The blogger at The Evangelical Atheist wrote to tell me about a new carnival and asked me to participate in the God or Not carnival.
GOD or NOT is a rotating monthly carnival. On the first Monday of every month, it will be hosted by a different blog, alternating between theist and atheist sites. Any theist site is eligible. It need not be Christian. Each carnival will have a different theme, featuring posts that deal with a given religious issue. The theme for each carnival will be chosen by the previous host with approval of the carnival administrator.
At one time I also described myself as an evangelical atheist and I thank God I was not blogging at the time. This carnival is an interesting idea, but I will not be participating. My skills do not fall along the way of philosophical disputes and I am not sure I would be able to really contribute anything. It does make me ponder whether this type of carnival will be anything more than two sides talking past each other. Though I certainly respect truth-seeking atheists over I-don’t-know-and-I-don’t-care agnostics. Having to defend your beliefs is one of the best ways to seek the truth. The problem is of course we all have our beliefs that we sometimes will fight to prevent things like truth getting in the way of holding them.
I was a very dogmatic atheist whose dogma of course included that miracles were impossible. This reminds me of the line used in the Song of Bernadette. "To those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary, to those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible." I will give a case in point from my own life. I had just returned home from a couple of weeks at sea. This was also the time of my life that I was really working to build up my atheistic zeal by reading many books on atheism. My wife related to me a very frightening story. She had gotten some medicine from the Navy clinic and had a severe allergic reaction to it. So severe that she was almost unable to move. She told me she prayed to Jesus and Mary and that she was really worried about our two kids and that something might happen to her and she would not be able to take care of them. She had this old Rosary that she had brought with her from the Philippines. It was a plastic one and what use to be a full Rosary. That is with 15 decades on it before our late Holy Father added a new mystery. She told me that it started to glow so bright that the room was lit up at night time. Afterwords whe was able to move and go to the clinic where they told who she had had a sever alergic reaction.
My kids who were in 5th and 6th grade at the time chimed in telling me that they had seen this also. I of course was totally willing to disbelieve the witness of my family and said it must have somehow been car headlights lighting up the room or some other possible explanation. I did not credit for even one second that this could have happened even though I knew my wife was not prone to exaggeration or the fact that under my influence our children did not grow up with religion being talked about (other than negatively.)
Fast forward a couple of years later when I was on my way into the Catholic Church, I myself witness something strange with this same Rosary. Over the years we had always had it hanging on the bedroom wall. One night it started visibly glowing. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. We all saw it doing this and while I was now willing to believe in miraculous events it does not mean I stop being a skeptic. As St. Paul said to test all things. So over the week it would glow at night I tried to do some testing. For example when it wasn’t glowing I would turn on all the lights and put the Rosary next to a bright light for a while. Then I would move it into a dark area to see if it would glow. I figured that possibly it used some luminescent material and that charging it up since the plastic beads were green that I could duplicate the glow. I was never able to duplicate the glow on my own. I wasn’t sure why in about 18 years that we had this on the wall that it never glowed before if it was luminescent, but I wasn’t going to rule it out. I moved it to another wall to see if somehow light was being reflected onto it at the location it was in. Still a couple of nights later it glowed again. Now I am not going to say it was truly a miraculous event and that there was no scientific explanation to it. I am inclined to believe it was possibly miraculous, though if it was I am not quite sure why God would have done it. Possibly to show me how arrogant I was to not have believed my family. All I do know is that the difference between now and then is now I am free to believe that it was miraculous. Being a believer does not mean that you have to believe in any alleged miraculous event, only that you can believe it. Even well known apparitions such as Fatima the Church only says that it is worthy of belief not that we have to believe it. As an atheist my freedom was severely restricted in this regard.
The problem with atheist dialogue is that faith is not just the consequence of evidence pointing to God. In my initial conversion experience I was arrogant enough to believe that I had read myself into the Church. As if it was intellectual arguments alone that had led me to belief. I remember one day reading St. Paul in 1st Corinthians say "no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit." I was awe struck by this realization in that it both humbled me and made me realize that the Holy Spirit was not some distant theological construct, but a person that had led me to faith. This is not to say the intellectual arguments are worthless in this regard. When I first heard the proofs of God as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas on the G. Gordon Liddy show they surprised me, but didn’t make me a theist on the spot. They did open up a small chink in my godless armour that I tried to cover it up with renewed atheistic faith. Sometimes reason can remove some of the rocks in rocky soil so that we faith might be able to break through.
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. Fides et Ratio
A one winged bird is deformed and will not get off the ground. Trying to fly with reason alone won’t work, just as a blind faith with no intellectual underpinnings will not fly for long or will eventually send you crashing to the ground. As St. Peter said "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence."
I am still amazed at times to have received faith, though it does not make me feel superior to those who have not yet received it. One of my favorite parables is the laborers in the vineyard where they were all paid the same amount regardless of whether they started work in the morning, midday, or even at the end of the day. I know that in God’s providence that he wants to give everyone faith and who am I to say when they are to receive it or even to ultimately reject it? Only that I should strive towards holiness and that my actions will not be a stumbling block towards others.
Now if anybody out there has the abilities to contribute something to this new carnival, please consider doing it. As for me I will lend prayer support and intercede with St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) for some good to come out of this debate and not just both sides trying to make points. St. Edith Stein had also once been an atheist and as a phenomenologist well understands intellectual debates. This might not have been the response The Evangelical Atheist wanted, but it will have to do.
…both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, if they do not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being. Neither can quite escape either doubt or belief; for the one, faith is present against doubt; for the other, through doubt and in the form of doubt. It is the basic pattern of man’s destiny only to be allowed to find the finality of his existence in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty. Perhaps in precisely this way doubt, which saves both sided from being shut up in their own worlds, could become the avenue of communication. It prevents both sides from enjoying complete self-satisfaction; it opens up the believer to the doubter and the doubter to the believer; for one, it is this share in the fate of the unbeliever; for the other, the form in which belief remains nevertheless a challenge to him. – then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger "Introduction to Christianity"
Well worth slogging through to the end. The slogging has nothing to do with your writing or the content. Some days reading through such a post is a struggle for me. Read sections over to be sure I had the concept.
I now need to chase down a copy of “Introduction to Christianity”. I expect it to be much more of a struggle for me than Raymond Arroyo’s book on Mother Angelica!
Its a much bigger struggle. I spent 4 months trying to lay my hands on a copy under $50, beginning shortly after Benedict was elected.
Then I spent months and months trying to get my mind around it. I’ve loaned it to a methodist vet here who expressed an interest when I mentioned the book. When I get it back, it’ll definitely stand a few more such close reads.
I like how you were able to examine the rosary, look around, see the glow multiple times, etc. Your wife and kids got the miracle of a moment and believed it; you got treated like Thomas, and got an invitation to really get a good long look. 🙂 God is so kind and gracious….
I appreciate you mentioning the carnival. If you ever feel you have something to contribute to it, you are always welcome to do so.