Some general questions I've had brewing for quite a few years

Hello, everyone! Following is a list of general questions I’ve had brewing for quite a few years. This forum was suggested to me as the most appropriate place for this post, so I’m placing this here. If it’s not the right place after all, I apologize - the forums here are staggeringly enormous, and more than a little confusing to me. Eek.

I truly mean no offense whatsoever by any of this, so please let me know if I’m out of line/offensive in anything I’ve written. I’m here to find understanding.

I know I must not be understanding several things about Christianity right; after all, I was all of what, twelve? when thanks to life experiences I became an outspoken atheist. There must be an adult/more mature understanding of the questions I outline below that I missed due to my young age and also due to not having ever been around any actually adult-behaving adults in my young life. Since I’m 36 now, I’m interested in hearing the real answers.

OK, let’s jump in.

Getting Saved: As I understand it, ‘getting saved’, when boiled down to it, is in Christian belief a choice between life or death, right? It’s a decision made of free will, and if you choose to not be saved, you are choosing death. My issue with that is, though, is that that is not much of a choice; … is free will really so free when God is holding a gun to your head if you make the wrong decision?

(Later: It occurred to me that part of the reason this is so mystifying to me may be that we percieve God differently. Christians see God as transcendent, ie a seperate Being outside of this world and universe, apart from it. In Christian theology, we have a Potter and the pot, and the two are forever seperate and distinct things, the pot forever inferior to the Potter. In some other world beliefs, though, God is within and/or through everything, an immanent deity. To someone who experiences God as immanent, the idea of having to get saved seems rather absurd, since you can’t get away from God anyway (since there is nowhere and nothing that isn’t an emanation/manifestation of the dreams of/the dance of/the mind of God.) To someone who sees God as transcendent, though, with the universe delineated into two parts - God over -here- and absence-of-God over -there- - the choice would be necessary, right?)

Omniscient being creates the damned-to-be anyway, knowing their fates?: Something that ties into my question about getting saved is as follows:
Christians hold God to be absolutely 100% omniscient. God knows -absolutely everything-, full stop. However…
Why would God even create people who he knows from aeons before he even creates them are going to make the wrong choice about getting saved, and wind up in literally eternal torment in hell?
I know this sounds flip, but it’s not. … but… would a limited, mortal human being create something knowing it will suffer endless pain for eternity? (let’s ignore the sadist crazies out there, lol, I mean the ordinary, decent human being.) It seems vastly kinder to never create the wrongdoer at all…

What’s the point of prayer, especially… : I have also often wondered what the point of prayer is. God knows everything already, right? Why do people pray for anything, in that case?
I know a family where the twelve-year-old child, who was a sweetheart, died of bone cancer. All during that ordeal before he eventually died, I heard many, many people say to the sick child and his family “I will pray for you.” What specifically are you praying for? Is the person doing the praying trying to change God’s mind about the boy’s illness? If not, what is being prayed for? I am assuming here that something/some change is being asked for - if I’m wrong about that, that’d explain a lot.

One other thing that really -really- mystifies me is when I hear Christians say “bless God”. What do they mean by that?

Thank you for reading this longwinded post. I really look forward to reading replies.

Jesus said to spread the gospel in all nations so that people don’t perish in ignorance.

Perhaps God created people because He felt that the joy of the blessed mattered more to Him than the agony of the damned, even more so since the damned ignored His graces and chose destruction. This is one thought that I have. I don’t know why God did so, but the Resurrection proves the Word of God.

God does not need prayer, but He seems to prefer that humans communicate with Him. After all, He’s a person, not a pantheistic pudding, and He created humans to love Him and be loved by Him.

You’re looking at things from a human perspective. God created time, and thus God exists outside of time. That does not change the fact that we humans make real decisions with real consequences.

Expand how you think about God, and you’ll realize that it is not effective to think about whether God “knew beforehand” what would happen. For God, there is no beforehand.

God is love. God created humans with the capacity to love as well. Love necessitates free will. Free will implies that we must be capable of making real decisions with real consequences.

That is my own feeble attempt to understand the Lord’s reason for creation and its nature, but some aspects of the Lord will be mysteries until our last breath because they are beyond our earthly comprehension.

What’s the point of prayer, especially… : I have also often wondered what the point of prayer is. God knows everything already, right? Why do people pray for anything, in that case?

Prayer is a healthy spiritual exercise. It is not possible to grow close to the Lord without communicating with Him. God knows everything and knows our request before we utter it, but it would be possible for us to develop a relationship with Him without prayer simply because we must raise our thoughts and voices to Him.

There are many kinds of prayer, and not all are petitions. Many times the best prayer is for greater faith and understanding.

It all comes down to free will. If we don’t have the freedom to choose separation from God, we don’t have the freedom to choose union with God. If we can’t really choose to place ourselves at the center of our universe, any choice to recognize that God is really the center is meaningless.

To put it simply, if nobody can go to hell, we’re all puppets rather than people. God respects our dignity, and He respects our choices. It’s a great responsibility for us, when you think about it.

My understanding is that “bless God” means “praise God” but it’s not a phrase I’ve ever felt really comfortable with, myself.

God bless you for looking for Truth! :slight_smile:

–Jen

Well, this is a Catholic forum, and Catholics don’t generally use the term “getting saved.” In the Catholic understanding, salvation is a process and not a moment. Insofar as it can be spoken of as a moment, it’s identified with baptism, which must be accepted by free will but which is often applied to infants who are not yet able to choose for themselves. I’m not sure this changes the context of your question radically, except to say that it’s not as simple as making a one-time decision one way or the other. It’s about becoming a certain kind of person–or more precisely allowing God to make us that kind of person.

It’s a decision made of free will, and if you choose to not be saved, you are choosing death. My issue with that is, though, is that that is not much of a choice; … is free will really so free when God is holding a gun to your head if you make the wrong decision?

It’s not “God holding a gun to your head.” It’s simply that rejecting God is rejecting life. (Note: atheists may or may not be “rejecting God” in this sense. Many atheists may be rejecting a false idol which has been presented to them in the place of God. So don’t hear this as “atheists are rejecting life.” It all depends on why you are an atheist and what exactly is the “God” you don’t believe in.) If you persistently reject life, you come to exist in a state of “death.” Or, to use one classical Christian way of talking about it (from Athanasius), you slide back toward the nothingness from which you were made. (Christians usually speak of this as an eternal state, which makes sense if you think of an “asymptotic” graph in mathematics–the line can get infinitely closer to zero without ever quite getting there.) As to how this is possible: it’s possible because we don’t see God directly in this life. This, again, is why most Christians believe that there’s no “second chance” after death. We encounter God indirectly in this life, making a free choice for or against Him possible. We reject God when we reject the many ways in which we see Him mirrored in creation. One particularly decisive test, according to Matthew 25, is whether we act compassionately toward people in need.

(Later: It occurred to me that part of the reason this is so mystifying to me may be that we percieve God differently. Christians see God as transcendent, ie a seperate Being outside of this world and universe, apart from it. In Christian theology, we have a Potter and the pot, and the two are forever seperate and distinct things, the pot forever inferior to the Potter. In some other world beliefs, though, God is within and/or through everything, an immanent deity. To someone who experiences God as immanent, the idea of having to get saved seems rather absurd, since you can’t get away from God anyway (since there is nowhere and nothing that isn’t an emanation/manifestation of the dreams of/the dance of/the mind of God.) To someone who sees God as transcendent, though, with the universe delineated into two parts - God over -here- and absence-of-God over -there- - the choice would be necessary, right?)

Partly right. Christians believe that God is both transcendent and immanent. St. Paul quotes a Greek poet (approvingly) in Acts 17: “In him we live and move and have our being.” God is, in particular, immanent in human beings–we are created “in His image.”

So a person who rejects God is rejecting God at the level of will. It doesn’t mean that the person is “getting away from God” at the level of nature. God still fills the universe, but God’s presence is experienced as torment rather than joy. (See this discussion by the Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft, particularly the third paragraph from the end.)

Omniscient being creates the damned-to-be anyway, knowing their fates?: Something that ties into my question about getting saved is as follows:
Christians hold God to be absolutely 100% omniscient. God knows -absolutely everything-, full stop. However…
Why would God even create people who he knows from aeons before he even creates them are going to make the wrong choice about getting saved, and wind up in literally eternal torment in hell?
I know this sounds flip, but it’s not. … but… would a limited, mortal human being create something knowing it will suffer endless pain for eternity? (let’s ignore the sadist crazies out there, lol, I mean the ordinary, decent human being.) It seems vastly kinder to never create the wrongdoer at all…

Well, I would say (and a number of Catholic theologians agree with me) that we don’t know for sure that anyone will be damned, so it is possible that God has done just that. (God has certainly created people who cause a lot of misery to themselves and to others, though, so the difficulty remains in some form.) How our free will interacts with God’s knowledge and will is a very difficult issue, as is the question of how God’s knowledge and will interact with each other. St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, argued that God’s knowledge causes things, which makes the problem more difficult (though by “things” he meant good things, since evil is simply a privation). St. Gregory Palamas, the great Eastern Orthodox theologian, believed that God’s “energies,” by which He interacts with the world, are distinct from each other, and he seemed to think that this made the problem somewhat less compared to the “Western” view found in Aquinas.

I don’t want to just leave you there–I’m happy to talk about it some more–but I have to admit that this is the biggest problem in Christian thought. The “problem of evil,” of which this is a subset, is the single best reason not to believe in God. And while Christian philosophers have tried to come up with various answers, the fundamental Christian answer isn’t philosophical–it’s the death, descent into hell, and resurrection of Jesus. Whatever we may say about God philosophically is less fundamental for us than the saving work of Jesus. I recommend Joseph Ratzinger’s discussion of hell in his book Eschatology (Ratzinger is now the Pope), pp. 215-18 (this is available on Google Books).

The question about prayer also touches on the difficulties of the free will issue. I would put it this way: prayer isn’t a means by which I do something, but it’s my surrender of the situation to God. We do believe that in some way our prayer makes “space” for God to act in the world. But fundamentally intercessory prayer (there are many other kinds) is my saying to God, “I love this person and I know I can’t do what needs to be done for them–I put them in your hands.”

One other thing that really -really- mystifies me is when I hear Christians say “bless God”. What do they mean by that?

It’s an idiom from the Hebrew Bible, and it basically means “praise God.” Believing as we do that God is ultimate goodness and beauty, we speak words that reflect that goodness and beauty. Whenever we encounter something good or beautiful in creation, we ascribe that goodness and beauty to God.

Edwin

Hello, Mirenithil (silver Mirror in Sindarin, perhaps?) Welcome to the forum & tnx for sharing your questions. They are deep ones that have been asked down the centuries and pondered over by some of the greatest Fathers of the Faith. I’m just a Catholic layman, but here are some of my responses …

(about Transcendence vs immanence)

The Catholic teaching is neither of Immanence nor Transcendence, but Sacramental. This is the fundamental difference. I could be said that Islam is a Judaeo-Christian heresy that rejects Sacramentalism for a radical transcendence. We have been taught that God is indeed completely separate from Creation - the Holy Trinity has existed, in perfect companionship, from all eternity - except that God has willed to take on, or take up, our human nature. The entire doctrine of the Passion and Redemption hinges on this. Because Christ is true and fully Man, He can experience our suffering. But because He is infinitly God His acceptance of this suffering is of infinite merit, and is able, in all justice, to pay the debt of Original sin. These questions were debated at great length and depth in the earliest centuries. Every poossible combination was tried - either Christ only appeared to be True Man (in which case His suffering was meaningless - the Monophysites) - or He was not truly God - in which case His merits were not infinite (e.g. the Nestorians) or else that God the Father Himself is capable of suffering (the Patripassians - which contradicts the entire concept of God) … not until 451 AD at the Council of Chalcedon was the whole thing stated formally, and invoking the infallible authority of the Holy Spirit. We are actual blood brothers of Christ, and our destiny is, not to get free candy in Heaven, but to be drawn up into the actual life of the Blessed Trinity. But without losing our own individuality, as some Eastern religions erroneously believe.

Welcome, you have good questions and I’ll answer as best I can. I excerpted and numbered your issues below for clarity.

  1. Try this different way of looking at it. Goodness and evil simply aren’t compatible. It’s not that God is “holding a gun on you” but offering you a choice. In the physical realm, God doesn’t ‘hold a gun on you’ and demand that you comply with the laws of gravity, nor does he vindictively slay you if you prefer to be a freethinker and occasionally walk off cliffs. The natural consequence of walking off a cliff is that you fall to your death. God isn’t being coercive about it, it is just the nature of the universe. The same holds true in the moral realm. Sin begets death the same way walking off a cliff does. Heaven can never be heaven if there are people there who continue to sin. It can only be heaven if we fallen humans are perfected so that we no longer commit sins and no longer even find them attractive! Even one sinful person in heaven would make it NOT heaven anymore. There would then be selfishness, hurt, injustice, etc. Catholics also don’t see “getting saved” like many protestants do. For us, salvation is the end result of a life, not an event that occurred at a single point in life. Salvation and sanctification (being perfected by God’s Grace) aren’t seperable concepts.

  2. I don’t think you’ve thought this through enough. You really assert that God is infused in every part of human experience? Rapes, murders, theft, abuse, manipulation, lies, exploitation… You get the idea. God is NO part of those things. You raise a good objection to a certain kind of christian that believes that apart from Christ man is utterly depraved with no good in him. That is a distortion of christianity that catholicism has NEVER taught (though certain protestants have). We believe that humans were created good, but are fallen. We all have the sort of tragic flaw that makes Shakespeare’s tales so resonant throughout the ages. Our sins in this life don’t completely obliterate the way in which we reflect the image and likeness of God. We’re just unable to live up to the fullness of that potential because of our fallenness. The afterlife isn’t like this life. We don’t just go on the same forever. How we behave and the choices we make in this life determine what will happen to us not that much different than the choices the ‘freethinker’ makes at the edge of the cliff. But during this life, at least vestiges of our original goodness are always still remaining. Even Hitler had a woman who seems to have loved him! What weird creatures we humans are.

  3. The question indicates individualist thinking. But human experience is communal. We all affect each other in ways we may never comprehend on this earth. God can foresee the future, but He does not dictate human choices. He gives us free will, which is a remarkable thing for an omnipotent being to do. Especially when we’re constantly so foolish with the gift! But that gift is an utterly necessary part of humans being able to attain the character of God. If He vetoed all people who He foresaw choosing sin, he’d deprive the rest of the crucible by which we are transformed from merely innocent into truly good. He’d have puppets instead of people. I’m guessing you’re not a parent yet. Parenthood is something like what God does (a reflection of it, really). Statistically speaking, it’s clear that some kids grow up to be bad people. As a parent, you may have some influence over that, but you’re kidding yourself if you think it is control. But you do it anyways out of an outpouring of love. I can’t explain it better than that if you don’t have kids yet.

  4. Great question. We DO tend to think of prayer as asking God for what we want. God wants us to pray not because He can’t make up his own mind, but because in prayer the encounter with God changes US, not Him. If you don’t pray, you won’t have a relationship.

  5. No idea. Must be a protestant thing. A good number of your questions suggest your past experience with christianity was heavily protestant flavored. You’ll find significant differences if you look into catholicism. A nice intro is “Catholicism for Dummies” (no implications!). Do NOT get “The Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism”. Seriously bad info.

You have some great questions! I would suggest that you find your local Catholic Church and ask them about RCIA classes: they’re like Catholicism/Christianity 101. They’re free and the teacher could probably answer all your questions a lot more in-depth than we could. Good luck!

Welcome to CAF…you will find this site quite stimulating…

I truly mean no offense whatsoever by any of this, so please let me know if I’m out of line/offensive in anything I’ve written. I’m here to find understanding.

Don’t worry - we will…:smiley:
But most of us also have pretty thick skin…

I know I must not be understanding several things about Christianity right; after all, I was all of what, twelve? when thanks to life experiences I became an outspoken atheist. There must be an adult/more mature understanding of the questions I outline below that I missed due to my young age and also due to not having ever been around any actually adult-behaving adults in my young life. Since I’m 36 now, I’m interested in hearing the real answers.

Join the Club. Even lifelong Christians still struggle with some of the things that you ask below…

OK, let’s jump in.

OK — http://elsmar.com/Forums/images/smilies/beer_dive.gif

Getting Saved: As I understand it, ‘getting saved’, when boiled down to it, is in Christian belief a choice between life or death, right? It’s a decision made of free will, and if you choose to not be saved, you are choosing death. My issue with that is, though, is that that is not much of a choice; … is free will really so free when God is holding a gun to your head if you make the wrong decision?

Well - since you “chose” to be an atheist it appears that there really is “free will”.
As to the matter of choices…In life there certainly can be choices between two good things but more often than not the choices - the really tricky and difficult choices - are not between two good things. Or a choice might seem good at the time and later we discover that it had very negative consequences.
So the Choice of “Life or death” in no way diminishes free will. It merely makes clear the consequences of the choice…
Make sense??

(Later: It occurred to me that part of the reason this is so mystifying to me may be that we percieve God differently. Christians see God as transcendent, ie a seperate Being outside of this world and universe, apart from it. In Christian theology, we have a Potter and the pot, and the two are forever seperate and distinct things, the pot forever inferior to the Potter. In some other world beliefs, though, God is within and/or through everything, an immanent deity. To someone who experiences God as immanent, the idea of having to get saved seems rather absurd, since you can’t get away from God anyway (since there is nowhere and nothing that isn’t an emanation/manifestation of the dreams of/the dance of/the mind of God.) To someone who sees God as transcendent, though, with the universe delineated into two parts - God over -here- and absence-of-God over -there- - the choice would be necessary, right?)

It is possible for us to go-round-&-round on such things. And in fact many have done just that. I’ve no doubt but that you will receive many many links and suggestions for reading on these matters. Frankly - for myself - I prefer to keep it all very simple…
God is - all the rest is details…:D:thumbsup:
The reason I take this view is because I have found much truth in both positions that you describe above, but I have also found problems with each.
the primary problem is that, in trying to describe God, we are severely limited by two things. First is our human intellect and second is our human language. The one wishes to make sense - to define if you will - while the other seeks to describe that definition to others. The problem is that in using the second (communicate to others) we have to try to describe our insights in ways that others might recognize. Look at the number of times Jesus says - “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Most certainly Jesus knew exactly what the kingdom of heaven was, but was unable to clearly state this in a way that we would be able to recognize…
For this reason, I suggest that you look at such things as the “best explanations” we have of something that is unexplainable…

Maybe that does not help much…

Omniscient being creates the damned-to-be anyway, knowing their fates?: Something that ties into my question about getting saved is as follows:
Christians hold God to be absolutely 100% omniscient. God knows -absolutely everything-, full stop. However…
Why would God even create people who he knows from aeons before he even creates them are going to make the wrong choice about getting saved, and wind up in literally eternal torment in hell?

The best answer for this??? I don’t know!!!

I know this sounds flip, but it’s not. … but… would a limited, mortal human being create something knowing it will suffer endless pain for eternity? (let’s ignore the sadist crazies out there, lol, I mean the ordinary, decent human being.) It seems vastly kinder to never create the wrongdoer at all…

Understood…But there must be a reason…

What’s the point of prayer, especially… : I have also often wondered what the point of prayer is. God knows everything already, right? Why do people pray for anything, in that case?

One of the best lines I ever heard about this was in a movie about C.S. Lewis where he said, “I don’t pray to change God. I pray to change me”. (or something like that).

I know a family where the twelve-year-old child, who was a sweetheart, died of bone cancer. All during that ordeal before he eventually died, I heard many, many people say to the sick child and his family “I will pray for you.” What specifically are you praying for? Is the person doing the praying trying to change God’s mind about the boy’s illness? If not, what is being prayed for? I am assuming here that something/some change is being asked for - if I’m wrong about that, that’d explain a lot.

Prayer needs always to be for God’s will to be done - That, first and foremost. If you are not willing to accept God’s will in a matter then no other prayer is of any use at all.
Once we have placed ourselves firmly under God’s will, then we may pray for whatever our heart desires…As I said, first is God’s Will. Second, is for grace to know that will and the strength to accept it and carry on. Third for other things - might be for healing - physically and spiritual for ourselves and for others or any other petition you wish to place before God and meditate on.

One other thing that really -really- mystifies me is when I hear Christians say “bless God”. What do they mean by that?

What does it mean when we say “God Bless”? thinking on the one, might give insight into what is meant by the other.

Thank you for reading this longwinded post. I really look forward to reading replies.

You are welcome…
I’m afraid that I haven’t been much help, but then - one never knows what might tough another…

God Loves you.

Peace
James

Welcome to CAF! I’m sure you’ll be able to find a lot of your answers here. Be sure to click on catholic.com at the top of the page. From there you can read all of the tracks and find answers to probably all of your questions. They are answered by the apologists.

Salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8), and “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)

The Life of Man: To Know and Love God
“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” (CCC 1)

"So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.’ Strengthened by this mission, the apostles ‘went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.’ (CCC 2)

Baptism
“The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit.’ God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” (CCC 1257)

“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (Lumen Gentium 16)

God desires that all men possess the freedom to choose His grace or reject it; “For freedom Christ has set us free…” (Gal 5:1)

Freedom and Responsibility
“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.” (CCC 1731)

Freedom and sin. Man’s freedom is limited and fallible. In fact, man failed. He freely sinned. By refusing God’s plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom.” (CCC 1739)

“No one can come to Christ, except that the Father draw him.” (John 6:37, 44)

“We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:10, 19)

“God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want ‘any to perish, but all to come to repentance’…” (CCC 1037)

Thank you, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write out such a long, detailed, thorough, compassionate, and kind response. Those are exactly the types of mature, balanced, clear-eyed, kind answers I was hoping to hear. I am going to take the time to absorb your post thoroughly over a span of time before responding to it/posting any further questions it may generate.

Again, thank you!

Thank you for your fantastic and thought-provoking post. The bit about ‘free candy in heaven’ did make me giggle, as that’s definitely the image the secular world has of Christian beliefs, isn’t it?

“Our destiny is… to be be drawn up into the actual life of the Blessed Trinity” is such an amazing statement that it just about gave me chills. I am going to sit with that statement and chew it over for a long, long while.

This forum is amazing. It’s full of ntelligent, thoughtful, -articulate- people.

I have a lot of absorbing of the material of the posts that have been made to do, but I want to give a heartfelt Thank You to each person who replied to me. I am really struck by how warm, kind, and intelligent each post is.

I’m not really surprised to be told I’ve got obvious Protestant influences in my questions. I did go to parochial school as a child in the early/mid 80s, but left at the end of fifth grade, and that was the end of all things Catholic for me. Thus, I’ve had maybe 25 years or so of picking up things from the culture at large.

There’s sure a lot of information out there. If you want to do some general reading, this forum’s parent website may be very helpful:

catholic.com

Much of it is geared toward answering questions about Catholicism that people from a variety of religious backgrounds might ask, so not everything will be relevant to your specific questions.

The Catholic Encyclopedia is an extremely comprehensive site, but a lot of it will be very in-depth. That said, it addresses virtually every question you might have in a meticulous manner, and every page has the seal of approval from a Catholic bishop

newadvent.org

For instance, you hinted at the “problem of evil” in your original post. There is an extremely long article that addresses what evil is and why it exists according to a variety of Catholic and Christian thinkers here:

newadvent.org/cathen/05649a.htm

Mirenithil,

God exists outside of time. It could be compared- not perfectly, mind you- to watching a movie. If you are watching a movie for the 2nd, 3rd, 10th, time, you know what will happen. Just because you know what will happen does not mean that the person IN the movie knows what will happen to him next.

As far as your question, it leads onto “why do bad things happen to good people?” etc. You may look into a book, “the Problem of Pain.” In a nutshell, God creates us to SHARE in eternal life. Part of this is Free Will, and along with that is OUR responsibility to transmit the knowledge of god to our offspring- he allows us to share in the act of creation; and offers the chance to all.

There are many kinds of prayer, and many thoughts on prayer. Here are two: Sometime you hear the phrase “children of God.” In this sense, penitent prayer may be to show a honest desire for something. Just as you don’t say yes to your child who wants a puzzle, you may decide she really does want it, and can have one, if it’s 6 months later and she STILL asks for one.

There is also the thought that prayer is especially good FOR US. Do a search in the forums on that one- I’m still working it out myself, but I think there is something to be said for it.

So glad you like your introduction to the Forum, Mirenithil. Truly, the Catholic Church is not a collection of Rules. but our Mother.
As for the Life of Heaven - note the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden. So much can be said about this passage. But to focus on this: Note the precise temptation of the Evil One: ‘You will be as gods’. “The greatest lie is that nearest the Truth”. The reason this temptation is beguiling to us is precisely because this really is our promised destiny - but the temptation was to try to take a shortcut through Disobedience.
Talking of the Fall - a prayerful reading of this passage shows clearly that ‘there is far more to this story than meets the eye’. Note how Adam and Eve were so magisterial, yet like children. the traditional translation into English is so much more effective than the modern ones:

*And Adam heard the Voice of the Lord God, walking in the Garden in the cool of the Evening. And he hid himself, amongst the trees of Paradise. But The Lord God called to him, “Where art thou?” He replied, "I heard thy voice in Paradise

[quote] That sentence itself can be meditated upon for a whole evening

  • and I was ashamed, because I was naked, and so I hid myself" And the Lord God replied, “And who hast told thee thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree which I commanded thee not to eat?”
    [/quote]

Etc etc. But just for now: beware the fundamentalist interpretation that this was a mere video of an event in 4004 BC. ‘there is more to all this than meets the eye’. S. Paul tells us: ‘We all sinned in Adam’.

I leave you with this thought!

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