The famous comedian George Carlin was a fervent atheist, and had a particular disdain for Christian prayer. He argued that it was arrogant of us to ask the God of the Universe for anything. He’s got a Divine plan, and then we come along to ask Him for special favors. But Carlin also viewed prayer as either destructive or worthless. After all, God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God of the Universe, and He has a Divine Plan. If our prayers cause Him to change that plan, Carlin reasoned, we’re making things worse. If our prayers don’t cause Him to change His plans, what’s the point?
As longtime readers know, I used to be a lawyer before entering seminary to prepare for the Catholic priesthood. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that I'm fascinated by questions about the "burden of proof" in religious questions. For example, does the burden of proof fall on the believer or the atheist? What sort of evidence is permissible to meet this burden of proof? Do "extraordinary" claims require extraordinary evidence? Should they meet an extraordinary burden of proof, above the burden required for other sorts of claims? Here are four ways that those questions are answered incorrectly.
Can we actually know anything about God? This is one of the most fundamental questions, and many people, particularly agnostics, will say “no.” The argument tends to go something like this: God, if there is a God, is so far removed from human experience and knowledge that there’s nothing that we can say about Him (or Her […]
Johannes Moreelse, Heraclitus (1630) I. An Anatomy of Tragedy Man knows two things: how things are (the World), and how they should be (the Ideal). I don’t mean that he knows these things perfectly, or that every man completely agrees with every other man about what is or what ought to be. But everyone has […]
Pompeo Batoni, Sacred Heart of Jesus (1767) Does God hate sinners? There’s a notorious Baptist group based out of Topeka, Kansas, that claims that He does: and specifically, that He hates homosexuals. They’re a radical fringe even amongst Baptist Calvinists, and other Calvinists have sought to distance themselves from them. But many of those doing […]
Simon Vouet, Father Time Overcome by Love, Hope and Beauty (1627) A lot has been said about the “problem of pain.” Why, if God is both loving and all-powerful, is there still suffering in the world? The question is a challenge for Catholics, as for all theists. As believers, we have some sense of why a loving […]
While not all of the causes of the Protestant Reformation were theological, some of them undoubtedly were. So St. Edmund Campion, in the eighth of his Ten Reasons against the Reformation, addressed some of these. Specifically, he considers certain “impossible positions” that the Reformers held “on God, on Christ, on Man, on Sin, on Justice, on Sacraments, [and] on […]
A while back, I was in an Eastern Orthodox church that had two large depictions of Jesus. The first was an enormous depiction on the ceiling, showing Christ in glory. The second was along the back wall, behind the altar: it was a depiction of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child in her womb. […]
Perhaps the strongest argument against atheism is the argument from contingency. In its barest form, it goes something like this: A. All of reality, without exception, breaks down into one of two possible categories: (1) that which is contingent, and (2) that which is non-contingent. Let me explain what I mean by both the terms, […]
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind: classes ended, I had three papers and four finals, I went to Clear Creek Monastery for a few days, and four of our men were ordained deacons. As I make the transition from being in seminary to spending the summer at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, I wanted […]