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People are walking away from Catholicism because they do not understand it

If anything, New Atheists only help a faith in decline across Europe

By on Friday, 22 June 2012

Statio Orbis

I had lunch the other day with an influential member of the Anglican communion, who I really ought to see more of. He told me who is going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, and more importantly, who is not. Then the conversation moved to matters of general concern, chief of which is why are so few people going to church these days, whether that church be Catholic or Anglican. Was it true, for example, that Catholic practice in Ireland was falling sharply?

The truth of the matter is that religious practice is everywhere in retreat, even in Ireland, even in Malta, even in Poland. And why is this? Well, it is nothing to do with anti-Christian campaigners like Richard Dawkins. If anything they help the cause of Christianity by keeping it on the agenda. So, thanks to Professor Dawkins, rather than otherwise, but he cannot really take credit for the decline in Catholic practice, or Anglican practice either.

Are the scandals to do with child abuse, or the other scandals, the ones to do with P2, the Vatican Bank, Roberto Calvi, the Pope’s butler, the supposed murder of John Paul I, are these to blame? Again, I think not. Both of us agreed that the real reason for the falling off was not rejection of the faith but rather ignorance of the faith. People are walking away from Catholicism and Anglicanism not because they reject it, but because they do not understand it.

The ignorance is gross. And this seems to be a widespread phenomenon. Have a look at this posting by an American priest, here. These sentiments are not uncommon, nor are these examples that are cited of gross ignorance of the faith and the practice of the faith isolated ones.

Once upon a time people did know about the faith, and as I have said before, people were able to understand some quite sophisticated concepts, like transubstantiation, purgatory and the communion of saints. But then two things happened: the collapse in educational standards, and the change in approach in catechesis; that these two things happened more or less at the same time spelled disaster for the transmission of the faith.

In some parts of the world the picture is different: Africa, for example, where, as far as I could tell, great care was taken with catechetical materials, and there was good teaching, and, much more importantly, good learning. When I was in Nairobi I quite often used to be asked to do weekends and days of recollection for young people, and frequently they would ask me to speak on things like the resurrection of the body, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and so on – the sort of interests that you associate with the less frequented paths of theology, or with a great interest in knowing all that there is to know about the faith. But I fully accept that people in Nairobi are different to people in the West. They have fewer distractions, are less materialistic and are more interested in metaphysical subjects.

What then must we do? The first thing is surely to look again at the matter of catechesis, and to encourage the catechesis of adults and children alike. In this regard the recent Eucharistic Congress in Dublin and the World Youth Days point the way forward. And we need a national edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Kenya has one. Isn’t it time other countries followed suit?

  • Lledbetter

     ah the study of music etc. tell me Londoner, how do you find solace as a humanist and atheistic in sacred music? is it just a nice tune? is that it?

  • Parasum

    “If anything, New Atheists only help a faith in decline across Europe”

    ## Kudos to them. They have the advantage over Catholics of not feeling they have to soft-soap or prettify the evils in & of the Church, so they are more free than we are to be unsparingly critical of it. We could do with the moral vehemence of a Christopher Hitchins, &nd the reasonableness & calm of a Brendan O’Neill. Better moral atheists, than the amoral Catholicism that cares only for the Institution.  They are more Christian than it is, and a great rebuke to its worldliness.

    If the CC needs a good kicking (& doesn’t it ?), I say, “Bring it on”. It wanted to protect theinstitution even if this meant sacrificing its members: now it has its reward. Talk about karma LOL

  • Jae

    Yes you and even Judas are free to take the Holy Bread but there is a caveat as St. Paul gravely warned: that those who will receive the Holy Host must examine themselves and their consciences first and discern who they are receiving, if not, DEATH will come either spiritually or physically. Read it in the Scripture.

  • Jae

    Christ wasn’t suggesting cannibalism here, we are NOT eating and crunching flesh and bones here which is what cannibalism is, eating PHYSICAL flesh and bones! A whole different scenario than the doctrine of Transubstantiation, read or google it.

  • George Calleja

    We all need to evangelize to bring the Love of Christ to all.  We all to use different methods and ways to reach the people.  For this reason I have  made a new website on

    the internet by the name of ‘Peace and unity in our lives’ with the

    address as

    The aim of this site is to provide inspiration and encouragement for

    life, and hope that this small contribution of mine will provide an

    opportunity for people including  youths and children around the globe

    to find courage in their life, by trusting God to be more present in

    their life.

    Please visit and distribute the link to all the people you know.  This way you be part of evangelisation.

    George Calleja – Malta

  • Jae

    You are not eating, crunching and drinking PHYSICAL flesh, bones and blood do you now? That is cannibalism which is totally different from the Transubstantiation, google it.

  • Jae

    No it’s not repulsive at all, it’s is only because you have no idea of what it is, much less faith in the Words of God. Do you think Christ is joking when he said, “My Flesh is Real food indeed and My Blood Real drink”….”whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood have life in them and I will raise him up on the Last Day.” he said these 6 times to drive the point that He was not just talking figuratively but rather literally that most of His Disciples left Him, the only instance where the separation was purely doctrinal in nature and noticed Jesus never called them back saying, “oh guys don’t go, I’m only speaking metaphorically”.

  • Guest

    Is it not the case that most of the growth of Catholicism in Sweden can be attributed to immigrants from Catholic countries such as Poland and Croatia? There are very few ethnic Swedes turning to the Church. The current Bishop of Stockholm is the first ethnically Swedish Bishop in Europe since the reformation. Having said that, the Priest in my Diocese is a Swede…

  • Jae

    The objections you mentioned and seemed only to see are the negatives which were blown out of proportion by the liberal hacks and media you so adored, because they really hated anything about Christianity particularly Catholicism by our stand on Life against there ideologies of Death and the unnatural on abortion, embryonic stem cell, cloning, euthanasia, gay marriage etc. Do you know that the Catholic church is actually the lowest in sexual abuse cases compared to other institutions? 5%were convicted and 5% still under investigation if it warrants a prima facie case at all to full trial because a lot of accusations are bogus by people want to dishonestly cashed in? Do you know the findings of the Commission of the worst institutional abuser of them all?i”ll give you a hint: 3 sexual abuse every single school day….the educational system, ohhhhh wonder why the liberal media you so adored seem to ignore it! Hmmm.

    Now for your charges that the Catholic Church is crumbling, so sorry to disappoint you again but we are here for 2,000 years already, the oldest living institution on earth where all had crumbled down from the Greek to Roman Empire, Barbarians, Mongols to the the present USSR. Aside from the fact that you also seem to overlook the contributions the Church had accomplished and undertaken, from the largest institution taking care of the forgotten, the sick, orphans. The largest provider of healthcare and hospitals and invented the University system where all Europe was under the barbarians. In fact to make the story short because you totally seem oblivious only to your world is, we dare you to google, if not I would gladly give you valid academic and historical sources that the CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE LARGEST CHARITABLE INSTITUTION IN THE WORLD SECOND TO NONE!

    So before you pick on on, what have you done lately for the good of your neighbor?

  • Jae

    Why are you nitpicking on our christian belief system, are even a christian or an atheist?

  • Jae

    Yes there were some abuses as with all others in times of war and peace however what you have are just pure propaganda and exaggerations by the liberal and atheistic media you so adored. You dont have Mother Teresa and numerous Catholic groups that sacrifice their time, monies and effort for the common good of mankind, plus we dare you to google it for some real FACTS that the Catolic Church is the largest charitable group SECOND TO NONE, how about you?

    Beside the fact only an idiot and total depraved moronic can compare the atrocities done in atheistic communists regimes of Stalin, Lenin, Mao, PolPot, Il Jung, etc and the hundreds of millions of their own people they murdered and don’t forget the 60 million babies a year (not cats, dogs or clump of cells) of the abortion industries with the atrocities if inquisition… comparing a Nuclear war with a street fight!

  • Lewispbuckingham

     Thank you for the clarification of his thinking.
    In analysis of variance scientific trialling the benchmark for “proof”, ie disproving the null hypothesis, is one in twenty chance.When I heard Dawkins say his sliding scale I immediatly knew he would fail on this one if tested as it puts him in the one in seventeen [about] bracket of ‘sureness’.
     This would not be acceptable as a disprover of the null hypothesis in a biological experiment so I applied this to him as he is a practicing biologist.
     The fact that he has recanted to 6.99 is news to me, but consistent with being an Atheist, not an agnostic.
     The reference to reversal of belief is found on this site in Morning Must Reads 20/6/12 the last item.
     You are right about the loss of faith in the Americas and Europe.I am not across the stastics so can’t discuss them, but however I look at them there is a lack of renewal.
     This type of change is occuring in the secular area as well, Lion’s clubs, Rotary, Apex.Society,people, have changed from having common ideals that unify to having collections of aspirations usually to collect wealth.
    Since this is illusory in many cases it leads to a further societal and personal decline.

  • theroadmaster

    I’m afraid that you are somewhat mixed up in your logic, in attributing millions of deaths to AIDs at the door of the Vatican, when the countries in the sub-Saharan region of Africa with the highest level of this disease e.g Botswana or South Africa have been flooded with condoms and have non-Catholic majorities.  Surely you are not stating that this is all due to the influence of the Catholic Church?  In fact, a very respected disease-control expert, Edward C. Green, ex-director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project, Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies, has vindicated the approach of the Church towards the AIDs crisis.  He stated that the emphasis on people changing their promiscuous sexual behaviour and staying faithful to their partners pays more dividends than the simplistic policy of sending condoms.  The latter solution has made little impact on the infection rates and has to be combined with a stress on behavioral changes for any noticeable effects on infection rates to be noticed.  The policy works best with the emphasis on condoms considerably reduced.
    The demographic growth of a society is a sign of it’s overall social health.  Societies that are experiencing such growth are investing in their futures while the sharp fall in birth-rates in western countries below population replacement levels, reveal countries in decline and without confidence in their futures.  They have to import immigrant labor to make up for the population shortfalls, and with lesser numbers of young people coming into the national job markets, there is reduced financial support for retirees.   It is condescending of western societies to tell developing western nations to contracept themselves out of existence in the same dispiriting matter that they(western nations) have done.Your fallacious observations on celibacy being a direct cause of sex-abuse with priestly ranks is not borne out by the facts.  If this was the case, how do you explain the far greater instances of sex abuse within families, national school systems and other organizations where children are involved.   Christ was celibate and is the model for the priesthood.  Celibacy gives priests the necessary freedom to be at the service of their flocks   Other Christian faiths have married priests but they are having as much trouble as the Catholic Church, if not more in attracting vocations.  In fact such bodies as the anglican and lutheran churches are in numerical decline across the western world.

  • Daclamat

    I may have missed it. No report in the CH. The retired bishop of Pennsylvania has jist been led off to the cells in handcuffs for wilfully endangering the lives of children, by covering up abuses by priests, 35 at least. Endangering children’s lives is several notches above child abuse on the wickedness scale, but the hierarchies from Rome onwards don’t get it.  People don’t leave the Church.  The Church has left them, Father Lucie-Smith.  If you don’t understand this, don’t expect people to listen to you. What a wonderful day for the Church in England as else where, when bishops are taken off to clink for crimes, not of cover up, but of wilfull endangering lives: just tot up the suicides of abuse victims, their families; ruined lives; life threatening illnesses. Smoke screens like the Eucharistic congress will only deepen abhorrence. Children’s bodies were broken like bread, like Christ’s. By people who say they stand in his place!

  • Oconnord

    “This would not be acceptable as a disprover of the null hypothesis in a biological experiment so I applied this to him as he is a practicing biologist.”
    Why did you do that? It is pointless as he was using a simple literary example to indicate scales of belief, not calculate the likelihood of god’s existence. Let alone a biological experiment.

    Thanks for the link, I will need time to read before I’d comment on it’s findings though. 

    That’s a fair observation about the fall in secular clubs and I would also include membership in political parties. You do miss a very important societal change in the last few decades, somewhat ironically given that we are on an internet forum. In the past “normal” people had no means to address large numbers of people outside their community. This changed with the advent of issue based TV shows, talk radio and most particularly the internet and social media. It’s now common from people to be “members of clubs” which are both virtual and global, often centred about a shared interest.

    I think that your judgement that these are “illusory in many cases” and “usually to collect wealth” rather harsh, I would judge it simply a different sense of community than yours, (or mine quite often).  

    “… leads to a further societal and personal decline”.

    Now there, we’ll just have to disagree. I will just say that I take a far more optimistic view. 

  • Oconnord

    Already the 70% figure has been dropped to 43% on the site.. from it’s own clarification….

     “Some of the retention rates in the figure above were never provided in Pew’s original report…..Of those raised as Atheists, 30% are now affiliated with a Protestant denomination, 10% are Catholic, 2% are Jewish, 1% are Mormon, and 1% are Pagan.”

    I admit that figure of 43%, (44% if you count pagan, which I don’t), still seems large to me. But I don’t find it implausible, in a country, where in many States atheists are still discriminated against. Combined with societal pressures to “convert” for the sake of employment, marriage or/and raising children, that figure is entirely plausible.

  • amator Dei

    Perhaps people are walking from the churches not because they do not understand what they are about, but because they understand it all too well. If the churches really helped people to know a God who loves them with infinite love and compassion, why would anyone walk away? If we want people to come back, we need to start where they are and take them seriously, not just berate them for rejecting what we see as self-evident truth.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     Thanks for the heads up on the revision site.I hope you are right about your last comment.
    Yesterday a Government briefing paper was leaked in Australia and this has coloured my thinking.Australia was once united by ..’football, meat pies and holden cars’ ,but now the plasma screen TV does not cut it.There are clear societal dangers emerging in Australia according to the briefing.Some mirror your own riots,assuming you are in the UK.Think Greece.
     As for using biological measures for belief what I was trying to do was enter his mind and see how he was thinking.It just is that biologists usually use a confidence limit of one in twenty to determine if something is true in Biology. I assumed he would do so also. I accept that it was a figure of speech and a problem he had in getting his message over.You see, for anyone else, one in six is still good odds, it does not rule something out.Again, I accept it was a figure of speech.

  • RacingCertainty

    People are leaving in droves because they do understand. These shocks to the collective consciousness of RC adherents has actually made them look afresh at the dogma, rituals, papal infallability and all other aspects of their faith. They now realise that claims of ‘faith’ are actually, to use a bit of Socratic reasoning, claims of truth. Claims that things that they do know, and could never know, are true and is nothing more than pretending they are true. That religious faith is nothing substantial than a child’s comfort blanket and just as effective. Once this is accepted the IQ of the planet will increase exponentially.

  • teigitur

    Yes, and look what happened to him.

  • teigitur

    Nope hes is a troll.

  • teigitur

    Wrong on every count, hardly surprising.

  • Alan

    Anybody can do evil things, and to suggest that they would not do them if they embraced atheism is absurd.  It is insulting to say that “intelligence and reason” lead people away from faith, when for many of us it is the precise opposite.

  • Alan

    Sweetjae is correct in his/her reply to you.  You seem to be one of those people who, seeing (rightly or wrongly) contradiction between Church teachings at different times, decide to choose as “correct” the one which happens to fit your personal point of view.  This is what some  call “a la carte Catholicism” or “private judgement”.  You are of course entitled to your view, but do not attack those of us who think that Vatican II was the best thing that happened to the Church for 500 years.

  • theroadmaster

    I mean’t “…It is condescending of western societies to tell developing  nations to contracept themselves out of existence in the same dispiriting matter that they(western nations) have done….” in the above comments.

  • JByrne24

    The people who usually pull-the-strings in the Church must be (I sincerely hope) simply unaware of the trail of havoc, destruction and misery that their troops leave behind them as they sail ahead on their missions of threatening, moralising and condemning. 

    The non-physical abuse of children, and others, is not as bad and widespread as it was in the only recent past, but perhaps the regrouping of the fundamentalist (in the UK) brethren will return us to it. It “worked”, they bemoan, so very well in past years that the obvious solution,  to the Church’s decline, they say, is to return to it. And they are probably right.

  • Exactly

    Yes and also the approval of civil partnerships especially as a ‘qualificaction’ to serve in the church,the church is becoming the Temple of belial = OF NO USE  

  • Sweetjae

    Londoner, you had been weighted but found wanting, severely wanting that is! Look for my rebuttal to your bias and flawed logic.

    Oh by the way, you should at least be thankful  to the Catholic Church because if not for her brave actions in the Seige of Lepanto 500 years ago, you and the rest of your European lands would be kneeling down every day to Muhammad.

  • Sweetjae

    Go for it my friend, also that was the reason why our beloved Pope and the CDF has been trying to discipline these wayward sisters and nuns from the LCRW to Hans Kung and his minions, either to shut them out and  extricate the rotten few.

  • teigitur

    Ha ha ha. Oh you really are a hoot. Keep up the entertainment, brightens up my monday morning!

  • teigitur

    We might ask you. “What IS this obsession with the Church”?
     “God is neither male or female”! What God? I thought you were a heathen?

  • Alan

    Your last sentence shows you do not know what IQ means.  The rest of your post is totally unsubstantiated.  The reasons people leave (or join) churches are usually nothing to do with the things you suggest (papal infallibility, for example, has only ever been invoked once, and is unlikely to be ever again, so in practice it is a non-issue); much more often the reasons are emotional, such as reaction against the abuse scandal.  

  • londoner

    Kneel down to Mohammed or to Mary? What’s the difference? Either means subjugation to primitive, superstitious ideas.

  • londoner

    Enough of the platitudes Fr Poovathinkal! What do YOU think? Don’t just give us facile quotations. And STOP SHOUTING!

  • londoner

    The reason the Church is responsible for millions of deaths owing to AIDS is the previous Pope’s wicked lie to the people of Africa that the virus could pass through condoms and the Church’s insistence to its millions of Catholic African followers that contraception is wrong. There will always be people who do not accept celibacy or abstinence and it is unrealistic to ban condoms and hope that a message of fidelity will solve the problem. What about the problem of already-infected married men passing on the virus to their wives? You cannot have studied the sheer scale of the misery and tragedy that has occurred in Africa. Millions of children are now orphans and left to struggle or die alone.

  • londoner

    I omitted to comment on your comments about war. Despite many hundreds of years of horrific religious wars, the religious always trundle out the examples of Nazism and Communism. For one thing no war has ever been fought in the name of atheism, for another, Nazi ideology was pseudo-religious and happened in a predominantly Catholic country (proving, if proof were needed, that religion does not make people behave better!) Religion has caused untold misery and millions of death in each century that superstition has persisted.

    To say that we are trying to contracept poor countries out of existence is ridiculous in a world desperately over-populated and where the poorest people often have no choice but to have far more children than they can feed. One of the most shocking aspects of Catholic ideology, is the insistence that contraception is wrong. Will no number of harrowing images of starving and suffering babies affect your attitude? If not, your church has a really malign influence on human psychology!

  • londoner

    Sorry, but your comment is illogical. Anyone who studied Humanism, Science, Philosophy and the Enlightenment would be very unlikely to abandon those ideas in favour of primitive superstition. You really have to be born into the Catholic Church and brainwashed from birth. To most others it is incomprehensible that an intelligent human being could decide to have ‘faith’ in the invisible, silent, unprovable but reputedly vicious and bad-tempered God of the Abrahamic faiths!(unless they have been brought up in a similar way and simply shift faith from one version to another!)

  • londoner

    A very silly and illogical comment from you vis-a-vis sport. I have no interest whatsoever in sport but let other people get on with it. Since it does no harm and a great many get pleasure from it, I am hardly likely to argue against it. Religion on the other hand, I find equally tedious but it is important to redress the power balance a little as the major religions cause so much misery, are far to influential on politicians and therefore public policy which affects us all. I am also passionately against the indoctrination of children in religious schools of whatever denomination. When there is corruption in sport – the fixing of matches, bribing of officials, I also speak out!

  • Thomasmj

    it is. You have the faith that there is no God. Also you techically are a religion as well because religion means to bind people togther which going by would include atheism because it bind those who do not believe in God toghther in a common ideal

  • andr3w

     My apologies for painting life as ‘either-religion-or-debauchery’; I agree with you that it is not. However, while hedonism may not just mean being a pill-popping, licensious clubber I’m not convinced that there is any other effective description of the human life other than pleasure-seeking hedonism, even if that hedonism happens to centre on Velasquez and Palestrina. Such an enlightened kind of hedonism is almost certainly superior to clubbing in every possible way, but it is still pleasure-seeking without any kind of rational context.

    Moreover, I would hope that your study of philosophy, art, music and literature have taught you that Roman Catholicism is far more than ‘primitive superstition’.

  • botera

    I went to a Catholic secondary  school in the eighties in Northern Ireland. We prayed every morning and  had RE lessons during  the week. There was nothing recognisably  Catholic about our lessons. Yes, we learnt a humanist christianity  but  there was absolutely  no instruction in Catholic belief.

    This  was problematic. On the one  hand many of us, as  teenagers,  belonged communities and  families that practised a centuries old   faith  and   tradition that was being  deprecated – novenas, nightly  rosaries at one end,  pilgrimages at  the other – all around.

    Yes, Vatican II , or its misapplication was a culprit. Secularism too, and a media that rendered  our  beliefs as uncool, unfashionable.Perhaps something more profound too.

     My parents left school at 14, they and  their  generation believed in the  efficacy of  rosaries, novenas, prayer.Science, barely  registered on their radar but Science had  won the  battle with our  teachers and us.

     Embarrassed by  folk religion,better  educated, exposed to  ideas  that my parents and  grandparents never were, folk catholicism   was allowed to wither .Ironically, we now can see the  beauty and efficacy of  traditional prayer and rituals, honed in a pre literate culture,  that expressed central Catholic concepts  . But this was later.

    And if they (teachers, lay and clerical) ran away  from traditional expressions of  faith, there was absolutely no discussion, over  seven  years of secondary, Grammar education,  about what it was   to be a Catholic as  distinct from other christian denominations. Sacraments, eucharist, magisterium? Nothing. And  this in a society, Northern Ireland, where religious identity was the uber identity.

    The upshot? We entered the world of work and universities with a hollowed out faith, cultural catholics to a man, half aware of being  different but oftentimes  running with the  tide of relativism.  Many  of us turned to  Marxism and other things.

    You see it now: we want the  ritual without  the understanding.  Parents want the  ritual of their  children making first  communion without the  hassle of actually  going to Mass.Perhaps (putting on my Darwinist hat)  this is the   value of  ritual: the ritual survives, the ideas that underpinned the  ritual have  been  forgotten, hollowed out, but at least  the  half understood awareness of the thing, hardwired into communities,  keeps  it alive and  brings the eucharist to as many as possible. I suspect Christ knew this in instituting the   eucharistic meal.

    But back to now.

    Until we  resolve  the tension in our schools and  clergy between faith and  reason, faith and science, we   run the  danger of producing more confused  teachers and, by extension,  pupils. Either you believe in Catholic Christianity  that is  consistent with reason and science,believe  in  the efficacy of practices that enriched our parents’  lives and  rendered their believe  real, or  you don’t.

     If  you do, then get on with it.

  • Lazarus

    ‘to use a bit of Socratic reasoning’
    I know it’s probably too much to expect from someone whose idea of intellectual debate is to witness at Catholics by mouthing a few childish platitudes, but this detail of your nonsense piqued my interest.

    Could you explain what you meant by this or is it just the typical New Atheist ‘im-using-big-words-coz-im-well-smart’ handwaving?

  • nytor

    “God has allowed a shortage of vocations in England and Wales”

    Nothing of the sort has happened. Proportionally there are more priests per practising Catholic than there used to be, even if the absolute numbers have dropped. Furthermore, there are not fewer vocations – it is just that the noise and temptations of the world are greater and they are easier to ignore. A vocation is a request – it can be refused. People are refusing now in greater numbers as they are dazzled by the noise of the world.

    I do hope your comments about things being lay-led and the laity taking their rightful place alongside the clergy are not in any way insinuating that we do not need priests. Without priests we do not have the sacraments. It is, I’m afraid, opinions such as those above which act to discourage vocations to the priesthood.

  • Ian

     If you make a statement that ‘X’ is true and you can provide evidence to support that statement eg. I have just bought a new car, and this is it with the log book, that’s fair enough. You have made your statement and produced the evidence – the car.

    If however you accept someone else’s anecdote/revelation as true, even though unsubstantiated and possibly unable to be substantiated, then treat it as a proven fact then you are merely pretending that this ‘fact’ is the truth. Socrates said that under those circumstances there is no logical reason  to accept this information as the ‘truth’.

    Anything that can be inferred without evidence can be dismissed in a likewise manner.

    The more amazing the claim the greater the level of proof required.

  • karlf

    Do you have faith in not believing in Allah? Is not believing in fairies a religion that binds people together in a common non belief? Think about it!
    Out of all the religions and gods ever thought up by humankind, you disbelieve in all of them except one.

  • Lazarus

    Thanks, Ian. Whilst what you say is the sort of thing that Socrates does -looking for definitions and reasoning to achieve knowledge- I don’t think it can be what RacingCertainty means here. Faith claims are pretty evidently claims about truth: they are (perhaps) unfounded and achieved by non-rational processes (that wouldn’t be a correct characterization of the Catholic view but let’s put that aside for the moment) -so I’m not sure why ‘Socratic’ reasoning (as opposed to garden variety ‘philosophical’ or indeed any reasoning at all) is required to reveal this elementary fact. 

    He seems not to be saying that we need to subject our ‘true opinions’ (to borrow the Platonic jargon) to reasoning in order to obtain knowledge (that is something Plato says and Catholics wouldn’t deny it) but rather that, by using Socratic reasoning, we realize that our true opinions (faith) are true opinions (faith):

    ‘They now realise that claims of ‘faith’ are actually, to use a bit of Socratic reasoning, claims of truth.’

    I’m pretty sure that RacingCertainty actually has no idea what he means other than that ‘Catholicism is pooey’ but has just enough wit to want to dress that profound thought up a little. In common with most New Atheist comments here, his are a sort of intellectual Rorschach test: if you keep looking at the jumble of random words, you can usually invent some meaningful pattern to explain them.

  • Lazarus

    Actually, we do believe in Allah, in that Muslims (and Jews) believe in an all powerful, benevolent, omniscient etc God. (We believe that Muslims etc have some wrong ideas about him -just as physicists might disagree about some of the attributes of the physical universe- but we agree in the sort of entity we are thinking about.) 

    I’ve just blogged on this.

  • Bob Hayes

    A thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Thank you.

  • Lazarus

    Whilst it’s undoubtedly true that intellectualizing without love is worth nothing, don’t underestimate the way that intellectual exploration for some, perhaps even most people, is a key part of enjoying and loving God.

    As my understanding of Catholic theology has grown, so has my love for God. Moreover, when Dawkins talks of his love for science, I think that is a real sign that God is at work within him. God is goodness. beauty and truth: morality, aesthetic appreciation and knowledge all draw us nearer to him.

  • rjt1

    If I am right in thinking that modern atheists are philosophical materialists, i.e. they believe that there is nothing except matter and the phenomena it generates, then all that exists is governed by the laws of physics, including the thoughts and beliefs of atheists. But the laws of physics are deterministic: that is to say, on this account, events, processes, thoughts and beliefs are the inevitable outcome of physical laws.An atheist’s claims that atheism is true and that theism is false would also be the inevitable outcome of these laws. However, atheists clearly believe that what they claim is true, not just the inevitable outcome of physical processes. This seems to me to be inconsistent, illogical, irrational.