Help! My Engineer Son turned into an atheist


#1

Hi, I need some help finding resources to help my son.
He is a junior in electrical engineering and believes that God has been used to ‘fill in the gaps’ that science couldn’t answer years ago. He believes that any theology or philosophy from even 10 years ago is irrelevant due to all the latest discoveries not being taken into account. We had a discussion about spirit, so I showed him Frank Sheed’s Theology for biginners chapter 2 on Spirit…he said the latest discoveries in brain neurology debunk his supernatural explanations for spirit…
Sooo, I need some good, ‘modern day’ scientists whose books or papers may be able to help answer his questions, or guide him through this highly scientific world and all its amazing discoveries.
Someone who can speak to his generation.
That’s a tall order.
I am desperate
I am not argumentative with him. Our discussions are very calm. And I tell him I am only trying to answer his questions/arguments against God, and I do not want to frustrate him. So far so good their, but I am not educated enough to argue his points.
please help me help my son…
paul


#2

The last 10 years, eh? Pretty convenient. :)

Take him up on his assertion. Give him the best Catholic theology and ask him to demonstrate for you how science refutes it. After all, if he loves you (or does science refute love?) he'll want you to have the same truth (or does science refute truth?) that he has. So put him to work. Maybe start with the Catechism, or the Frank Sheed book, or something by Peter Kreeft. Or some debates by William Lane Craig (not Catholic, I know).

If he can refute Aquinas using science he will go down as the greatest atheist that ever lived. I suspect it is much more likely that he is just parroting things he's heard and read.

Speaking of science, he should stop by the blog patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/ and read how one of his fellow science/math atheist geeks* just announced her conversion to Catholicism. Awkward! :)

*I too am a schience/math/engineering geek, so I just the term lovingly.


#3

He’s probably just regurgitating the atheistic beliefs espoused by most secular institutions. As well, Juniors in college are supposed to question their faith. It is a time their beliefs become their own. Encouraging him to do real research and education on his own rather than being indoctrinated into a belief system whether atheistic or even Catholic. If he steps up to the task and fully researches it, he will come to the conclusion the fullness of the faith is true. It is a great opportunity for you to do more in depth research on atheism and secular beliefs not only to discuss with your son, but to have intelligent and persuasive conversations with lapsed Catholics and other Christians.


#4

I have been an Engineer since 1984 and I firmly believe in God. Science cannot even begin to explain so many things in life and in nature. There is definitely a Supreme Being who made Heaven and Earth and everything in between.

DGB


#5

Pick out some choice sections of the Suma Theologica. Any engineer would love the straight-forward logical stuff like that.


#6

[quote="Paulmski, post:1, topic:289226"]
Sooo, I need some good, 'modern day' scientists whose books or papers may be able to help answer his questions, or guide him through this highly scientific world and all its amazing discoveries.
Someone who can speak to his generation.
That's a tall order.
I am desperate

[/quote]

I think this might possibly be the worst way to approach the situation.

Paul, the boy may have to walk his own walk, and come to God on God's timetable. As his father, you may be dead before it happens. You have to trust God and pray for him constantly, daily.

The number one thing you have to do is to put God at the center of your life. You have to make God everything in your own life. Your entire life has to revolve around God. You have to be a man of scripture, and of prayer. If you do that, you will be at peace, and that peace will be like a magnet for the boy as he encounters the trials and tribulations of life.

When the world is crashing down, he will see your calmness, and will see your peace. He will see in you joy even when the worst times hit. He will want to know how you can remain level headed, calm, even happy when things go bad, and he will scream at you in frustration, "How can you be so calm!?"

Your answer will be that it is Jesus, that without the power of Jesus working in your life - and that means the Eucharist - you would be just like everyone else, freaking out like it is the end of the world when the starter in the truck goes bad or when the right person isn't in the White House.

One day his world will come crashing down. A family member will get sick. A job will end. Someone will die. And he will turn to you. You have to first be that example of peace, of the absence of anger, and of Joy.

Unless you set that example in the boys' life, your words will ring hollow.

-Tim-


#7

[quote="TimothyH, post:6, topic:289226"]
I think this might possibly be the worst way to approach the situation.

Paul, the boy may have to walk his own walk, and come to God on God's timetable. As his father, you may be dead before it happens. You have to trust God and pray for him constantly, daily.

The number one thing you have to do is to put God at the center of your life. You have to make God everything in your own life. Your entire life has to revolve around God. You have to be a man of scripture, and of prayer. If you do that, you will be at peace, and that peace will be like a magnet for the boy as he encounters the trials and tribulations of life.

When the world is crashing down, he will see your calmness, and will see your peace. He will see in you joy even when the worst times hit. He will want to know how you can remain level headed, calm, even happy when things go bad, and he will scream at you in frustration, "How can you be so calm!?"

Your answer will be that it is Jesus, that without the power of Jesus working in your life - and that means the Eucharist - you would be just like everyone else, freaking out like it is the end of the world when the starter in the truck goes bad or when the right person isn't in the White House.

One day his world will come crashing down. A family member will get sick. A job will end. Someone will die. And he will turn to you. You have to first be that example of peace, of the absence of anger, and of Joy.

Unless you set that example in the boys' life, your words will ring hollow.

-Tim-

[/quote]

Remember that St Monica prayed for her son Augustine for 20 years before he made any moves toward God.


#8

Paul, many of the greatest minds in science held at least some sort of belief. Perhaps your son finds that the supermatural is incompatible with the hard facts he learns in class. They are not incompatible, just different from one another. Perhaps he needs to draw a line between what he learns and knows, and what he believes.


#9

See This Atheist Blogger‘s Stunning Announcement That She’s Converting to Catholicism


#10

[quote="Mathblue, post:8, topic:289226"]
Paul, many of the greatest minds in science held at least some sort of belief. Perhaps your son finds that the supermatural is incompatible with the hard facts he learns in class. They are not incompatible, just different from one another. Perhaps he needs to draw a line between what he learns and knows, and what he believes.

[/quote]

The same God who gave men the wisdom and knowledge to write the Bible also gave other men the knowledge and wisdom of science and engineering. Man may have created computers, for instance, but WHO gave man the ability to do that? (Three guesses and the first two don't count):rolleyes:


#11

Good for her, I don’t think she could cope any longer with the fact that atheism is indeed a leap of faith, and an unfortunate one at that,


#12

[quote="LegoGE1947, post:10, topic:289226"]
The same God who gave men the wisdom and knowledge to write the Bible also gave other men the knowledge and wisdom of science and engineering. Man may have created computers, for instance, but WHO gave man the ability to do that? (Three guesses and the first two don't count):rolleyes:

[/quote]

Yeah, it baffles me when some people learn about the inner workings of gods'universe via science,and think they some how have license to justify atheism with this, when the ability to question(free will) is also a gift of God, as is science.
It seems that pride is an unfortunate side effect of science, what do you think?


#13

I would say when anger animosity etc. starts to manifest in your being son always know that Gods ways and God will always be there for you.
I personally would say no more.

On a side note I can’t believe somebody said hard facts when it comes to science.
A different thread would have to point out how much evolution has become a belief system that matter manifested into a living organism that now accounts for 8.7 million different species and not one of them shows any bit of evolution happening.Or that we can not duplicate matter turning into living matter.For a different thread


#14

[quote="Paulmski, post:1, topic:289226"]
Hi, I need some help finding resources to help my son.
He is a junior in electrical engineering and believes that God has been used to 'fill in the gaps' that science couldn't answer years ago. He believes that any theology or philosophy from even 10 years ago is irrelevant due to all the latest discoveries not being taken into account. We had a discussion about spirit, so I showed him Frank Sheed's Theology for biginners chapter 2 on Spirit....he said the latest discoveries in brain neurology debunk his supernatural explanations for spirit.....
Sooo, I need some good, 'modern day' scientists whose books or papers may be able to help answer his questions, or guide him through this highly scientific world and all its amazing discoveries.
Someone who can speak to his generation.
That's a tall order.
I am desperate
I am not argumentative with him. Our discussions are very calm. And I tell him I am only trying to answer his questions/arguments against God, and I do not want to frustrate him. So far so good their, but I am not educated enough to argue his points.
please help me help my son..
paul

[/quote]

Get your son (and yourself so you can discuss it) a copy of "New Proofs for the Existence of GOD - Contributions of Contemporary Physics" by Dr. Robert J. Spitzer.
(amazon.com/New-Proofs-Existence-God-Contributions/dp/0802863833/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340591376&sr=8-1&keywords=new+proofs+for+the+existence+of+god+contributions+of+contemporary+physics+and+philosophy)
He may have to study up on physics and math a little if he wants to object.

Also, present some scientists that have a strong faith or that have converted from athiesm such as Dr. Francis Collins who headed the Human Genome project, Max Planck, the father of quantum physics theory. There are many more:
godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html. But don't take the easy way out by pointing him at this web page, instead, study it and talk to him about it with patience and love. After all, the vast majority of scientists through the ages have been Christians.


#15

[quote="TimothyH, post:6, topic:289226"]
I think this might possibly be the worst way to approach the situation.

Paul, the boy may have to walk his own walk, and come to God on God's timetable. As his father, you may be dead before it happens. You have to trust God and pray for him constantly, daily.

The number one thing you have to do is to put God at the center of your life. You have to make God everything in your own life. Your entire life has to revolve around God. You have to be a man of scripture, and of prayer. If you do that, you will be at peace, and that peace will be like a magnet for the boy as he encounters the trials and tribulations of life.

When the world is crashing down, he will see your calmness, and will see your peace. He will see in you joy even when the worst times hit. He will want to know how you can remain level headed, calm, even happy when things go bad, and he will scream at you in frustration, "How can you be so calm!?"

Your answer will be that it is Jesus, that without the power of Jesus working in your life - and that means the Eucharist - you would be just like everyone else, freaking out like it is the end of the world when the starter in the truck goes bad or when the right person isn't in the White House.

One day his world will come crashing down. A family member will get sick. A job will end. Someone will die. And he will turn to you. You have to first be that example of peace, of the absence of anger, and of Joy.

Unless you set that example in the boys' life, your words will ring hollow.

-Tim-

[/quote]

:thumbsup:

Focusing on developing a positive personal relationship with God is not only the best thing for your own soul, but the love you have for Christ will just naturally spill over onto the people who are in your life!

As a 25 year old Electrical Engineering graduate who recently returned to the faith I can also offer this advice for when you are talking to your son:

I would avoid getting into discussions about how God relates to brain neurology since these arguments are convoluted and not particularly relevant to personal morality (which is what loving God is all about). Instead, I would talk to your son about the beauty of objective morality and how logical Catholic views on pre-marital sex, abortion, and contraception are (especially when compared to the murky and convoluted moral arguments that secular society puts forth). As an engineer, your son should be able to appreciate the elegant simplicity and clarity that Catholicism offers in stark contrast to the weak-kneed arguments that the other side of the table puts forward. At the end of the day, Catholicism offers a logical formula for how to live a perfect life (and no engineer can argue with logic! :D ).

It might take a while for him to come around, but don't give up and remember to pray, pray, pray!


#16

[quote="Paulmski, post:1, topic:289226"]
Hi, I need some help finding resources to help my son.
He is a junior in electrical engineering and believes that God has been used to 'fill in the gaps' that science couldn't answer years ago.

[/quote]

If this were my kid, I would ask for proof for that statement using only the scientific method or a philosophy no more than 10 years old. Can he fill in the gaps that science hasn't answered now?

He believes that any theology or philosophy from even 10 years ago is irrelevant due to all the latest discoveries not being taken into account.

Wow, the use of syllogisms is irrelevant? Again, I would ask for proof of the above statement, again using only the scientific method or a philosophy no more than 10 years old. (Hint: Always make him use his own criteria for proving statements to prove his own statements.)

We had a discussion about spirit, so I showed him Frank Sheed's Theology for biginners chapter 2 on Spirit....he said the latest discoveries in brain neurology debunk his supernatural explanations for spirit.....
Sooo, I need some good, 'modern day' scientists whose books or papers may be able to help answer his questions, or guide him through this highly scientific world and all its amazing discoveries.
Someone who can speak to his generation.
That's a tall order.
I am desperate
I am not argumentative with him. Our discussions are very calm. And I tell him I am only trying to answer his questions/arguments against God, and I do not want to frustrate him. So far so good their, but I am not educated enough to argue his points.
please help me help my son..
paul

I suggest arming yourself by getting a copy of Peter Kreeft's Handbook of Christian Apologetics and paying very close attention to chapter 2: "Faith and Reason." You also might be interested in chapter 3: "Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God."

I also asked my daughter, who just graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering about this and she said, "There is much science hasn't figured out yet. And even if he thinks science has figured it out, later discoveries sometimes prove earlier theories wrong. Science isn't perfect, and every scientist should know that. Scientific knowledge is incomplete, and there is so much to know that it will probably never be complete. Science and religion are not incompatible since both are a quest for the truth."

And this should help: She says she saw something on a blog that scientists have simulated a spiritual experience by stimulating areas of the brain. This, however, does not disprove God's existence. She believes it strengthens the argument for the existence of God since He has wired our brains to be receptive to Him. All it means is that we know better how God reveals Himself to us. Can science explain* why* our brains should be wired in this manner?


#17

Spot on! I especially like the part about not being able to use any philosophical method of reasoning more than 10 years old. :bigyikes:

And this should help: She says she saw something on a blog that scientists have simulated a spiritual experience by stimulating areas of the brain. This, however, does not disprove God’s existence. She believes it strengthens the argument for the existence of God since He has wired our brains to be receptive to Him. All it means is that we know better how God reveals Himself to us. Can science explain* why* our brains should be wired in this manner?

Indeed! If we are products of evolution and nothing else, what is the evolutionary advantage of being wired to believe things that are not true? What is the evolutionary advantage of pouring time, treasure and talent into something that is not true? What is the evolutionary advantage of living a life based on a lie?

And when he offers the “usual suspect” theories, require proof that the theories are correct. Because otherwise he is just making statements based on…cough, cough…faith!


#18

If he’s open to some reading on the topic, encourage him to read Edward Feser’s Aquinas. It is a very dry and academic take on the issue of God’s existence, the soul, the natural law, etc., which also refutes some errors of scientism and atheism. For a more polemically anti-atheist take, Feser’s The Last Superstition would do.

The lattermost book converted me when I was a recalcitrant sinner. I simply read it, concluded that it contained everything I had needed to know, and went to Mass the next day. Haven’t missed it since, except once or twice due to illness. That was almost a year ago.


#19

Hi,

I’m probably a weird sort of person to answer your question because I’m a physicist as well as an athiest/agnostic type.

First of all, I would strongly discourage you from trying to use the scientific literature to support any proofs of God (or the non-existance of God). You just won’t find anything in the reputable literature that says anything about the matter at all. Science works by the assumption of scientific materialism; in other words, when reputable scientists do science, they set aside their religious beliefs and say ‘lets do science as though the natural world is the only thing there is, and that it is fully understandable’. This is because one of the main goals of science is to increase our knowledge of the natural world. Progress would be significantly hampered if every time we came up against something that we don’t understand, we said ‘Oh, that must be God’. Also, using science-based evidence of God is bad for theism, because the argument for theism would be damaged every time science comes up with a natural world explanation for something that prevously thought to be due to divine intervention. I think this is what is happening in your discussions with your son.

Anyway, because science says nothing whatsoever on the subject of whether or not there is a God, scientists hold all sorts of positions on the subject. Like most of the general population, most of them believe in some sort of God and practice some organized religion, though some are also athiests or agnostics like myself.

As to resources you and your son might find helpful:

The Catholic Encyclopedia
newadvent.org/cathen/

As you may know already, this is a very scholarly, well-written description of many philosophical positions. I find the entries on atheism, materialism, etc. very helpful. I always used to describe myself as an atheist, but after reading many entries in this encyclopedia, I came to realize that I’m probably more of an agnostic or (maybe) even a Deist.

Mere Christianity
C. S. Lewis

This seems to be the first book most people recommend for atheists to read. I actually just finished reading it. I found it very thought-provoking, though not fully convincing.

A Philosophy of Religion course from his university

These courses generally don’t focus on a particular religion, but on arguments for the existance or non-existance of God based only on pure reason and logic. I took a course like this as an undergrad, and while it didn’t change my opinion, I did come away with the idea that both atheism and theism are logically tenable ideas.

It’s possible that any of these resources might hurt your case more than help. But in my case, I can say that they have ever so slightly shifted my position from one of hard atheism to one that allows for the possibility of a kind of God.

I do think, however, that if he returns to the Catholic faith, his faith will be much stronger because of this period of athiestic thought. A lot of people who are born into a religion never subject it to critical thought, which is probably a very weak sort of faith. Someone who goes from Catholicism to Athiesm and back to Catholicism has probably given their faith a tremendous amount of in depth thought and will be fully convinced in its truth.


#20

Point out to him that science by its own definition has a limited say about the universe as it is limited by our 5 senses, 3 dimension and time, as well as flawed and limited human reasoning. Those that exclude the supernatural have painted themselves into a corner.


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