Friday, May 24, 2013

Lucia A conversion story from atheism

I remember seeing somewhere that in America, of all the religions, atheism has the lowest retention rate. It's most likely the similar in other Western countries, though it would be interesting to know for sure. Anyway, here's a great story of young atheist woman who decided to better understand her opponents by reading them, and ended up converting.

Last Easter, when I was just beginning to explore the possibility that, despite what I had previously believed and been brought up to believe, there might be something to the Catholic faith, I read Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel. One passage in particular struck me.

Talking of the New Testament miracles and the meaning of faith, Weigel writes: “In the Catholic view of things, walking on water is an entirely sensible thing to do. It’s staying in the boat, hanging tightly to our own sad little securities, that’s rather mad.”

I totally get that quote about walking on water being sensible! Once you realise that there is far more to life than the material, and that there is this whole reality all around that you've never really known was there, but it requires you to let go of everything tying you to the boat and your own insecurities, then it would be crazy not to jump out onto the water and trust.

In the following months, that life outside the boat – the life of faith –would come to make increasing sense to me, until eventually I could no longer justify staying put. Last weekend I was baptised and confirmed into the Catholic Church.

Of course, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Faith is something my generation is meant to be casting aside, not taking up. I was raised without any religion and was eight when 9/11 took place. Religion was irrelevant in my personal life and had provided my formative years with a rolling-news backdrop of violence and extremism. I avidly read Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, whose ideas were sufficiently similar to mine that I could push any uncertainties I had to the back of my mind. After all, what alternative was there to atheism?

This is where the danger is, that Islam will pick up these youngsters, because even if they don't know it, many of them are searching for something more.

As a teenager, I realised that I needed to read beyond my staple polemicists, as well as start researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view. It was here, ironically, that the problems began.

I started by reading Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, aware that it had generated controversy at the time and was some sort of attempt –futile, of course – to reconcile faith and reason. I also read the shortest book of his I could find, On Conscience. I expected – and wanted – to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism. Instead, I was presented with a God who was the Logos: not a supernatural dictator crushing human reason, but the self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth towards which our reason is oriented, and in which it is fulfilled, an entity that does not robotically control our morality, but is rather the source of our capacity for moral perception, a perception that requires development and formation through the conscientious exercise of free will.

It was a far more subtle, humane and, yes, credible perception of faith than I had expected. It didn’t lead to any dramatic spiritual epiphany, but did spur me to look further into Catholicism, and to re-examine some of the problems I had with atheism with a more critical eye.

The book on conscience by Benedict XVI must have been this one: On Conscience (Bioethics & Culture). It's print length is only 100 pages, though I've linked to the Kindle edition. I might have to read it as well!

Read more at The Catholic Herald: The atheist orthodoxy that drove me to faith
Megan Hodder was a young, avid reader of the New Atheists, but her life changed when she read the work of their Catholic foes

16 comment(s):

Lindalee Smith said...

Lovely story. I have a sister who is exploring Catholicism by reading and learning.

I think Islam will attract many. For one thing philosophically I think it is a good 'fit' for secularists. Rather than power being located in individual choice that sense of power is relocated to Allah's will. It also satisfies the urgent need to build utopia - comes with a clear plan of action.

The conversion into Christianity is an encounter with the living Christ....leave your power at the door! Humility doesn't come easily to hedonists.

Also it empowers young males in particular.

How it all plays out who knows. Christians who don't love their life will be fine.

leftrightout said...

Wow, lucia, yet another error riddled post.

I remember seeing somewhere that in America, of all the religions, atheism has the lowest retention rate.

Atheism is not a religion. Define religion and then explain how atheism fits that definition.


Once you realise that there is far more to life than the material, and that there is this whole reality all around that you've never really known was there,


Confused? Quite a bit, I'd say. First you claim that there is more than the material, then you go on to claim that is reality, in other words, material.

It is of no surprise that every now and again someone can study religion and be swayed by its untested and untestable claims, and this often occurs when that person is at a low point in their life, and vulnerable.

For every considerate and well-informed xtian, there will be others with no personal experience of humanism and no interest in the arguments who are simply drifting with the cultural tide.

As the popularity of belligerent, all-the-answers religion wanes, however, thoughtful humanists able to explain and defend their humanism will become an increasingly vital presence in the public square.

Lindalee Smith said...

Atheism is a religion...the religion of No God.

After all it can't be proved only believed.

leftrightout said...

Lindalee - according to Wikipedia - "Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.[note 1] Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to create meaning to life or traditionally to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, they tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.[1]
Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration of a deity, gods or goddesses, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology.[2]"

According to dictionary.com "faith [feyth] Show IPA
noun
1.
confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2.
belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3.
belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4.
belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5.
a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith."

How does any of that reconcile with atheism?

Psycho Milt said...

I think Islam will attract many. For one thing philosophically I think it is a good 'fit' for secularists.

Islam is about the worst fit out there for atheists contemplating getting all superstitious - its name translates as "Submit," which ought to be enough of a warning to an atheist all by itself. A casual perusal of what you'd be submitting to ought to put off those who get past the name.

I also don't think there's anything significant in a person raised by atheists taking up religion later in life (especially in the USA, which barely counts as a secular state). The more atheists there are, the higher the number of kids who don't follow the same path as the parents. What's interesting here is that the author found it an unusual enough thing that it was worth writing about it, whereas children raised as Christians growing up to be atheists (me, for example) is completely mundane.

bamac said...

Not mundane, Milt, but sad..... though , come to think of it, life without faith in God IS mundane, in my books anyway.

shalom,

Mrs Mac

Lucia Maria said...

LRO,

From your list, atheism is a faith as defined by no 4. The "anything" is "that there is no God".

leftrightout said...

Lucia, I was addressing Lindalee's claim that atheism is a religion, not a faith.

Regardless, atheism is NOT a faith as defined by 4. It is not a belief in anything, it is not a code of ethics, it is not a standard of merit. it is simply the rejection of claims about gods. It has no scriptures, rituals or dogmas.

Try again.

As an aside, it is interesting to see the new pope say us atheists can get in to heaven, too. We don't need all the dogma and ritual, we just need to be good. Isn't he a sweet old man?

ZenTiger said...

Hi LRO. You can believe atheism is not a religion if you wish, but aside from some technical definitions of the word you need to cling to to hold that view, there are some pesky atheists that are treating their non-belief as a religion.

Perhaps a more fruitful way to look at it is like redefining marriage.

We know how you wish to define atheism, but others are busy redefining it anyway.

Embrace it - don't be atheist-phobic about your own non-belief. Sometimes the meanings of words get "upgraded" because the new secular moralist just needs to fix these orthodox and traditionalist notions of atheism.

Psycho Milt said...

...there are some pesky atheists that are treating their non-belief as a religion.

True. Humans are renowned for foolishness, and atheists are humans. It might be more accurate to say there's nothing inherent in atheism that makes it a religion - the decision to make it one can however be taken by individual atheists.

ZenTiger said...

...and many individual atheists add up to a sect.

Although when atheists decide they need to compete with religion by offering a counter view, it start to turn into a religion by this simple act.

For example, if atheism is assumed a default position to be taught in schools, as distinct from something like agnosticism, it's taking a religious view.



Lindalee Smith said...

leftrightout

"As an aside, it is interesting to see the new pope say us atheists can get in to heaven, too. We don't need all the dogma and ritual, we just need to be good. Isn't he a sweet old man?"

That is not what Pope Francis said. He said that Jesus has redeemed all humanity. That is NOT news regarding the Redemptive work of Christ. It is for all....BUT the personal response from each of us to Christ's Redemptive work is what leads us to be saved or lost. How that response is known by God is beyond human judgment. But one cannot knowingly set oneself up to oppose Christ's Redemptive work and on death be a friend of God without a change of heart and confession to God.

I'm sorry to say that universal salvation through Christ is not likely because not all want to receive it. But its okay to hope that there might be a way.

Lindalee Smith said...

For a full explanation on what the Pope means....

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2013/05/yes-the-pope-said-all-are-redeemed-is-that-news/

leftrightout said...

For example, if atheism is assumed a default position to be taught in schools, as distinct from something like agnosticism, it's taking a religious view.

And you have examples of this happening? No, I didn't think so.

ZenTiger said...

Oh ye of little faith.

leftrightout said...

well, ZT, the face of that compelling argument, what can I say?

Pfffft

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