Monday, 26 July 2010

With Friends Like These...

Warning: This Tord spits.

Don't know if I am still having communication problems with 'Catholicism Pure and Simple' or not. (A more maladroitly-named blog is hard to imagine.)
Each morning about 20 emails still arrive - all more or less saying the same thing in different order - and giving very little indication that my message to 'include me out' has got through.

It isn't very important, except that I will feel guilty if someone is unknowingly toiling to get my page on there straightened out, unaware that Toad has hopped off.
As you can see from this post, I am still occupied with the whole odd business.

'Cath' is a classic example of Narrowcasting - the big thing on the web. No matter how narrow your interest, there will be a handful of the like-minded out there with whom one can bond.
Generally, it is harmless - folk, say, with a shared passion for Victorian British postage stamps, or Ferret breeding, or Agatha Christie first editions. But it can also be vicious - imbeciles who link up to earnestly pray for the early death of Obama.(That last is true. Saw it on Facebook.)

'Cath' is in the first camp. It is, at times, preposterously complacent and pàtronising, but it means no real harm.

Someone tried patronising my wife on there the other day. She (figuratively) wrapped her rosary round her fist like a knuckle duster, and delivered a stinging poke to the guilty noggin.

The A-Team there was also condescending to me. Kindly and sympathetically suggesting, that as a non-believer, I was somehow not an entire human being. My senses were less acute than theirs. Not my fault, but there we are, we will pray for you.

For a while, I felt that it was my mission to gently suggest that there is another way of looking at the world, the way of the likes of Montaigne, Hume, Voltaire, Popper, Russell, etc. The way of reason.
But no. All misguided.
Voltaire was poo-pooed for bringing about the French Revolution, for example.
One might as well beat up on Beethoven for bringing about Boogie-Woogie.

Toad was amusing, but not to be taken seriously. Quite right, too. Now that I'm not watching with my beady toad eye, the gallant little gang can form a snug, smug, self-congratulatory circle of mutual, mental, masturbatory admiration. ''Loved your offering on 'the Little Flower of Luton' Cecil!'' ''Nowhere near as teary-eyed making as yours on 'The Ecstasy of Saint Winnifred the Wonderful of Wimbledon,' Claude!''

Well, I warned them I was nasty. They just smiled. 'Dear old Toad..'


Ray said...

Interesting comments, but the fundamental error is to assume that those who have faith are somehow lacking reason. It is the biggest misconception of all atheists and agnostics, but completely flies in the face of reality. There are many, many intelligent, rational people who - through reason as well as faith - believe in the Christian message.

Buzz said...

Of your mercy, please consider coming back. A lot of people visited to see the sparks flying. Catholics love being soundly thrashed, you see.

Nothing formal, just the odd comment would be great.

I will remove the 'toad's hole' thing today.

Regards to R, I still have the rosary imprint across my forehead.


Caroline said...

LOL, I LIKE Boogie Woogie. You ought to come back; you are a very cowardly Toad if you don't. I know you like shaking things up, and that's exactly what the place needs every so often.

Patrick O'Gara said...

Re: Ray.
While you were writing this to me, CP&S posted a story about a sword that fell from Heaven. I don't believe it. Do you? Rabit ingeniously suggests it did so because it contained meteoric metal. I suppose the remainder of the metal in it, iron, which comes from underground, might equally make it a sword from Hell.

Ray said...


I have not read that story about the sword. I guess that my answer would be that it doesn’t really matter, because it is not fundamental to my faith. Do I believe that supernatural events occur? Yes I do. Do I believe that every event that anyone believes to be supernatural was in fact supernatural? No, I do not.

It just seems to me that the overwhelming evidence points to the truth of the Christian faith, and indeed to the fact that the Catholic Church is the properly chosen authority to safeguard that faith. This is my view as one who was brought up Christian in a lukewarm sort of way, who joined the Catholic Church as a young adult but more out of convenience than conviction, but who finally decided to think about it properly some five years ago.

Where to begin? Perhaps with the historic person of Jesus, attested to in the bible, of course, but also in external texts by Roman historians and leaders. Most atheists accept that Jesus existed, though they obviously do not accept his divinity.

If Jesus did exist, it seems perverse to deny that he was put to death by the Romans and that this fact was blindingly obvious to his closest followers. Without the resurrection, I find it impossible to rationalise the actions of those followers. There is solid evidence that the Christian faith became established very early on, against all the odds and in the face of a hostile Jewish establishment as well as a brutal and efficient occupying force. There is good evidence, too, that most of the disciples of Christ devoted their entire lives to the spread of the gospel, in many cases dying for their beliefs, alone and in different parts of the world: utterly irrational unless they had grounds for doing so.

I give some (not a lot, but definitely a little) weight to the fact that the institution of the Church has survived for twenty centuries, that people have found truth in its teachings in every era and in every country of the world. For many, many people, the strength of that truth is overwhelming and it has been claimed with some justification that more people gave their lives for their Christian belief in the twentieth century than in all previous centuries put together.

I find quite persuasive the fact that so many people have had radical conversions that have turned their lives upside down at a time when they were least looking for it. Any internet search will reveal such conversion stories, as will any of the Anglican Alpha Course books. Good examples include St Paul, St Augustine, Alphonse Ratisbonne (in the nineteenth century – easily available online), and (to give a couple of examples of those who are still alive) Fr John Corapi and Marino Restrepo (again, both available online). All five individuals were completely caught up in a totally different lifestyle until they were zapped by God’s converting grace.

I then ponder the remarkable lives of certain individuals such as Padre (now Saint) Pio or Marthe Robin, where aspects of how they lived surpass anything that can be rationally explained, in each case well attested by plenty of independent witnesses.

Then there are the sites of miracles. I am cautious and sceptical, but the evidence of unexplained cures at Lourdes is overwhelming. The events of Fatima in the early twentieth century, witnessed by some 70,000 people on one particular day, are again rationally inexplicable.

All this merely scratches the surface, but I am yet to see a convincing explanation of how Christianity became established at the outset, or of the conversion of Ratisbonne, or of Fatima, or of any of these other phenomena. That is before we even begin to ponder how matter was created out of no matter, or indeed the question of why anything should exist at all.


Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick O'Gara said...

Ray, your second post naturally raises a bookfull of points.
I will make one, or this will go on to infinity, which Spinoza suggested was God.

I go along with Russell on the existence of God
'Not enough evidence.'

Ray said...


You are right, of course. There will never be enough evidence to build a watertight case, but that is not the point. The atheists do not have enough evidence either. Russell famously uses the analogy of the teapot orbiting Mars - no evidence one way or the other, so we conclude that on a balance of probabilities there is no such teapot. But on the balance of probabilities, we can also rationally reach the conclusion that God does exist. Once we take that step, of course, the need for evidence diminishes because we discover for ourselves.

Your original posting set belief against "the way of reason" and the only purpose of my initial response was to argue that that is a fundamentally false dichotomy. If you are truly interested, then go into detailed research on one or two of the points I raised. You cannot hold your head up and proclaim lack of evidence if you do not exhaustively evaluate the evidence that is set before you. If the research goes on forever, and you follow Spinoza's path and find God, then great - QED :) !

T S Eliot's words come to mind:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning."


Patrick O'Gara said...

Ray: One last, last remark.
I am not an atheist, and when you say 'the atheists do not have one (a watertight case) either, I agree. There are few such cases in the world, and I would suggest, none in religion.
Russell, with whom I largely agree and who was an agnostic, would simply say as before,(I am paraphrasing him) ''I have no idea if there is a God or not. But I do no see enough evidence to convince me, at any rate, that there is.''
Incidentally, exactly the same applies to the infamous teapot. One can highly doubt its existence, but probably never know for sure.
Just because nobody's ever seen it, is not a guarantee of its non-existence.
So, as with God, best to ignore it and get on with life as best we can.

JoyfulPapist said...

Patrick, I'm glad to see that your occasional comments are still appearing on Catholicism Pure and Simple.

You bring me up short and cause me to look (briefly) through another set of eyes.

And had I been around when a certain visiting mouse had been making nasty remarks, my own rosary beads might have come into play.

Nunchuckers, my cradle Catholic husband calls them.