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Posts Tagged ‘Atheism’

This is a video featuring one of my former professors, Dr. Brent Robbins (and please keep in mind that I attended a secular college).

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on Into the Dance, but I was what you would call a garden-variety “cafeteria Catholic” up until age 22.

At that point in my life, questions about the ultimate claims of my faith kept bothering me; and try as I might, I could not push them off.

Knowing that Dr. Robbins was Catholic, but also knowing him to be a thoughtful intellectual and supposing that he would, not doubt, be able to help me get past the psychological roadblocks that were causing me to regard matters of organized religion with undue seriousness, I asked if I could come to him for one-on-one counseling sessions.

He agreed.  And contrary to my expectations, subsequent conversations with Dr. Robbins were instrumental in my re-embracing the Faith.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  At no point during our discussions did I get the sense that he was trying to “convert” me.

Rather, he listened attentively to my concerns, encouraged me (as a psychologist, not as a spiritual director) to face the issues that were bothering me head-on rather than trying to suppress them, and shared with humility his own love of the Faith while at the same time expressing genuine, experience-based sympathy with my struggles.

Anyway, in this video for The Coming Home Network International, Dr. Robbins shares the rather moving story of his own reversion to the Faith.

(Just one quick hundred-dollar-word alert: “Hermeneutics” (pronounced her-men-oo-tics) means the science of interpretation — in other words, what “lens” we use to understand certain things)

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If you haven’t seen this short segment, take a couple minutes to watch before reading further.  It’s quite entertaining 🙂

Well who could help being intrigued by devout atheist Bill Maher being in the lineup of Stephen Colbert, a practicing Catholic and outspoken defender of religion (both traits being anomalies in modern entertainment, to be sure).

As you can see, only a small fraction of the Maher segment dealt with religion.  But what little of the “big R” did show up packed more than enough “punch” for a spirited discussion, so here comes my response.

First, we’ll deal with the following statement:

I do admit there are things in the universe I don’t understand.  But my response to that is not to make up silly stories.

Notice that this response does not address the whole of what Colbert said.  (more…)

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A recent Salon.com article cited statistics indicating that the greatest Western intellectuals — in both science and philosophy — are leaning more and more in favor of disbelief in God.

Frankly, my first response to this was to recall how God often uses the foolish to shame the wise, revealing to little children what He has “hidden from the wise and the learned” (Mt. 11:25).

But for a fuller treatment of the issue, I refer you to Fr. Robert Barron’s latest video.  He nails it, as always 🙂

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Pope_Francis_in_March_2013

Much has been made of a comment Pope Francis made a couple weeks ago in a homily — I think you probably know what I’m talking about.

The Holy Father made two points:

1. All human beings are called to do good; and

2. Christ has redeemed not just Catholics, but all people — even atheists.

Many have taken this to mean that everyone basically gets a free pass to heaven.  But a little clarification is needed.

Really, there is nothing newsworthy here.  The Pope was, in fact, merely reaffirming Church teaching on God’s universal salvific will and the fact that the Body of Christ extends beyond it’s visible boundaries (which is to say, the Catholic Church).

But here’s what we have to keep in mind: Christ, for His part, has redeemed all humanity of all times and all places.  But salvation is a two-way street.  Our salvation required the initiative of Almighty God Himself, “who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

But, as Peter Kreeft says in his great book “Catholic Christianity,” God seduces us, but He never rapes us.

No one can be forced into heaven.  Heaven is an eternal relationship with God and with the assembly of the blessed, and one which must be entered into freely.  God has freely and gratuitously redeemed us, and now we must freely and generously respond with our lives and hearts.

Here is the official Church teaching on the subject:

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.

…they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.*

But even those atheists (and others) of goodwill who obtain salvation are, just like the rest of us, saved by Christ, not by their own merits.  When they turn toward the good as they know it, they are turning toward Christ, though they may not realize it.  For Christ is the Source of all that is good, true, and beautiful.

Hope that helps clear things up a bit.

* From “Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” (italics mine), quoted in reverse order — full text here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

Photo from Wikipedia

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From Brandon Vogt, author of the blog brandonvogt.com, comes a site where atheists and Christians can finally come together for friendly discussions:

To check it out, go to http://www.strangenotions.com.

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I am hard at work on an article for the newspaper, so for tonight I’ll give you another video.

This one is from “Theater of the Word,” and it dramatizes an early debate between J.R.R. Tolkien (creator of Middle-Earth) and C.S. Lewis (creator of Narnia), back when Lewis was still an atheist.  I figured it would be apropos, given our recent reflections on fairy tales in contemporary culture.  Enjoy!

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Wish I had caught this in time — though I can’t imagine the series won’t be released on DVD at some point.  Anyway, I just thought people would find this to be an interesting “peak” into the life of a very unusual (in a good way) woman:

For more info, go to brandonvogt.com/revisions

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The past year has seen the release of two films that offer very different — one might say polar opposite — reflections on man’s relationship with nature.  Joe Carnahan’s thriller “The Grey” fits into the classic “man vs. nature” theme, whereas Ken Kwapis’ family drama “Big Miracle” has more to do with the man-nature relationship in its positive aspects.

I have a lot to say about both films, so I will review them separately.  Let us begin on the “dark side” of things and delve into “The Grey.”

We could say that the essence of the worldview suggested by “The Grey” is nature as death.  Let’s face it — living in a comfortable world of technological advancements, we modern Westerners are very good at denying the reality of our ultimate demise.  Maybe we don’t explicitly deny it, but we have at least a subconscious tendency to think of death as something far off … if we think of it at all.

Partly, this is because death is not a lot of fun to think about.  I’ll be the first to admit that.  But the fact that we live in the midst of advantages and luxuries that even the kings of ancient times would never have dreamed of has something to do with it as well.

Without the challenges of living in the midst of nature and her wild ways, without the constant reminder of mortality she holds before the eyes of anyone left to her embrace, without the awe-inspiring sense of dependence on something larger than ourselves that she elicits, death is simply not an immediate concern.  In one way or another we accept that it exists, of course; but I would say that we generally take it as an abstract concept rather than a concrete reality that crouches in the shadows, eyes fixed on each one of us, poised to lunge at our throats.

And sooner or later it will not only make its move, but will do so successfully.

I can’t help but think of this when I recall “The Grey,” which follows a band of arctic oilmen who have survived an airplane crash in the Alaskan wilderness.  Led by an experienced hunter named Ottway (Liam Neeson), they struggle for survival in the face of extreme cold, lack of sustenance, and — worst of all — a pack of wolves into whose territory they have unwittingly stumbled.

Those of you who have seen the film will recall the scene in which they are all huddled around a campfire in the woods at night, and out of the darkness the glowing, ravenous eyes of the wolves shine all around them.

Fr. Robert Barron, whose review of “Skyfall” I posted yesterday, did a video commentary on “The Grey” around the time it came out in theaters.  With background reference to the thought of German existentialist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Fr. Barron suggested that we could see the wolves as symbolic of death.

In the eyes of the wolves, we see something like what we see in the eyes of death — something that is against us, not for us; something without mercy or sympathy; something that forces us to be on our guard and to fight with every resource we have available, and yet always gets us in the end.

Fr. Barron sees a definite existentialist bent in Carnahan’s film, and who can blame him?  Still — and I say this with due humility, since Fr. Barron is obviously a far smarter man than I — I think we can glean more from the movie than that.

For my purposes, the wolves represent the “dark side” of nature.  Following our train of thought so far, we would then have to say that the dark side of nature relates to death.  This begs a multi-part question: “Why is it this way?  Why is nature hostile to man?  Why does the reminder of death seem so ingredient in its being?”

This relates to an even bigger question: “Is life really a cosmic absurdity?  Does death have the last word?”

Having addressed the fundamental issue of death, I intend to explore these questions next.

As the representative of the more negative view of the man-nature relationship, “The Grey” is decidedly more complex than “Big Miracle.”  For that reason and in order to give the reader a break, I will divide my reflection on this film into two separate posts and conclude it tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

“The Grey” poster is from http://www.imdb.com, the second photo from http://www.dailyfilmdose.com, and the third photo from http://www.guardian.co.uk (all obtained through a Google image search).

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