"Freethinkers" question

I have a good friend that lives in another city with whom I keep in frequent contact with (we both are in the same business). The other day when I spoke with him he was all excited about something that he had discovered by accident (???) that he felt was really going to change his life. Sadly it was freethinkers, of which I had never heard of before until I spoke with him. To go on, I was basically overwhelmed by his mini sneak attack on Catholicism and Christianity in general. He started rattling off all these “facts” that he had gathered (he is a very intelligent person) as to proof that Jesus didn’t actually exist as a person, that the flood and Noah were but a myth, and stuff about science and evolution. As I mentioned I was somewhat overwhelmed and a bit taken back. I was also somewhat embarrassed as I couldn’t find the right words to counter his points but again I was caught somewhat off guard. My personal belief is that he is angry and frustrated as he has had some setbacks personally and financially which have made him become bitter and this is his way of lashing out or something. Having known him for years I also believe that he is somewhat unhappy with his career choice and feels like he was lead into it by his parents.

So my question is (sorry for the long story) is there anything that you could recommend for me to read regarding this “freethinkers” and how their thinking is actually flawed? I’m not looking to counter him point by point for the sake of arguing but I would like to be a little more knowledgeable the next time i speak with him and as I mentioned he is a very intelligent man and his points were hard for me to respond to when I was put on the spot.

Will you also pray with me for my friend that this does not destroy his life.

Thanks,

K

[quote=k5thbeatle]I have a good friend that lives in another city with whom I keep in frequent contact with (we both are in the same business). The other day when I spoke with him he was all excited about something that he had discovered by accident (???) that he felt was really going to change his life. Sadly it was freethinkers, of which I had never heard of before until I spoke with him. To go on, I was basically overwhelmed by his mini sneak attack on Catholicism and Christianity in general. He started rattling off all these “facts” that he had gathered (he is a very intelligent person) as to proof that Jesus didn’t actually exist as a person, that the flood and Noah were but a myth, and stuff about science and evolution. As I mentioned I was somewhat overwhelmed and a bit taken back. I was also somewhat embarrassed as I couldn’t find the right words to counter his points but again I was caught somewhat off guard. My personal belief is that he is angry and frustrated as he has had some setbacks personally and financially which have made him become bitter and this is his way of lashing out or something. Having known him for years I also believe that he is somewhat unhappy with his career choice and feels like he was lead into it by his parents.

So my question is (sorry for the long story) is there anything that you could recommend for me to read regarding this “freethinkers” and how their thinking is actually flawed? I’m not looking to counter him point by point for the sake of arguing but I would like to be a little more knowledgeable the next time i speak with him and as I mentioned he is a very intelligent man and his points were hard for me to respond to when I was put on the spot.

Will you also pray with me for my friend that this does not destroy his life.

Thanks,

K
[/quote]

Your friend sounds like a skeptic and they’re tough, in fact for me tougher than dealing with anti-Catholic Protestants. There are plenty of on-line resources to educate yourself in this regard, but one of my favorite retorts to one of these kinds of attacks is to ask the person making the claims to prove what they’re saying as well. Faith and reason need not and in fact don’t conflict, and the Church teaches that some things are beyond reason.

Keep in mind God-less philosophies have to account for the defective humanisms in the last century that killed more people than all the previous centuires combined. When man becomes the measure of right and wrong, good and evil instead of a divinely inspired revelation, bad things happen. It’s been proven.

Anyone have any good resources out there to combat the modern day skeptic ? I could use some as well.

from Liberalism is a Sin

Chapter 14 Liberalism and Free-Thought

[quote=k5thbeatle]So my question is (sorry for the long story) is there anything that you could recommend for me to read regarding this “freethinkers” and how their thinking is actually flawed?
[/quote]

“Freethinker” is a misnomer. A Freethinker isn’t free, for example, to think revealed religion is true. “Freethinker” really means “think this particular way or be lumped into the unattractive category of slavethinker.”

For examples of flaws, you mentioned a big one yourself. I quote you:

[quote=k5thbeatle]He started rattling off all these “facts” that he had gathered (he is a very intelligent person) as to proof that Jesus didn’t actually exist as a person…
[/quote]

– Mark L. Chance.

[quote=mlchance]“Freethinker” is a misnomer. A Freethinker isn’t free, for example, to think revealed religion is true. “Freethinker” really means “think this particular way or be lumped into the unattractive category of slavethinker.”

For examples of flaws, you mentioned a big one yourself. I quote you:

– Mark L. Chance.
[/quote]

Yes, thank you and I agree totally, but to answer my question do you have any resource I may turn to for reference on this subject?

ken

[quote=k5thbeatle]Yes, thank you and I agree totally, but to answer my question do you have any resource I may turn to for reference on this subject?
[/quote]

Start with Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Ronald Tacelli is also an outstanding author. The Chadwicks (Henry and Owen) are exceptional historians. So is Kenneth LaTourette (I think I spelled that last name correctly). Stanley Jaki is exceptional on both the history of Christianity and the history of science.

– Mark L. Chance.

I would recommend Peter Kreeft’s “Handbook of Christian Apologetics”. Also, his website, peterkreeft.com, has some excellent short essays regarding the proofs for the existence of God, etc.

A number of points to keep in mind: first, reason and faith are NOT in opposition. They are complementary. Never cede this fact.

Secondly, all atheist sytems that disparage faith of any kind have a huge gaping hole in their logic: you can’t use logic to prove that logic is logical (that would be a fallacy). One must have FAITH in logic (which is certainly a good thing) to follow it.

Peter Kreeft is excellent—his footnotes in his “A Summa of the Summa” is very informative.

I don’t have any resources I can point you to, but I can give you a bit of advice.

The next time someone catches you off guard like that, smile sweetly and say, “You’ve obviously taken a lot of time to think about this. Since you’re such a good friend, I know you’ll allow me the courtesy of having a lot of time to think about it too.”

Promise to get back to him, then change the subject.

[quote=Kay Cee]I don’t have any resources I can point you to, but I can give you a bit of advice.

The next time someone catches you off guard like that, smile sweetly and say, “You’ve obviously taken a lot of time to think about this. Since you’re such a good friend, I know you’ll allow me the courtesy of having a lot of time to think about it too.”

Promise to get back to him, then change the subject.
[/quote]

Thanks again.

K5th,

This may come as a shock, but if you are fairly strong and knowledgeable in your faith I would recommend Dan Barker’s Losing Faith In Faith. Barker used to be a fundamentalist evangelist and is now an atheist evangelist, working for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. There are very few books that I can go through paragraph by paragraph and refute, but this is one of them. My atheist uncle gave me a copy and it strengthened my faith in Christianity by showing me what a bunch of pathetic intellectual wannabes the “freethinkers” are. (For example, one chapter ends with the line “Ad hominem arguments are the last gasp of the losing side.” The next chapter, titled “Preachers I Have Known,” is one long ad hominem attack.) If possible, I would try to get a used copy so as not to send the man any royalty money.

  • Liberian

Peter Kreeft has already been mention, but I will second the recommendation. Do check out his website (lots of free essays etc that are very helpful and easy to understand).

A book that hasn’t been mentioned yet is called “Case For Christ” written by Lee Strobel. Mr.Strobel is a journalist who takes a very logical approach to finding out if Jesus is who he says he is. Considering he started out as a non-believer and now believes, I’d say he found some pretty convincing evidence.

The only thing I was disappointed with is that he stopped just short of the end goal… Catholicism… but overall a very good book for skeptics.

Malia

Thanks again all, I’m definitely going to check out some of these books. I am saddened by my friends change but I am also angry at the same time. Does this make sense? I spoke with him only briefly this week-end and his one main point that he “draws like a gun” and keeps coming back to is that other than the bible there is no other historical record of Jesus.

I will definitely get some of these books and of course continue to pray for my friend.

[quote=k5thbeatle]Thanks again all, I’m definitely going to check out some of these books. I am saddened by my friends change but I am also angry at the same time. Does this make sense? I spoke with him only briefly this week-end and his one main point that he “draws like a gun” and keeps coming back to is that other than the bible there is no other historical record of Jesus.
[/quote]

I believe that this is not true Jesus is mentioned briefly in an early history by a Jew called Flavius Josephus and I think in at least one other independent source. Josephus wrote during the times both before and after the death of Jesus.

Non biblical accounts of
New Testament events and/or people

[quote=k5thbeatle]I spoke with him only briefly this week-end and his one main point that he “draws like a gun” and keeps coming back to is that other than the bible there is no other historical record of Jesus.
[/quote]

Even if that were true, so? It is a non-point. Consider: Did you know that if you prejudicially rule out the historical documents that mention Julius Caesar, there are no written records of his life?

– Mark L. Chance.

Just as a follow-up: I spoke with my friend and i can really see that this is all just a response in anger. He is struggling financially and is frustrated and angry and it became even more clear that he is just “lashing out and rebelling” because of this. Thanks all for the resources.

Please pray with me for my friend.

I don’t know anything about the organization, but I think the concept of “freethinking” in itself is not free.

In a quick Google search, I glanced at a website that made the connection of a belief-less system.

There is a lot of therapeutical value in that sort of thing, even if not the flavor they are pushing. Luckily I got the idea from a person who was at least sensitive to Christianity, having been an Anglican preacher in the past.

The idea is that a belief system, if relied on as a “security blanket” is in itself an “image” of God, to which if we cling, we are still clinging so we are not truly “free” the way Christ has us free.

For example, Paul says that for him all things are lawful, but not all are beneficial. Jesus frequently said things that people thought you “just couldn’t say.”

The allegedly idolatrous clinging to certain beliefs causes mental anxiety, particularly in the areas of what to do about personal interactions and how do we police each other.

Actually I see similarities between Christian Contemplation and the best parts of the “no religion” lectures I’ve heard. The idea is you achieve interior silence, so that you can meet the moment head on and not have “baggage” you’re tied to and react. This is also I believe a common way of looking at things among some zen koans, where a student who does the wrong thing is praised over one who moves immediately but does something useful.

The key here, I think, is that to be led by the Holy Spirit you have to get past the literal interpretations of the Bible and the cumbersome aspects of having to try to discover Truth from rehashing words and teachings at any given time, causing hesitation and anxiety especially in a situation where immediate action is called for.

What the “freethinkers” probably don’t tell you, and that I do believe considering I believe in both the kataphatic (trying to discover what God is and what He would have us do) and the apophatic (mystical tradition which acknowledge comlete unknowing of the divine because by definition if we know it, then it can’t really be a “complete” image of God but a partial one we honor) of the Church I don’t see this as a particular problem.

The “freethinkers” can learn to reduce anxiety, but they coiuld be missing one crucial part that the mystical aspects of Catholicism could not only help them with, but improve them. (Hint Hint, Holy Father, have you heard my cry yet via my email to feed this wonderful half of Church tradition to the active lives more?) By denying our selves which are built on societal interaction built upon our original sin, we learn to rely on God and lose emotional anxiety. By studying Church teachings and receiving the sacraments, we actually conform our minds and hearts into that of Christ, so that the laws become written on our heart and are available for immediate use without having to consciously think of them and go through intellectual exercise.

Therefore, my first reaction is not that these people are evil, but that they have attached themselves to a partial truth.

If Catholics were better informed about mysticism, contemplative prayer, and the spiritual journey, we could help these people embrace their own beliefs while maybe helping inject some of our own.

This type of emotional freedom is only a shadow of the freedom that Christ brought us, but again since western religion is so geared toward the kataphatic tradition, which involves behavior and tradition and dogma, those who seek spiritual transformation often see theological arguments instead of apparent peace – because they do not see the true peace that spiritual seekers have because they are all in the monesteries.

Vatican II said holiness is for everyone, and I love to spread the word about contemplative prayer. We can have all the peace the freethinkers wish to find, and more, but people don’t know that so some of them turn to eastern religions, looking for methods of transformation other than academic ones which don’t work of the pharisees would not have been so often at fault.

Alan

Oh yeah, the stuff about Jesus not existing and all that, if they were truly free thinkers they would have no opinion on it, and would neither support nor refute the Church on them because if they believe Jesus did not exist and the flood was a hoax and everything then guess what? They have just defined doctrine and ceased to be freethinkers.

Give your friend a thread on this forum or my email address alansiegman@yahoo.com (make sure CAF is in title so I don’t think it’s SPAM, and I would gladly help you find out what he’s really up to and work with you both. I have listened to many hours of lectures that compare eastern and western religions, and how the “non-thinking” parts are actually completely congruent with Jesus.

In short, your friend is likely trying to find his own way to Jesus. Unfortunately, many Catholics do that (is he Catholic btw, not that it really matters at this point) because they don’t see freedom in Catholicism, but an ever growing mountain of rules, most of them so complicated and vague, that if they are “observant” at all they just kind of walk throgh the motions. That is probably the impression your friend has of dogmatic religions, and it may not be completely inaccurate.

Like I said, I’d love to compare notes by PM, email, of thread. This stuff is right up my alley, if not in my expertise than at least in my enthusiasm. I do not weep for your friend, at least not yet, because he may honestly be seeking enlightment and you and I might help him find it, even as he helps us find it as well. (“Enlightenment” being non-Catholic code word for “Divine Union”)

Alan

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