The reasons for my conversion


#1

Hello everyone,

I wrote about my reasons for converting to someone in a private message, and then figured that reading over them might help other people who are in the process of converting so here they are:

The message was also way too long to post at once, so I’ll post the whole thing by way of replying to myself.

—The first step in my conversion process was the realization that science can’t explain everything in principle. For the scientific method to be valid two things have to be true: 1) Events in the universe are understandable, they aren’t arbitrary or completely random, and 2) The laws of science are the same everywhere in the universe. From my understanding these assumptions limit real science to the observable universe, which, in order for science to work, has to be deterministic in that the same laws of physics would apply in all places all the time.

I think this limits science to studying the material universe that exists. It means that science in principle cannot address the questions of why there exists something instead of nothing and of how it came to be. (It also means that speculations on the part of some scientists about an infinite number of worlds existing somewhere “out there” forever and without cause are unscientific because they can never be tested by experiment. Replacing cause and effect with randomness is also unscientific because the scientific method needs consistent cause and effect throughout time to have validity.)

What the best of modern science tells us is that the universe had a definite beginning, a moment when time itself began. At that moment the laws of nature were born and from then until now the universe evolved according to them. If we understand the laws of physics we can explain how the universe developed reasonably well, but we can never use science to answer the question or how or why it began because neither the laws of physics nor time existed then!

At the same time, everything that we know suggests that it did have a beginning. And from how I see it, there needs to be a reason why there exists something instead of nothing, and why it exists this way and not another way. This way of thinking brought me to the “first cause” argument, which goes along these lines: 1) Since everything in the universe has a cause of its existence, 2) the universe itself has a cause of its existence, and 3) the first cause of a chain of causes must be necessary (i.e. not needing a cause itself) otherwise nothing could exist.

While this isn’t a conclusive proof of God, from my perspective it is a very strong case for there to be a need for something outside the material universe that gives it a reason for existing.

Continued…


#2

—The second step of my conversion was thinking about free will and human consciousness. Returning to the assumptions of science, in order to work the world needs to obey the rules of physics all the time and in all places. If there is nothing more than the material world, then human consciousness must arise from the material world and very probably the brain. The brain is made of matter that must perfectly obey the laws of physics (if it doesn’t then we must admit that there’s something beyond the laws of physics), and if consciousness is a feature of the brain then it too must be subject to the laws of physics. As far as I understand it, this is in conflict with the idea of free will because just as rocks can’t choose to disobey the law of gravity and float up neither can the substance of our brain be directed by anything other than the laws of physics. From my perspective, if there is nothing more than the material world, free will (and consciousness for that matter) must be an illusion.

Again, this isn’t proof of God, but it’s yet another thing that points in the direction of something more than the material world.

—The third step for me was thinking about morality and conscience. As I see it, if there is nothing more than the material world then everything about human beings should be explained by evolution, and specifically evolutionary psychology. From my understanding of evolution it focuses on competition for limited resources that leads to the selection of traits that make good competitors because successful competitors leave more offspring. In this picture, we should be ruled by instincts that made our ancestors successful and not a sense of “right and wrong” that often tells us to do things that would be evolutionary disadvantageous for animals (like risk our lives for people who aren’t our children, share our food with people who aren’t our children, and even abstain from promiscuous sexual conduct). From how I see it, biological evolution gave us various instincts: the instinct to help people, the instinct to kill our competitors, the instinct to be promiscuous, the instinct to sacrifice for our children etc. But the conscious part of us that other animals lack is the thing that makes us choose between these instincts on the basis of right and wrong. And if this thing chooses one instinct over another, then it seems that it can’t be an instinct itself. Even if you’re unwilling to admit to an absolute morality, you will undoubtedly admit that we as humans have a sense of the rights of other people (which is expressed quite clearly in our laws). The entire animal kingdom - aside from us - lacks this sense for the rights of others; this sense, in itself, is a practical materialization of the common moral conscience.

Again, this isn’t a conclusive proof of a Creator, but it’s yet another push in that direction.

Continued…


#3

Hermeione,
Are you posting the reason that you came to believe in God (from atheism)? Are are you leading up to why you became Catholic ?:yup:


#4

—The fourth step consists of more circumstantial evidence, and it’s the fact that statistically the happiest and most fulfilled people are those with a strong faith in God. If we are creatures of the material world who evolved without God or something greater, why should so many of us have such an intense longing for God, and why should those of us who believe be so much more fulfilled than those who don’t? (An interesting point is that scientists compared the brains of Buddhist monks who spend many hours in prayer to the brains of ordinary people to find that there were structural differences that led to very little anxiety, depression, and other disorders on the part of the monks.)

Thinking of all these things made me conclude that while the existence of something above the material world isn’t a certainty, it’s certainly possible and even probable. Now, even though I believed in this “something greater” I didn’t know whether it was a conscious being, much less the Holy Trinity.

After I concluded that it is probable that a higher being exists, I started to think of how this being can be studied. I think that the moral conscience (which tends to be the same in all human beings throughout history despite different cultures) reveals to us much about God since it comes from God. As does the existence of free will. The reason I decided that God must be a conscious entity rather than a “life force” is our free will which I think is derived from God (leading to the conclusion that God must have free will as well), and also our moral conscience (leading to the conclusion that God is a good being).

After coming to believe in a personal God I began to pray to Him and to ask for guidance. I felt an unexplainable draw toward Christianity (and not purely because it is a popular religion here, I had actually considered Buddhism and other eastern faiths). This led me to more prayer and also to investigation. I came to believe in Jesus for a number of reasons.

The first of these reasons is the overwhelming amount of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus. Supposedly, when the rules of historical evidence are applied to the claims of Christianity we have to conclude that Jesus really did exist.

So, from the study of history we know that a man named Jesus existed, we know (again from history) that he had many followers who believed what he said, believed that he performed miracles, and even gave their lives for him. (To me, the fact that early Christians suffered horrible persecutions eliminates the possibility that Christian leaders said what they did for the sake of wealth and power.)

Continued…


#5

Now that I knew that Jesus the man existed, what reason did I have to believe that he was the Son of God? Well, one argument that pushed me in this direction is that Jesus either had to be the Son of God, a blasphemer and a liar, or an insane man. I think this because throughout his life Jesus made extraordinary claims of being able to forgive sins (something that only God can do from the perspective of a Jew, which he was), of saying that the only way to God was through him, and he even claimed to be God by calling himself “I am,” the name of the One God of the Jews. If Jesus was an ordinary man who knew this and still claimed to be God, he then becomes a liar guilty of blasphemy. If Jesus was an ordinary man who truly believed he was God he must have been insane. At the same time, the historical Jesus has none of the qualities that are common to liars and insane men. There are also reports of miracles he performed, the greatest of which was his Resurrection.

From my perspective, the idea of Jesus being the Son of God makes sense because a lot of evidence I mentioned earlier points to the existence of a conscious, benevolent Creator. It makes sense for such a Creator to reach back to men who constantly reach for Him. Furthermore, it would make sense that men wouldn’t reach for him unless he wanted them to, and why would he want them to if not for some special purpose?

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#6

As for why I chose Catholicism, I didn’t include that in my letter to the person who inquired about my conversion!

But briefly, I chose Catholicism and not another branch of Christianity for these reasons:

  1. Jesus established his Church on the earth when he told Peter:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

(Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV)

The Catholic Church is the first Christian Church, and there is an unbroken succession of the papacy from Peter to John Paul II.

  1. Many other Christian sects believe in the Bible alone, and claim to be saved by faith alone. This does not make sense to me because the early Christians didn’t have a New Testament at all (and the New Testament that we do have was compiled by the Catholic Church). Furthermore, sola scriptura is not mentioned anywhere in scripture, and actually scripture itself seems to lead back to the Church. Sola fide does not make sense at all, because Jesus says things that contradict it on numerous occasions. So I suppose this is more of a reason why I am not a Bible Christian.

  2. Jesus promised that the Gates of Hades would not prevail against the Catholic Church, and historically the Catholic Church taught the same thing for two thousand years, while other Christian sects deviated from it.

It makes sense to me that since there is one God that there should be one truth and consequently one teaching authority. I believe in Jesus Christ and Jesus gave this authority to the apostles who established the Catholic Church.

I hope this helps! :slight_smile:


#7

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