I’m an atheist. My Catholic father thinks I’ll go to heaven


I’m a statistician (which is even better than a scientist :wink: ) and have some experience using the scientific method. The image of the rational scientist strictly following the evidence wherever it may lead is an ideal. But it is not the fact of practice. Data doesn’t speak for itself, we interpret it based on our preconceptions, which are based on the larger existing available set of data, prevailing theory, and our own dispositions. To illustrate this I want to bring up two concepts: Bayesian Epistemology and Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

In statistics there are two different general ideologies about probability, Frequentist and Bayesian. Under the Frequentist paradigm, probability is defined simply as the number of times an event occurs in a number of trials, ie if I flip a coin 1,000 times and it comes up heads 550 times, the probability of it coming up heads is 55%. Under the Bayesian paradigm, the results of experiment are used to supplement an existing theoretical probability (called a “prior”). So I might believe based on what I know about coins that they usually come up heads 50% of the time, so after getting that result in the experiment I’d weight that result against my prior expectation, and maybe say this coin has a 52% chance of coming up heads, maybe it’s kind of a trick coin or maybe it was just dumb luck that it had 550 heads. The result of experiment adds information but doesn’t supplant theory.

Frequentism is great if I can just keep flipping the coin a thousand, a million, or a billion times. Bayesianism is great if you have limited data. Unfortunately we can’t flip Jesus a thousand times and see how many times he comes back from the dead so we need a Bayesian approach, which relies heavily on our prior expectations. Now, the example I used is mathy but a Bayesian framework is starting to become used in the ‘soft sciences’ like history.

Which leads into Kuhn, whose landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is available all over the place and can be read about on wiki.
It’s the book that coined the phrase “paradigm shift”. I can’t do the book justice, it’s not that long and is mandatory reading for anyone interested in science. I introduce it here to highlight the fact that all models are wrong, but some models are useful, and that all scientists have to deal with inexplicable data, called ‘anomalies’. Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the solar system worked. It was convoluted, but it worked. Newton’s physics works even better. Einstein’s model explains some things Newton’s model just had to shrug at, but it also has anomalies like dark matter and dark energy. All this is to say that the image of rationally pursuing the data where it leads is complicated, and doesn’t tell the whole story. There are anomalies in all worldviews because humans are imperfect and lack even the capability to understand the world perfectly.

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There are anomalies in my own worldview, things I can’t explain, and there are likely some in your worldview that might be explained by God. Why is there such a thing as music? Why do we have a religious impulse? Is it really all about improved social bonding? A lot of people really got it in their heads that Jesus rose from the dead. Maybe there are things we can only apprehend when we take ourselves out of our selves and look for aid from beyond.



I’m curious why you care if you get to Heaven or not.



Our Lady of Fatima, gave three children a vision of hell and it was a burning hell. Jesus described it with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Hell is a place or state which souls are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity, and are in dreadful torments.

As our priest said this morning, there is only one way to heaven and that is through Christ and His Church.

I am not trying to scare you either but I would definitely keep seeking God. Read the New Testament. Pray and ask God to reveal Himself to you. He will. Ask the Blessed Mother to reveal her son to you. Even if you do not believe what you are doing is being heard just pray and God will answer. He will lead you. He loves you and wants you with Him for all eternity.

God bless.



I failed my final for statistics for social science last semester at college but still got a B+ in the class :stuck_out_tongue:

Can safely say I learned absolutely nothing and am more confused than before.



That is true, if the OP cares about what his father thinks on if he’s going to hell or Heaven doesn’t this suggest the OP has a belief in hell and Heaven and thus some sort of religious belief?



Your father knows you better than I do but his argument in favor of your salvation seems like wishful thinking to me because rejecting God is not the only cause of people ending up in hell. People, who through no fault of their own do not know God and thus cannot reject God, can still go to hell, if they ignore or act contrary to their conscience, as the section in the Catechism I cited earlier suggests. The Bible says, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Have you always done what you thought was the right thing to do? If so, maybe your father is correct. If not, your likelihood of avoiding hell is diminished.



He’s probably blinded by his love for you. Since you have the means to know the Catholic Faith and still an atheist, seems to me that you’re not in the state of invincible ignorance.
No one can please God without Faith.

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You might search the term “empty hell” for starters.

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I would say that to a person if I understood that further conversation would be futile. I would not be confident in that statement as being true.

God wants to start our heaven on earth today. He wants to walk through life with us and have us become a source of blessing to the people around us. Is that something you can get behind?

Let’s say that you’re a player in the Superbowl. The big day is here, everyone is out on the field. You make the decision to put on earphones, scroll through your phone, and really just ignore the entire game. Your team mates are struggling, there’s injuries and players carried off, you are falling behind in the score. There are your team mates calling you to get into the game, that they need your help, and you say, Get lost, I’m busy. The game is over and you’ve contributed nothing. Your team mates are busted up and battered, exhausted.

This describes our time on earth. We are stronger with you in it, giving it your best. Don’t be side lined another day. Be a source of blessing, a force for good. This is why we’re here. Get in it to win it. At one point you’ll look up and the game will be over and you’ll have to face that you did nothing. You will not have a reply.



Until you stop breathing and your Earthly life is over there is a chance for you. He is probably praying CONSTATNLY for you. That is a sign of true love. St. Monica prayed for her son St. Augustine for around 30 years I believe. He became a great Saint and so did she. NO ONE is beyond God’s Divine and endless Mercy. Your Dad knows that.

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Haha yes the things that can be justified with statistics… Would love to have this conversation, but some other time.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement btw. Thanks for the response.



Of course not. A person can try to understand arguments on all sides, without holding a belief in one (or any) of them. I really am here in sincerity.



So this thread got quite off track. If anyone has any references or Catholic writings along the lines of my father’s argument, please let me know. Thank you all :+1:



Sooner or later, all threads go off track. It’s the nature of threads. Personally I sometimes find the digressions more interesting than the original topics. I guess I’m just funny that way.



I can see why a child becomes sort of a person of non-belief if he were raised in a rather dysfunctional family. I knew a kid that was not introduced to God during her early childhood. She didn’t know anything about God. In grade school, she didn’t pay attention to her teachers. She thought they were just hysterical women wanting the kids to behave themselves, thus telling them about purgatory and hell. Nuns were hung up on rules and regulations.

This kid used to believe that everyone lied to kids about things, like Santa Clause, where babies really come from…and other things.So the nuns said in school was taken with a grain of salt.

It would have been easy for the girl to be an atheist. She had a hard time relating to the idea that there is an invisible God because she never got to see Him. Instead she believed in fairies and magical beings that granted wishes.

When she reached 7th grade, she changed for no apparent reason. She found out about Jesus and began to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament every day. That is an example of how Jesus may intervene on the behalf of someone who thinks they are atheistic.



Not talking about columns, listen to the linked PODCAST



Interesting your comment since I tend to find those in more challenging life situations to be (in general) more religious. I actually grew up in what I typically call a “Beaver Cleaver Family”. I have nothing but good memories of family, community, and church.

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Thank you!



You are most welcome.


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