A Conversation With “The Closet Atheist”

Thank you to The Closet Atheist for her questions.

And thank you to The Closet Atheist for answering my questions. You can find her answers here.

The reason for this post is: I was feeling bored and curious one day so, wanting to make the best use of my time, I decided to reach out to The Closet Atheist in order to better understand where she’s coming from, and she did the same.

Below are my answers to the questions she asked me.

1. Why are you Catholic and not another denomination?

I was raised a Catholic.

Going to church, praying alone in my room, following the 10 Commandments — these actions, and the mindset that came with them, were as natural to me as wearing clothes, bathing, or brushing my teeth. They were something I did for the sake of my well-being, and because to not do them just felt wrong.

Now, as an adult out in the world, separated from the Catholic cocoon I grew up in, my faith remains an integral part of my life, influencing my thoughts and choices.

Image result for life is strange choices

More about my faith in questions #2 and #4.

The reason I am not another denomination is:

I haven’t seen compelling evidence to show that another denomination, not the Catholic Church, is the “correct” expression of Jesus’ teachings.

For example: The Protestant Reformation lasted from 1517 — 1648. (Thanks, Google.) So, going by Jesus’ words to Peter — Matthew 16:18 — that means that, if any one of those Protestant churches established in the wake of the Reformation is the “true” Church, than Jesus waited 16 centuries to establish his church. And I just don’t see the reasoning in that. When Jesus says “On this rock I will build my church,” does that not imply that Jesus is building his church on this rock right then, not more than 1,500 years later?

Through apostolic succession, the Catholic Church can trace its origin back to Peter.* Which is something that Protestant churches, established more than 1,500 years after Peter’s time, can’t do.

2. Why do people sometimes say that Catholicism is a separate religion from Christianity rather than just a denomination within it?

I have not heard that before — that Catholicism is its own separate, non-Christian religion.

Regarding why people would say such a thing: I don’t know.

Skimming The Catechism of the Catholic Church, it’s clear that a foundation of the Catholic Church is the teachings found in the Bible. So this claim of Catholicism being “a separate religion from Christianity,” as far as I can tell, has no legs to stand on.

When it comes to Catholicism’s relationship to Christian denominations such as Lutheranism, Calvinism, Presbyterianism, etc., here is how I see it:

Picture a tree. Picture the trunk and the branches going up and up and up. The Catholic Church is the trunk, and the denominations (like Lutheranism and Presbyterianism) are the branches. Being offshoots, they wouldn’t exist without the trunk.**

3. If there was one thing you wish that Christians today would or wouldn’t do, or something you wish they understood about Christianity and what it means to be a Christian, what would it be?

I wish that Christians today wouldn’t conflate faith with politics.

Image result for american flag cross

I’ve been called a communist because I said that if I had to choose between saving one person from Hell or saving America, I would choose to save that one person. After all: Countries don’t last forever, but the soul does.

Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations,” not “Go and win an election.” (Matthew 28:19)

4. If you had a teenage or young adult child that told you that he or she is not a Christian, how would you respond to them?

I would be proud of them.

Why?

Because: Such an act would show that they were using their brains, not just accepting what they were taught because it’s what was expected of them.

The Bible encourages one to use their brain:

“Test everything. Hold fast to what is good.”
~1 Thessalonians 5:21

“…be as shrewd as serpents…”
~Matthew 10:16

I would be glad that this young person is testing everything and being as shrewd as a serpent. The fact that, as a result, this person is now an atheist, would not bother me.

What would bother me is if this person, as a result of becoming an atheist, did not keep an open mind — if this person refused to hear or consider reasons to believe in a god. And I would be just as bothered by someone who did believe in a god refusing to ever consider the possibility that there isn’t one.

Why?

Faith.

Faith, by its nature, requires uncertainty, however small.

That’s why the Bible — Hebrews 11:1 — says that faith is “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”*** (Emphasis mine.)

The fact of the matter is: Regardless of how strongly I believe there is a god, and regardless of what I see as evidence for the existence of a god, until I die and either enter the void or stand in front of the pearly gates, I won’t know, with certainty, if a god exists.

UPDATE:

I realize that these words don’t answer your question: If you had a teenage or young adult child that told you that he or she is not a Christian, how would you respond to them?

This is how I would respond:

I wouldn’t mind that they weren’t a Christian.

Not everyone is, and not everyone will be.

Would I want this person to become a Christian? Yes.

But: I have to accept the reality that, for one reason or another, that might not happen.

So instead of beating them over the head with a Bible, I would tell them: “Keep on seeking goodness, truth, and beauty in all things, and one day you will find where that goodness, truth, and beauty comes from.”

5. How do you deal with doubt in terms of God’s existence?

If there is one thing that could cause me to not believe in a God, it is the violence I see in the world nowadays.

Which is one reason why I don’t like watching or reading the news. Knowing that there is nothing I can do to, for example, stop a terrorist attack in Britain, causes me to feel depressed and consider notions that I otherwise wouldn’t. Like committing suicide.

But, like a boomerang returning to the person who threw it, I always find myself returning to my belief in a higher power.

The reason why is: As horrible as the universe is, it’s also beautiful.

Two examples of beauty:

The Incorrupt

There are people who, even after being dead for years, have not decomposed.

For example: Mary of Jesus de León y Delgado, O.P., who died in 1731:

Juan Diego’s tilma

A garment bearing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was undamaged after a bomb went off next to it.

Virgen de guadalupe1.jpg

In conclusion:

Thank you for your questions, The Closet Atheist. I hope you were satisfied by my answers. And if you were dissatisfied with anything I said, let me know.

I hope the day will soon come where you can leave the closet.

*Apostolic succession: (in Christian thought) the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive popes and bishops, taught by the Roman Catholic Church but denied by most Protestants. (Thanks, Google.)

**The Reformation (from Latin reformatio, literally “restoration, renewal”), also referred to as the Protestant Reformation and the European Reformation, was a schism from the Roman Catholic Church initiated by Martin Luther, and continued by John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, and other early Protestant Reformers in 16th century Europe.
~Wikipedia

***Conviction: a firmly held belief or opinion.

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11 thoughts on “A Conversation With “The Closet Atheist”

  1. Don’t apologize for being strong in your beliefs. While I don’t hold the same beliefs you do, I respect your strength in them.

    Maybe this will give you a little laugh on where I stand, “If you have to choose between your sexuality and your religion, make sexuality your religion.” Dr. Ted McIlvenna

    1. You’re right: I shouldn’t apologize for my beliefs.

      And I’m glad that you respect my strength in them. I have to admit, that’s the first time I’ve received such a compliment. Thank you.

      And you’re right: That was a funny quote. Thank you for sharing it with me.

  2. Fascinating answers, balanced, honest. Much the way I see the Catholic church (being raised in it), and yes, The Catholics were the first Christians, not an offshoot. anyone who says otherwise has not bothered to read the history of the world, OR the history of Christianity.

    Nice job.

  3. I believe I can shed some light on the idea that Catholicism is separate from Christianity. I grew up in mostly baptist churches. I remember being concerned about the salvation of my catholic relatives when I was very young because some of the preachers I knew had an extreme dislike of the more ritualistic aspects of Catholicism. They saw praying to saints and the Virgin Mary as idolatrous and the services as empty rituals.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading the discussion on both posts!

    1. Thank you for commenting!

      I’m glad you like both posts. The Closet Atheist is a great person, and I’m glad she agreed to do this. It was fun.

      Regarding Catholicism, the saints, and the Virgin Mary: We (i.e., Catholics) honor them — i.e., we treat them with respect and ask for their help — but we don’t worship them. Worship is reserved for God alone.

      It’s like a relationship between a child and their parents: A child respects their parents and looks to them for help and guidance, but doesn’t worship them as gods.

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