Help an atheist? Please?

Hello! I’m here because I’m an atheist who has been reading too many things I shouldn’t have been, from CS Lewis to St Aquinas to Solokowski to the Catechism, and I’m now forced to wonder about becoming Catholic.

However, my life-long stances have been empiricist, materialist, positivist, and etc. I’m a very math/science person, who could until recently only stand very difficult, math/logic-heavy analytic philosophy. I’d like to be able to intellectually justify my potential Faith, and I know there have been many throughout history who have gone down the same road. However, my upbringing was not Catholic, and so I am unfamiliar with them.

Are there any philosophically-minded folks here, who could perhaps direct me to these readings, and help me learn how these intellectual hurdles are overcome? While I’d likely convert to Catholicism before solving these dilemmas (considering they haven’t, to my knowledge, ever been solved), I’d be most grateful if I could figure this out sooner rather than later.

Thanks!

NONSENSE! Any read is a good read! :slight_smile:

Im not catholic but I see that you have become a bit of a believer already. So why dont you try visiting an actual catholic church. Attend a mass and see if you like it.

Hi Minerva,

Great to hear of your interest in the Church! The best start for a rationalist approach to Catholicism is probably St. Thomas Aquinas. His approach is based on Aristotle and natural law, and is heavy on logic. In fact, he states that only 3 things need to be taken on faith 1) the Trinity, 2) the Incarnation (of Jesus as man) and 3) the Resurrection. Everything else is derived logically.

His Summa Theologica is available on-line here newadvent.org/summa/
and is organized in a question and answer format.
Warning, it’s pretty heavy reading.

The best argument I’ve heard that bears on the empirical “provability” of Christianity is the lives of the Apostles.

All the early disciples saw Jesus perform many miracles: walking on water, healing the blind, raising the dead, and then raising Himself from the dead. The KNEW He was God because of His miracles.

When they were persecuted, all they had to do was deny Jesus in order to save themselves. Yet, they all faced hideous torture and death rather than deny Jesus. If he was just a wise man, why would they have held to his divinity when facing such ordeals?
The only logical explanation is that they faced death willingly because they had seen PROOF of His divinty, and could not be swayed.

Please come to this forum with any questions you may have. Their are many knowledgeable Catholics here.

You also should find a good, orthodox parish to go to. Be careful, not all Priest are in full agreement with Rome.

God Bless, and welcome home to the Church.

Minerva,

Owing to personal time constraints I unfortunately cannot - at this time - go into detail within the context of the forum; however, if you wish to send me a private message with some of your questions, I will endeavor to answer them at my earliest opportunity.

In the interim I hope that some of my brothers and sisters in the forum can assuage your concerns, especially those who - like myself - once embraced an atheistic philosophy.

Hello! Thanks for replying.

I tried attending a couple of Masses; they sort of freak me out a little bit, I’ll admit. I’ve always been just short of violently opposed to religion; my nickname for a time was, “Richard Dawkins’ Daughter”, as terrible as that may be. I’m trying, though, and I’m sure it won’t be a problem to get used to.

However, I could not simply convert to a religion, “because I like it,” as that would be, for the framework my mind is based upon, dishonest and even blasphemous – Truth is my religion; if there is a truth to religion, I am forced to accept it, whether or not I find it pleasing.

And so, I’m far more interested in the intellectual (philosophical? apologetic?) possibilities of the Church; I already pretty much live a boring, mostly-sinless life, so my lifestyle wouldn’t really change all that much regardless of whether or not I actually converted. However, if I cannot justify – or at the very least, warrant – a belief, I cannot hold it. I’m sure this is understandable.

However, I cannot help but wonder if there is some brilliant text I am missing out on, something that would not merely persuade me of religion, but force me to accept it as a product of intellectual honesty. I am not looking, obviously, for solid proof, but reality is statistical :wink:

Wow! There have been new posts since I started writing my reply post. Thank you so much for replying! I’ll be sure to take your advice, and follow up with questions that I’m sure will ensue :smiley:

Thank you again!

You didnt feel the magic, huh? :smiley:

Good! It still takes a measure of faith to see the truth in Catholicism. (or any religion, for that matter)

Peter Kreeft is an excellent author in this area.

did he have something new to say, or is he just one of those folks who rephrases the ideas of Aquinas?

You can just talk to a priest, and ask them for what you need. There are some very good philosophers and theologians in every diocese. The priests know who they are, and can get you directly in touch with them.

And/or:

Here is a bibliography, from our RCIA class. It is a long list, but I am sure you have specific areas you are looking into, and I understand that one question leads to another. You can pick and choose from the list. I will add to this list a book from St. Augustine’s Press, “Morality: The Catholic View”. Also, St. Augustine’s Press is chuck full of philosophical and theological readings.

The old encyclopedia at New Advent is a good resource, somewhat outdated (it is a 100 years old or so), but doctrines remain the same.

Look for resources at the Vatican website. Especially documents from Vatican II and Papal Encyclicals from Pope’s John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Do you know how to search one particular website using google? If not, an example would be something like:

trinity site:vatican.va

That would search for anything at the Vatican’s website with the words “trinity”. It is a good way to quickly find things within the catechism. Or, if you add other terms you can narrow down to encyclicals, like so:

trinity encyclical site:vatican.va

A lot of philosophy and theology is covered in Vatican documents. Especially in those three areas: Vatican II, and the two latest Popes.

If you have any questions, you can PM me or just post something. If I know of a resource I’ll post it.

:slight_smile:

Minerva,

I think two books by Fr. Thomas Dubay might prove very helpful for you: The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet, and Faith and Certitude.

amazon.com/Evidential-Power-Beauty-Science-Theology/dp/0898707528/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208192456&sr=1-6

amazon.com/Faith-Certitude-Thomas-Dubay/dp/089870054X/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208192456&sr=1-9

(I’m happy to see you’ve discovered Msgr. Sokolowski! :thumbsup: )

Hi,
Is there a short list of specific dilemmas/questions you have trouble with? Or are you looking for something more all-encompassing?
Neil

Thanks, everyone, for the posts!

In terms of specific problems, I suppose the biggest problem is the positivist leaning of my brain. There are, as I believe someone pointed out earlier, only three things that must be taken on faith (the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection), and the rest may be reached through reason. This is a set of nice, simple premises, which is why I view theology as being similar to math.

However, the assumptions of mathematics are far more intuitive than the assumptions of Catholicism; I can see that the entity described as “one” can correlate to something in the physical world, and that it can be added to another “one” to make what we assign as “two”.

I’m having difficulty refuting the necessity to reject what does not have sufficient evidence, although I am not naive enough to need or expect any form of theological proof. I’m simply wondering where the holes in (modern) positivism (as applied to the scientific method) may allow religion to exist. I realize that there are problems with naturalism, and I can understand arriving at God through reason. But what allows Catholicism’s specific premises to stand?

I’ve been reading things by Alvin Plantinga, who seems excellent, and I’m hoping he’ll get to answering this more as I read. However, I’d love any and all other sources of overcoming these problems.

Thanks!

PS- I’m just getting my feet wet with phenomenology; has anyone here found it useful? If so, what reading/thinking would you recommend?

PPS- Terrible physics/Trinity joke: One equals three, for extremely large values of One :wink:

Positivism had a real lacking for me and for the longest time I couldn’t put my finger on it. I eventually figured it out, that being, positivism can only account for what our senses can know and understand. And really, we are quite limited to our own natures and our own environments. Certainly, science seeks to stretch out those boundaries, but even then, the tools we make, the instruments we use, are bound by our limitations. It got to the point, for me personally, where I found positivism to be very illogical. Not to discount it, because it does have it’s uses, just, every conclusion is based on limitations. Some that we impose on ourselves by not being open to possibilities.

That doesn’t mean I went searching for God to fill in the gaps. Hardly! I found belief in God to be completely outside my realm of understanding. So, I did a little self experiment, I studied Catholicism. And now I am Catholic. lol.

Doesn’t mean I believe you will find the same things. But, the experiment does reveal truths.

Minerva21,

Congrats on your search for truth.

I realize your brain right now is wired for empiricism and you feel the need to search the truth based on reason and facts. That’s simply the framework you are working from and used to. But, that’s only going to be a part of what you need to do to find God and His Son.

I did a search for truth years ago and it led me to Buddhism. I rejected everything I had been taught since childhood (as a Christian). You know what I found? There is some truth to most religions.

However, it wasn’t until some supernatural things happened and I saw the power of God that I came back to my Christian faith, because it became undeniable at that point.

My advice is to begin to pray - something simple. Begin to read the gospels, especially St. Mark because it’s simple and shorter than the others. There’s no better way than to jump in and see what you get. And when the time is right, God will show you what you need to know.

You will one day have an “A-HA!” moment and things will become more clear. I believe it will take time for you to get to this point. So, don’t give up if you don’t get the answers you were looking for in the beginning. It will come.

It’s difficult to read about Jesus, His life, His miracles, His teachings, His compassion and come away the same person. I believe you will eventually fall in love with the one named Jesus. After that, all the intellectual arguments for or against Christ will become irrelevant.

Peace…

MW

Yes, that is the same approach I took. I had to dump out of my brain every preconceived notion I had. Everything I thought, believed, I had asked myself, are they truths? And if I was uncertain, I dumped it out.

It is something like a math. It is difficult to understand some mathematics if you approach with preconceived notions. You have to let go of them or you will never “get it”. And then one day, that aha moment, and all math suddenly is easy (or easier).

I studied Eastern philosophies. Just never “joined” up with anything. It was close though, almost followed my yoga practice to Hinduism. Couldn’t get past the idea that I had to believe in Hindu gods, multiple. Otherwise, I think I would be Hindu!

Those years did teach me about letting go. Of just being. And now as a Christian, sometimes I just let go and Be with God. In the form of prayer.

Thanks, MW, RebeccaJ. I hope you’re right :slight_smile:

its ridiculous to compare math to religious doctrines. :rolleyes:

math is objective. doctrines are subjective.

I know what you are going through. Several years ago I started this same journey and am still on it today. I grew up mostly agnostic in which I believed in a higher power but didn’t know what name to associate it with. This is not an easy journey since you are interested in becoming part of the oldest and most would say purest of the Christian religions. I also rationalize my thinking like you do but the one thing I have learned over the last couple of years is you can’t intellectually justify faith to see if it will work for you. It is a leap in which one must take when ready and be open to the results presented to them. Some can perform this step quickly and others like me take years to prepare. This is something one must not rush, no matter the religion.

Take your time in your research. Read up on the church, the scripture and utilize these forums and the Catholic.com website. There are many people here that can help answer your questions. I also suggest speaking to your local Priest and if interested see about joining an RCIA class. Just remember that you will come across things you might not understand or agree upon. Know that many people can provide many varied answers to your questions but in the end you must follow your heart and when ready God’s direction.

Math is objective? You must be a scientist :wink:

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