text says he stood off at a distance. He realizes that he is a long way from the goal. He knows how holy God is, and he himself is very distant. But his recognition of his distance is already a grace and a mercy. God is already granting the humility by which he stands a chance.
- Recognize your disability – The text says he would not even raise his eyes to heaven. Scripture says, No one can look upon God and live (Ex 33:20). We are not ready to look on the face of God in all its glory. That is evident by the fact that we are still here. Scripture also says, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8). This tax collector recognizes his disability, his inability to look on the face of God for his heart is not yet pure enough. So in humility he looks down. But his recognition of his disability is already a grace and a mercy. God is already granting the humility by which he stands a chance.
- Request your deliverance – the text says he beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Notice then how his humility is steeped in hope. He cannot save himself but God can. He cannot have a saving righteousness of his own, but Jesus does. So this tax collector summons those twins called grace and mercy. In this man’s humility, a grace given him by God. He stands a chance. For, by this humility, he invokes Jesus Christ who alone can make him righteous and save him. Beg for humility. Only God can really give it to us. The humble, contrite heart the Lord will not spurn (Ps 51:17). And thus Jesus says, whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Beware of Pride. It is our worst enemy. Beg for the gift of humility, for only with it do we even stand a chance.
Wisdom of the Holy Spirit – beautiful
Help in dealing with pride can be found at Loyola Hall near Liverpool on the many retreats on offer there.
However the retreats will cease next Easter. Don’t wait. Many are 5 day retreats which will be of enormous benefit to some.
Better Loyola Hall than being patronised in this article.
And how fortunate that Catholics know that they alone have The Truth… “not like the rest of humanity.”
…And are suitably humble about it.
But not too humble to tell everyone else that they are in grave error.
“Let’s put it in terms of something we all can understand: money. Let’s say that we’re on our way to heaven and you have $50 and I have $500. Now I might laugh at you and feel all superior to you. I might ridicule you and say, “I have ten times as much as you!” But then we get to heaven and find out the cost to enter is 70 trillion dollars. Oops. Looks like we’re both going to need a LOT of mercy and grace to get in the door.”
Toad @ 9:35
Please stop trying to box us in. It is not a question of ‘us’ against ‘them’. There is nothing prideful in wanting what is good and right for our neighbours, or, in other words, ETERNAL LIFE. Catholics are only members of God’s Church through grace alone, either because they are ‘cradle Catholics’ who also will have had to undergo the process of confirming their Baptismal promises made in their name when they were babes (i.e. the sacrament of Confirmation), or through ‘conversion’ from other Faiths, or of no Faith.
Our Blessed Lord came to save sinners – all sinners/all men, you, me, everyone – so they may “come to the knowledge of the Truth”. That is why it’s a duty to promulgate the Faith through a faithful testimony of life, and evangelising in the world at large in whatever way we are able.
Well, Kathleen, all I can suggest is that you re-read the “Two Churches” piece again. But it’s possible that we simply interpret it differently, words being the slippery little fellows they are.
Nobody’s trying to box anybody in, (whatever that “means”) at least I’m not.
“Our Blessed Lord came to save sinners – all sinners/all men, you, me, everyone “
(Sigh.) How can even Christ save someone who has never heard of him?
“How can even Christ save someone who has never heard of him?”
“For with God nothing is impossible”, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary.
However, that is where we come in: to make God known and loved in the world. First and foremost we have a duty to pass on the precious gift of the Faith to our family and friends; and then go further afield to “Teach all nations…”. This is the great work of the many great missionaries throughout the ages, and still today in our current times.
““For with God nothing is impossible”
Do these words also suggest that we should tolerate and accept even things we find abhorrent? Do these words mean that God loves the homosexual,the heretic, the Muslim, the prostitute, the criminal etc? Of course, even Dawkins.
And so we must love if we accept these Words.
“For with God nothing is impossible”
Ever soul created knows there is a God. It follows therefor that ever soul can and is judged on what they know. However some know more than others and the more you know the greater degree of judgement is applied to you.
But this leads to something very important SIN IS CONDEMNED AND EXCLUDES FROM GOD.
Our Lord was compassionate to poor sinners but NEVER SIN.
If you love God then place God first that is before man. True Charity isn’t accepting Sin its defending the Divine Rights.
Then what about Our Neighbour? Well we are bound to Love Our Neighbour before Self.
Humility is recognising the Truth. If you love your neighbour then you will seek to save their souls! So CONDEMN SIN that destroys Our and Our Neighbours souls.
“Ever soul created knows there is a God.” Sorry Roger, what about Dawkins and Hitchens? Bertrand Russell? Marcus Aurelius? …………..ad nauseam……………
Do you love your neighbour if he/she is a damned atheist?
“For with God nothing is impossible”, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary.”
Yes, that’s the Celestial “Get Out Of Jail Free,” card, isn’t it?
Cuts through all logic – and every reasoned argument – at a stroke.
And there’s no answer to it.
Just upsets the chess board and dumps all the pieces on the carpet. End game.
“Ever soul created knows there is a God. It follows therefor that ever soul can and is judged on what they know.”
NO, Roger; it does NOT follow. The Muslim knows there is a God but is it your true God?. Likewise the Hindu, the Zoroastrian, the Jehovah’s Witness, the witch doctor, the shaman, the Amish, and so on. What do they know in face of your Catholic knowledge? Less, you will say. So they will be judged for not having your Catholic knowledge. Shurely not?
What will happen to them on Judgement Day?
(as I write, my local parish bell sounds sweetly over the valley, as it has done for maybe 800 years).
Not long before my retreat.
I’ve been struck by how many of my clumsy amateur points and even of those who are more ‘staunch’ remain unanswered by the body of bloggers, even in disagreement.
Or I’ve been disappointed about posts which are answered so obliquely or mysteriously as to be strange to …clarity, let’s say. I think this site is predominantly English so perhaps the lack of directness is a cultural thing? Correct me?
Is it Catholicism without Compromise or Catholicism Without Comment? Thanks, exceptional Kathleen, for your considered remarks. You are, I intuit, a good Catholic woman of the sort who maintains the Church through thick and thin, despite the shenanegans of some bishops and priests. You are the rock which sustains the Church. You are not afraid of the ‘other’ voice and it does credit to you and the Faith. Lack of fear shows confidence in belief. Evasion…well…!?
I wish all of you all the best in Christ.
The answer is yes we LOVE our Neighbour without distinction. That Love is isn’t some wishy washy worldly emotional Love its because our neighbour has an Eternal Soul created by God. This is why you cannot Love God and Hate your neighbour.
But Gargantua let me ask you a question what happened to the souls who were not Jews? What about those who lived on Pacific Islands with no contact whatsoever with Christianity for centuries? What about the babies sadly miscarriaged?
God’s judgement is beyond man’s comprehension. But then consider this there is NO salvation without Christ. Our Lord’s Passion and the perpetual sacrifice of the Mass is essential for entry into Heaven. This great Truth of the Faith is that the world cannot exist without the Mass. The greatness of the Faith is in the Divine Life the Life of Grace and the sacraments.
So it follows that without putting on the Sinless Christ then no soul can be saved. Which is why Our love of neighbour follows Our Love of God. Note not love of neighbour and ignoring God! There is false idea that we turn a blind eye to Sin but that is not the case. Our Love must be that of Our Lord and his Love and his Justice are actually the same.
If you love Our Lord CONDEMN SIN.
“This great Truth of the Faith is that the world cannot exist without the Mass.”
Oh, really? It seems to have existed OK for the last 4.5 billion years – until a a few cosmological blips ago. A puny 2,000 years.
“God’s judgement is beyond man’s comprehension.”
…Another celestial "Get Out Of Jail Free," card.
In other words, anything goes – so don't bother asking why it doesn't make sense.
Gargantua at 16:49
You should read Roger’s post more carefully before attempting to critique it: he has already said that you should love your neighbour, even if your neighbour is a sinner (as we all are).
And Marcus Aurelius an atheist? Really?
From my recollection of their biographies, Dawkins, Hitchens and Russell all chose to reject the idea of God, preferring their own prideful conclusions on the matter; hardly a refutation that each “soul created knows there is a God.”
Gargantua @ 18:37
I appreciate your kind words to me, but the truth is I do no more – probably a whole lot less – than my other Team-mates on CP&S. Perhaps I write more comments than they do (on the whole) but I can assure you that there are plenty of other jobs to do behind the scenes to keep the blog running smoothly: searching for and writing articles, answering questions and queries on the “About” section, editing, scheduling, technical work, etc.
We are now down to only four members (as Gertrude is not around at present) and we are hard pressed, I can tell you. We all – Raven, Brother Burrito, Maryla (mmvc) and yours truly – have large families to attend to. Raven and Burrito have full time responsible jobs too.
This would be a good moment to thank our regular commenters and collaborators (GC, JH, Roger, among others) who with their lively comments contribute so much, each with their own unique faith experience, wisdom, knowledge and humour.
Roger wants to tell his neighbours where they are wrong – hardly loving or productive.
Aurelius believed in gods. He was a pagan. That’ll do for me, wishing to avoid pedantry.
Russell asked for evidence for God and declared himself an atheist until he got the evidence.
You agree about Dawkins/Hitchens. “Prideful” is irrelevant, for in their view they knew there was no God – a total refutation.
Kathleen, I have no doubt at all that finding articles and commenting is not an easy task. Anything which is well organised looks effortless but in fact may be anything but that. I congratulate you and your team for doing what they do without the joins showing.
Being disappointed with the tendency of many to dodge direct questions here, (not only mine) I had intended to withdraw a couple of posts ago, but got into an exchange with an irritated and contrary Raven. I don’t really think the site is a forum for debate – as I see debate anyway. I leave it to those who feel comfortable here.
But this gives me the chance to thank you all for your work. Including the largest bird in the crow family.
It’s neither loving nor productive to pretend that wrong is right.
Dawkins proclaims himself to be merely agnostic about the existence of God (‘tho he scores it a very low probability); he does not claim to “know”.
I very much doubt that Russell claimed to “know” that there was no God. I have no idea about Hitchens’ knowledge claims.
Some fancy footwork here, Raven. Wise, I think.
So we don’t get even an “E for Effort”, Gargantua?
“Dawkins, Hitchens and Russell all chose to reject the idea of God, preferring their own prideful conclusions on the matter; hardly a refutation that each “soul created knows there is a God.””
Putting to one side the rather odd idea that unbelievers’ conclusions ought to be less ‘prideful’ than those of believers (are you not prideful of your Catholicism, Raven? ) I think it would be more accurate if Roger had said, “Each soul knows that it believes that it knows there is a God.” Personally, I doubt that each soul even knows as little as that. I think we believe in God – initially anyway – because we have thought about it and come to that conclusion.
But there we are.
Whether God exists or not is one thing: The idea of His existence is quite another. That idea certainly exists, as Raven rightly says. And is a point worth bearing in mind.
And there are very many ideas of God that Raven would reject instantly.
Such as that it is necessary to kill a virgin every morning to ensure that the sun comes up.
Or that God does not have ‘three persons.’ Or that there are female gods.
Old Gaga is unhappy that he doesn’t get answers. He will learn that’s not what it’s about.
(Or might have.)
Raven is right. It takes humility to believe in God, and see oneself for what we are – created beings who owe our very existence to the benign and loving Creator.
It doesn’t stop there, for belief in God means following a path of obedience to His Divine Laws: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me.” (John 14:21)
Obedience, (against which was Mankind’s first Original Sin) does not come easy to our selfish natures, and hence the constant falls into sin we commit every day. Then another big dose of humility is needed to recognise these failings and go to the Sacrament of Confession to have them wiped away, and receive the grace to try to avoid sinning again. We won’t be able to remain free of sin forever, but nevertheless, it is perseverance that counts, as St. Paul says.
So naturally it is on the other hand, to a greater or lesser degree, prideful to reject God – or to reject the idea of God if you prefer – to say one does not need Him or want Him. What happens next is a type of auto-proclamation of Self (as Roger correctly keeps telling us.)
Edit: I missed out three words [against which was] in the 2nd paragraph! Now added.
Kathleen, I do not see how your reasoning makes sense. There are countless superstitious, or spiritual ideas and notions which you reject, or do not believe in. Why does that not make you prideful in the same way that you claim atheists to be?
Gaga and several others (including me) who appreciate your knowledge, eloquence and patience are simply right in doing so, Kathleen. (I will add your patience in my own case.)
What are we to do?
One thing, if nothing else, that I have realised from CP&S is that there exists a yawning chasm between the perceptions of people about the same situations. It is also clearly unbridgeable.
Virtually very day, I find myself thinking, “Enough, this can’t go on – it’s pointless.” But, up ’til now at least – I then think, “No can’t despair. Soldier on.” You doubtless know what I mean.
Take your comment today. I obviously agree we are all created beings. Humans, dogs, ants, mosquitoes. What ‘created’ us is, in my opinion, considerably far from certain.
But, if it was indeed God – why did He give us ‘selfish natures’ in the first place, if He didn’t intend us to use them?
If He “designed” us, why are we so poorly designed, both mentally and physically? Did God-made humans really need to be created this insane from day one? Or did we evolve nuts? (my current theory.) Or is it all some cosmic accident?
In short, despite the best efforts of Christianity – why is The Human Condition, as Malraux called it, so appalling?
Bearing in mind that God apparently knew all this awfulness was going to happen from infinity – and also how it will end.
How incredibly depressing and boring it must all be for Him. And how pointless.
Why are you struggling with this Toad? Don’t you see these bad behaviours acted out in other animals? The only difference with humans is that we have complicated matters with our superior powers of communication and the ability to contemplate our thoughts with language.
“Why are you struggling with this Toad? Don’t you see these bad behaviours acted out in other animals? “
No. Other animals don’t behave badly. Only in our eyes.
They don’t lie, and they don’t delude themselves, and they don’t take communion in the hand, and they don’t kill one another in the name of God.
In these matters, they are clearly our superiors.
And they don’t entertain utterly speculative theories on the afterlife, which end up hinging on, “Mysterious Ways,” and they don’t brood on what happens to dogs who ‘hate’ God.
Or, If they do, they wisely keep it to themselves.
If only we did.
I assume you are a non-believer, and that is why you are offended, thinking I was alluding to you (and all atheists). I’m really sorry about that, and I’ll try to explain a bit better what I was trying to say above.
I was only talking about pride in the spiritual sense, and believers (Catholics, other Christians, or indeed those of other religions) are just as likely to be inclined towards the Sin of Pride in any other aspect of life.
There is even such a thing as “spiritual pride” that most believers have to confront at some time or other.
You will also see that I added the phrase “to a greater or lesser degree” when mentioning this prideful attitude to those who reject God, and indeed I believe the spectrum here is pretty wide.
I would not include the majority of agnostics either. Many of them would like to believe in God, but for varying reasons they are not blessed with the gift of Faith for the moment. Many are seekers of the Truth (like Toad perhaps?)
Hope this make things a bit clearer.
Toad, your above doggy comments had me in giggles again – oh dear!
Good sign that you have got over your ill humour of yesterday… you must be feeling better, I’m glad to see.
But sorry to disillusion you, for I am neither “knowledgeable, eloquent, nor patient” – really! 😦
It’s fun and enjoyable to discuss our Glorious Faith, and there’s room enough for everyone inside you know. 😉
God did not give us “selfish natures” – He created us (Adam and Eve) perfect, with no flaws. He gave us more than perfect bodies, He created us with Free Will.
Everyone (you too) knows this, and how we are born with Original Sin through the ill use of that Free Will of our first parents. Baptism washes away the stain of Original Sin, but not our propensity towards sinful urges.
It’s the price we have to pay for being created with the ability to choose the way we want to live our lives. We are not pre-programmed robots.
Thanks for your reply Kathleen.
We are all seekers of the truth aren’t we? But I still do not see why you think an atheist to believing something to be true is different from a Catholic or a Hindu doing the same?
Well Uncle Kyle, I thought I’d sort of explained that already in my comment at 9:19 this morning.
A Catholic’s belief in God implies the necessity of the virtue of Obedience to His Divine Will.
Sometimes that can be tough because it means we don’t always get our own way, and a lot of self discipline and Humility is required if one is to be a faithful follower of Christ’s Bride, the Catholic Church’s Teachings. Because of our Fallen natures, this doesn’t always come easily.*
Some atheists may be moral and upright people too – I know that for a fact – but they do not bend to any higher Being. An attitude of self-sufficiency and I-know-best so often creeps into their personalities. There are numerous public figures who are atheists where we can see this.
* Faith in God is also the greatest of joys that nothing in the material world can compare to.
Truth for an atheist is different from truth for a Christian. When an atheist says he doesn’t believe in God, he’s not saying there is no God, but only that he insists on empirical proofs and hasn’t been given any. When a Christian says he believes in God, he’s saying that empirical proofs are unnecessary because his belief is grounded on Faith. So yes, atheists and Christians look at the concept of Truth from entirely different perspectives.
But, ironically enough, atheists accept that faith is a valid basis on which to live one’s life. For an atheist to be believe his friends like him and that his children love him – these are beliefs grounded on faith, not proof. He may have evidence for his belief, as do Christians for their belief in God, but his evidence is not proof in the sense that atheists insist on proof of God. In the end analysis, all that he has is faith in their friendship and love.
Thanks for your kind words at 20.22 Kathleen. (A little pride in our God-given abilities will not do you, or any of us too much harm.)
The point surely is – that we are asked to believe in a God, who, from before eternity and until after eternity – knows everything that has, or will, happen. He knew Adam would fall before he made him. He gave Adam free will knowing he would abuse it and what the consequences were going to be. And yet God did it. And now appears to be annoyed about it. Keeps talking about ‘punishing’ people. This is surely utterly illogical.
And how can we worship an illogical God? It’s not a logical thing to do.
(More on this vital issue later, after dogwalk. And what about the founding of Israel? I intend to find out.)
Kathleen, of course atheists do not bend to a higher being, if they do not believe one to exist. And one can only have faith if one already believes in God. The question that no one addresses is; how can the atheist choose to believe in something he/she does not/can not believe to exist? It is not a matter of choice.
Truth is truth, John. The concept is quite straightforward.
“For an atheist to be believe his friends like him and that his children love him – these are beliefs grounded on faith” The atheist has plenty of evidence for whether his friends like him or not, and he certainly has good reason to believe that they actually exist.
“Truth is truth, John. The concept is quite straightforward.”
Oh, would that it was quite straightforward, Kyle. Yes I believe in absolute Truth (not sure you do), but Christians and atheists do indeed look at Truth (or truth if you prefer) from different perspectives.
“The atheist has plenty of evidence for whether his friends like him or not…”
And Christians have plenty of evidence that God loves them. The evidence may be ambiguous as a matter of empirical proof, but then so is the evidence that an atheist’s friends like him. People can be duplicitous, and yet hide it very well. In the end, atheists believe in friendship as an act of faith.
[The atheist]“…certainly has good reason to believe that they actually exist.”
Actually he does not. The atheist has good reason to believe that the people he thinks of as friends exist, but he lacks empirical proof that they are his friends.
Spot on, JH. Agree with every word. (There’s disquieting!)
Although.. “The atheist has good reason to believe that the people he thinks of as friends exist, but he lacks empirical proof that they are his friends.” As does the Catholic and anyone.
Because there can never be any empirical ‘proof’ of friendship. The Atheist, like the rest of us, must rely on instinct, trust and confidence…faith, if you want to call it that. (The same as for pretty much everything else, come to that.)
No doubt there are still a handful of Atheists with faith in Stalin. People being what they are. And faith being what it is.
Well, I wasn’t suggesting that Christians possess empirical proof of friendships that atheists lack. My point was that, just as Christians fall back on faith when they confess their belief in God, so too must atheists when they say that people like them or love them. They can never say so with the certainty they demand Christians provide for the existence of God. In other words, atheists accept the utility of faith as a way of looking at the world.
“The atheist has good reason to believe that the people he thinks of as friends exist” Yes John, that is what I meant. You can’t say the same for belief in a God.
“Christians have plenty of evidence that God loves them” No they do not. They ‘believe’ they do.
“(Atheists) can never say so with the certainty they demand Christians provide for the existence of God.”
Any Atheist who demands that Christians prove God exists will be no more successful than a Christian who demands that Atheists prove God does not exist.
Neither such person exists, of course.
Although I can’t prove that.
That’s an expression used by some to signal capitulation. I use it to signal exasperation.
“The atheist has good reason to believe that the people he thinks of as friends exist.”
Look, Uncle, it’s possible that the people you think of as friends may not actually like you. Yes, Uncle, the people you think of as your friends exist, but that doesn’t mean they really are your friends. All that you have at the end of the day is your faith in them.
And Christians do have plenty of evidence that God loves them. That they believe that evidence is no more unreasonable than your belief that your friends actually like you.
“Kathleen, of course atheists do not bend to a higher being, if they do not believe one to exist.”
Exactly! That’s what I was saying Uncle Kyle. They don’t see anything or anyone as being superior to them.
(Does anyone else have the impression that we are going round in circles here? JH and K racing round clockwise, and Uncle Kyle and Toad anti-clockwise. ;-))
“(Atheists) don’t see anything or anyone as being superior to them.”
Superior to Atheists, Kathleen? Nonsense, I’m afraid. An Atheist may see Evelyn Waugh, a Catholic, as being superior to him in several aspects. (Although inferior in others, maybe.)
However, some Atheists may well see nothing or no one superior to Human Beings. And, as you know, I see considerable room for doubt – on even that.
Granted, some Atheists are not ‘umble, like us.
…And thank God we are so blessed.
What Toad? Atheists bend to Evelyn Waugh? I think you’re wrong there!
“Granted, some Atheists are not ‘umble, like us.”
Who is “us”…. you and your dogs?
John, the atheist’s advantage is that he can see that his ‘friends’ exist – he knows that they exist, and so does everyone else – and he can observe their behaviour in order to make an assessment as to whether they like him or not. Clearly this scenario is not comparable to making an assessment as to whether God loves you or not (which was the original point), nor is it a matter of going round in circles in opposite directions.
No, Kyle, the atheist perceives that he sees that his friends exist: if we’re going to be sceptics let’s at least do it properly.
atheists may believe that there is no superior intellect to that of human beings in the known universe, but they are humbled in other ways. Humans can not take credit for their evolved capabilities any more than other animals can for their talents. Atheists are also humbled by their deficiencies, their single, short life spans and powerlessness against time and their own physiology. This humility contrasts with the Christian’s beliefs of not only of having superior intellect to other creatures, but being the only creature with a ‘soul, by being in a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, and being able surpass nature in order to live forever.
Beware of pride!
“What Toad? Atheists bend to Evelyn Waugh? I think you’re wrong there!”
Putting aside the faint suspicion that your comment sounds rather rude, Kathleen (who mentioned bending? Not Toad!)…
…What I am merely suggesting is that an honest Atheist writer might reasonably say, “Yes, Waugh was a Catholic, but he was also a far better writer than I will ever be – and more physically courageous, and taller, too.”*
I might say it myself, if I were an Atheist. So it’s possible. (Except I’m taller. A bit.)
* Also possible, as Waugh was a solid five foot five.
Are you trying to show how we differ? In your last comment you paradoxically seem to be pointing out some very human similarities between believers and non-believers!!
You admit that Atheists believe “there is no superior intellect to that of human beings in the known universe”…. Catholics believe that too. (God made the universe; He is not a part of it.)
Then you say Atheists are “humbled by their deficiencies“…. Catholics are too, even if the “deficiencies” that humble Catholics (which are our very limited and sinful human natures) are rather different reasons than the ones you point out that supposedly “humble” Atheists.
“This humility contrasts with the Christian’s beliefs of not only of having superior intellect to other creatures….” (hang on a moment, we have just established that you said Atheists believe that too)…”but being the only creature with a ‘soul, by being in a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, and being able surpass nature in order to live forever.” Here, I agree, you point out where we definitely do differ.
These beliefs have been revealed by God to Man from the time of Adam and Eve, and most especially through Jesus Christ, the Son. This is Man’s destiny; for this he was created. What you overlook is that Christians believe that “everlasting man”* can forfeit that destiny through his own choice and be deprived of his home with God in Eternity.
So you are quite right: we must all BEWARE OF PRIDE, as Christians never tire of saying. (All sins have their root in Pride, and this sin is not exclusive to only one group of people!)
* “Everlasting Man”: a term coined by G.K. Chersterton
It appears that we have now established that the Christian’s claim to superiority far exceeds that of any atheist, but could we please tackle this question of ‘choice’; as in “can forfeit that destiny through his own choice”. As I said earlier, how can the atheist choose to believe in something he/she does not/can not believe to exist? How can this be a matter of choice?
“It appears that we have now established that the Christian’s claim to superiority far exceeds that of any atheist..”
No. We have established (I think) that we both believe Men to be superior to all other created Beings. Christians do not (or should not) see themselves as “superior” to non believers.
What you fail to see is that Christians do not claim superiority just for themselves; they see all Men everywhere to be created in the “Image and Likeness” of God. That is why Christians, especially Catholics, value all Human Life so greatly.
“As I said earlier, how can the atheist choose to believe in something he/she does not/can not believe to exist? How can this be a matter of choice?”
Yes Uncle Kyle, I agree with you that obviously an atheist is – probably in most cases – not one through a matter of “choice”, but by convictions gained through their life experiences. My own ones, and those of most of Mankind (according to world statistics) have led to a different conclusion.
All I can say to that is rest assured – God is Just. We will all be judged one day on the way we have lived our lives according to our “talents” * received.
* “talents” as in the Gospel sense of spiritual gifts.
Interesting little lacunae ( if that is, in fact, the mot juste, as Mel Gibson would say) here:
It would seem that the unbaptised might be saved on the grounds that, if they had been able to know beforehand for themselves how nice Heaven is – would surely have opted for going there. But the same does not appear to apply to damned sinners who – had they been able to know beforehand how horrid Hell is – would surely have opted against going there. They are stuffed, and that’s that.
The basic, but vital detail you fail to grasp, Nuncle K, is that everyone else – Atheists, Muslims, Lutherans, Aztecs – all, secretly, viscerally, and/or instinctively, know the beliefs they claim to profess are in error – and that only Catholicism is really true.
So, why don’t they admit it, give up – and switch?
Maybe they also, “…Move in mysterious ways…”
Like You Know Who.
Well Toad,… that is not an excuse for refusing to listen to God’s voice Who “speaks to the heart”. Every Man will be given this opportunity countless times during their life to turn to God, although many, sadly, wallowing in a life of selfishness and greed, will refuse to respond.
But Catholics have far greater claims of superiority over the other creatures than atheists do, Kathleen. They also claim superiority over non Catholic humans by their genuine relationship with God, and by their perfect knowledge.
It is not a case of claiming “superiority” over other men Uncle Kyle, but a humble (yes, I said humble) recognition of how much we owe God for this immense grace of having being called into His Church, though we through our own merits have done nothing to deserve it. Seeing ourselves for what we truly are, sinful, weak and utterly limited in our capabilities to accomplish anything if it were not for God’s Love and Grace in our souls, is a very humbling experience.
We are blessed and joyous, in spite of being unworthy of such a gift. We want to share this great news with others – hence the necessity to evangelise – for the Blood of Our Saviour was shed for the Redemption of All Men.
The Catholic Church is the “Bride of Christ” that Jesus formed to carry on His Mission, and where Man finds the means to work on his Salvation…. i.e. we are not ‘saved’ beforehand, but have to work at it constantly with the promised help of the Holy Spirit Who guides us.
You insist on seeing Catholics as prideful, but you are wrong, basing your argument as you are on the presumption that we see ourselves as better than other mortals. If this were the case we would be in deep water. Humility is vital if one is to be a genuine follower of Christ.
I’ll repeat what I said in my first comment: “It takes humility to believe in God, and see oneself for what we are – created beings who owe our very existence to the benign and loving Creator.”
Lastly, we do not claim to have “perfect knowledge”; for that we shall have to wait for Heaven… if we get there. 😉
All we do claim is that the Holy Catholic Church contains the Truth of what God has revealed to Man through Jesus Christ to lead us to this final Home for which we were made.
Uncle’s idea of dialogue includes sarcasm, so no point in responding.
Kyle does seem very keen to attribute the attitude of the Pharisee to Catholics.
“You insist on seeing Catholics as prideful” I don’t. I am simply stating facts when I describe the Catholic’s perceived position as ‘superior’, whether taken humbly or not.
“All we do claim is that the Holy Catholic Church contains the Truth” indeed, but hardly an appropriate use of an ‘all’.
No sarcasm has been used in this reply.
Kyle, what is so wrong about stating that there is one position which is superior? In everything, there is ONE truth, there cannot be two truths. There may be one Truth and one version which includes some truth and some fiction but The Truth remains. It goes without saying that pure truth is superior to fiction.
If we did not believe that the Catholic Church teaches The Truth, what would be the point of being a Catholic? Why not, in that case, be a nothing. There is no truth, no lies, just nothing. Is that the case?
Not everyone’s opinion or religion can stem from The Truth, there can only be one. The Catholic Faith is it. You are free to disagree with that, but if you do so on the basis that you find it abhorrent that truth is superior to fiction, then I am afraid you are in a pickle that you can only get out of by looking at the world logically, which you are not doing right now, it seems.
I have come to the conclusion that there are deep feelings of resentment among some Atheists for those who are Theists. That this ‘resentment’ is mostly aimed at Catholics is a fact that few would negate. It also takes many forms, including the false accusations that Catholics are full of pride and feelings of superiority, or that we condemn everyone else to Hell! The Beauty and Truth of her Teachings, plus the evidence of the tremendous good the Catholic Church has done throughout the ages for all of Mankind (and continues to do) is never mentioned – if anything it is denied – and yet any flaws of its members are unceasingly brandished in public and loudly gloated over.
So why attack Catholics alone among the world’s many other believers? Are Atheists too scared to ‘have a go’ at Islam? And why are the many Protestant churches overlooked? Could it just possibly be that deep down in their hearts they are worried there just might be some truth in what Catholics hold to that could challenge all that Atheists ‘believe’??
I am not saying it is wrong to state that the truth is superior to falsehood, of course not. This all arose from an attempt to show differences between the position of an atheist compared to that of a Catholic.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Kathleen.
“I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Kathleen.”
…and our resident atheist too 😉
But why would atheists be worried that their beliefs in the finality of death may be wrong? Surely they would welcome the possibility of an afterlife?
I’m sorry to say that all the atheists I know are absolutely convinced that they’re right, that every argument for God is really quite ridiculous, naive and only for those who yearn for comfort. The atheists that I know (and I don’t say that they represent all atheists) will not even entertain the notion that they might be wrong (surely those people who would welcome the possibility of an afterlife are not atheists but agnostics. Now, agnostics I can understand).
I’m happy to listen to arguments against the existence of God, but I’m afraid they don’t make any sense to me. If they ever do, if atheists can explain to me how the world came out of nothing with no Creator, I’ll honestly consider reconsidering. But, as a friend of mine says, both believers and atheists believe in a miracle, but your miracle is ridiculous whereas ours is plausible.
What is more, I see God’s Hand in my everyday life. Where is your definitive proof that God does not exist? I tell you that I have experienced miracles in my own life. Yes, real miracles, things I just cannot explain. Where is your proof for your non-religion?
“But, as a friend of mine says, both believers and atheists believe in a miracle, but your miracle is ridiculous whereas ours is plausible.”
That sums up the situation in a nutshell.
Atheists either believe (a) the universe appeared suddenly out of nothing without an underlying creative force, or (b) the universe has always existed.
Christians believe God Eternal created the universe.
I can see why some atheists can’t get their heads around option (a): something created out of nothing – neither can I. As for those atheists who do have faith in that belief, who are they to look down on the ratiocination of those who disagree?
And as for those other atheists who believe in option (b): the universe has always existed, it seems evident to me they are also passengers on a ship of fools. But even looking at their belief in the best possible light, they are no more able to explain the universe than we who believe in God Eternal who has always existed. They ought to learn the virtue of humility.
Do atheists really have these black or white, simplistic notions? I think you should perhaps credit them with a little more intelligence and open mindedness. Scientific discovery is an ongoing process that has shown us so much about the universe; so let’s see where it leads.
“I’m happy to listen to arguments against the existence of God, but I’m afraid they don’t make any sense to me. If they ever do, if atheists can explain to me how the world came out of nothing with no Creator” How could the atheist explain where the creator came from?
“But, as a friend of mine says, both believers and atheists believe in a miracle, but your miracle is ridiculous whereas ours is plausible.” We know that scientifically explained nature is pretty ‘miraculous’ already, so why not wait to find out more before coming to conclusions about the origins of the universe? But I can’t honestly see why you think that the eternal existence of an all powerful, all intelligent entity, who created the universe, but who loves us and communicates with us, is a more rational theory than any that science has recently proposed.
It’s hard enough responding to you when you take the time to carefully craft a comment, which you rarely do. Take a look at your last one. Can you not see the mish-mash it is? You sloppily address me and two other commenters and expect all of your addressees to deal with all of your “points”.
I am rather leery of ceding “science” to atheism: let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are primarily dealing with a question of philosophy; the conflation of scientism with science is a frequent error made in these conversations.
“Scientific discovery is an ongoing process that has shown us so much about the universe; so let’s see where it leads.”
Indeed Uncle Kyle… and perhaps you are unaware that Science and Religion are in no way opposed; some of the greatest scientists in the world have been Catholics – some of them Catholic priests!!
Monsignor Georges Lemaître (d.1966), for example, author of the “Big Bang” theory, has made numerous and lasting contributions to the modern world. Even Einstein took his hat off to him.
Also, without even having to go any further, look at the amazing scientific discoveries on the Shroud of Turin that points almost without doubt to it being the burial Shroud of Jesus Christ. The greatest mystery of all – how the image came to be formed – could only be explained by a sudden burst of strong radiation from the corpse…. The Resurrection?
Yes, one could even say that Science and Religion are complimentary. And the ‘religion’ that compliments science is, of course, the Catholic Church.
“From astronomy to philosophy Catholics have made an extraordinary contribution to western civilisation“, says Fr Andrew Pinsent, co-author with Fr Marcus Holden of the Evangelium Project. In their work they reveal how our university system, art, architecture, music, legal tradition, language, charity and even much of our science arises from Catholic civilisation and Catholic minds. Here is a great article from the Catholic Herald on this topic:
I say this without any desire to offend, but if you are going to argue for science as being opposed to belief in God, it is important to get the facts straight.
why all these personal attacks on Uncle Kyle? As far as I can see he is just explaining the opposing views of atheists in a polite manner and has made some good points (or “points” as johnhenrycn might say). Why associate him to opinions which he hasn’t espoused?
Do you really think there have been “personal attacks” on Uncle Kyle, Adrian? I think we who hold opposing views to him have been equally “polite” – except for the odd harmless witticism perhaps, and the bandying about of the accusation of feelings of “superiority”!
I would even thank Uncle Kyle for this opportunity to explain our beliefs.
I don’t think anyone is making personal attacks, though perhaps John Henry is losing patience…
Kyle, it’s true that your response doesn’t really make much sense.
1. “Do atheists really have these black or white, simplistic notions? ”
If I have misrepresented what atheists believe, please correct me. As far as I can see, yes, they do have these simplistic notions.
2. “Scientific discovery is an ongoing process that has shown us so much about the universe; so let’s see where it leads.”
Ok…so at what point do you think you’ll have enough proof, provided by science, that God doesn’t exist (even though God actually created science and science really works pretty well with the Catholic faith. I mean our current Pope is himself a scientist and the person behind the Big Bang Theory, as Kathleen pointed out, was a priest)? Why don’t you have enough proof? 2,000 years since Christ’s coming isn’t enough? How many more years are we talking here? I’ll tell you now that you’ll be waiting for eternity. Your choice, of course.
3. “How could the atheist explain where the creator came from?”
? I said how would atheists explain how the world came about with no Creator? I would expect them to explain it without our Creator…
4. “But I can’t honestly see why you think that the eternal existence of an all powerful, all intelligent entity, who created the universe, but who loves us and communicates with us, is a more rational theory than any that science has recently proposed”
As far as I’m aware, and I don’t pretend to have any talent when it comes to science (I got a C at GCSE and I was lucky to get that!), science is yet to explain how the world came to be. So, yeah, the idea of an all powerful Creator beats your theory of nothing turning into everything on its own.
Ok, so we have the big bang theory (which, in itself doesn’t disprove God. This is in keeping with the theory that God created the world since He is more than capable of engineering the Big Bang). Let’s go to good ol’ Wikpedia,
“The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that describes the early development of the Universe. According to the theory, the Big Bang occurred approximately 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. At this time, the Universe was in an extremely hot and dense state and began expanding rapidly.”
Right, and before the early development of the Universe? What was there? That early development came out of thin air? I mean, seriously, use science to prove that God does not exist. Am I missing something here or is there still this gaping hole in our knowledge (assuming we cut Got out of the equation)? Correct me if I’m wrong as biology is really the only part of science that interests me and that’s mainly because biology just proves over and over how amazing pre-born babies are :p
Well I guess I’ve heard worse attacks, but it’s good to discuss our ideas with other people without jumping to an aggressive defense. If God exists then God is part of science too, which means we are only discussing what we believe to exist or do not, which is the same with discussing other religions.
“God is part of science”?
Please explain your use of the word “science”.
…and then can Adrian please explain how God is part of it? Perhaps it depends on what the meaning of the word is is? Clinton tried explaining what “is” means, but I didn’t get it.
Kathleen, I’m interested in the truth, rather than ‘taking sides’. If Catholics make the great claim of knowing the truth, then I believe they should expect such an extraordinary claim to be tested to the full.
John Henry, if you can’t ‘get your head around’ something coming from nothing, how do you make sense of the origin of God?
ragazzagallese, yes it is 2000 years since Christ, and so much has been discovered in the last 50 of them. Many of what were once mysteries and miracles of life to earlier Christians have since been explained by scientific research. But you criticise science for not yet having all the answers?
The Raven, perhaps you would like to make a contribution to the discussion?
It is a “great claim” to say that there is no God or that an atheistic account of cosmology is worthy of consideration (and that’s even before we start interrogating the materialism and scientism that underlies such claims).
Would you care to set out your stall to explain why the great claims of your own philosophical system require less scrutiny?
That’s better, Uncle – addressing your remarks to the specific individuals involved.
You mistake me when you imply that I believe God has an origin. I never said that.
As for my belief that God has always existed (i.e. does not have an origin), how is that less rational than an atheist believing the universe has always existed, or alternatively, that it sprung out of nothing?
I’m not sure what all atheists believe about the origins of the universe, but: “how is that less rational than an atheist believing the universe has always existed” perhaps because God is an all knowing, all powerful, ethereal being, who creates the world and all it, and talks to people and keeps tabs on our lives. The belief that he has always existed, compared to the belief that space has always existed, seems to rely far more heavily on the notion of ‘magic’.
“Would you care to set out your stall to explain why the great claims of your own philosophical system require less scrutiny?”
I make no great claims. I would say I don’t believe that the God of Catholicism exists because, in my view, I have no good reason to believe otherwise. I consider the universal beliefs in supernatural beings stem from the way human minds have evolved and developed language, rather than an awareness of a reality.
“Kathleen, I’m interested in the truth, rather than ‘taking sides’.”
Forgive me for rather doubting your sincerity in that statement, Uncle Kyle. It seems pretty clear to me from everything you have said above, that you have already picked your ‘side’. However, if I am wrong, and you are genuinely interested in finding out whether you just might be wrong and that God really does exist, I am very happy to discuss the topic with you.
“If Catholics make the great claim of knowing the truth, then I believe they should expect such an extraordinary claim to be tested to the full.”
Absolutely. We have nothing to fear from any amount of questions, attacks from non-believers, heresies from those within the Church (or outside), unfaithful leaders among the ‘shepherds’ (or its members) in the Church… or any discovery of SCIENCE ! As I said above, science can even be an unwitting ally to the Catholic Faith.
I am a sinful, fallible human being too, who like everyone of us who ‘lives by Faith’, has to pray daily to Our Father in Heaven to “increase my Faith, Hope and Charity”.
Though the older I get (I’m middle aged with a growing family), the clearer the Presence of God becomes to me, and the greater I see His working in my life, and in those around me. Sometimes the evidence is so strong I feel like crying out: “Stop screaming dear Lord, this is too wonderful for me to bear!”
For this reason I also pray daily that those of no faith in God should be able to discover this reality too.
Kathleen, I have posted a comment on the “Poem from Tasmania” post, which CP&S might like to use as a spearate article. I got a message that it’s “awaiting moderation”, possibly because it has a lot of links.
Yes, just seen it GC – thank you. Perhaps we’ll keep it “behind the scenes” and then use it as you suggest. 😉
Thanks, Kathleen. There’s a mistake in the last link right at the end. I’ll send you the correct “html” to replace the wrong one with. I’ll send it to CP&S “contact us”. Thanks, Kathleen, you’re such a good sport. 🙂
GC, I have converted your comment into a post and fixed the mislink. The poem and music are fantastic!
To save you time in future, would you let us add you as a “contributor” to CP&S, so that you can directly add and format copy to us?
(We will retain editorial control/scheduling privileges) Please say yes!
Thanks Brother B, You are all so kind there. I’ll try to contribute something at least once a fortnight for your wise consideration. God bless you all in the control room.
Would you confirm that the email address associated with your Gravatar is working. I need a working address to put you on the system.
Yes it is correct, Brother B. Even though it’s a uk email address, I am not in the UK. It’s a hangover from when I used to work for a British outfit here in Malaysia and our computers at work were running off servers in the UK.
Invite on its way.
Thanks, Bro B. I’ve got it. I’ll spend a bit of time working it all out, how to contribute etc.
And thank you all for the privilege!
We are delighted to have you with us dear GC, The privilege is ours! 🙂
“…because, in my view, I have no good reason to believe otherwise…”
Sorry, Kyle, you need to justify your view.
from my point of view it appears that gods are a product of human imagination. This is not a case, I believe, of me ‘taking sides’, or being ‘sinful’, but just the product of my attempts at making sense of the world around me. Of course I like the ideas of a loving god and and afterlife very much, but to me the evidence for these things is very poor.
I never picked a side, and I am constantly questioning my beliefs, as I have been shown to be wrong on many occasions. I remember an incidence a few years ago in a Homebase store, when I was convinced that an expensive sheet of MDF was the cheaper hardboard. After a row involving five members of staff I later realised that I was mistaken and returned to apologise. It was an unnerving experience, but helped me to see how circumstances could affect my emotions, which in turn influenced my rational thinking.
Oh come on, admitting to and apologising for a factual mistake in a hardware store is hardly in the same league as recognising one’s philosophical misjudgements. To be fair to you, Uncle Kyle, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone swayed from their core beliefs (or non-beliefs) on any blog dealing with religion, politics and the like; and when it comes to apologies for misstatements of fact or errors in logic, they too are as rare as hens’ teeth. I find myself apologising to someone every month or two, but only for curtness or rudeness, nothing else. I had to issue a grovelling apology to GC a year or two back, and one to Teresa a year before that. Can’t say I remember you having ever done something similar.
And from what I’ve read in your contributions, I don’t see any sign of “constantly questioning” your beliefs. What you constantly question is our beliefs. Not the same thing at all.
It was more than just a factual mistake – the situation became quite heated. My account of the incident was to show to Kathleen that I am not some smug so and so, who believes he is always right. But what is it that you think I should be apologising for here?
You say that your argument in the hardware store was a heated one. So what? It was a heated argument over a picayune matter, not at all in the same league as the momentous ones we discuss here. You may be humble enough to admit you don’t know the difference between particle board and plywood (or whatever), but you – and virtually every other blogger who comments on deeply held religious and/or political views – never admits to being wrong about their beliefs or non-beliefs.
What do I think you “should be apologising for here”? For wrapping the mantle of objective impartiality about your shoulders when you have no more right to it than I had this morning to wrap a prayer shawl about my shoulders on entering Temple Sinai, although I at least had the excuse of courtesy. You are not objective. You do not “constantly” question your prejudices. Your mind is made up – as is mine – when it comes to eternity, so just admit it.
Until last year I believed in ‘spirituality’. Perhaps I will again. I have no reason to apologise to you, John.
With all due respect (honestly), I don’t know why atheists frequent religion blogs so much. Is it due to a vague, subconcious spiritual malaise? I’m not able to say, but I wonder, because there’s got to be an underlying psychological (not necessarily pathological) motive – I’m convinced of that. Now take me – a Edmund Burkean – would I ever think of commenting on The Guardian “Comment is Free” website? Not on your nelly, except as a troll, which I have done once or twice. Why do you come here, Kyle? Extend to us the favour of some truly forthright introspection.
“I have no reason to apologise to you, John.”
A personal apology to me is neither sought by me nor consequential to me. And you are every bit as entitled to express your views as I am. When I speak of your disinclination to apologise, I’m talking about this disingenuous remark: “I never picked a side, and I am constantly questioning my beliefs”. Pull the other one, Uncle Kyle. You question our beliefs, not yours.
“Until last year I believed in ‘spirituality’. Perhaps I will again.”
So, were you an ardent advocate of ‘spirituality’ two years ago? I very much doubt it. Perhaps a dabbler on the fringes of serious eschatology. Can you provide a link to any blogs where you promoted this former belief of yours? Again, I very much doubt it. Your alleged ‘spirituality’ was probably along the lines of that Plymouth plumber who styled himself as Lobsang Rampa back in the 50s – 70s. Very New Agey. Astral travel, reincarnation…that sort of thing.
If you are being totally honest in saying that you are not firm in your atheistic beliefs, that you truly are “questioning” them, and that you would like to be able to believe in a “loving God” and an “afterlife”, then there is definitely hope for you that you will do so.
But it is no good just sitting back and hoping that “Faith” will fall from the sky with no effort on your part. (Although even that is not an impossibility for God, and many reading these words will remember how this did happen to an old friend and commenter of CP&S who was once an atheist and is now a fervent Catholic. A real Damascus experience right out of the blue!)
Read good solid Catholic books on Apologetics and the Fathers of the Church, but also conversion stories and the lives of the saints. Go and sit in the back of a Catholic Church where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is taking place* and open your heart to God’s voice. If prayer is impossible at this stage, just be open to the void being filled in time. Do not harden your heart to the Holy Spirit; God wants your salvation more than you do yourself, and more than you could possibly imagine.
I shall pray for you Uncle Kyle – I promise.
* Please try to find a traditionally-minded Catholic Church where the Mass is celebrated so beautifully.
“…many reading these words will remember how this did happen to an old friend and commenter of CP&S who was once an atheist and is now a fervent Catholic.”
Kathleen, who is this blog person? It can hardly betray a confidence to ask who this blog person was/is. If he/she, a former atheist, is now a fervent Catholic, I should think that he/she would be happy to make his/her conversion story known, if only for the sake of people like Uncle Kyle, but also for the sake of other people, like me for instance, who wish to reinforce their faith.
Still, the reasons of the heart are very private, and I respect that.
“As for my belief that God has always existed (i.e. does not have an origin), how is that less rational than an atheist believing the universe has always existed, or alternatively, that it sprung out of nothing?
The rational way is to say, We don’t know, but we will go on trying to find out.”
I see God ‘wants’ Kyle’s conversion.
He can surely get it, if He wants.
It doesn’t seem ‘rational’ to me that a perfect being can ‘want’ anything?
What for? In order to be even ‘more perfect?’
“Kathleen, who is this blog person?”
JH, it is Jabbapappa, who I think you know. He had frequently given hints of his amazing experience, but could not bring himself to talk about it openly. Last July he gave a short description, feeling himself suddenly “forced” to do so, although it seems to have been a painful and extremely difficult thing for him.
Thanks, Kathleen. Yes, I know and respect Jabbapappa, but that posting by him is not a conversion story. Is he not a cradle Catholic?
Toadmeister, I’ve missed you these last few days. Hope your liver is up and running again. But your last comment is completely inscrutable, so maybe your afflicted organ was above your neck, not below. Uncle Kyle and I like to fence over deep existential issues, and I’m anxious for him to return after his doctor sutures the lacerations he was left with following our last encounter.
Kyle, are you there? You don’t seem quite up to the task of talking about God quite yet, so let’s start with something simpler. A thermos bottle can keep drinks hot or it can keep them cold, right? My question for you is how does a thermos know when to do one and not the other?
Well that’s obvious, JH.
The Thermos asks a quantum computer what it should do, or failing that, a fairy.
You were half right, as usual, JH – the problem’s in the throat.
The other problem is in the mind;
God knows everything that has, or will, happen – right?
That’s what Catholics tell me, not what I necessarily think.
So He already knows if Kyle will convert or not
And yet He wants it? Is keenly interested in the outcome? Wants it to happen? Has a ‘plan’ for it? Why? He already knows, doesn’t He?
I want to know what’s going to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. If I knew, I wouldn’t need to ‘want.’ Nor would the outcome of the race be at all interesting to me. Not worth watching.
Lucrative, yes. But that’s a different thing.
But will Kyle’s conversion be lucrative to God?
Make God spiritually greater? Surely not? Impossible.
Foreknowledge. I know that’s a difficult concept. But there we are.
Further to Toad’s inscrutable ramblings above, It also strikes him , re Jabba and revelations (Roger, too, I believe) – that if anyone immerses their entire waking lives in any subject – be it religion, stamp collecting or horse racing, say – that will be the very area where he or she will be lucky enough to have delusions, visions, illusions, portents, voices communicating out of the ether, Signs In The Sky, portents, prophecies, etc.
That is, if you spend all day thinking about The Virgin Mary – she will probably come and a have a personal word with you one day. Almost a sure thing.
…As will Obee Ben Kenobee, if you are a Star Wars nut.
Got Obi Wan Kenobi‘s name all wrong.
Fulsome apologies to him.
Got him mixed up with Square Bob Sponge Pants, I think.
(People probably have visions of ‘Spongey’ as well, anyway,)
No, Jabba was not a cradle Catholic. But by his extensive knowledge of the Catholic Faith that he had to study from scratch after his conversion I believe, I can understand anyone imagining that he had always been one.
At the time of his apparition when he was a non-believer he says he was in no way looking for God, which makes his testimony all the more credible (i.e. not provoked by auto-suggestion) and astonishing.
You seem to be struggling with the problem of ‘predestination”. It’s a lengthy subject, but have a look at this link that might help give you some understanding of it.
And by the way, God may have foreknowledge of your ultimate destiny, but you don’t know it, do you? You will be given your opportunities to make your choices to respond to Divine grace, or not, like everyone else.
“And by the way, God may have foreknowledge of your ultimate destiny, (Toad) but you don’t know it, do you? “
No I don’t, Kathleen.
I thought I’d made that evident, regarding betting on The Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But apparently not.
But the point is (sigh), if He has foreknowledge, as you affirm – what is there left for Him to WANT?
And what is the point of God making “plans” when He already knows the outcome?
What is the point of you making plans to go on holiday, when you already know beforehand, like God does, that EasyJet will lose your luggage, you will get sunstroke in Capri, food poisoning in Florence and have your handbag stolen in Naples? Might as well stay home really. I reckon.
Foolish, naive questions, I know.
“At the time of his apparition when he was a non-believer he says he was in no way looking for God, which makes his testimony all the more credible (i.e. not provoked by auto-suggestion) and astonishing.”
Well, the thing about “auto suggestion” is that – by its very nature – it invariably “suggests” itself, doesn’t it? That is you can’t deliberately induce it. Not even Jabba.
And, of course, you can’t “prove” whether it’s a genuine “vision” (whatever that is) or a delusion.
Or an illusion. And I’m personally unable to see how anyone could be absolutely convinced which of those things it was.
“You were half right, as usual, JH – the problem’s in the throat.”
Well, that tidbit of repartee deserves a “thumbs up”, and I’ve added it to my “to do” list.