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An Attempt to Explain Christianity to Atheists In a Manner That Might Not Freak Them Out

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Filed under Religion

Between being told that Christianity is a system of oppression, a complex way to justify burning with hatred over the existence of gay people, and a general failure of the human intellect, I begin to suspect that few people know why Christians exist at all. This is my attempt to explain why I am a Christian.
 
Any philosophy that claims that there exists nothing supernatural cannot grant purpose to suffering.

If some natural, secular purpose could be granted to the man suffering, then his pain would cease to be suffering and begin to be useful pain. The athlete can point to the material purpose of fitness and strength to answer the problem of his sore muscles. The old man who wakes up ever day with inexplicably sore muscles can point to no such thing. Though the pain experienced is the same — down to the last, aching twinge — the old man suffers, and the athlete does not. Suffering, to be suffering, requires the lack of a natural, secular answer.

The secular cannot answer the problem of suffering (as I’ve spoken in depth elsewhere), but suffering is still a problem we naturally want resolved. (If you don’t believe it is, develop leukemia, have a close family member die, and then try being content with not having any answers, meaning, or purpose.) We are obliged to ditch the secular and take up the religious, as a man cutting wood ditches the fork and picks up the saw. Which religion? I cannot speak for all of them, though the very existence of religion as a fundamental human institution does lend support to what I’ve just argued, that we must leave the purely secular if we want answers in this life. I can only speak for Christianity. Think of Christianity as some obscure, New Age cult — so as to judge her fairly — and I will give you her claims:

CLAIM 1: Suffering is the result of sin. If you are an atheist, freaketh not, for we know this on a purely experiential level. When we sin against others — when we steal from them, malign their names, or harm their bodies — we cause them suffering. When we sin against our nature — when we isolate ourselves, or demean our bodies — we cause our selves suffering. Suffering is the result of sin.

CLAIM 2: This verified reality is in fact the reality of the entire cosmos. The very state of human beings and the universe they inhabit is a sinful one.

Again, this is not a religious claim. The word sin is translated from the Hebrew ‘chattah’, which means ‘to miss the mark’. To say that the world is in a sinful state is to say that our world is not all it should be, that it misses the mark, that it is — in a word — imperfect. This is verifiable. We do not wish children to suffer and die, and yet we live in a world in which they do. It is entirely possible that we will have to at some point push spiky balls of calcium through our urethras. The experiences of these natural things as imperfect — to say the least — is a universal experience. We live in a world that “misses the mark” of perfection.

(OBJECTION 1: I suppose it could be argued to the contrary that the world is perfect, but we apply our human standard of perfection upon the world, and are disappointed when she doesn’t meet that standard. Both claims are statements of faith. One says, “I experience the universe as imperfect. I believe this experience corresponds to reality.” The other says, “I experience the universe as imperfect. I believe this experience does not correspond to reality.” Both are statements of belief based on a common experience — the experience of imperfection, found in kidney stones, dying children, 9/11, Katrina, etc.

The latter statement of faith — that the universe isn’t imperfect, we just believe it to be so — means human beings are far too strange to exercise rational thought. To say that what I experience as reality does not necessarily coincide with what reality actually is is to be unable to say anything at all. If what I experience as true does not necessarily coincide with what really is true, then I can hardly say “It is true that the universe is perfect.”
But this is obvious, and I digress going after the few who would argue that children dying is a matter of ultimate indifference, and that it is only our projections that make it seem otherwise.)

So the universe is imperfect. To be imperfect is to “miss the mark” of perfection. To be in a state of missing the mark is to be in a sinful state. The universe is therefore in a sinful state. As we’ve established, suffering is the natural result of sin. Thus suffering is inherent to our sinful universe.

CLAIM 3: As the universe is imperfect, God is perfect, the fullness of Perfection itself. This is first of all a simple matter of definition. If you have in your mind an imperfect God, then he is not God. But there is proof to this claim. As the philosopher Thomas Aquinas says:

“Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being.”

If God created all things, and all things are good in varying degrees, than God must be the standard of Perfection from which all things derive their relative goodness.

Thomas Aquinas 2(Minor objection: Of course, this assumes the existence of God, which I do not aim to prove. Rather I aim to say, if there is a God, he is perfect. (I come dangerously close to bringing up St. Anselm.))

(OBJECTION 2: If the Christian sheeple (I’m joking) believe that God is the fullness of perfection, and that to say that our universe is sinful — or imperfect — is to say that our universe is lacking total union with God, why then, would Perfection allow our imperfection? If God is all-powerful, surely he could forever stop us from sinning, and thus from ever suffering? Is he so cruel as to allow us to suffer, children to die, etc.?

We are allowed to sin — and thus to suffer — because God loves us. If we could not refuse him, the fullness of perfection, we would be puppets attached to his celestial fingers. We could not not love God. But love, to be love, must be freely given. Perfection is meaningless if we have not the choice of imperfection. We are granted, in love, the opportunity to sin.)

CLAIM 4: Christianity answers the problem of suffering with the bizarre claim that a man who was God, the fullness of Perfection, known commonly as Jesus, “became sin”. We must listen attentively to her claim, and suspend at least a minutia of our disbelief, for we’ve already established the impossibility of an answer to the problem of suffering springing from a secular source.

(OBJECTION 3: I understand of course, that I’m not proving that God became Man. This would of course provide proving that there is a God, which is not my goal here. Rather, I beg the atheist to read this and understand that, if there is a Christ, then suffering is granted meaning, and then decide from there whether there in fact is a God, a Christ, etc.)

Jesus “became sin”. Sin is the act of missing the mark, of missing perfection. It follows that Jesus, in totally becoming sin, became totally absent from perfection, a claim verified by the words of Jesus on the cross: ”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” By becoming imperfection, he is forsaken by Perfection.
We arrive at a paradox. If Jesus is God, and God is Perfection, how could Jesus “become sin” — the absence of Perfection — and thus become the absence of God? How could God become the absence of God?
He could not: He would die. If I were to become the total absence of myself, I would cease to exist. I would negate myself, as a negative number and the same positive number join to make an abyss and a zero.

CLAIM 5: God died.
 
Jesus
 
All atheism has its ultimate source in Jesus Christ then, for by his death he negated the existence of God. And in his death, sin itself died, for he became sin itself. And if sin died, suffering died, for suffering is the result of sin. And if all suffering died, than death itself — the ultimate human suffering — dies.
But again, we arrive at a paradox. What happens to the man who by his death, destroys sin, and by destroying sin, destroys death? He certainly cannot die, or else he could not have destroyed death. He could not die: He would have to rise.

Claim 6:
 
Resurrection
 
(OBJECTION 4: Why then, if this is all true, do we still suffer, sin and die?

Time is a product of the universe, and if there is a Creator of the universe, he must exist outside of universe, and thus outside of time. The saving action of an infinite God cannot be limited to time.

It’d be a mistake to believe Christ killed death and suffering, freeing from suffering and death only those born after him. Such an expectation assumes that Christ’s sacrifice is limited to the laws of our time, that his action affects only the future, as a human action only affects the future. But his action was infinite, outside of time. He died once, for the entire world, for the past, present, and future, lifting all things to Perfection.

Thus the place without the suffering we are promised cannot be a part of earthly space and time. It must be part of the “time” of an infinite God, a time that contains all our past, present and future. Thus we are told that Christ died that we might have eternal life, life free from suffering outside of earthly time, a place Christianity has given the name Heaven.

But more than this, we suffer now for the precise reason we can sin. God will not force salvation upon us. He will not demand we claim his victory over sin and death. We are not his puppets. We must choose his salvation as we chose to sin.)

And this, finally, is the answer Christianity gives to suffering. Since Christ became all sin, and suffering is the result of sin, Christ took upon himself all suffering. Since his act was for all earthly time, this includes our current suffering. If this is true, no suffering is apart from the suffering of Christ. All is his. I am a Christian because I can acknowledge the reality that my suffering is in fact the suffering of Christ, and thereby “offer it up” with him, giving it meaning and the most glorious of purposes: The end of all suffering.

As Paul says: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Our suffering, because it is Christ’s, saves the world.

This changes everything: To see the child with leukemia is to see Christ suffering in that child, suffering to bring the world back to Perfection. To experience agony is to cry out with the strain of lifting this fallen world to Paradise. We are called to recognize this, and to actualize this. This is why I am a Christian.
 
 
Originally posted at Bad Catholic. Used with author's permission.

Marc Barnes

Written by

Marc Barnes is an English major at The Franciscan University of Steubenville. He writes at Patheos.com for the Catholic Channel, focusing on bringing Catholicism to secular culture through natural law, humor, and ADD-powered philosophical outbursts. He recently created and released the website 1flesh.org with some friends, a grassroots movement in opposition to artificial contraception, promoting natural methods of family planning. He has also written for Crisis Magazine, LiveAction.org, LifeSiteNews, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal. He loves blowing things up, and has a man-crush on Soren Kierkegaard. Follow Marc's blog at Bad Catholic.

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  • Vicq_Ruiz

    When we sin against others we cause them suffering.

    Theft? OK, we can call that sin.
    Rape? I can agree.
    The Holocaust? Got your back there, too.

    When we sin against our nature we cause our selves suffering.

    Lung cancer from smoking? OK, fair enough.
    Killing oneself in a drunk driving accident? Yeah, I'll concede that too.

    Leukemia?
    Lou Gehrig's disease?
    Alzheimers'?

    Ummm......no. No human action placed those lovelies in our lives, nor could any human disinclination to sin have averted them. They are either artifacts of blind chance, or the work product of a morally indifferent or a downright malicious creator.

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi Vicq_Ruiz,

      Catholics believe all suffering is a direct or indirect result of sin. our world is flawed, nature is flawed or imperfect in some way due to the original fall (Adam and Eve). if you remember the Bible is intended to reveal faith, not necessarily science or history verbatim, than you'll notice at the beginning there was no such thing as "flawed creation" or suffering. After the fall suffering became a part of their reality either as a direct or indirect result of our sin or someone else's sin and as a result that "creation was made subject to futility, not of it's own accord but by the one who subjected it." Romans 8:20.

      • Catholics believe all suffering is a direct or indirect result of sin.

        How would you produce evidence for that position? What evidence is there that any time ever existed when beings existed who could suffer, but suffering did not exist?

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Quine,
          That's a good question. I cannot produce evidence that beings could suffer who did not suffering because that notion falls into the aspect of science/history. the notion of suffering is naturally the most difficult phenomenon's to grasp when it comes to faith. naturally, because if God is omnipotent and if God is loving, than why would he allow bad things to happen to good people? Part of the reason is because he gave us free will, and thus at times we have to deal with a result of sin. Part of the reason is addressed by the incarnation, thus God shows us that's he's not simply some distant figure up in the heavens looking down on his creatures suffering but he becomes one of us and suffers anything we may have to suffer. Nevertheless, if at some point you look at the bible through the lens of faith, what genesis conveys is that it wasn't God's original intention for his creatures to suffer. if there comes a time when you look at the bible through the lens of faith you'll see a explanation of a God who in effect says, "i did not originally will you to suffer, but since the fall, i'll become one of you and suffer as a man so you'll know i'm with you when you suffer." Paralandra by C.S. Lewis is a wonderful book that develops a great deal of this philosophy/theology.

          • Nevertheless, if at some point you look at the bible through the lens of faith, what genesis conveys ...

            Those who are not "looking through the lens of faith" don't see Genesis as conveying anything other than a creative fiction that stands in parallel with all the body of creation mythology written and told by early human tribes all around the world. It happens to be structured as a "blame the victims" story that reminds me of the way terrorist groups blame and degrade those they kidnap until the victims take that blame upon themselves and both come to think they deserve the degradation, and come to admire their kidnappers for showing them the "truth." (see Stockholm syndrome)

            The non-faith lens is that scripture is fiction unless supported by physical or historical evidence. I am sure you take that same position re the scriptures of all the other religions in which you have no faith.

          • I think it is conceding too much to Catholicism to accept the Catholic interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve as a reasonable interpretation of the text, let alone consider it somehow historical (even if looked at as being in "figurative language," as the Catechism says).

            Jews (whose scripture it is, after all) don't accept the idea of the so-called Fall. The story of Adam and Eve is ambiguous enough to lend itself to several interpretations, and also ambiguous enough so that no one interpretation can't be disputed by simply quoting from the text. No contemporary thinking individual (Catholic or otherwise) can believe the human race began with two individuals who committed a sin, who are the parents of the entire human race, and who passed this sin along to all their descendants.

            No one can believe nature was somehow "perfect" before the first two humans sinned. What would a "perfect" world be like, anyway? What would a perfect human being be like? The only two alleged examples of unfallen humans—Adam and Eve—committed a "sin" without giving it a moment's thought!

            As an aside, I always like to point out that the Serpent is telling the truth. He says Adam and Eve won't die if they eat the fruit, and they don't. He says their eyes will be open and they will be like God, knowing good and bad, and God confirms this word for word. And also, it is clear that Adam and Eve aren't booted from the garden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They are banished so they can't eat from the Tree of Life and become immortal:

            Then the LORD God said: "See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever." The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken. When he expelled the man, he settled him east of the garden of Eden; and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

            If we take the story at face value, the only means God has of keeping Adam and Eve from becoming immortal is to keep them away from the tree.

            So there's no reason to interpret Genesis to be saying that something fundamental changed in human nature (or nature itself), and there is no evidence whatsoever that any profound change came over nature around the time of what we would count as the first human beings.

          • I think it is conceding too much to Catholicism to accept the Catholic interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve as a reasonable interpretation of the text, ...

            David, that is fine with me because I don't go into any scripture and question the overall hermeneutics (a bottomless pit). I am perfectly happy to start with their interpretation and ask if there is evidence that it is true. I will, however, present evidence for the history of the making of the scripture, such as the Documentary Hypothesis, which is on the epistemological level of how the map came to be, not if the map actually represents the territory.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Nevertheless, if at some point you look at the bible through the lens of faith..."

            Ah yes, the lens of faith...are those vaseline smeared or out of focus lens... or maybe both? ;-)

            But seriously now, why would an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god need to set things up in a way that. unless you're part of the 'in' group' things won't be clear...

            "...what genesis conveys is that it wasn't God's original intention for his creatures to suffer"

            Then god (if it exists) made a mistake and I thought it couldn't make mistakes... and once again the fault lies with god, and not us...

          • Drew

            Fr Sean should have worded it a bit better. God created conditions of freedom to choose between good and evil. The ability to choose has to exist because only through it can man truly love. No freedom- no love. And we chose poorly. No mistake on God's part, only on ours.

          • severalspeciesof

            "The ability to choose has to exist because only through it can man truly love."

            Then how is heaven set up?

          • Alexandra Mazzeo

            That's the book in which the protagonist, Ransom, failing to win the argument by other means, beats his adversary to death with a rock, isn't it?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Alexandra,
            you're close but it wasn't a rock, they did have a fight though. the book has much better dialoges between the woman, the unman and Ransom. I suppose you could say that Ransom had to face the demon physically, but once it was expelled at least for a while he went back to attempting to reason with the guy.

          • Michael Murray

            because he gave us free will, and thus at times we have to deal with a result of sin.

            Which is zero excuse for all the horrible things that he lets happen that having nothing to do with us having free will. Nor is it any excuse for encoding suffering into the essence of the natural world.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,

            you raise a very good point, that is difficult to adequately understand. i try to address it in two aspects. One is that we all face some kind of more mild suffering from time to time that when we look back we can often see may lead to a positive result. for example if someone loses their job, remains jobless for a while and goes into debt, but then acquires another job and has the opportunity to reflect upon the situation they may be able to see how the whole event brought about at least some good. Perhaps they hindsight reflection may reveal they were becoming too addicted to money, or depending too much on money for their happiness. now that they went through their difficulity they can see in hindsight how unhappy it was making them such that they may make just as much in the future but they won't be overly attached to it. an event like that is much more understandable. but then there's other things that really leave you scratching your head, like soemone losing a child, or like that Tsunami a few years ago. It paints God as being uncaring or indifferent. when i was in the seminary there was a woman there who took theology classes. One day after class the woman went up to speak to the professor, she told him how much she appreciated his class and how much she appreciated his faith. he responded something to the effect that it was her faith that was truly inspiring. Later i had found out why. she had been a mother of one daughter. Her husband and daughter had died in an accident and she had no immediate family left. she also had not been involved in any faith whatsoever. her grief caused her to turn to the faith for answers and over the course of time she felt it gave her the peace and needed to deal with it. She eventually felt she wanted to share what she learned with other through teaching. while i may have no to adequately explain why God would let something so difficult happen i can attest to the idea that God still helps us to make sense out of very difficult situations.

  • Sample1

    I was unable to find an "Introduce Yourself" section on this site, but here I am. Hello. Good title; it caught my attention, and this will be my first comment here.

    I'd like to know what philosophy claims nothing supernatural exists? The author makes that assumption early on in this article. Maybe there is such a philosophy, I really don't know. Anyone?

    My worldview is a naturalistic one. I am a registered Bright. And while my opinions-- to the extent that I can form them in an educated manner--about politics, human behavior and any number of personal interests are, as some Brights are known to say, free of supernatural ingredients, that is not the same thing as making a claim that nothing supernatural exists. Is the author's claim really any different from the more familiar, "you can't prove God doesn't exist" position?" I don't think so.

    So, what we have in the subsequent paragraphs is, as Ignorant Amos might say, not a straw man, but a straw army.

    As others have said, the comments on this site are in the thousands while the written articles number less than a hundred. I see plenty of commenting potential right here about this article and look forward to checking back and reading future posts.

    Mike

    • Michael Murray

      There doesn't seem to be a introduction section. Welcome aboard.

      • Sample1

        Thanks.

        I was in an isolated spot today (no, not the ISS, but close. Ok, not really) and had the chance to read a substantial amount of replies. I think I've read all of the top poster's (congrats) comments. I'll stick around a while and see where things lead.

        Did you read this article?

        Mike

      • severalspeciesof

        I second this welcome...

  • Michael Murray

    But more than this, we suffer now for the precise reason we can sin.

    This is wrong and you give the reason yourself here:

    To see the child with leukemia is

    Why does our sin case the child to have leukemia. Indeed why does our sin cause tsunamis and earthquakes? Why does our sin make a natural world in which the modus operandi of natural selection is suffering and trauma ? Why does our sin cause the existence of the Loa-Loa worm ? Why, for that matter, does our sin require so much suffering ?

    • Oh and was His action countably infinite or some higher cardinal (no pun intended.)

      The ordinality of the subsets of the set of all sets.

  • Michael Murray

    “Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being.”

    I remember this from year 11 Marist Brother's College. It failed to convince me then. You can talk about A having more than B without the need for any idea of a maximum. The existence of a maximum requires all kinds of assumptions. Have a look at Zorn's Lemma.

    In any case A being hotter than B means it has a higher temperature not that it approaches more closely the ideal of hotness.

  • severalspeciesof

    "Any philosophy that claims that there exists nothing supernatural cannot grant purpose to suffering."

    ...aaaaaand off we go with mis-direction, and since the rest of this article basically follows from this, well...

    • Sample1

      Yes. I was sympathetic to the author's seemingly good intentions to explain Christianity without freaking people out. The body of the article is straight forward Catholic apologetics and that's great for fence-sitting Catholics perhaps.

      But that opener! Consider me freaked out.

      And thanks for the welcome.

      Mike

    • Longshanks

      Believing something because of the feelings it would give you if it were true is a great reason to believe in something.

      I know this because I believe that this would be a better world if it were true.

  • severalspeciesof

    "Perfection is meaningless if we have not the choice of imperfection."

    It should then follow that the reverse is true: 'Imperfection is meaningless if we have not the choice of perfection'

    Then imperfection is meaningless to god since it has no choice in being perfect, therefore it cannot understand us.

    See? I can play these word games too...

    • CrismusCactus

      You know how... in Star Trek... when you carefully listen to the techno-babble, you can hear it not even making sense internally... Everything is "reversing polarity" and "modulating frequencies", but while it sounds impressive, none of it really means anything.

      This article is a lot like that.

  • If I am getting this, suffering that has a purpose (e.g., to build muscles) is not suffering, but useful pain. So since Jesus had a very grand purpose for being tortured and crucified, he was not really suffering, but enduring useful pain.

    I would have to say that even having had 12 years of Catholic education, this did freak me out, so I can only imagine how atheists unfamiliar with all of these assertions would react. Clearly this was meant to be in the style of Thomas Aquinas, but Aquinas kept a narrow focus on each particular issue, whereas this post attempts to prove all of Christianity.

    • Michael Murray

      To me as an atheist it seems that this answer to "why is there suffering" is just "because it is good".

    • Phil Rimmer

      In Julia Sweeney's borrowed phrase, after noting the truly agonising months of her brothers death from cancer, "Jesus had a really bad weekend for our sins".

      If this level of suffering is therapeutic enough for a global atonement, why is there much, much worse for the rest of us to contend with? Is it in some way boosted to allow its broadcast via empathy to therapeutically depress and dismay everyone without making society untenable? Why the protracted hideous lonely deaths? If suffering is therapeutic, why such unintelligent, inefficient, unfair use of it?

      The "bad weekend" sounds like a pretty good one for many BDSM clubs. Maybe God realised he needed to take it up a notch to make sure we got the point.

  • Think of Christianity as some obscure, New Age cult — so as to judge her fairly —

    Yes, I would say that is one of the most "fair" assessments on this site, and it completely freaks me out. You go on to state that you are more interested in getting comfort from the made-up excuses of your cult than searching for what is actually true. Secularists do not make up excuses for suffering, we search for scientific means to reduce or eliminate it. We study the suffering that people inflict upon each other so as to make secular law and customs for a better world. As stunned as I am that you would write something so misguided, I am glad it is up at this site so that I can show it, as defense evidence, to those who accuse me of Christian bashing.

  • articulett

    Actually, evolutionary biology has an explanation for suffering-- particularly pain and fear. Those who had these features tweaked in a certain way were more likely to survive and reproduce than those who didn't. This is readily observable in people who lack the ability to feel pain and/or fear. They often die young, because they don't recognize the warning signs indicating danger-- whether a burst appendix or gunfire. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/magazine/ashlyn-blocker-feels-no-pain.html Suffering exists in organsims whose ancestors preferentially survived and reproduced in part due to the kind of suffering they experienced. This is true in apes, dogs, fish, and anything with a nervous system. I don't know if bugs suffer, but you can expect they'd have whatever sorts of consciousness allowed their ancestors to preferentially survive and reproduce-- and that might include some rudimentary fear of injury and avoidance of such. Ghosts, like mythological beings, cannot suffer because they do not have brains. Brains are a minimal requirement for suffering-- in fact, they are a minimal requirement for any sort of consciousness at all. Animals (including us) cannot feel anything after death on account of the fact we are dead.

    On the other hand, why would a good god create suffering of any sort-- especially a perfect god... it makes no sense at all. Why not all heaven all the time for all beings? Why not perfect people like Jesus who never displease god (and what reason could an omnipotent being ever have for being displeased-- why not poof away the displeasure... or evolve maturity... why would an omniscient god be causing suffering to his "beloved' creations when his creations did exactly as he knew they'd do before s/h/it made them?) Does the 3-in-1 Jesus-god have free will? Did this 3-in-1 god freely create suffering? By the way, if I don't want my dog to eat forbidden food-- I keep it away from the dog-- I don't punish my dog for doing what I knew it would do if I'm the one who leaves the temptation lying about.

    It's all so silly.

    As for the supernatural-- how is it different from magic exactly? The supernatural seems to entail things that are purported to exist-- that have no measurable qualities or any of the other sorts of things associated with existence. How can that be an explanation for anything? If something cannot even be substantiated to be real... then it hardly serves as a real answer to any question. But who needs sensible answers when you are trying to maintain faith in a 3--in-1 invisible man, eh?

    By the way, Christianity doesn't "freak me out"-- it just doesn't make sense... it seems goofy to me-- like Scientology... and nonsensical --like Greek Myths... and childish --like belief in Santa... and potentially dangerous --like Islam... and incoherent like Hinduism. A 3-in-1 god who impregnates a virgin to become his owns son to temporarily die to save god's less perfect children from the hell he created (so long as they believe the right magic story)? How is that coherent? And don't give me mumbo jumbo about "mystery" and "beyond human understanding"-- because the religions that conflict with yours could utilize the same fake arguments. Why should anyone even try to believe this unless they were afraid some god would punish them if they did not?

    Sin-- what is sin? Is killing people a sin? Why should that be if death is just the beginning of their eternal afterlife? Might it not be advantageous to kill kids per Christian doctrine-- you are really just starting their "happly ever after" earlier-- moreover, you are ensuring that they will bypass hell eligibility-- Shouldn't killing animals be a bigger sin-- since they don't have souls... they are dead forever? Why are Catholics so opposed to abortion and birth control when they could be saving these "souls" from eternal torment and/or guaranteeing their place in eternal paradise? What if these kids grew up to be gay or atheists or Muslims? Doesn't your god already know who is going to die and when and where he'll be sending them on account of his omniscience? Isn't it all part of his plan? Can anyone do anything other than what an omniscient god already knows you are going to do? And what about the people god tells you to kill-- like Abraham was told to kill his son? And the Jews/Romans were supposed to kill Jesus as part of an atonement plan? What about "thou shall not suffer a witch to live". Is it a sin to kill them? Is it a bigger sin to disobey god? What if you just believe god is telling you to kill them? You have to admit, the 3-in-1 bible god demands lots-o-killing.... and he does a lot of it himself... Not content to poof away his errors, he decides to drown all the babies and bunnies and pregnant women and puppies etc. except for a pair that he wants to watch have sex and repopulate the planet via incest (at least that's how the story goes). So what exactly is sin-- and why can't theists agree and why, by all measurable aspects, are theists more "sinful" than their secular counterparts? How do you tell when the killing is okay-- and how do you distinguish a message from god-- from a voice in your head? Theists are more likely to own guns, be pro-war, be for the death penalty,.... The more theistic an area of the US is, the higher the teen pregnancy rate, abortion rate, STD rate, homicide rate, crime rate, and income disparity. So where's the morality? In your heads, like your god? I suspect each theist imagines that people of their brand of belief are the most moral people of all-- including Fred Phelps and Muslim extremists... and they all have their own brands of what "sin" is-- and no gods seem to be clarifying. To the Muslims, you are going to hell for worshiping Jesus as god-- one of the top commandments from the pre-jesus version of god is to have no other gods before him. Why do you imagine you know more of what god really wants than they do? Isn't it sort of crazy that there are so many people so very very sure that they know what their god wants.... (interestingly, their gods all want what they want-- he has the same prejudices as them: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/30/creating-god-in-ones-own-image/

    Is keeping people as slaves a sin? Why doesnt' the bible god seem to think so? Is molesting children a sin? Why didn't your bible-god command against it? Does he really think "keeping the sabbath day holy" and not coveting your neighbor's ass is more important? Is treating women as property a sin? It is in my morality-- does that make me more moral than the bible god (who thinks nothing of impregnating a virgin without her consent or having a woman marry her rapist!) Does it bother you that most modern people find slavery more repugnant than your god. And what about incest... your god seems to think nothing of populating and repopulating the world with it.

    I don't find Catholics to be any more of an expert on sin or morality than Muslims or Scientologists and I don't want their brand of morality inflicted upon me anymore than they want those other religions' morality inflicted upon them. Like the rest of the world, I think that my morality is preferable to those who don't think like me. I think my morality is superior to Catholic morality and the god of the bible. I would never even have a child if I believed theire was the slightest possibility they could suffer forever. Your god (thankfully imaginary) created such a place. Not content to manipulate people into faith or to provide evidence-- he (or so his spokespeople claim) created a place of ETERNAL torment for those who didn't believe the right magic story with the right ferevency and he forgot to provide a clear rubric as to how he was grading the eternal pass/fail test.

    To me, all this verbiage to try to makes sense out of nonsense is... sad. I mean I understand why theists "have" to do this.... they might lose faith if they don't... and in their minds, that can lead to horrible things. I used to be such a person. But from an outsiders perspective your explanations sound and garbled and preposterous as some other religion/myth/superstition would sound to you. Go read Mormon apologetics and see what I mean. Clearly, if any real gods had wanted to be believed in, it would be their responsibility to provide real evidence-- and if there was real evidence, nobody would have to play these semantic games to try and convince themselves their faith was rational. A real god has no real excuse for being indistinguishable from an imaginary god.

    If your god is the creator of everything-- he is the creator of sin... and suffering... and his bizarre atonement plan... He didn't get rid of suffering, because, there is still lots of suffering going on in this world. We can pretend that some people will live happily ever after when they are dead due to a supposed psycho temporary sacrifice done on our behalf by a crazy 3-in-1 (monotheistic -ha!) (loving -ha!) god with some very poor skills when it comes to utilizing his super powers. But why? It's a goofy story. Lots of people suffer a lot more for a lot longer-- and they don't get to be gods in some imagined next life. Why would someone who isn't indoctrinated ever try to make sense of this nonsense?

    • Articulett, ... wow.

      • Michael Murray

        Yep she's certainly articulett :-)

        • articulett

          Thanks guys!

      • articulett

        Too much?

        I guess it's leftover Catholic girl angst spilling out... ha

        • Michael Murray

          No not too much at all. It's really impressive. I run out of things to say then I think of more things later and edit them in. You seem to just sit down and do it. Keep it up.

        • Just noting that I am impressed.

        • Max Driffill

          Articulett.
          Not even remotely too long. This a stunning, and articulate rant. Its of course very clever, doesn't seem (too) angry so much as perplexed, and annoyed. Do you mind if I share it?

    • severalspeciesof

      IMO, usually whenever 'mystery' and 'beyond human understanding' is invoked it means that whether the answer is a positive or a negative (in cases requiring such an eventual answer), either answer does not bode well for god... and more importantly does not bode well for the believer of that version of god...

      • articulett

        Yes, it always boils down to the Epicurean dilemma: "Is he willing to prevent evil, but not
        able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he
        malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

        If a god exists, it appears to be utterly incompetent in using it's "omnipotence" or utterly uncaring when it comes to the suffering of others. Few humans would stand by as they watched a tragedy unfold if they could do anything to stop it. And yet believers must convince themselves that a god who does so is real, good, and worthy of worship.

    • David Egan

      Now, this should be a front page article. If this site is really serious about the atheist perspective, they should have this up on Monday. Well done.

    • Sage McCarey

      Articulett, you are my heroine. And you remind me of one of the reasons I could never be Catholic. You have expressed all the points that led me to disbelief in Jehovah, Elohim, Yahweh, Jesus. But, of course, as a female you and half the human race never had any say in this religion.

  • Susan

    >CLAIM 1: Suffering is the result of sin

    No. For that to have any connection to reality, only humans would suffer. We would have to pretend that suffering didn't precede us for hundreds of millions of years and that it doesn't surround us. The concept of sin is a strange and inadequate response to the reality of life on this planet. Anyway, Articulett explained that one quite articulately.

    We come from a long line of suffering and it doesn't just happen to us. The "problem" is not a problem from the point of view of genes.

    What are the odds of surviving and having successful descendants with this condition, for instance?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_insensitivity_to_pain

  • Susan

    >CLAIM 3: As the universe is imperfect, God is perfect, the fullness of Perfection itself. This is first of all a simple matter of definition. If you have in your mind an imperfect God, then he is not God.

    What on earth is "the fullness of perfection itself"? Does it include creating a universe where babies of all sorts of species for hundreds of millions of years die of sickness, starvation, drought, disease, and of course predation? (Don't forget the predators. They prey on the young as easy targets so that they and THEIR young don't starve to death. It's not pretty.) Suffering, yes. Horrible, unspeakable suffering. What it has to do with "sin", I'm unable to see.

    "The fullness of perfection itself" is a meaningless term to begin with, but even if I were to guess what that would look like, it doesn't fit the evidence.

    (in) CLAIM 4: >we’ve already established the impossibility of an answer to the problem of suffering springing from a secular source.

    Not even close. I give. The premises are so flawed and the language so ill-defined that there's no point in going on.

  • Fr.Sean

    i'd like to leave one little nuance to the article in the aspect of suffering. In Biblical Theology there is a observation scholars have noted that there are two "Wisdom movements" in the Old Testament. the First wisdom movement goes something like this; obey the law, be generous to the poor, be faithful to God and you will be blessed. Suffering then is often a result when one is not faithful to the law, or has not been committed to the Lord. The book of Job, Ecclesiasicts and some of the Psalms introduced a second "Wisdom movement" that revealed a subtle change. Job is a "righteous man" devoted to God and committed to the Law. He inevitably faces about the worst suffering anyone could face, pretty much the loss of everything including his health and family (except for his wife)(remember the story is meant to reveal truth, or faith and is not a historical account). along come Job's three friends who represent the original wisdom movement. at first they come to support him, but then they begin to help Job try to find the source of his suffering (his sin) so he can receive back blessings from the Lord. Job continues to proclaim his innocence while his friends continue to question him. Eventually God appears on the scene and tells the three friends they have not spoken correctly about him as has his servant Job. (Iroincally Job has been saying God is not treating him fairly, aka. it's okay to be open and honest with God in prayer and tell him how you feel). God then tells Job that he does not have the capacity to understand everything in life nor why everything happens the way it does. but still God needs to be trusted. Finally in the end he restores everything to Job and takes away all of his suffering.

    Now, which wisdom movement is correct? Both, if we are faithful and committed to the Lord our lives will be blessed or we will have peace and contentment, but that does not mean we will not face unjust suffering at times. it further brings out the idea that we grow the most when we go through some struggle, we learn the most about life, about ourselves, about our God when we're dealing with adversity.

    Moreover, it's important to ponder where one's focus is when one is suffering. if i lose faith in God suffering can become unbearable, because it has no meaning and i tend to focus strictly on myself. self absorption, or asking the questions; "how long is this going to last and how much worse is this going to get" Usually causes far more suffering than the aliment itself. but when i trust in God my focus is on him and i can know he's with me in my struggle. "come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and i will give you rest. take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden light." (Matthew Ch. 11) i have found myself, that struggling or suffering becomes immensely easier when i allow the Lord to share my burden, for he becomes my strength.

    Finally, as the author points out; the Incarnation puts another dimension of the notion of suffering. it is as if God said, "i know you have to deal with this notion of unjust, or just suffering. in order to show you that i am not above or indifferent to suffering, I'm going to become one of you and suffer anything you may have to suffer (physical suffering, abandonment, rejection, misunderstanding) so that you will know that i am with you and will never abandon you in your suffering.

    • Now, which wisdom movement is correct?

      None. Why would anyone think there was anything there beyond the kind of lessons that are portrayed in Aesop's Fables? Authors may have points or ideas to communicate with 'just so' stories, but that does not entitle them to any kind of "correctness." The Book of Job tells the story of a horrible and capricious deity. Thankfully, there is no evidence to think it actually happened.

    • gwen saul

      Father,

      What if another dimension to the issue of suffering (as addressed in the Bible) is the creation of a concerned community. Couldn't one argue that Jesus created a brotherhood of disciples and followers who in some sense were a community of people who learned by example and were inspired to reach out, to be empathetic, to take care of one another, to assertively address suffering for the benefit of everyone involved?

      There is always suffering of some sort and it seems to me the physical and spiritual sense of community set forth by organized religions such as Catholicism is the real pearl in the oyster. Viewing suffering as the consequence of sin makes little sense to me; creating a network and community of people who support each other through trials and tribulations is much more clever.

      • ; creating a network and community of people who support each other through trials and tribulations is much more clever.

        Certainly, the community of Buddhists from before the time of Jesus thought so, focusing on compassion.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Gwen,

        I don't disagree with your statement. I suppose on one hand one could say suffering is a direct or indirect result of sin (cancer may just be a result of the flawedness of creation, or the original fall). mediating suffering is something Christians are supposed to do. Compassion means "to suffer with". i wouldn't think of the world as a place of sin and suffering, although those are two parts of it. if the world did not have love, goodness, hope, than "the myth of sysifus by camus would be about right. truth is there is a lot of good in the world, and there is a lot of good in people. If your an atheists you are a good person and you are here because you are trying to discern the truth (in my opinion). As Christians we believe God created us good but with the potential to choose evil. thus i think the notion of a candle in a dark room is rather accurate.(even though there is good in humanity). Jesus is the light, the light overcomes the darkness. there may be a great deal of darkness around but bring in the light of Jesus (or in other words love) and the darkness is scattered. Detrich Bonhoeffer said evil has no defense against love, it simple crumbles in the face of love (he was an admirer of Gahndi)

        • Sample1

          "If your an atheists you are a good person and you are here because you are trying to discern the truth (in my opinion)".-Fr.Sean

          This sentence perfectly encapsulates my number one concern for showing up and participating here yesterday.
          I know how people of faith think. My presence here, as one with a naturalistic worldview, will be interpreted as seeking to find God (or to help the faithful find a deeper relationship to God).

          Truth, as capitalized in the About section of this site, is code for, "Catholicism has the fullness of it". That claimed ownership of truth looks to be an impossible barrier to overcome for free thinkers, even with tantalizing quotes like, "let us reason together." As it should be, I might add.

          I'm not sure that participating here, adding my name here, is an act that I can be morally satisfied with. Thank you for listening to my concern. I might not have mentioned it, but Fr. Sean's statement was all too timely!

          Mike

          • Michael Murray

            I think you just have to keep saying over and over again that you don't believe any gods and you aren't posting here because you want to believe any gods. I agree it's a dilemma.

          • I keep posting here, because if I am wrong, I want to find that out.

          • Michael Murray

            But not because you have an enormous God shaped hole in your soul that cries out in desperation in it's need to believe?

          • I suspect you know me better than that. ;-)

          • Sample1

            Are there particular areas you concede plausible errors are more or less likely on your part? Forgive me, but how is your reply different than claiming to be agnostic about leprechauns?

            Mike

          • Are there particular areas you concede plausible errors are more or less likely on your part?

            Good question. We tend to be most wrong when looking at ourselves from our internal view, thus the call to wish to see ourselves as others see us. I am fairly confident about rejecting solipsism, although I have no way to present evidence for that position. When you look at the spectrum of power of thought from our ancestors of, say, a couple of hundred thousands of years ago, to now, and then project that forward even a few thousand years, you have to have very substantial doubts about our ability to think (relatively) at all. This is especially true because the rate of the rate of change in accumulation of knowledge is increasing.

            Will what I have written be as full of bad reasoning in just a few years as what we see from thousands of years ago? Well, that really bugs me, but I must do what I (foolishly) think I can do.

          • Sample1

            Fair enough, I think I understand you and I'm on board with our keen ability to fool ourselves.

            Would I be wrong if I said that, for you, the imagery of spectrum comes to my mind that looks like this:

            Low Value: solipsism

            High Value: science based evidence

            Between low and high value: faith based claims.

            Mike

          • Low Value: solipsism

            High Value: science based evidence

            Between low and high value: faith based claims.

            Pretty good. If I think of a refinement, I will let you know. :-)

  • gwen saul

    Were there any atheists around these parts legitimately "freaked out" about Christianity before they read this post? I feel more concerned now that I've finished reading this post. If you prefer to view the world as fallen and sinful, to view cancer as the result of sin, go ahead. In the meantime, I've got real work to do.

  • Susan

    > if i lose faith in God suffering can become unbearable, because it has no meaning and i tend to focus strictly on myself.

    For those of us who do not believe in Yawheh, this is a false dichotomy. I can appreciate that this is a dichotomy you have accepted, but that doesn't make it a true one. If you have the capacity to do something other than "focus strictly on yourself" (whatever that means) when you are suffering, then look around and notice that you're not the only human or even non-human who is able to respond that way.

    What does Yawheh have to do with it? Keep in mind that Yahweh is just another unevidenced deity among tens of thousands of unevidenced deities that humans have invented. There is nothing special about him, except to you and the others who are willing to presuppose him into existence. I'm saying that respectfully. Based on the evidence, that is how it looks to me.

    As far as "meaning" on the subject of suffering, here is the "meaning" for me. It's very complicated and I'm in the dark about most of it but I can do my best to reason my way through it in my limited way every day that I live.

    1) Make every effort not to cause it. Take as little as possible and give what you can afford back. Understand what you buy, where you live, how you vote, how you work, what you believe and how that shapes your behaviour and its impact on other sentient beings and refine it every day that you live.

    2) Alleviate it if possible.

    3) If you can't alleviate it, offer comfort and support the best way you possibly can.

    4) It's not just humans that suffer. Our thoughts influence behaviours that have a very direct impact on non-humans, a huge number of whom show the capacity to suffer.

    5) Suffering sucks. Most of it is pointless and helps no one. If I were an omnipotent deity, I would have created a world where joyous progress would be boundlessly made without it. It doesn't take much imagination to do that. There is no "meaning" in suffering for me. The only "meaning" for me is improving my game on steps 1-4.

    • Sample1

      Nice.

      The article links the words "purpose" and "problem" to the word suffering. I don't think the author means purpose = reason. After all, there are plenty of reasonable ways to deduce why suffering occurs. But purpose? The author is likely going the theological route there: so-called freewill/sin/savior.

      But interestingly, he also couples suffering with the word problem. Why should suffering be a problem from a faith perspective? It's the Will of God! Calling God's Will, excuse me, Daystar's Will, a problem seems blasphemous to me. Of course, I live in a faith-free environment for the most part, so perhaps I speak a different language.

      Mike

    • Ever notice that people suffer more (on average) when one of their relatives dies than in the case of finding out about the death of any random person? Might this serve a purpose in the picture of evolution where protecting your relatives tends to cause more of your common genes to get into the next generation?

      • Sample1

        Good point.

        As an aside, I know a psychologist who now works for the ASPCA specifically counseling owners with severe grief after losing a non-human animal companion. She relates that the number one issue for her clients (thousands) is a guilt they feel for mourning the loss of a pet in a more intense manner than they mourned the loss of their parents. I asked her to consider compiling her data scientifically.

        Mike

        • Indeed.

          • Sample1

            Link broken? Could be my download application. Anyway, yes. That is one of the more fascinating avenues evolutionary theory is taking us: evolutionary psychology. How people with OCD, for instance, can perhaps be explained by the misfiring of the fight/flight response, etc.

            Mike

          • Link works for me. Sapolsky is terrific. Love his lectures. Did you read his book, "A Primate's Memoir"? It is wonderful.

          • Sample1

            I'm aware of it, but I haven't. I must force myself to read books. Once I get going, I'm fine. I know, not a trait to brag about! Perhaps yours is the nudge I'll need to do it. Thanks.

            Mike

          • It's quite enjoyable. Especially the part where he gets kidnapped by the "Coca Cola" gang there in Africa.

          • Michael Murray

            What kind of trash ?

          • Sample1

            Oh I just meant litter. I just returned from the store (grocery store) and there was a blue plastic bag in the parking lot that I noticed on the way in. On returning to my car, I stooped over, picked it up, squeezed out all the water (it's always wet here...) and took it home for my trash bin.

            It would have been much easier to just walk on by and leave it, but there is a stream nearby that hits the ocean in about a thousand yards so...

            Mike

            PS: Quine, I read the Salon piece, sounds like a winner.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah OK. Thought it might be an interesting OCD hoarding problem! I'm a bit the same when I go bush walking (hiking). I always end up carrying back other people's trash that they seem to find too heavy to lift.

          • Good on you!

          • Michael Murray

            Take nothing but pictures leaving nothing but footprints :-)

          • What if you have to pee?

          • Michael Murray

            Well any set of rules needs careful interpretation. What is nothing in any case ? Urine at least is bacteria free. There are popular walks in Australia where giardia has infected all the waterways. Same in the US I know. Primates!

          • Well, I thought you set it up with the "mostly water" remark earlier on the thread.

          • Michael Murray

            Yep seems to be that sort of an afternoon. Anyway I've just got to nip out for a minute.

          • Enjoy! ;-)

          • Susan

            > Anyway I've just got to nip out for a minute.

            Wash your hands. But don't overdo it.

        • Michael Murray

          Was there any link with whether they the animals went to heaven or not ? (Serious question.)

          • Was there any link with whether they the animals went to heaven or not ?

            They can make up whatever they want:

            Animals in Heaven

          • Sample1

            I'm unable to answer that.
            Mike

      • Susan

        >Ever notice that people suffer more (on average) when one of their relatives dies than in the case of finding out about the death of any random person?
        Yes. I have noticed that Q.Q.. :-) I've also noticed that I'm forced to choose between two homeless kittens that were left on my porch eight years ago and my moral issues with the pet food industry. The kittens looked at me and somehow, that won out. This morality is tricky business.
        I'll look up Sapolsky lectures to flesh things out better. I think Mike's point is a good one (nice to see you here, Mike) as I'm interested in where morality lies between misfires, living with species that were naturally selected as part of ours and their co-survival and the fact that we can conceive of "suffering" which should lead us naturally to wonder where in the continuum we can begin to disregard the idea of suffering and its "meaning" in the larger picture.
        These are important ideas as far as I can tell, but the first thing I cut away is the input of unevidenced deities.

        • ... the first thing I cut away is the input of unevidenced deities.

          'Course you do. After all, there are tens of thousands.

          • Susan

            >... the first thing I cut away is the input of unevidenced deities.

            >>'Course you do. After all, there are tens of thousands.

            Yep. That seems relevant... or is that just me?

            Found Sapolsky on ted.com. Thanks for the lead. Very, very good one on this subject.

          • Susan

            Yes. That's exactly the link. I have just listened up to the ten minute mark where he has explained the things that are taken as fact (based on evidence) by people who study the data.

            Anyway, I have reached the introduction part, "So, some of the time, what is the challenge is that there is nothing fancy about us at all. We are just a basic, off the rack mammal."

            "Now, some of the challenge is that we've got the same, basic building blocks in there but we use it In ways that are unprecedented."

            I have not done justice to the first ten minutes and there is much more to follow. It is an important link on this particular thread.

            Thank you.

            Great recommendation.

  • GreatSilence

    Well, I have been hanging on to my faith by my fingertips for some time now. Reading every article and the ensuing debates on this site, and articles like this one in particular, has made me see how unsustainable my own faith is (just my personal view). My faith has never been tested in the manner in which this site has made possible. For this I thank the moderators, and of course the debaters here. It also means that I am walking away from my faith, it is over. There are so many reasons for that decision that I should have to write a book to set it out. It has become too difficult to keep the lid on all of the cognitive dissonance, there is just too much too deny.

    • GreatSilence, is this going to be a problem for you with family or employment? Do you have secular friends to provide a support system?

      • GreatSilence

        My family will not really be happy with this, but we generally respect each other's views. My dad may worry about me spending an eternity in hell, I will deal with his concerns. My work is no problem, I work in a very secular environment.

        • Best wishes to you, and several people you have met here have blogs in case you need to talk.

          • GreatSilence

            Thank you very much. I will visit those blogs. I also have a lot of friends (ex-Catholic and others) who will be very supportive. It really does not feel like all that much of a challenge though, just something I should have realized a long time ago. But I had to work through some questions first, read up on some arguments pro and con. This site just seemed to focus that process for me, seeing the debate done at a very high, focused level.

    • Sample1

      I'm unable to discern your emotional state from your post. Is this an exciting moment for you? A "meh" moment? A scary moment? A little bit of everything?

      • GreatSilence

        It's an absolute relief. No fear, no doubt. A little bit of irritation for taking so long.

        • Sample1

          Relief! That is the one word I left out (I was going to edit my comment). Yes, I believe you. Thank you for sharing your decision.

          If I may leave you with something to think about, consider adding your name to any number of organizations you feel solidarity with. The Church will still consider your baptism valid and there is no way to get an official defection acknowledgement from Rome. The next best thing is to be counted where you want to be counted.

          Best to you and yours.

          Mike

          • GreatSilence

            Thanks, Mike

          • Fr.Sean

            Greatsilence,
            if it's okay with you GreatSilence you will remain in my prayers. if there's anything i can do just contact me on my website at 2fish.co go to contact, then "ask a priest". I hope and pray you find peace.

          • GreatSilence

            Thank you, Father. You may continue to pray for me, even though I certainly no longer believe in that. Personal prayer is one of the many reasons why I have come to realize that faith is in fact a delusion. Thank you for your kind thoughts though. I will stay friends with all my Catholic friends, those who allow us to do so.

    • Longshanks

      As we say on reddit: upvoted.

      And good luck.

      (ps. if you want some more interesting debates, try watching the Hitchens vs. religious person X and Harris vs.religious person Y videos, those helped me a great deal in my journey)

      • GreatSilence

        Thank you. I have been watching those for years. Maybe that is where the process started. Faith, in modern times, works best if it is kept away from open debate and inquiry. Some manage to keep the lid on, others do not.

    • David Egan

      Good luck. This isn't easy and you might find that people who you expect to take this well do the opposite. But, stick with it as it's obviously the right choice.

    • GreatSilence, thanks for the comment! I'm glad you've found the site helpful and enjoyable. However, your comment seems a bit confusing and misleading. You claim:

      "I have been hanging on to my faith by my fingertips for some time now....My faith has never been tested in the manner in which this site has made possible...I am walking away from my faith, it is over."

      Yet clicking on your Disqus name reveals that you've been commenting around the Internet as a confident non-believer for over three years on sites like ExChristian.net.

      Perhaps the commenters on this site helped tip you over the edge into non-belief, but we should be clear about the facts.

      • severalspeciesof

        I can't speak for GreatSilence, but in my case, I also commented a lot among 'non-believer' sites as one who didn't believe, yet at the same time I had hoped I was wrong. It was, for myself, a type of 'testing the waters', both for myself and to see the reaction. Finally I came to my senses and realized I was a non-believer, that I didn't need to 'test the waters' anymore. In my case though, I didn't come out fully even when I was at peace with my decision as I had great fear in what others would think (I'm just that way). This was sometime between 2002 and 2005 I think.

        • If you read his comments, which you can do by clicking on his Disqus name, it's clear they weren't of an exploratory nature. He was already a convinced unbeliever who sought to disprove the faith of others.

          • severalspeciesof

            That's the way my comments were for the first few years, but again, I can't speak for GreatSilence...

          • I guess so. To me, it would seem extremely implausible for someone to comment for several years as a vigilant atheist, and then someday suggest it was all a guise and that he really *was* a believer the whole time, but *now* he's decided to become an atheist, thanks to this website.

      • GreatSilence

        Hi Brandon, maybe before calling my post "disingenious" and then editing it, but retaining the "misleading", you could have asked me for an explanation. The account was a joint one, which we used in a little business a few of us ran together. The atheist comments were run by a friend of mine, using that account. He no longer bothers with comments on the internet, so I thought it would be acceptable simply to use the same account here, having changed whatever name he previously used to "Great Silence", the name I have been using for inter alia my Twitter account. But your acceptance or approval is not important, but you claim to want to be "clear on the facts", so let's do so. You really should have that passive aggression of yours seen to, it is not doing this project of yours any favors.

        • GreatSilence

          But then, all of that may in any event be rather academic. Even though I have tried to walk away these last few days, I find myself unable to do so. It feels as if I am walking away from the most beautiful part of my life, where truth and love can really be found. I am clearly going through some crisis of faith, so I am going to leave you guys to continue with these wonderful debates while I go and kickbox with my demons. I will see you all later.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi GreatSilence,
            I checked my e-mail but didn't see an e-mail from you. I would love to help you through your faith difficulties, so if you just want to e-mail me i'm confident i can help. just go to my website at 2fish.co . then go to the "contact" button, then go to the "ask a priest" button. I'll be looking for your e-mail and am confident i can help you discern the source of your doubts. In the Subject box just put "GreatSilence" Be assured of my prayers!
            Fr.Sean

          • GreatSilence

            Thanks Father, all is well. I have sent you an email in any event.

      • Brandon:

        In truth you have adopted a fraudulent equivalence between the barking madness of the "something from nothing" atheist world view, and the resplendent, comprehensive truthfulness of the Catholic world view.

        This false first principle leads, predictably, to the demolition of weak-as-a-kitten Catholic compromisers at the hands of firmly committed atheist "evangelists".

        Your site is a very important demonstration of the catastrophic inadequacy of the ridiculous notion that common ground exists between Christ and the enemies of the gospel.

        Please keep it up- we need to see the fruits of this approach.