Reasons this man left the Church

Hello, CAF!

I know I can always turn here when I have questions to ask.
I’ve been in a discussion with a fine man who had turned to Atheism after he had attended a Catholic college. However, he left because there were some big questions he was asking and wasn’t receiving the clearest of answers. I felt that some of the questions were fairly complex, so I thought I’d ask here. I’ll make a list of his questions. I’d like to note that I hope you will all answer these with as much love as you answer everything else as these were the direct reasons that he left the faith.

  1. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, does He have the ability to destroy himself? Would He? Why would He not?

  2. God creates us in His image. We are easily flawed. Is God then not flawed?

  3. If we are flawed, why must we seek the constant forgiveness from the one who wrongly created us?

  4. Did Christ REALLY suffer? He knew his death would lead to paradise. Don’t you think we all would openly accept a couple of days of suffering and death to live in Heaven? So… why are Christians so enamored with his Passion?

  5. Why is the Bible the essence of life? There have been so many interpretations, the book is now moot.

I also think a large overtone to his arguments was that he simply didn’t see God as a loving creature, only as a some kind of Greek Myth; holding a golden scepter in hand to banish those he disliked to hell. He argued free will is flawed because God knew that we would turn. I did argue that it’s up to us to use the free will morally. God wants us to love him, he would never force us to love him. He accepted that. So, any help with these questions would be incredible.

God Bless!

Sounds like he also has one of those restless type of minds that feels almost compelled to pose itself frustrating paradoxes and then be tormented by them. Almost as if he has to prove the entire workings of the universe (and God) to himself before he can live within said universe, or accept God.

This is not a peaceful type of mind to have. It is an anxious mind. I don’t know for sure what advice to give, I’m just observing. I have an anxious type of mind myself and I have trained myself not to get in that state where I seize on an unanswerable question and worry it like a pit bull. I have more peace of mind when I just admit that some of it’s above my pay grade.

This approach may or may not work for your friend. You might try asking him what drives this urge, what are the undercurrents behind the need to resolve everything in one’s mind right now, right this minute.

I will remember you and your friend in my prayers throughout Holy Week.


Grace & Peace!

Keyeotee, it’s a shame that your friend didn’t wrestle a little more, and longer, with these questions. They certainly don’t have “easy” answers, but their real difficulty is that they already presume a frame of reference that is largely incompatible with a faithful response. That is, in some way, the question assumes it already knows the answer. What’s needed to properly respond is a shift in perspective.

Take the first question (which in some way relates to all the others)–the emphasis is on God’s omniscience and omnipotence: power seen from a very human perspective. But we know that Jesus told us what power really is: loving service. And we know that God is love: his omnipotence flows from the depths of his love which is identical to his being. And the nature of love, as demonstrated by Jesus in the Incarnation, but particularly on the cross, is a self-emptying on behalf of the beloved. In the economy of the Trinity, we see the Father radically and completely emptying himself for the Son and the Son returning what he has received (the Father’s complete gift of himself!) to the Father in such a way that this mutual and complete self-giving and self-emptying is its own thing which shares completely in the nature of both Father and Son. (!)

We know, too, that the Son gives himself completely on behalf of us sinners, who are not God and who have enslaved ourselves to death and have made death and the ability to deal death the criterion of power because we are so in thrall to it. We also know that the Son of God entered the place of abjection, rejection, sin and death for us. We know that in that place of sin and death, he made his presence known–that is, in the midst of his own apparent absence, in the wilderness of sin and death, he pitched his tent and made the desert flow with living water from his own side. We know that Jesus shows us that God is not a God of Death, but of Life, and that he offers us a way of Life that is a completely new way of being that is not death-centered or death-constructed, i.e., not the way of living that we have grown so comfortable with. But we can be empowered to live into this New Life by God’s good and life-giving grace.

So knowing all of that, asking the question, “given that God is omnipotent, can God destroy himself,” becomes absurd–it assumes a lot of things about God, about power and its relationship to destruction, that are not actually real. God trampled down death–by his own destruction, he destroyed destruction–by his own revelation of himself in the place of his own absence (sin and death), in the place of his own apparent negation, he showed himself neither absent, nor negated, nor destroyed. The value of Love was definitively asserted over the value of Death.

In the end, asking if God can destroy himself as a proof that God is truly omnipotent, is assuming that destruction and the ability to destroy is the ultimate power, with the ability to destroy oneself as the ultimate demonstration of one’s sovereignty. It assumes, in other words, that the true God is Death, that God as we know him in Jesus Christ is not actually God. That’s a rather big assumption, and one that is not borne out by our tradition. Moreover, the fact that Jesus Christ who was both God and Man did actually die but could not be bound by death shows that destruction has no power over God…and no part in him either.

In some way, then, the answer to the question might be, “Rephrase your question by taking into consideration that death has no part in God and is not constitutive of God’s power and omnipotence–if you can do that, then we’ll be coming closer to talking about the same God. But until you can do that, you’re positing Destruction or Death as the ultimate force in the universe, and that’s incompatible with the nature of God as scripture (particularly in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ) gives us to understand that nature. Because you’re right to reject the Death god as immoral, meaningless and absurd. But happily, the Death god is not God.”

I hope some of that made sense.

Under the Mercy,

All is Grace and Mercy! Deo Gratias!

There may be no words, from anyone on this earth, which will open his eyes and soften his heart. Our Lord Himself could not convince the majority of His followers to remain with Him. Your friend must experience things which will ultimately lead to a conversion of heart in order to restore his faith and hope in the invisible. Oh, he could read a few things, and there are almost innumerable resources which “might” help. Yet, at some level he is embittered - his heart is hardened against his own Creator. What Catholic apologists recommend and what will be most beneficial is to sacrifice yourself in prayer on his behalf. It is only the Holy Spirit who accomplishes such conversions of heart and even then, it will occur only in the Lords good time. This man may return to God only on his deathbed. Take his intention before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at adoration. Powerful, supernatural things can happen there. Consider asking Saint Monica to intercede on his behalf, as she did for two decades in the case of her son, Saint Augustine of Hippo. Although it is not quick or immediately satisfying, the solution will be found in fasting and prayer.

A book or two by Professor Peter Kreeft could also help.

Thank your for all the responses! I did give those to him in a manner that he accepted, but still had more questions. I realize that these kind of folks have difficulty accepting faith, just like we would have trouble accepting sin; it’s difficult. I will be sure to pray for him as our discussions continue. However, I’d like to share some of the extra arguments he supplied me with.

  1. You say God is love, but what kind of God deems it necessary to flood the world and commit genocide upon His own creation? That seems a God of destruction.

  2. Since God loves us and is omnipotent, why the need to have His Son sacrificed? Why can’t God just snap His fingers and make it a loving world rather than sending His Son to a brutal and horrific death? What seems more loving to you?

  3. If God gives us free will, out of love, then why the need for damnation? Obviously, he does not want us to freely accept him because if we don’t we are damned to eternal punishment. No one would want that, so therefore your God does force people to worship Him.

  4. What was the point of fallen grace? God knew that Adam and Eve would eat of the tree. Why put the tree there at all? He KNEW they would eat from it. And, they didn’t know the right from the wrong. Therefore, he wanted them to taste of the fruit so he could yell and curse at them.

Grace & Peace!

I don’t have too much time to respond, but here are some thoughts. Not answers, just thoughts…

Your friend chose a very complex story (Noah and the Flood) to take issue with. As Christians, we need to consider the story from the point of view of the Resurrection–as Origen teaches us, if we find that our interpretation of scripture is leading us to an understanding of God which is contrary to the definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ, then we are interpreting incorrectly. That means, in part, that references to God’s violence in the past must be seen through a Christological lens.

How do we do that?

First, all of Scripture is an attempt to understand and illustrate what God is doing in the world. What we notice on a cursory look at the story of Noah is this sequence of events: all of creation is being ransacked by human violence, the flood is sent as a means by which the world can be renewed and refreshed, God promises never to use violence to renew the world. What’s interesting about this bare-bones movement is that it appears as if the God before the flood is not quite the same God as the one after the flood–the God who promises not to resort to violence appears different from the God who swears to destroy the world by water. This appears to indicate that what we have here is the community behind the Biblical text wrestling with something very special about God’s revelation of himself to the world and trying to understand it in the terms that are available to them. The Rev. Paul Neuchterlein (a Lutheran pastor) contextualizes this process of understanding by referring it to “the movement out from idolatry.” Here are some of his thoughts (

…if a central theme of Scripture itself is the movement out from idolatry, dare we think that God’s people did so without continuing to make mistakes? Obviously, they were aware of many of those lapses, relating stories of God’s people lapsing back into idolatry. But couldn’t the authors of these stories still have fallen into persisting forms of idolatry without being aware of it?

Christians need to ask the same question of themselves. Yes, we have received the revelation of the true God in Jesus Christ. But has that made us immune from continual lapses back into idolatry? Girard has been bold at times to call Christian history a “colossal failure” …] with the violence we have continued to justify in God’s name.

This can seem treacherous ground to tread since we might fall into a complete skepticism, beginning to doubt every experience of God that we have. But this is precisely why the incarnation is so important to the Christian faith, namely, that in the faith of Jesus Christ we have a measure for true faith in the true God. And an evangelical anthropology, rooted in the Christian revelation, can be a further measure by helping us to better understand the nature and shape of our inclinations to idolatry: we tend to create gods that mask our human violence against others behind a cloud of the sacred. Specifically, we learn to identify our sacred violence as pointing to idolatry. The true God in Jesus Christ suffers our violence – and never demands it.

So how does such an approach assess the Hebrew Scriptures? It must be forthright about the continuing idolatry present in the text. But it is also on the alert for the amazing insights into idolatry. Especially against the backdrop of archaic religion, the story of God’s chosen people of Israel on the way out of idolatry is the most remarkable story of human history. In fact, it is the only real story of history. Everything else is about the eternal return to idolatry. Only in the people of Israel does one begin to see a definite movement out from the eternal return.

This flood text is a case in point. It may be idolatrous in seeing the flood itself as an act of divine violence, but it is remarkable in its conclusion with a covenant from God never again to use such violence. Such a covenant helps pave the way for a Messiah who would suffer violence rather than ever resorting to it.

The church, of course, draws parallels between the flood and Baptism, the ark and the church. At the same link as that posted above, you can find James Alison’s meditations on a Christological re-reading of the Noah story using I Peter 3 as a jumping off point. (Alison is a Domincan priest.) The salient points, though, are these: Baptism is an immersion into the death of Christ. For the parallelism between Baptism and the flood to actually work completely, we have to re-imagine the story as if the ark went under the flood and not over it. That is, we have to imagine that Noah and his family are the victim of an act of human social violence (imagined in the story as the flood). I highly suggest reading through the commentary at the link above.

The point in all of this is: the “‘sacred’ violence of God” is a remnant of an idolatrous past out of which we are moving thanks to God’s good grace. These remnants are part of our scriptures because our scriptures record our struggle to understand the new creation into which God is leading us and empowering us to participate.

That may not satisfy your friend, but there it is. Tell him to come back to church and he may start to understand what’s going on here more clearly. :wink:

That’s all I can write right now. Hope it helps!

Under the Mercy,

All is Grace and Mercy! Deo Gratias!

I’m not sure you can reach someone who wants to tie you up into knots with arguments by simply trying to answer his arguments. He can always say, What about this? What about that?
I remember when I had stacks and stacks of books and every new book opened more objections and questions.
If that person were my friend, I think I would tell him this: That God loves him and will give him a sufficient amount of grace to believe in Him if he will accept the dare that God offers and approach Him on his knees. If he said he had to have answers, I’d repeat: Try getting on your knees. The priest who brought me into church despite my intellectualizing of my doubts said: “You learn your faith on your knees.”

Genocide is an act of murder, and murder is the unjust taking of an innocent life. First of all, God does not commit murder. God is the Lord of Life and has complete control of life and death. Whether God allows someone to drown at the age of 30 or allows him to die of old age in his bed, it’s really all the same.

Secondly, we are born into this world but are not created for it. It is by death that we are transferred from this world to eternal life. God desires us to spend eternal life with him where there is peace and joy, but he also allows us to reject him and spend eternity in hell. I’ll say more about this in a bit. Anyway, in the big picture, God uses death as a means of transportation.

Thirdly, the people in the flood who perished were wicked, whereas God spared the innocent. Once again, the Great Flood does not match the definition of genocide (i.e., there was no unjust killing of the innocent).

  1. Since God loves us and is omnipotent, why the need to have His Son sacrificed? Why can’t God just snap His fingers and make it a loving world rather than sending His Son to a brutal and horrific death? What seems more loving to you?

True love demands that the beloved has the freedom to accept or reject the lover. God, being True Love, does not violate our freewill. Ask your friend to clearly describe how his “God snapping his finger” theory would work, and somewhere along the way human freedom will be subverted.

God is also Life. Sin is a rejection of God and therefore a rejection of life. The only realistic consequence of a rejection of life is death. This is why the Bible says that the wages of sin is death.

God is also Justice. Because of this, God cannot ignore sin, but has to do something about it. Justice requires proper restitution. If someone stole $30 from you but only returned $5 of it, justice would not prevail.

As humans, we are capable of sinning against the perfect dignity of God, but we are also incapable of providing a perfect restitution. But justice allows someone else to make the restitution on behalf of the offender. Going back to my example, if the thief only returned $5 to you but his brother gave you an additional $25, then there would be a proper restitution of the theft of $30.

Jesus is God but he also became human in order to be our brother and representative. He died on the cross to pay the deadly wage of sin on our behalf. Moreover, being God, his action is able to make a perfect restitution to satisfy perfect justice.

Because the passion and death of Jesus was so horrific, it shows how great his love is for us. It also shows us how horrific sin really is. Sin tempts us because it often seems to be alluring. The poison of sin is masked by the veil of sensual pleasure. The passion and death of Christ shows the kind of spiritual brutality that we are inflicting upon our souls when we choose to sin.

  1. If God gives us free will, out of love, then why the need for damnation? Obviously, he does not want us to freely accept him because if we don’t we are damned to eternal punishment. No one would want that, so therefore your God does force people to worship Him.

No one is forced to worship God. If that were true, there would be no atheists, pagans, etc. We live in a temporal world where we can make decisions and change or minds. Once we die we enter into an eternal realm where are decisions become permanent. We were created to exist in the peace and love of God, and those in heaven enjoy this. Those who reject God will never find the fulfillment of their creation, and likewise reject all that God is. Whereas heaven is true love, hell is hatred and narcissism. Whereas heaven is peace, hell is strife. Whereas heaven is joy, hell is bitterness. This is what makes hell a place of torment.

People who want hell to be a place of love, peace & joy are basically saying that they want to have nothing to do with God, but at the same time want to enjoy the various things that God is. Just as True Love requires that the beloved have the freedom to accept or reject the lover, this freedom must include the capacity to do this in a manner that is total. Hell is the total rejection of God, and therefore those in hell experience the opposite of all the goodness and virtues that find their source and perfection in God (such as love, peace, joy, etc.).

  1. What was the point of fallen grace? God knew that Adam and Eve would eat of the tree. Why put the tree there at all? He KNEW they would eat from it. And, they didn’t know the right from the wrong. Therefore, he wanted them to taste of the fruit so he could yell and curse at them.

The tree represented the choice to commit sin, which is an aspect of freewill. And Adam and Eve did know right from wrong prior to eating the fruit. It’s just a question of what manner of knowledge was at hand. Initially, right meant being obedient to God and trusting that what he revealed to them was truthful and in their best interest. Wrong meant disobeying God and failing to trust him.

The desire to eat the fruit represented the desire to experience sin for oneself and decide for oneself whether it is good or not. It also represented the desire to be like God but apart from God. And, finally, it represented a failure of trust in God and what he revealed.

In order for there not to have been such a tree in the garden, God would have to deny Adam and Eve human freedom. As I stated above, this would have been a violation of true love.

Exactly. One could spend a lifetime analyzing life and never get around to actually living it. Same with developing a relationship with God.

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