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