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The atheist orthodoxy that drove me to faith

Megan Hodder was a young, avid reader of the New Atheists, but her life changed when she read the work of their Catholic foes

By on Thursday, 23 May 2013

A billboard in America promoting atheism

A billboard in America promoting atheism

Last Easter, when I was just beginning to explore the possibility that, despite what I had previously believed and been brought up to believe, there might be something to the Catholic faith, I read Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel. One passage in particular struck me.

Talking of the New Testament miracles and the meaning of faith, Weigel writes: “In the Catholic view of things, walking on water is an entirely sensible thing to do. It’s staying in the boat, hanging tightly to our own sad little securities, that’s rather mad.”

In the following months, that life outside the boat – the life of faith –would come to make increasing sense to me, until eventually I could no longer justify staying put. Last weekend I was baptised and confirmed into the Catholic Church.

Of course, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Faith is something my generation is meant to be casting aside, not taking up. I was raised without any religion and was eight when 9/11 took place. Religion was irrelevant in my personal life and had provided my formative years with a rolling-news backdrop of violence and extremism. I avidly read Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, whose ideas were sufficiently similar to mine that I could push any uncertainties I had to the back of my mind. After all, what alternative was there to atheism?

As a teenager, I realised that I needed to read beyond my staple polemicists, as well as start researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view. It was here, ironically, that the problems began.

I started by reading Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, aware that it had generated controversy at the time and was some sort of attempt –futile, of course – to reconcile faith and reason. I also read the shortest book of his I could find, On Conscience. I expected – and wanted – to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism. Instead, I was presented with a God who was the Logos: not a supernatural dictator crushing human reason, but the self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth towards which our reason is oriented, and in which it is fulfilled, an entity that does not robotically control our morality, but is rather the source of our capacity for moral perception, a perception that requires development and formation through the conscientious exercise of free will.

It was a far more subtle, humane and, yes, credible perception of faith than I had expected. It didn’t lead to any dramatic spiritual epiphany, but did spur me to look further into Catholicism, and to re-examine some of the problems I had with atheism with a more
critical eye.

First, morality. Non-theistic morality, to my mind, tended towards two equally problematic camps: either it was subjective to the point of meaninglessness or, when followed logically, entailed intuitively repulsive outcomes, such as Sam Harris’s stance on torture. But the most appealing theories which could circumvent these problems, like virtue ethics, often did so by presupposing the existence of God. Before, with my caricatured understanding of theism, I’d considered that nonsensical. Now, with the more detailed understanding I was starting to develop, I wasn’t so sure.

Next, metaphysics. I soon realised that relying on the New Atheists for my counter-arguments to the existence of God had been a mistake: Dawkins, for instance, gives a disingenuously cursory treatment of St Thomas Aquinas in The God Delusion, engaging only with the summary of Aquinas’s proofs in the Five Ways – and misunderstanding those summarised proofs to boot. Acquainting myself fully with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, I found them to be a valid explanation of the natural world, and one on which atheist philosophers had failed to make a coherent assault.

What I still did not understand was how a theology that operated in harmony with human reason could simultaneously be, in Benedict XVI’s words, “a theology grounded in biblical faith”. I’d always assumed that sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), with its evident shortcomings and fallacies, was how all consistent, believing Christians read the Bible. So I was surprised to discover that this view could be refuted just as robustly from a Catholic standpoint – reading the Bible through the Church and its history, in light of Tradition – as from an atheist one.

I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts from the unnerving conclusion I was heading towards, but the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed. “The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole,” wrote Edith Stein in The Science of the Cross: “If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.” The beauty and authenticity of even the most ostensibly difficult parts of Catholicism, such as the sexual ethics, became clear once they were viewed not as a decontextualised list of prohibitions, but as essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching.

There was one remaining problem, however: my lack of familiarity with faith as something lived. To me, the whole practice and vernacular of religion – prayer, hymns, Mass – was something wholly alien, which I was reluctant to step into.

My friendships with practising Catholics finally convinced me that I had to make a decision. Faith, after all, isn’t merely an intellectual exercise, an assent to certain propositions; it’s a radical act of the will, one that engenders a change of the whole person. Books had taken me to Catholicism as a plausible conjecture, but Catholicism as a living truth I came to understand only through observing those already serving the Church within that life of grace.

I grew up in a culture that has largely turned its back on faith. It’s why I was able to drift through life with my ill-conceived atheism going unchallenged, and at least partially explains the sheer extent of the popular support for the New Atheists: for every considerate and well-informed atheist, there will be others with no personal experience of religion and no interest in the arguments who are simply drifting with the cultural tide.

As the popularity of belligerent, all-the-answers atheism wanes, however, thoughtful Christians able to explain and defend their faith will become an increasingly vital presence in the public square. I hope I, in a small way, am an example of the appeal that Catholicism can still hold in an age that at times appears intractably opposed to it.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Catholic Herald dated 24/5/13

  • The Raven

    Daniel, the force that set creation in progress does not need “magic”.

  • Daniel_Borsell

    Raven, we call the supernatural powers used to influence events ‘magic’. Why are you arguing about this? If you want to call it something else, for whatever reason, that’s OK by me. And then perhaps we can move on to the bit about the Devil?

  • The Raven

    Daniel, we’re talking about the author of the second law of theodynamics, not something bound by that law. Terms like “supernatural” are ridiculous in that context.

  • Daniel_Borsell

    “supernatural” is the correct term for such things. I suggest you look up the meaning of the word in a dictionary.
    However, I do find it rather a bizarre concept to believe that the second law of thermodynamics has an “author”.

  • Guest

    There’s a difference between being ‘in’ the debate, and ‘engaging’ in the debate.

    You don’t ‘engage in’ when you take the lazy road and just say “gibberish” in response to a post that was obviously too in depth for you to counter with any effort you possess.

    You’re the one who came here looking for a fight. Obviously, you’re the one who needs his ideology reinforced.

  • Guest

    When the only response you can offer is the word “Gibberish”, then your post is, uh…..exactly that.

  • The Raven

    Daniel, if the concept of “God” has any meaning, it would encompass framing the physical laws by which the universe operates.

  • Guest

    If you really believe that the case against religion has been made in great detail and repeatedly, then why are you here? Why aren’t you content with that?

  • Daniel_Borsell

    Did ‘gravity’ need to be invented? I can’t see it myself, but I’ll go with it for sake of arguing.
    But going back to the Fall; what part did the devil actually play in turning these people away from God? And if they knew God, how could the devil have seduced them away from him?

  • contrararian

    My reply to this last message seems to have vanished.

    So, for the record…

    * Most Catholics do not agree with their Church’s teaching on abortion. Look it up. If this comes as a surprise to some Catholics, they might want to think about what that means for the Church’s moral authority.

    * Most scholars think some of the New Testaments works which say they were written by Paul, were written by someone else pretending to be Paul. In other words, “forgery”.

    * Italy is bound to protect the sovereignty of the Vatican by the Lateran Treaty. Benedict has not left the effective jurisdiction of the Vatican.

    Tricky things, facts.

  • contrararian

    I’ve replied twice to this post. Both replies have vanished. Either I’m being blocked by CatholicHerald (unlikely), or someone is flagging my posts as inappropriate.

    Let’s try one more time.

    Most Catholics disagree with their church’s teaching on abortion. Raven is just wrong on this. If someone in the first or second century wrote a letter pretending to be Paul, and that ended up in the NeW Testament as a letter attributed to Paul, then that letter is a forgery. Raven is wrong on that point too. Next, Italy is bound to protect the sovereignty of the Vatican state by he Lateran Treaty. So Raven is wrong about that too.

    I wonder if this comment will be dishonestly removed too?

  • contrararian

    I’m attempting to reply to Raven below – but my comments do not appear. Have I been blocked?

    Raven is wrong: Most Catholics do not support the Church’s teachings on abortion. Raven is wrong: if NT books in Paul’s name were not written by Paul, at least in part they are forgeries. Raven us wrong: the Lateran Treaty obliges Italy to protect the sovereignty of the Vatican State (and Castel Gandoflo).

    Will this comment appear?

  • The Raven

    Your polling evidence from Wikipedia shows that, asked the right question, you can get some Catholics to say that they favour abortion (the range of uncertainty 18-82% should have flagged this as a problem in the methodology).

    The content of the NT was decided by the Church Fathers because it was orthodox, not by its attribution: there are plenty of pseudonymous works attributed to Paul that are heterodox. You’re putting the cart before the horse by claiming that they were “forged” to demonstrate that orthodoxy existed.

    Think about what you’ve written: if the Republic of Italy is unable to interfere with Pope Benedict’s liberty, then he is not “hiding in the Vatican” to escape prosecution (and you haven’t indicated who might do the prosecuting; no-one has yet come up with anything that could form the basis of an indictment).

    I am as surprised as you are that your comments have been deleted, albeit that you were rather rude: why not try to engage civilly? We might both enjoy the conversation more.

  • The Raven

    Daniel, if we are creating ex nihilo, then, yes, gravity did need an author, as did entropy.

    I am tied up for the rest of the week without Internet access, can we pick up the rest of your question when I get back?

  • Todd Parker

    Requires blind faith? Can you support this assertion with any evidence?

  • contrararian


    Your inability to process words that are right in front of you is breathtaking.

    Most. Catholics. Disagree. With. The Church. on Abortion. In the USA, UK, Australia and Italy, in the studies cited.

    Read the references. There are multiple studies. Different questions were asked. This is not a “problem with methodology”.

    This is a problem with _you_.

    The point? The Church does not have moral authority over it’s own members when it comes to birth control issues, but it continually tries to oppose the civil rights of everyone – not just its members – by calling for changes in the law.

    As regards the NT, have you any clue what it is you are arguing? That it does not matter that someone forged letters (or part of them) in the name of Paul, because they say what the Church wanted them to say? Lying in the name of God – It’s OK with Raven, apparently.

    Think about what I’ve written? The former Pope Benedict is not going to leave the jurisdiction of the Vatican. The one country he wound not be arrested, if you the slightest clue about the politics involved, is Italy.

    Why? I do not know. Do I think any country’s government wants to prosecute Benedict? I doubt it. It would be a political disaster.

    But that does not change the fact that Benedict and the Vatican are implicated in some appalling mismanagement (at least) of numerous abuse scandals.

    As for civility. It’s a shame we couldn’t have a civil conversation. But you have not even tried.

  • Daniel_Borsell

    Of course. Thanks for letting me know.

  • contrararian

    Another of my comments vanishes.

    This is how guys like Raven remain so clueless.

    “Christians” make sure people like Raven don’t get pulled up on their nonsense.

  • contrararian

    Someone keeps downgrading and/or removing my replies to The Raven.

    Ironically this is how the Catholic Church keeps people in line, and how Raven can remain so clueless.

  • MisterSix

    That’s a bad analogy, Brandy – and straight out of the “how to disprove atheism 101″ book. There is no ‘belief’ in air. Air has lots of proof of it’s existence.

    All religions require at least a small amount of blind faith. This is a fact. “Faith is EVIDENCE of things not seen.” is a nonsensical sentence. Your evidence of a God is not evidence, it is an anecdote. One that can be reproduced using many triggers, not just turning to the religion of Catholicism. People change their behaviours by many other means – including turning to non-belief. Using that as evidence just does not stack up.

  • MisterSix

    Belief in no God requires no faith – that’s the point. This is often trotted out by ‘us atheists’, but it’s true: “I am only one God more atheist than you.”

    I agree that *anybody* being condescending and taking pleasure in making people feel like idiots is wrong, but you will find those people no matter where you look. It is not limited to atheists, and framing it as such is simply skewing things to your own agenda.

    ALL religions are on the defensive. But they aren’t trying to “bring people home.” They are trying to ensure their belief system survives because if it doesn’t, does that mean they where wrong? We are all selfish and afraid of being wrong – that’s what really drives the push for new believers.

  • FallanFrank

    So speaks the educated atheist…instead of taking each point and putting forward his/her criticisms the reply is direct from the schoolyard.Im afraid this is the outcome of the New Atheists strategy to never accept that a person even a highly intelligent one who has a religious view is worth debating with.They must look on them as someone who has “lost their marbles”.. its why you see all to often on Christian forums posters like Hominid its the New Atheist agenda.So my advice is as soon as an atheist steps in to a debate and acts like Hominid just ignore him/her they will soon get the message.

  • AugustineThomas

    Great article.

    I can’t imagine that, after reading the two, one wouldn’t find, in regard to theology and the philosophy around it, that Dawkins is a naive boy and Weigel a wise old man.

    God truly can make good of any evil.. I remember myself what an exciting experience it was, those years of discovering people like Chesterton, Edith Stein and BXVI and how they could defend against any sling or arrow any atheist, agnostic or “spritual but not religious” individual has ever thrown or will ever throw at the Church.

    I too first encountered an unwelcome sympathy within myself for the Christians I had often derided. Slowly I found myself wishing that they could refute the false intellectual rigorousness of the ultra confident and triumphal atheists and agnostics I had read.
    I was lucky enough then to find out the truth, that Roman Catholics have made a far greater contribution to human culture and flourishing, by far, than any other group in history, thanks be to God.

  • AugustineThomas

    St. Thomas More, Patron of Religious Freedom, pray for us!

  • AugustineThomas

    There’s as much proof of the superiority of Christian culture in the world as there is of air.

    Atheism leads to abortion and population suicide and the other religions were incapable of moving out of barbarism until after Christ came.. The same for atheism.. There were people who sounded like atheists in Ancient Greece (Lucian is a notable example).

    Why did there culture always fail and never get started?
    Why did it take Christendom to make this world a little less like hell and a little more like heaven?

    That’s more than enough proof for me and Brandy and men who were and are smarter than you will ever be. We have good reason to believe in God and the air he made for us to breathe!

  • AugustineThomas

    You’re as foolish as you’re accusing her of being in attempting to suggest that we have evidence of a lot of things we take for granted every day.

    Unless you have yourself personally performed every scientific experiment in the history of mankind, you have no more direct knowledge of the existence of science than we have of God.

    I believe in proper science as well as God though, so I’m not subject to your hypocrisy and self contradicting nature (and neither is Brandy).

    Also the proof of Christ is in the actions of the majority of his followers. Yes, there are many bad Christians, but Christians have been a force for good in the world far more than any other group.
    Also social sciences are proving more and more incontrovertibly that those who regularly attend church are healthier in every way, for themselves and for society as a whole than those who do not.

    The fact that atheists commit suicide at far greater rates than Christians is more proof of the work of God. These are observances that are as concrete as many that are used in establishing scientific truths.

    Anyway, this argument can go on and on which is why I would suggest you take Pascal’s Wager (he was smarter than you and I or anyone we know will ever be).

    Also think of Lemaitre. The atheist philosophers have done nothing tangible for humanity, nothing you can prove.
    Lemaitre laid the groundwork for much of contemporary science which has led to all the real present day fruits of science–that’s not to mention Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, etc., etc., etc. and the other Christians who invented modern science.
    There is a bitter cabal of atheists, agnostics and “spiritual but not religious” folk who are telling absurd yet frighteningly effective lies about religion. The truth is that their modern lives of ease are impossible without religion, specifically the Christian religion.

    Christ is King of the Universe.

  • MisterSix

    Wow. So you’re a good Christian are you? With that arrogant, condescending tone?

    We DO have evidence of everyday things. That is fact. If you decide it can’t be true (and therefore scientists are liars) because you, personally, haven’t done the experiments, then that is your choice. I have done some of those experiments. Sorry to burst your bubble of greater knowledge.

    “… no more direct knowledge of the existence of science than we have of God.” Is that a serious sentence? We ALL have direct knowledge – and direct access to knowledge – of science. Science IS existence.

    Religion IS hypocrisy, and every religious text is full of contradictions. This is also fact. Again, sorry to burst your knowledge bubble of superiority.

    Atheists commit suicide at a higher rate? I’ve seen that bandied around, but I’ve yet to see a source of proof. Even if figures existed, correlation does not equal causation. You may want to look into that subject.

    I am an atheist. I am not bitter, nor do I tell absurd lies about religion. Mostly I leave well alone, I’m not sure why I decided to answer here. I prefer to spend my time developing critical thought and broadening my understanding. Try it.

    I realise my words above will fall on deaf ears, but your hyperbole begged a response.

  • Irenaeus of New York

    Contrarian said:
    So are non-beievers damned or not?

    If you do not have a bingo board, would you still expect to win a game?

  • contrararian

    That sounds utterly cretinous to me, but hey….


    Person ‘A’ lives a perfectly normal life. Gives to charity, does voluntary work, dies. A is an atheist. Salvation? Nope. Destination according to Catholicism? Hell. Eternal hell.

    Person “M” is a Muslim Imam. Live a perfectly normal life, much like A. Salvation? Nope. Destination according to Catholicism? Hell. Eternal hell.

    Person ‘P’ is a priest. Does some good work. Abuses a few children. Repents on death bed. Salvation? Yes! Destination according to Catholicism? Heaven. Eternal heaven.

  • soniagable

    It’s great for you that you have come to the Catholic faith so young and have most of your life ahead of you to live in faith. I am in the process of preparing for baptism after experiencing a revelation of the existence of God on the day before my sixtieth birthday. Until then I had been an atheist all my life. Catholicism makes so much sense and provides a secure basis for what largely was already my moral outlook in an incoherent sort of way.

  • Irenaeus of New York

    The Church has never said but one person is in hell. That being Judas as revealed by the Holy Writ. As for heaven, I don’t know of any evil people that the Church has revealed to be in Heaven.

  • contrararian

    A Vatican Spokesman: “…Rev. Thomas Rosica said people who know about the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her…”

    Catechism of the Catholic Faith: “1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”… The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

    The ability of Catholic commenters on this board to just make stuff up to support their faith never ceases to amaze me.

  • Irenaeus of New York

    I believe what the Catechism teaches but you are ignoring my distinction. We don’t have definite knowledge of who is in heaven, or who is in hell, except when it is revealed by God and His Church. Canonization tells us with definite knowledge when a person is enjoying the Beatific Vision of God. There is no equivalent for hell. Not even excommunication. A person who dies in a state of mortal sin goes to hell, but definite knowledge of who is in hell can not be ascertained by us. We only know of Judas by way of scripture.

  • Lukas

    When warning others about the trap of atheistic secular humanism, I tell them that to believe in this intellectually bankrupt philosophical system is not a very wise choice. The reason for this is because if they are wrong in their great assumption about the nonexistence of God and they die in this false belief, their error will be an eternal one that will lead to an eternity in hell. For this reason, I warn them to err in favor of a divine and holy God who loves them, rather than a God that does not exist. Otherwise, in hell they will ultimately get what they ask for — the eternal absence of God, along with burning weeping and gnashing of teeth where the fires of eternal damnation are never quenched.

    The reason Jesus did not come to condemn sinners, but rather to save them is for the reason stated above. God does not want sinners out of their rebellious pride to choose hell over God who represents eternal love.

    The problem is that because we are conceived and born with original sin passed on from our first parents — Adam and Eve, we all come into this world in rebellion against God and his ways of love and holiness. Put another way, we are born with a fallen human nature where our souls suffer from a spiritual disease that ultimately results in the death of the body and the soul. However, God states in scripture that he also puts his divine law (moral system) in all persons whether Christian or not. If we are not born again by the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven and one day receive a resurrected body. In this respect, Jesus stated in scripture; “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

  • Lukas

    One of the greatest ironies of secular humanistic atheism is that its adherents, in their desperate attempt to disprove God’s existence, end up making themselves out to be little gods and goddesses of their own false pseudoreligion.

    Atheists’ faith is based on their mistaken belief that they know all things — including that God does not exist, without exception. As a result, they end up erroneously (and implicitly or explicitly) believing they are gods and goddesses, since they attempt to take on an attribute that only should be attributed to the perfect and only divine God, the Most Holy Trinity — that is omniscience. Since the pseudoreligion of atheism requires that their adherents falsely believe on blind faith that they are gods and goddesses, they cannot exist because atheism denies the existence of deity. Hence, atheism is an intellectually bankrupt belief system because it cannot exist under its own main tenant.

    Many atheists are poor victims to the great deceiver, the devil. Scripture warns not to deceived by the presumptuous lies of the this devil. Specifically, 1 Peter 5:8 warns: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Ultimately when atheists deny God’s existence their master becomes the devil, himself.

    Those of you who are victims of atheism (one of the many false religions of the devil), pray to God the Holy Trinity to reveal Himself to you and that He give you a repentant and contrite heart so you may be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Next, repent of all your sins and accept that the divine Godman, Jesus, died on a cross for your sins. Then call up a Catholic Church and tell them you want to become a new Christian and receive baptism. Also go the Catholic Church on all Sundays and holydays and follow all the valid teachings of the Church.

    God bless and I am praying for all of you!

  • contrararian

    “…We don’t have definite knowledge of who is in heaven…

    Ooh, you are so close…

    “…except when it is revealed by God and His Church…”

    Ha ha ha! You genuinely believe that Catholicism is the one true church and every other religion is wrong. Oh deary me.

    You do realize that pretty much every denomination or every religion believes the same thing about them?

  • DeAnne Ridge

    A rose by any other name…
    Abortion is murder because it kills a life. Watch video of abortion. It is horrible.
    You are confusing the Church made of humans with the CHURCH instituted by Christ. Yes, terrible things have happened in the Church. .Much good has happened as well.
    Still, THE TRUTH has not abandoned HIS CHURCH because HE knew from the beginning that people would be evil. HE came to redeem them. HE is patient and loving, waiting for sinners to return. He addresses things like sexual abuse in the bible when He says, ” It would be better if someone had a millstone tied around his neck and was tossed into the sea.” HE does not condone evil. HE allows evil to happen so that good can happen side by side.
    You have fallen prey to the media’s reporting on abuse being in the Church, as if it is only in the Church. It is inexcusable anywheree but that doesn’t make God’s word less true.
    The point that is escaping you is that Jesus came to save. He left the full deposit of faith with the CHURCh (Church). There is peace even for the worst sinner. That is the point. God Bless.

  • contrararian

    Stop trying to impose your religion on everyone else.

    No-one is forcing you to have an abortion. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, you need to deal with the fact people have sex even where you disapprove of them having sex.

    Your pretence that you understand God and the Church and I don’t is just stupid. Jesus was a human being, just like the rest of us. That is the point.

  • DeAnne Ridge

    I am not imposing, I only want to share what I know to be the truth. Abortion is wrong. Period. I pray for all the women who have had to go through that.
    I DO understand God and the church. He makes himself known to those who seek Him. I love God and I pray for you. God Bless.

  • contrararian

    You are imposing. Your attitude condemns women to die in countries where abortion is banned even where it would save the life of the mother.

    Every religion claims to be the path to God. Muslims and Hindus will all tell you that they know God through their religions. You should get out more.

  • DeAnne Ridge

    I still believe abortion is taking a life. Anyone who can see and looks will know that. I still love God. I pray for those women in other countries. Everyone has pain. I think the pain of knowing you killed your child, no matter the reason, is the most devastating kind of pain.
    Still, Jesus is God and man. He is divine. He gave his blood and his life to show you that He loves you. He wants to save YOU! There is peace in God, Jesus and the Church. God bless you.

  • Irenaeus of New York

    Yes I believe it is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. In fact, even if I did not believe the tenets of the Creed. That is to say, even if I were an atheist, I would still prefer to live my life under the guidance of the Catholic faith, because it is by far the best way to conduct a life worth living.

  • jcmmanuel

    I don’t know Megan Hodder, but I essentially agree with her post. I am myself not a catholic, I would call myself atheist (and I often do) but I prefer to call myself non-theist or transatheist or something like that, mostly in order not to be associated with the “pissed atheists” (aka “new atheists”). Not all atheists follow the unspoken rule that in order to be a good atheist you need to be an asshole and an extreme exclusivist.

    Atheists are demeaning religion worldwide these days, thereby inevitably also dehumanizing even the most sincere, rational believers out there (because if “religion poisons everything” then surely one has to be a psychic of some kind to find fun in poisoning himself, right?). Of course, reality doesn’t really work like that.

    In Catholicism there are several voices though, that are worth being heard – including an intellectual like Hans Küng – who isn’t a traditional catholic but still making tons of philosophical and scientific sense – and an intriguing vision. Or take Fabrice Hadjadj – how could we ignore Catholics with that amount of insight? That would be silly.

    In non-Catholic Christian circles (Protestantism, as we use to say) there are of course many reasonable / rational Christians thinkers as well (think Alvin Plantinga – one of the best philosophers around – and always good to read in comparison with a friendly / reasonable atheist like Hans Nagel – we should love the ‘conversations’ these people generate with their philosophical works). Or, could we ignore John Shelby Spoing? Or Gretta Vosper? Only to our own detriment. I am myself very familiar with Christian theology, and I can only say those Christians are among the ones capable of modernizing Christianity with reason – in fact, as it has often been in history. There are always those points where religion comes to a standstill as it were – but even modern Evangelical fundamentalism (in the U.S.) only represents a fragment of the standstill. Many Christians do what believers usually do: they evolve. The new atheists didn’t evolve at all. When they came up in 2002/2003 there were already plenty of positive signs going on in Christianity.

    The new atheism is an emotional reaction to nine eleven, there is little more to it. It was an irrational movement from the get go. Nevertheless, it seems like hundreds of thousands of atheists were soon assisting in fomenting the whole attitude – thus contributing to the turning of atheism into what is now about to be seen as the most exclusivist bunch of ‘believers’ on the planet – with the exception of Radical Islamists I should say (oh and atheists “don’t fly planes into buildings” I should say. It seems like not flying planes into buildings has become – at least for some debaters I’ve met in the culpits of “arrogant atheism” – one of the sublime properties of atheism; oh my goodness).

    I am an atheist who is not interested in atheism at all – and I’m not the only one. But I am all the more interested in religion and in a meaningful approach to religion, having religion changed wherever necessary (and cooperating with believers at this point of course – even enjoying the whole undertaking together with them), rather than ignoring religion, or demeaning it, together with the people who are, just like us, all in the same boat.

    So yes, I encourage religion, if it helps its adherents to become better people. I don’t think we need god to be good people – but I also don’t think anyone should go around like a machine gun on legs, considering religions his or her personal “Shoot-em-Up” game, and being totally non-engaged with those who dare to see the good in religion as well. Atheists also shouldn’t betray the sciences all the time, by suggesting (often indirectly – as R.Dawkins often does) that atheists are sort of more science-minded. We don’t need people who do that sort of bad PR to science. Science belongs to no one – or to everyone if you want (it belongs to no one exclusively and to everyone inclusively). Atheists need to get rid of those silly games, this arrogance. Be real. Get a life. Don’t think putting a little ‘a’ in front of someone else’s idea (theism) makes us brilliant, or “Bright”. And atheists are not all physicalists (like Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Stenger and others) – or pseudo-Buddhists (like Sam Harris). Let’s be real.

    Perhaps Megan Hodder’s choice was not entirely rational. But from the story I’ve just been reading here, I would say it’s certainly authentic, and demonstrates openness of mind. I can only be glad to observe this in such a young woman. There is hope for new generations. There always is.