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Friday, March 30, 2012

Talking to an Atheist

The following discussion began in the comments section of my post "MSNBC's 'United in Godlessness' Up w/Chris Hayes Show" from last Monday. If you are just joining this discussion, I suggest reading the origins first. Below is the last comment I recieved from Brian, a self professed Atheist and ex-Catholic. My comments are in BLUE.
Brian: Now we have a conversation going :-)

*Me: Yes we do!! And for that reason, I am giving our discussion its own article place on my blog. I understand that all your comments are coming from an Atheistic view point and you need to understand that all my responses will come from a Catholic Christian point of view. I understand that you often will not agree with me and you need to have the same understanding of me. If we can both do that, we can continue to have a civil and hopefully enlightening discussion. I have BOLDED some of Brian's text that I am specifically responding to.
To that end, I am going to respond to your comments from the original blog post:

Brian: Christians(in general) come from a standpoint that we are born wretched evil sinners and that only through the grace of god and the murder of Jesus are we given the hope to be made whole. I was Catholic and this is how I was taught. It is a fundamental reason that I left the Church and later dropping the belief in a deity has a lot to do with this line of thinking.
As for you last statement, rather question; "What have you got to lose?" I would think that you can do better than to throw out Pascal's Wager. The problem here is that it supposes that there is only the Christian deity and leaves out all other deities ever conceived of. Mathematically speaking, the probability that the Christian god is actually the correct god, let alone that your version of that god is the exact correct one is very slim. What if we both are wrong? Osiris is much worse on non-believers than the Christian god is. In this case I revert back to my favorite statement by Aurelius.
I believed for most of my life. I left for moral reasons. I found that I couldn't be both moral and a good Christian at the same time. The two do not mix."

*Me: I can’t speak for all Christians, but I was under the impression that “we are born evil wretched sinners” was more of a Protestant theology. The Catholic Church teaches that we all have Original Sin that we need to be baptized for, but I don’t know of any Catholic teaching that claims we are “evil”. Could you point me to where that was taught to you? And as to your comment about “the murder of Jesus”…Jesus was not murdered, He became God Incarnate to willingly give up His life for love of mankind. He was not murdered, he was a willing sacrifice (John 10:18). And to your last comment about moral teaching not “mixing” with Christianity, how so? What moral teaching do you find don’t mix with Christianity?

Brian: BTW, as a real Atheist I hold no belief in any deity simply for lack of evidence. That is not to say that I do not rule out the possibility of one actually existing.
I do have to point out the your statement, "and have no idea to whom you give your gratitude to." is flawed from an Atheist standpoint. Why must there be a who to qualify the gratitude?
I don't think that we are that different. In fact, I don't think that 99.9% of humanity is that different, no matter their faith or lack of faith. It is exactly that similarity, in spite of respective beliefs, that lends great credence to my lack of faith. And when I say lack of faith, understand that I do have faith in a great many things. Based on historical evidence, I have faith that the son will rise. Based on my children's actions, I have faith in their professed love for me. It is by that standard that I hold no belief in a god.

*Me: Oh I agree that “Based on historical evidence, [in my case the Bible & the Church] I have faith that the son [Son] will rise again”- I know that isn’t how you were intending to make your point, but I just can’t pass stuff like that up! *grin* I don’t understand your view that people being alike leads to your not having faith in God. To me, that is the reason I believe we ALL come from God.

Brian: I asked god once, many times, for grace, for salvation, for anything. There never was an answer. I would say that even if you do believe, spend a year as a professed Atheist. Heck, spend six months as one. I think it would open your eyes.

*Me: Here is where we part ways Brian because I simply on all counts disagree with you here. As an ex-Catholic you had grace abundantly (that is not to say grace isn’t given to non-Catholic Christians). There is grace given every time you went to mass…every time you went to Confession and most especially every time you had the Eucharist. You may not FEEL it with the warm-fuzzies, but it’s there none the less. And salvation is a process we go through from the moment of our baptism to the moment of our death. I know some protestant groups will disagree- they subscribe to the “once saved always saved” theology which I rejected years ago after a good study on John 15 (the Vine & the Branches). But in the bible, Jesus says we must pick up our crosses (Mark 8:34) and follow Him to the end. Some do, others fall away along their life’s journey. God never promised life would be easy or without suffering, what He did promise was that those who endured to the end would be rewarded with Salvation and eternity in Heaven. That’s His promise to us.

And as for your suggestion that I "try to be an Atheist", I couldn't even if I wanted to because my faith is as real to me as my arms and legs. I could no more cut them off myself than I could cut off my faith from God. That is not to say our faith isn't tested, our life is one long test on assorted fronts. As I've already mentioned, Jesus didn't tell us to "pick up our crosses" if He meant us all to live on Easy Street our whole lives. Our crosses are our struggles and sufferings that we endure here on earth. The reward comes at the end, with blessings and graces poured out along our way IF we do as He asked "follow" Him WHILE we carry those burdens. Life is a struggle and a gift at the same time with the sweetest most wonderful reward to be had at the end of our lives. Jesus carried his cross and we must carry ours. He had help along the way, and we have help along the way too.

My prayer for you Brian, is that one day you will see that and know how very, very much God loves you and does exist. He's got blessings and graces and a final reward waiting for you too, if you'd just pick up your cross (perhaps your cross is that of Saint Thomas-'doubt'. He doubted yet he endured to the end to become a Saint) and follow him, enduring lifes struggles along the way. I am praying for you Brian.

O God, the everlasting Creator of all things, remember that the souls of unbelievers were made by Thee and formed in Thine own image and likeness. Remember that Jesus, Thy Son, endured a most bitter death for their salvation. Permit not, I beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy Son should be any longer despised by unbelievers, but do Thou graciously accept the prayers of holy men and of the Church, the Spouse of Thy most holy Son, and be mindful of Thy mercy. Forget their idolatry and unbelief, and grant that they too may some day know Him whom Thou hast sent, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Salvation, our Life and Resurrection, by whom we have been saved and delivered, to whom be glory for endless ages. Amen.


  1. Sorry for my absence, but the weekends are for my family.

    I lol'd at my typo. Freudian? :-)

    One of the things I have noticed all through our conversations is that you use nothing more to support your position other than the Bible. That it one of the points that I have a problem with. There is nothing to support Christianity other than the Bible. For a theory to be testable there must be multiple sources. This is the pint at which Christianity fails for me. There are no eyewitness accounts of Jesus, or his reported actions. The closest accounts of him were left out of the final revision, and in fact there were parts added to the final revision that lend a lot of doubt. Take the Codex Sinaiticus, the entire account of the resurrection doesn't exist at al in Mark. Why then was it added at a later date? That is evidence that it never actually happened. Or that it is simply an evolving work of fiction.

    You rebutted my phrase "the murder of Jesus" in favor of your phrase "a willing sacrifice" it is phrases like these, especially my favorite from the Protestants, "washed in the blood", that further prove to me tat this is not much more than an over blown blood cult.

    As to my statement that we are born wretched sinners you say that I am mistaken but then say that we are born with the sin of Adam as an inheritance. There is no difference. Why must we atone for being human, if the belief is that we were made in the image of god? It makes no logical sense to say that we are god's creation, that he loves us, but we must turn from our own nature, given to us by god, and supplicate in an attempt to atone for a sin not committed by us. It is not logical that a loving god weighs the sins of the father upon us. It is not logical that a loving god says love me, kneel before me, or I will cast you out. This free will? That is not free will, it is a threat, an ultimatum made with a fearful consequence.

    You've said that "I couldn't (live as an Atheist) even if I wanted to because my faith is as real to me as my arms and legs." So you see why your previous statements, "But be honest about it and open to the mere possibility that perhaps, just perhaps you were wrong and there really is a God who loves you. What have you got to lose?", for me is the same answer. My lack of faith was arrived at by being 100% honset with myself. I came to my lack of belief after years of study, and heart wrenching self realizations. I cane to it from having an open mind and critically looking at what was testable and what was not.

    I really appreciate your time. I have enjoyed his chat immensely. At this point, though, it seems the only thing left of for us to argue semantics. We each have stated our opinions, and ultimately this is a debat the there is no clear victor. Neither can truly prove their stance. One thing I will say is that as the religious right continues to turn its back on science they forget that if not for science we would not drive the cars that we do, we would not take vacations cruises, and we would not debate on blogs :-) Science is neutral, there is no agenda other than facts. Science does not care if a deity exists or not. One day it(science) will show of if, in fact, a god does exist or does not. I hope to be around when that happens. It'd really like to know the outcome of our discussion :-)

    Take care, I must get back to my clients, I do have kids to feed.

    Peace be with you, sir.

  2. Wow. Shouldn't have done this on my phone. Sorry for the abundance of typos.


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