For those Christians who think that there’s no way your Atheist friends will ever believe in God: your life may be the only Jesus they see.  You may not be able to directly bring them to an understanding of God, but you can point them in the right direction.  Lee Strobel’s wife helped point him in the right direction.

I said, “Can I ask you a question? On every university campus I visit, somebody stands up and says that God is an evil God to allow all this evil into our world. This person typically says, ‘A plane crashes: Thirty people die, and twenty people live. What kind of a God would arbitrarily choose some to live and some to die?’” I continued, “but when we play God and determine whether a child within a mother’s womb should live, we argue for that as a moral right. So when human beings are given the privilege of playing God, it’s called a moral right. When God plays God, we call it an immoral act. Can you justify this for me?” That was the end of the conversation.
—  Ravi Zacharias
The Unpopular Story of Atheism to Faith

i-think-i-found-something asked:

I just want to start out by saying that I love your blog, it gives me reassurance about my faith in Jesus Christ each day, which is something I have been especially needing lately, so thank you for everything you do. I wanted to ask you about your journey towards Christianity. How did you go from being atheist/agnostic to believing in the Christian faith?

 

sstellarr asked:

What made you convert back to Christianity after being an agnostic atheist? I am currently an atheist and I go to a catholic christian school. So far I can’t find anything worth converting to Christianity.

 

Anonymous asked:

I need advice J.S. I have a brother who is an atheist. I am worried that our relationship will come to an end because of our differences. He is looks at everything in a logical manner and it can be very frustrating to talk to him. He always wants to debate. He even has begun to twist my words which greatly upsets me. This is such a dumb question but how do I talk to an atheist like him? I’m tired of his ‘logic’ when there is nothing clean cut about humanity. He’s so emotionless to everything.

 

Hey dear friends. I know that as a former atheist turned Christian, my own testimony is very, very unpopular. I always hesitate to share this on my blog. I’ve been blasted through messages and reblogs for my lack of intellectual honesty or my shoddy reasoning or my void of self-respect, and to be truthful, it does sting. Of course, some of the hate is understandable, but some of it’s just plain mean-spirited and dehumanizing. I don’t mean to have a “persecution complex,” but I’m always surprised by the vilifying reactions.

So whenever I bring this up, I want you to know that my own story is exactly that, my own story, and it’s not a knock against other atheists or an attempt at converting someone’s view.  My own journey isn’t a “template” to throw at atheism, nor am I saying that every atheist will “come around” the same way I did.  

Please also allow me to blow up a few myths up front.

- Yes, atheists are capable of moral good.  They’re not eating babies in their basement.  The argument from morality (or ontology or design), while a worthy contender, is not going to win points here.

- No, not every atheist thinks Richard Dawkins is the Queen of England. His work is a starting place at best, an amateur college essay at worst. There are much more thoughtul scholars out there on both sides, such as Bertrand Russell and the ever-reliable Hitchens.

- No one anywhere has ever been “proven wrong” into Jesus. What I mean is, it’s not like someone brought a foolproof argument where I replied, “You proved my atheism wrong, now tell me about Jesus.” So while apologetics (the defense of faith) is helpful, it can also be cold and arrogant. This is true of any relational interaction. The more you think you’re right, the less anyone will hear you.

 

There are three things to please keep in mind.

1) I became interested in Christianity because of Christians.

Every preacher I’ve heard is always guilt-tripping about “be a good witness,” which is true. The Christian is called to live out what they’re saying.  But think of the opposite way to phrase this without scare tactics.  It also means that when Christians live out their faith — not perfectly, but passionately — then it opens doors and hearts.  Rather than saying, “Don’t mess it up or they won’t believe Jesus!”, I would rather say, “Imagine the possibility if you lived like Jesus.”  I don’t want to look backwards, but forwards.

No one ever beat me in my arguments over religion.  I studied it too hard, and the burden of proof was on an invisible creator.  I was the master of semantics and beating up a mistake in your logic.  Plus, Christians had a long history of atrocities to answer for; everything was stacked against them.  But what I could not argue with was when I met some dang Christian who clearly wasn’t insane.  I would meet yet another Christian who was living a wholly different life, an unnatural life, an unexplainable life. And these weren’t people who grew up in the church or had easy lives. These weren’t people who came to Christ out of fear or gullibility or a last resort. They were reasonable. They were loving. They sacrificed. They treated me like a human being and didn’t talk down to me. It wasn’t for a pat on the back or for my approval.  They loved me, but didn’t need me.  They served me, despite the fact that I was undeserving.

 

2) I came to Christ over a long, arduous, up-and-down journey that was not an overnight epiphany, but a slow-boiling awakening.

My dear friend, it doesn’t matter if you’re with a fellow Christian or atheist or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or Wiccan — everyone needs room to figure things out.  I know that for some of us, we can clearly remember our day of salvation, whether it was saying a prayer or going up to the altar or writing our name on a card.  I did none of these things.  It took months and years of wrestling with doubts, asking hard questions, and checking my own bias both for and against faith before I began to settle into Jesus.  I stretched and agonized my way into belief.  When you collide a worldview with another worldview, it takes a lot to process. It’s painful. Everyone inherently believes their own truth is just as true as yours. Each person is also figuring these things out on their own. So we really need grace for each other, regardless of what we believe.

If you’re anxious to bring everyone to Jesus all at once, I respect that.  Even atheists respect that.  But even the truly intrigued will need time to process, reflect, and rotate the prospect of faith before committing.  Please don’t rush that.

 

3) I care if you love me, not win me.

Sometimes when I’m asked, “How did you go from atheism to belief?” — it feels like someone is looking for a switch to flip in someone else.  I’m not saying that’s your motive.  But I hope you still love your atheist friend no matter what.  I hope we can just be friends even if nothing changes.  And if your atheist friend ever does believe, I hope you’ll still be their friend instead of moving on to the next one.

When I first went to church, no one treated me as a project.  I wasn’t some “get” for the Lord.  No one was keeping score.  They weren’t even self-conscious about being self-conscious.  They were confident and humble enough in their faith to simply let me be.  When we talked about faith, sure, we argued.  When we brought up church history and apologetics, sure, it got heated.  But most of the time, they just loved me.  I loved them back.  And slowly, I began to investigate what they were saying, because to my horror, I thought maybe there really was something to it.

You see, part of love is not winning, but losing.  It’s humbling ourselves.  It’s recognizing where we got it wrong, and to meet in our common weaknesses.  It’s not to overpower or prove a point or boast in our platforms.  Jesus won our hearts by losing, all the way on a cross.  This is the work of love. 

Christians are called to hang with each other, no matter who or what we choose to worship.  Even Christians themselves don’t always worship the right things, and we’re still called to love each other.  We carry one another’s burdens; we consider others’ interests better than our own; we love as Jesus loved us (Galatians 6, Philippians 2, John 13).  It’s not because we’re trying to win anyone.  Jesus did that part already.  But mainly, he does that through us. 

Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor and you must love your neighbor.

— Timothy Keller

— J.S.

This image doesn’t “bust” anything.  The animals could have fit.

1. How many animals were on the Ark?

The Bible says that Noah took two of every kind.  Scientifically, a kind would be animals divided by a family.  There are about 929 distinct families of land animals, including Amphibians.  2 of each of these would be 1,858 animals on the Ark.  You add in the 8 people, and you only get 1,866 biological organisms that would have gone on the Ark, not over 2 million.

2. How big was the Ark?

According with the Bible, it would be 480’ long, 80’ wide, and 48’ high, with 3 floors.

Being those dimensions, each floor would have around 15,000’ of space.  The height was 48’, so each floor would have 16’.

Assuming the animals were the same size as they are today, the largest animal would be around 18’. 15,000’ per floor x 3 floors= 45,000’ floor space. 45,000 / 1,866 = 24.12’ per animal.  That’s plenty enough room to fit all of the animals.

So, yes, it’s hard to be gay and Catholic — it’s hard to be anything and Catholic — because I don’t always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I’ll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.
—  Steve Gershom, a Catholic, gay, young man
Responding to - academicatheism. Topic - Hell
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." -  Matthew 10:28

 Hell is not a real place. - academicatheism

"The horrors of hell are such that they cause us instinctively to recoil in disbelief and doubt; yet, there are compelling reasons that should cause us to erase such doubt from our minds. First, Christ, the Creator of the cosmos, clearly communicated hell’s irrevocable reality. In fact, He spent more time talking about hell than He did about heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7), He explicitly warned His followers more than a half-dozen times about the dangers that lead to hell. In the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25), He repeatedly told His followers of the judgment to come. In His famous story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16), He graphically portrayed the finality of eternal torment in hell.” - Hank Hanegraaff

Hell is a plagiarized concept with no corollary in Judaism. The Jews have Sheol, which despite Christian tradition, isn’t hell-like at all. Hell most likely derives, in part, from the Narakas of ancient Buddhism and the Hades of the ancient Greeks. The latter is even more likely given that your religion is the result of Judaic and Hellenic syncretism. - academicatheism

This idea that Christianity is a conglomerate of several other religions has long been refuted. Can we please leave ‘Zeitgeist’ where it dwells, refuted and debunked.

There is no separation between Old and New Testaments. It is not two separate religions, it is one continuous story laying foundation upon foundation.

"The doctrine of hell does not stand alone as a kind of ancient Christian horror story. Rather, hell is inseparable from three other interrelated biblical truths: human sin, God’s holiness, and the cross of Christ." - Douglas Groothuis

  • "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.  Daniel 12:2
  • But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. Isaiah 26:19
  • "And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." Isaiah 66:24

Jesus asked what a person’s life would be worth if he or she were to gain the whole world but forfeit his or her very soul (Matt.16:26). Hell is the loss of the soul, a reality so terrible that Scripture uses a variety of ways to describe it. The graphic reports of hell in Scripture — such as the abyss (Rev. 9:1-11), the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), the blackest darkness (Jude 13), the weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30) — disclose the stark reality of eternal separation from God. - Douglas Groothuis

If you haven’t studied the history of your own religion, please refrain from posting this stupidity on the atheism tag. - academicatheism

Is atheism so fragile that it cannot defend itself?

You’re quoting a simpleton apologist who quoted another simpleton apologist. - academicatheism

“When you throw mud at someone else, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose ground.” - Ravi Zacharias (Insult by academicatheism #1)

Neither of them consulted the historical development of Christianity, its doctrines, and metaphysics. They therefore cannot be trusted. - academicatheism

Baseless accusation said about any Christian apologists one chooses to quote. Including the likes of Douglas Groothuis, Francis Schaeffer, Hank Hanegraaff, Ravi Zacharias, C.S. Lewis….etc.

“When you throw mud at someone else, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose ground.” - Ravi Zacharias (Insult by academicatheism #2)

In any event, the fact that you revel in believing in a place where non-believers and non-Christians will burn forever is repulsive. You have to be sick to want this place to exist. - academicatheism

Francis Schaeffer said, the doctrine of hell must be taught “with tears.” Even God says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

"Only by understanding hell can we grasp the immensity of God’s love. God’s love took His Son to the hell of the cross for our sake. This is a costly love, a bloody love, that has no parallel in any of the world’s religions. Although other religions (particularly Islam) threaten hell, none offer the sure deliverance from it that Christianity offers through the sacrificial love of God Himself." - Douglas Groothuis

So we Christians are despised and rejected of men, called simpleton’s and daft by mockers for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that those who are perishing may find everlasting life,

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

You have to be daft to believe in it without thinking twice. academicatheism

“When you throw mud at someone else, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose ground.” - Ravi Zacharias (Insults by academicatheism #3)

What crime, for example, merits eternal punishment? An all-wise, all-good deity will come up with a measure proportionate to the crime. Even fallible human punishments attempt to do this. You do not, for instance, receive a sentence of twenty-five to life for petty robbery. Steal $10 from your neighbors table and you won’t find yourself in a cell for a quarter century. Such a punishment would run counter to the notion of justice. - academicatheism

"Lawbreakers deserve punishment. But is hell too extreme? The great American theologian Jonathan Edwards took this question up in his essay, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” Edwards argued that because God is “a Being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory,” He is therefore “infinitely honorable” and worthy of absolute obedience. “Sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and deserving of infinite punishment.”

Edwards’s much maligned but solidly biblical sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” presses home the point that without Christ we have no grounds for confidence and every reason to fear hell. God, who is angry with sin, could justifiably send the unrepentant sinner to hell at any moment. Jesus Himself warned, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).” - Douglas Groothuis

But what you’re speaking of is perfect justice. Why would perfect justice punish you eternally for temporary disobedience? It’s the hallmark of vanity and pride. “You lived forty, sixty, eighty years and never obeyed me—you never gave precedence to my will; for this reason, depart from me, I never knew you—go ye now and partake of eternal damnation.” - academicatheism

"In a relativistic culture, the very concept of sin must be elucidated and defended vigorously. If morality is relative to each person, then there is no higher moral standard one can meet or break. But as C. S. Lewis argued in Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man, the idea of an objective moral law is inescapable. When we are snubbed or exploited, we call out for justice. When we encounter people of grit and grace, we praise them as moral examples. Our conscience is more than mere instinct or social conditioning. Yet because there is often a great gap between our ideals and actions, we suffer guilt and regret. Despite our denials and excuses, our consciences dog us throughout our days.

Christianity explains the global stain of human guilt by placing it in a theological framework that both sharpens its sting and makes relief possible. Sin is a moral condition that offends the holy God and removes us from His approval.” - Douglas Groothuis

Even Hitler didn’t warrant eternal punishment for his vicious war crimes. A billion years? Perhaps. Five billion? Maybe. Leave it to an omniscient consciousness to come to that decision.- academicatheism

"Finally, common sense regarding justice dictates that there must be a hell. Without hell, the wrongs of Hitler’s Holocaust would never be righted. Justice would be impugned if, after slaughtering six million Jews, Hitler merely died in the arms of his mistress with no eternal consequences. The ancients knew better than to think such a thing. David knew that it might seem for a time as though the wicked prosper despite their evil deeds, but in the end justice will be served. We may wish to think that no one will go to hell, but common sense regarding justice precludes that possibility." - Hank Hanegraaff

What such a being wouldn’t decide is eternal punishment for temporal infractions. By simple extrapolation from what humans have developed in their systems of law, this is the most reasonable conclusion. - academicatheism

Here is exactly the point Ravi Zacharias was stating as affirmed by the very words of academicatheist (above bold), “That truth, by the way, is why even the horror of hell is more the outcome of a heart that seeks to disown God and play God.

So while displaying their utter hatred for God and the rejection of hell academicatheism has only confirmed the both. Even their argument for a moral law in an amoral universe betrays their beliefs in atheism,

"Let me narrate an interaction I had with a student at the University of Nottingham in England. As soon as I finished one of my lectures, he shot up from his seat and blurted out rather angrily, "There is to much evil in this world; therefore, there cannot be a God." I asked him to remain standing and answer a few questions for me. I said, "If there is such a thing as evil, aren’t you assuming there is such a thing as good?" He paused, reflected, and said, "I guess so." "If there is such a thing as good," I countered, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil."

I reminded him of the debate between the philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Bertrand Russell. At one point in the debate, Copleston said, “Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don’t you?” Russell answered, “Yes I do.” “How do you differentiate between them?” challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders as he was wont to do in philosophical dead ends for him and said, “The same way I differentiate between yellow and blue.” Copleston graciously responded and said, “But Mr. Russell, you differentiate between yellow and blue by seeing, don’t you? How do you differentiate between good and bad?” Russell, with all of his genius still within reach, gave the most vapid answer he could have given: “On the basis of feeling-what else?” I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate “logical kill” for the moment would have been, Mr. Russell, in some cultures the love their neighbors; in others they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?”

So I returned to my questioning student in Nottingham: “When you say there is evil, aren’t you admitting there is good? When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when admit to a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver. That, however, is who you are trying to disprove and not prove. For if there is no moral lawgiver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil. What then is your question?”

There was a conspicuous pause that was broken when he said rather sheepishly, “What, the, am I asking you?” There’s the rub, I might add.

Now, I do not doubt for a moment that philosophers have tried to arrive at a moral law apart from the positing of God, but their efforts are either contradictory in their assumption or conclusions. I might say this is particularly true of David Hume. More on that later. I have gone to great lengths to use this illustration from the Copleston-Russell debate because your question, sir, was an echo of Russell’s philosophical attack upon theism. When someone said to him, “What will you do, Mr. Russell, if after you die you find out there is a God? What will you say to Him?” Russell said, “I will tell Him He just did not give me enough evidence.” Russell, in stating that, took a position diametrically opposed to scriptural teaching. The Scriptures teach that the problem with human unbelief is not the absence of evidence; rather, it is the suppression of it. “Nothing good can come,” said Professor Richard Weaver, “if the will is wrong. If the disposition is wrong, reason increases maleficence.” George MacDonald rightly argued that “to explain truth to him who loves it not is to give more plentiful material for misinterpretation.”

     Let me summarize:

1. To justify the question, God must remain in the paradigm; without God, the question self-destructs.
2. God has created us in His image. Part of that image is the privilege of self-determination.
3. The greatest of all virtues is love.
4. God, in His love, has created us, and in response, love from us has to be a choice. Where there is no choice, it is coercion, which means it is not love. In the Christian message alone, love precedes life; in every other world-view, life precedes love. Therefore, in the Christian framework, love has a point of reference, God Himself.
5. God communicates to mankind in a variety of ways:
     a. Reason (philosophical),
     b. Experience (existential),
     c. History (empirical),
     d. Emotions (relational),
     e. The Scriptures (propositional), and
     f. Incarnation (personal). Take these six areas that are open to serious critical thinking, and you will find that the problem is not the absence of evidence; rather it’s the suppression of it. May I add that it was in this very school that Simon Greenleaf, professor of jurisprudence, said of the documents of the New Testament, “You may choose to say I do not believe it all, but you may not say there is not enough evidence.”

- Zacharias, Ravi K., “Can Man Live Without God” Word Publishing (1994)

Please note, however, that I am talking of our better rather than worse systems. God, if he were perfect, would far surpass the better of our systems. - academicatheism

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…(Isaiah 55:7-9)

Your beliefs lack even a scintilla of critical thinking. - academicatheism

"(T)he concept of choice demands that we believe in hell. Without hell, there is no choice. Without choice, heaven would not be heaven; heaven would be hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven, and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their wills, which would be a torture worse than hell. Imagine spending a lifetime voluntarily distanced from God only to find yourself involuntarily dragged into His loving presence for all eternity. The alternative to hell would be worse than hell itself in that humans made in the image of God would be stripped of freedom and forced to worship God against their will." - Hank Hanegraaff

“When you throw mud at someone else, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose ground.” - Ravi Zacharias (Insult by academicatheism #4)

Keep your blatant idiocy to yourself. - academicatheism

“When you throw mud at someone else, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose ground.” - Ravi Zacharias (Insult by academicatheism #5)

Lastly, I appreciate the input academicatheism has placed into this discussion :)

kings-and-lionheart asked:

Hi friend! Just wondered why you define yourself as a skeptical Christian instead of just a Christian? I have read all your answers and find myself mostly in the same ball park as you, except I believe that these doubts are not something that should define me as a "not strong Christan", but in fact a strong one. The doubts that I face everyday about Christ force me to turn to him for answers, to discover what little of him I can comprehend. You make it seem as if the doubts make you lessen you?

Hey there dear friend, I believe you’re referring to this post and my bio.  Thank you for being so generous and encouraging.

I call myself a “skeptical Christian” because my natural default mode is to doubt God.  I’m on the spiritual edge of the abyss more often than I want to admit.  Really.  I’m like that guy in school who mostly gets good grades but has to study hard like crazy to get them. Some students are just whip-smart and they can both party it up and get the A’s.  I’m not like that.  I fall out of the zone very easily, and there are many nights where I look up at the ceiling fan at 3am and ask myself if I’m just crazy to believe all this.

I don’t say that to sound hipster or relevant or emergent.  Skepticism and doubt are immense burdens that I do not wish upon anyone.  It’s not a popularity contest for me to say “I’m a struggling Christian.”  I wish I wasn’t. 

But I had to quit fighting so hard to be like one of those on-fire emotional super-Christians in the front pew.  I had to eventually realize that two kinds of people went through the Red Sea: the victoriously triumphant fist-pumpers and the terrified toe-tipping screamers.  I’m a screamer.  I’ll cross the Red Sea with the rest of them, sheerly by His grace — but I’ll be running for my life nearly the whole way through.

God has room for both the victorious and the doubting.  He has room for the guy who takes notes in every sermon and the guy who can’t stand journaling.  God has room for the loudest singer and the quiet contemplator.  Jesus himself said that even a tiny mustard seed of faith can move a mountain.  And certainly God wants us to grow beyond a mustard seed — but God also knows we each have a tempo, a pacing, an individual rhythm to find Him. 

I’m becoming comfortable with the grace that God has apportioned me.  I will not compare my journey of faith with anyone else, neither my success nor my failures.  And nor will I let my doubt become permission for someone else to be lukewarm, including me.

But in the end, I choose Him.  Amidst the swirling darkness of confusion and uncertainty and the spinning ceiling fan, I choose to believe the story of God.  It’s a daily choice, and it doesn’t happen perfectly — but even one percent of my tiny seedling faith is enough for Him, and it’s enough for me too.

— J

Reasons for belief. Part 3

Why do I believe in God? 

Because I believe that God is a reasonably intelligent answer to the cosmos, their existence, and the intelligence, beauty, grace, order, and laws of nature which surround us in the universe. Why do I believe in the Catholic Church? Because I think that the Catholic Church is a reasonably intelligent answer to humanity, our fallen and wounded nature, and what we need to do to repair and make holy both human persons and human endeavors.

Do I doubt? Yes, of course I do. So, I open books. I read articles, from science to cooking to history—anything which can shed light on God and why the Church is here. Then I follow blogs and testimonies of faithful Christians. Most importantly—no, SERIOUSLY, most importantly—I engage in human contact. 

I get involved in community and social concerns. I “interface” and deal with other humans all the time, be it church, family, co-workers, the local town, the larger diocese, etc. I need that human activity and social interactions that will expose me to new answers and perspectives. All the complications of friendship and love across all human landscapes continually feed my sense of God. 

Some of the best proofs for the existence of God are not found in books or debates. They are found in the flesh and blood people who you meet, and who leave an impression in the heart. By the way, our human contacts and relationships can also be the cause of numerous doubts, and even loss of faith in God.

Doubt comes not just from ideas. Let us say you read some atheist argument against the “Magical Fairy in the Sky” or whatever pithy sarcasm atheists come up with today. Now you are doubting God. If you are Catholic, you may also be doubting the Church. Is all this doubt in your brain, your mind, your head?

I don’t think so. Some of your doubt, at times a lot of doubt, comes from your brain chemicals. Or there might be an imbalance with hormones. Then again, it can just be good old-fashioned loneliness and feeling unwanted and unnoticed. If you have been betrayed by people, or by life in general, this also turns your mood darker, which in turn affects whether or not you are open to faith in God.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that problems of faith are all up in your head, in your brain. They are often in your body and heart also. Not all doubts come from what is difficult or negative in your life. Plenty of people fall in love, or they fall in lust, and do not want to deal with God and beliefs and doctrines. I see it often where a person has been told a certain relationship is sinful, or wrong, or against God plan. 

Their response is, “To me, this is love. If it’s against God’s plan, or the Church’s rule, then I need a vacation from God and the Church.” So, there you have it. You think you are doubting God and the Church—and you are. But more to the point, you are doubting whether you can be a happy, free, and fulfilled individual, and still be “burdened” by God and religion.

Besides reading, studying, and praying over things that lift your spirit back up to faith in God, you also have to challenge yourself with some really, really hard questions. Such as, “have you noticed that you don’t want to believe in or follow God since you became god in your life? Isn’t it nice that you are so smart and now have all the answers?”

No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God

By Lawrence Krauss

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous. So doesn’t that mean we must have come from a miracle at the hand of God? “Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?” Metaxas writes.

Continue Reading

I touched on this recently (see here). For a more detailed look at responses to different versions of the Fine-Tuning Argument, take a look at my review of Strobel’s The Case For A Creator.

raidient asked:

Can you tell me how you went from being an atheist to a Christian?

Hello dear friend, please allow me the grace to point you here:

- The Unpopular Story of Atheism to Faith

- Why Do You Believe In Jesus?

- Why Christianity?

- What’s Your Testimony?

- Why Is Evangelizing So Awkward?

- How Are You An “Atheist Christian”?

- Come On, Were You Really An Atheist?

I don’t mean for any of this to be “ammo” against a non-religious person. All of our journeys are different and I can’t speak for others. I only know that God can win over the most bitter, angry, militant, God-hating people — because He won me.

— J.S.

Christian Scientists:
Dr. Paul Ackerman
Dr. William Arion
Dr. E. Theo Agard
Dr. Steve Austin
Dr. S.E. Aw
Dr. Geoff Barnard
Dr. Thomas Barnes
Dr. John Baumgardner
Dr. Kimberly Berrine
Dr. Jerry Bergman
Dr. Derek Burke
Alister McGrath
Isaac Newton
Nikola Tesla
Galileo Galilei
Max Planck
Nicolaus Copernicus
Francis Bacon
Johannes Kepler
Blaise Pascal
William Herschel
Gregor Mendel
George Washington Carver
If you actually look, you’ll find plenty of scientists who believe the Bible.

Oh wait, I forgot, scientists are too ‘logical’ to believe in God. I’m sorry, I’ll stop listing the ones that did/do believe in God.

Anti-Catholic bashing and bigotry

You can answer this publicly if you wish too.

An acquaintance of mine is reading ‘Far from Rome, Near to God’. I read one of the testimonies. It totally distorted and twisted the Catholic Church and its teaching, so much so, that I wanted to throw up. I know this person is reading it and believing it. I can tell this from our conversations. I literally don’t know what to do. I’m currently getting frustrated with this ignorance and distortion, and this person’s being so gullible and believing it.

Do you have any advice? Also do you have any comments or thoughts about this book?

— berad995

Hello,

This is what blacks, or “poor white trash” or what gays and lesbians feel when they are hated and put down, not for what they have said and done, but simply because they exist.

The difference is that while racism, social elitism and homophobia get plenty of condemnation in the media and social networks, anti-Catholicism is still a socially acceptable bigotry. You can not only get away with hating the Catholic Church, but there is a peer pressure to trash the Catholic Church as an evil and ridiculous cult.

The roots of anti-Catholic hatred go back to Elizabethan England, and were imported into the East Coast by Protestant colonizers, who were raised from childhood to despise Catholic “superstition” and “dangerous acts of sedition” against the righteous Protestant monarchs of England. Even in universities like Harvard, professors taught the “black legend” which made hyped up and exaggerated the Catholic failings of history, while glossing over and ignoring the roots causes of certain injustices of history.

In the 13 colonies, until the First Amendment was drafted, Catholics at times were forbidden from openly practicing their religion. Even then, Protestant preachers continuously preached about the “menace” that Catholics were to American democracy.

The term “Nativism” comes from a deeply held conviction that America, the U.S., was founded by God to be a white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon (or Northern European) nation.

From the beginning, Catholicism was seen as idolatrous, immoral, and an anti-democratic, pro-monarchist seditious, treacherous movement. To be a true American, was to beware and vigilant of the menace of Rome!

During the arrival of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, France, Germany, and England in the 1800’s, nativist anti-Catholicism reached a fevered pitch. An entire political party called the “Know Nothings” was founded to combat “Rome, rebellion, and rum” which the immigrants brought with them. 

The Know Nothings were even permitted between the 1840’s and 1860’s to form gangs and mobs, and with permission of the local police, to burn down Catholic schools, convents, and churches back East.

In New York, they would go down to the docks with bats and literally seize and savagely beat on Irish Catholics as they arrived poor and starving from Ireland. Later on, Italians were the subject of vicious attacks as well. This was depicted in the movie, “Gangs of New York.” When pressed for details of their criminal conduct, these anti-Catholics would simply respond, “I know nothing,” hence the term “Know Nothing” party.

In the late 1800’s, people tired of the hatred of the Know Nothings when they saw how patriotic Catholic Americans served with bravery and distinction during the Civil War, and how numerous Catholics had given shelter, comfort, and charity to the sick, the dying, orphans and widows left over from that war.

But the Know Nothings were soon replaced by the Ku Klux Klan, who pressed on the struggle to foment anti-Catholic hatred. The Klan worried that Americans were becoming too accepting of Catholics. They warned Americans to defend only “the old time religion”—a catch phrase for untainted, Bible based Protestantism.

Protestant preaching during the Great Awakening, from practically every denomination, kept up a steady onslaught of anti-Catholic bigotry as well, from the 1800’s, well into the 1960’s, campaigning vigorously in many corners to defeat the Kennedy campaign from bringing the “Roman menace” to the White House.

There is actually a bibliography or library of classical books from the 1800’s that was utilized to convert Catholics out of the Catholic Church to “real Christianity.” 

There are such titles as Hislop’s “The Two Babylons” that “proves” that Catholicism is a modern form of Babylonian and Egyptian pagan idolatry, or “Fifty Years in the Church of Rome” by Chiniquy, with its sordid tales of Catholic priests trying to overthrow democracy.

A famous book is also “The Diary of Maria Monk” about the Canadian nun who describes how every nun is a whore, and every convent is a whorehouse. Maria Monk’s diary was actually the cause of a number of convents being burned down in the United States.

This heritage of bigotry is a gift that keeps on giving in the form of anti-Catholic bigotry across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, the inner circles of the Democratic, Republican, Tea parties, etc. and across the literature of the “Pro-Choice” and Feminist movements. Even people raised Catholic often use the Know Nothing and Klan catch phrases to describe their Church, unaware of the roots of such words as “papalotry.”

So this is the background to the book you have written to ask me about.

"Far From Rome, Near to God" is, in its very title, an offensive and unChristian attitude to take toward Catholics. Even if a Protestant believes that Catholics are idolaters and sinners, it is neither Biblical nor very Christian to imply that people who "follow Rome" are far from God. After all, did not the Lord Jesus show love and compassion for the sinner and the publican?

Secondly, this book (“Far From Rome”) is written in the long tradition of gossipy, rambling, scandal mongering “testimonies” of people who can dish on the “nasty secrets” of Catholic life from the “inside.”

When Chiniquy wrote his book 150 years ago, he wrote in the exact same style—“Far From Rome” is an angry, bitter “tell all” where we see the old anti-Catholic diatribes repackaged by new haters. Nothing is new, really, under the sun.

I was a newly ordained priest over 20 years ago when “Far From Rome, Near to God” was published by anti-Catholic Protestants in 1993. I think it was bandied about as a “ground breaking” work because it was the testimony of 50 CATHOLIC PRIESTS who had “escaped the Church of Rome” in order to find Jesus Christ as “real Christians.”

The alleged priests portrayed in the book struck me as odd. They did not describe the Catholic Church of today. Most all of their stories were descriptions of pre-Vatican II seminaries, liturgies in Latin, and being forced to wear full habits and memorize catechisms.

It was even more odd that although the identities of five or six priests could be identified by me, the other 45 could not. These were the days before Google, and in “Far From Rome” these men could say they were priests but did not give enough information to check out their stories. I think that is kind of sneaky.

You are expected to read this book and trust its authors, but not verify their identities or what they say. I wondered if these men who claimed to have juicy dirt on the Catholic Church did not have their own dirt to hide? One of them, for instance, claimed to fall in love while he was teaching at an all girls, Catholic high school. Hmmm. Was he a “reborn Christian” or just another guy who seduced an underage girl and got kicked out of the priesthood?

The reason I heard about this book was because back in 1993, one of the locals who had left the Catholic Church gave a copy of the book to her Catholic relative and said, “Give this to your priest so that his eyes will be opened!” 

My eyes were opened, to see how gullible some adults are and easy to fool about the “errors” of the Catholic Church. If your friend has fallen for these distortions, be patient with him and simply challenge him. If he wants to learn about the Catholic Church, why doesn’t he just ask you for your opinion? Does he think so little of you now because you converted to Catholicism? Does he think that now that you are a Catholic, you are also a liar?

Also, if we live in 2014, why is he reading about the Catholic faith from these men who confessed to leaving the Catholic Church 30, 40, or even 50 years ago? “Far from Rome, Near to God” is decades old now. How is that an accurate picture of Catholicism?

If these men in the book were afraid to escape the Catholic priesthood because the Church is “so powerful” then why do so many priests continue to happily minister right now? After all, the Church is no longer powerful and it would be easy for more priests to “escape Rome”, no?

Ask your friend, also, why these ex-priests work so hard to accuse the Church of harming people? Because when we read the stories of Protestants who become Catholics, we find their stories to be uplifting and positive.

When ex-Protestants turned Catholic talk about their former Protestant churches and congregations, they speak of them as “devout” or “lovely” or “hard working” in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Doesn’t this guy you know find it quite curious that these ex-Catholic priests could only say mean spirited and hateful things about the Catholic Church? How is that the sign of a “joyful, born-again Christian?” By their own admission, the men who write “Far From Rome” admit that they had a limited knowledge of the Catholic Church, which is a worldwide Church.

You see, a real conversion of a Christian should be a story of growth and maturity in dealing with new truths, new theological studies, new spiritual quests. It is a story where you speak of your sins and your failing and struggles, not those of others. It shouldn’t be a chance to trash your old church and stereotype the people there, most of whom don’t fall under labels or stereotypes.

What do you say to a Protestant friend who is reading through ignorance and wallowing in it happily like a pig in mud? As I said, be patient, but focus on parts here and there of the book and then just pick them apart with brutally honest questions. Under scrutiny, a gullible person will at least stop and think about what he is swallowing hook, line, and sinker.

Also, there are some links that can help you polish your skills as a Catholic apologist. It take a long time and long discussions in order to become good at defending the Catholic Faith. So be patient as well for yourself, because you are just beginning. At least you had the integrity to recognize bigotry and to call it out in the form of this book.

Here are the links:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/11/sola-scriptura-unbiblical-tradition.html

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2562697/posts

http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/apolog.htm

God bless and take care, Fr. Angel