Polyatheism is Disbelief in Many Gods

A reader with the grandiose name of Zaklog the Great calls me to the witness stand. He asks:

When you were an atheist yourself, did you consider Christians in particular your enemies, or was Christianity merely one (comically wrong) religion among many? If Christians in particular were the problem, why so?

Second, having heard the story of how you became a Christian a few times, I have a question which may be unanswerable, or just silly. If not, however, it may be interesting. Once you had offered your pro forma prayer, had a heart attack, been healed by prayer and had the visions, do you believe you had a choice as to whether to become a Christian, or had the moment of choice been passed? Do you think it was possible, having experienced all of that, to have chosen otherwise?

Like I said, I’m aware that that last question may not have a meaningful answer. You chose as you did, and that may be all the answer we can have.

I am happy to answer. But you may not be happy with my answer, since I will say both yes and no. There is an old saying ‘go not to philosophers for counsel, for they will ask you to define your terms.’  Or we are subtle and quick to anger. Or something.

So, on the one hand, the answer is yes:

When I was an atheist, I was an asupernaturalist, which means, I did not believe in anything supernatural, parapsychological, or supernal. (I was not, however, a materialist, because I was not prone to whatever insanity it is that makes a man pretend he is a meat robot, or a poached egg.) So gods, ghosts, witchcrafts, and (aside from stage magic) magic or miracles of any kind I dismissed on the grounds of the metaphysical incoherence of asserting that supernature could exist if nature existed.

After all, no matter what it is, a supernatural realm or being would by philosophical necessity be governed by its laws of nature. A supernatural realm or being would have a ‘nature’ because it had a definition. If a thing is what it is, and is not what it is not, it is defined; and whatever principle defines it, that principle is its nature.

Since I was convince nothing supernatural could possibly exist, I was convinced no gods (defined as supernatural beings) could possibly exist.

So, I was an equal opportunity atheist. On a rational level, I disbelieved in gods as much as I disbelieved in God, and for the same reasons.

Indeed, this got me in trouble with at least once with one of my fellow atheists. I was too fair-minded. Because I disbelieved in Christianity just as much as paganism, in a book starring the pagan gods, I threw in some Christian mythology as well, treating it with no more and no less respect than the other.

Pardon the digression while I talk about my writing. It is the perennial danger of talking to writers.

In my fantasy novel, ORPHANS OF CHAOS, I had my character the warlock boy Quentin Nemo believe in and talk to ghosts and gods and demons and so on, because it was a fantasy. He was unable to enter a church and his dark and airy familiar spirits could not approach the sound of a churchbell, because that is part of the legends and lore of witches. He also, since he was a pious witch and believes in ghosts and knew better than to meddle with them, went to the trouble of burying the corpses of some murder victims, and, being raised as a High Church Anglican, he knew the words to the Compline.

There is also a scene where Amelia Windrose, who (because of her paradigm of the universe had to be an agnostic, rather than an atheist like Victor) in desperation said a prayer, noticed and odd energy reaction in a higher dimension, as if somehow someone was listening and had answered.

And yet again, in a book where all the Olympian gods are real, I had to have some character, raised on Earth, ask about Jehovah. Was he one of their species or not? Just another sky god like Zeus? In my first draft, I said he was, but that did not sit right with my magic system, which basically requires the gods to act as a group to stave off Chaos. I could not make Jehovah a Chaoticist, nor could I make him younger than Chaos without making him a son of Saturn gone mad or something, so I decided to treat him as something mysterious, something the gods were not sure what to make of.

Then I came a across a charming folk tale about an Irish saint telling a mermaid who craved baptism that mermaids did not have souls, and that she was just as likely to be baptized as the dead wood of the staff in his hand to bloom. Immediately the wood burst into leaves and flowers to the astonishment of the saint, who baptized her.

Now, I (being an atheist) saw nothing particularly offensive in the story, because, to me, it is was no different than the parallel story of Buddha preaching to a Naga (a water dragon) and bringing the monster to achieve the enlightenment of an arhat.  I also thought it would be cute, and show the absurdity of the Christian religion, if my mermaid, a siren named Thelxipeia, was a member of a Gnostic or Donatists sect (I the time, I did not know the difference) which had been wiped out in the Fourth or Fifth Century, and was the single and sole one left, she thinking that she alone practiced the true version of Christianity and that the entire earth was heretical. (I have since in real life talked to a Mormon who had a remarkably similar belief).

Well, bizarrely enough, at least one of my fellow atheists reviewed the book and came to the conclusion that I was writing pro-Christian apologetic!

You see, because I only went out of my way to sneer at Christianity in the scene where Colin fights the garden hose, or one or two other places, and did not make my burning hatred of Christianity a centerpiece and core of my book, the critic missed it, and came to exactly the opposite of the right conclusion.

That should tell you a clue about Christianity. I was treating it, in my fairminded atheism, as if it were no more and no less controversial than any other superstition or religion. I actually believed it was no different. But my fellow atheists act as if Christianity is supreme, and that one either had to be one hundred percent against it or one hundred percent for it.

(I should mention my strong suspicion that my fellow atheist learned far to the Left. The simplicity of thinking everything is either all black or all white is not in their mental toolbox. There is no such thing as admiring the artwork of the Bible or of a Cathedral while not believing in God. One can admire the Koran and disbelieve in Allah, but all things touched by Christianity, even the way we date our calendar, is so hateful it must be despised with total and absolute despite.)

On the other hand, the answer is no:

I was willing to admit that I could not prove Thor or Zeus did not exist. Unlike the benevolent yet omnipotent yet God of Saint Thomas Aquinas who permitted evil to exist in His universe and indeed created it to happen that way, there was nothing innately illogical about pagan gods. However, if I ever encountered one, I would regard it as a natural and not a supernatural being, a creature with immense powers, perhaps, but no different in the moral sense, that is, making no innate demand on the loyalty of mankind, than a Martian of H.G. Wells.  So my disbelief in the God of Thomas was more than my disbelief in the gods of Homer because Thomas made a bolder claim.

But that I have told you is but half the tale, because while that was my intellectual stance, my heart was fully opposed to Christianity but favorable toward paganism. When I looked at paganism, I saw Aristotle and Plato and Euclid and Thucydides, the fathers of philosophy and geometry and history. When I looked at Christianity, I saw the Spanish Inquisition, and I believed that old chestnut about Christians hating, opposing and discouraging science (or, rather, SCIENCE!!) which I saw as man’s only hope of salvation. When I spoke to Christians, I was immensely frustrated, because they seemed to have an answer for every question, but the answers were all illogical. It was a superstition, but one which had grown into a world-embracing and world-absorbing system, a trap into which, once one fell, there was no escape. Intellect was no help to escape: I knew too many intelligent Christians.

And everything that stood between me and my most base and perverse desires, sexual and otherwise, was embodied in the Christian message. Zeus never said adultery was bad; Mars never told me it was wrong to carry off Sabine Women; nor did one-eyed Odin, who subsists only on mead that maddens the senses, ever call it was wrong to cleave the skulls of my enemies and drink their brain and blood like soup.

Paganism is dead. The neopagans are not likely to resurrect it — pardon me, they do not believe in the resurrection — the neopagans are not likely to reincarnate it. There are probably more people who believe in UFOs than believe Hecate’s consort is Cernunnos, or the Green Man.  Buddhism never once inspired a social change: it is a passive religion of utmost despair. Mohamedanism is barbaric, and can only destroy, not create, and despite the absurd pretensions and outright lies of the Left, the Islamic barbarians never invented anything, not even the zero. Toaism and Confucianism are philosophies with ritualized and mystical overtones, and do not have any power to change society, and hence no power to impose any restrictions on any atheist soul.

Communism, which even then I regarded as a cultic religion no different from the worship of Moloch, or, more to the point, the Cargo Cult of the Melanesians, I also regarded as my enemy, but even in my youth I saw that it was destroying itself and apt to die — although I was surprised as anyone that this happened in my lifetime. All my CoDominium future history books by Jerry Pournelle in the twinkling of an eye turned into alternate future history. But my nation was not Communist, my culture was not seeped in it, nor did Communism have any history old enough to make any impression on my thinking. Everything less than 150 years old, such as female suffrage, I regard as a temporary fad and unlikely to last. Communism is a fad; but Christianity was not a fad.

So it was my archenemy, my only real enemy. I never blasphemed Thor or Zeus, but I blasphemed and mocked God and Christ as often as I could.

As for your second question, you answered it yourself. It was like falling in love. When you fall in love, there is no sensation of choice or decision or debate unless part of your soul is not convinced. Debate and the sensation of decision happen only when you halfway decide and halfway resist. On topics were there is no scintilla of temptation, there is no decision, because the topic never comes up. Likewise on topics were every single brain cell assents to the proposition, there is no need for debate, no need for a vote, no need even for unanimous acclamation, and so the moment of decision passes unawares.

However, once in love, one is faced with the decision whether to be faithful, that is, honest or not. No amount of visions, miracles, or infusions of the Holy Spirit make it logically possible to doubt the obvious. A solipsist doubts the obvious every day, and a materialist denies the obvious each and every time he thinks and acts — and yet solipsists and materialists exist.

However, since I was never a conformist, the attempts by the Lefty atheists, who did not honestly disbelieve in God for good reasons, but merely hate God because He reminds them of their Fathers whom they fear and hate, the pathetic attempts of herd thinking collectivist atheists to shame me into returning to their herd fill me not with temptation but total disgust. The intelligent atheists are very far and few between, and none of them has given me and argument even as strong as the arguments I once gave on a routine basis. Indeed, the atheist I admire most for the clarity of his thinking (and its similarity to my own) has since been convinced to kneel and pray to God for the gift of faith. I pray for him daily.

Is my answer clear? The decision in the lower court was made without a trial, instantly, supernaturally, with no discussion or debate. I have since spoken to many an atheist online, and seen the rapid degeneration of their ability to form their thoughts into a coherent argument. None has given an argument sufficient to bring the case to an Appeals Court for review. But as a logical possibility, no matter what the evidence in the lower court, and Appellate Court always makes a decision, even if the decision is not to revisit the case.

 

116 Comments

  1. Comment by The Deuce:

    Off-topic, but: John, when I said that you and some other Catholic bloggers ought to get together and hold an intervention for Mark, I wasn’t just blowing spoke. This guy’s heartfelt post illuminates the reasons why I say that better than I could put it.

  2. Comment by VunderGuy:

    “After all, no matter what it is, a supernatural realm or being would by philosophical necessity be governed by its laws of nature. A supernatural realm or being would have a ‘nature’ because it had a definition. If a thing is what it is, and is not what it is not, it is defined; and whatever principle defines it, that principle is its nature.”

    Wow. Sounds like you went through some epic mental gymnastics and word play there when you were of Dawkins’ ilk. It reminds me of how some atheists will actually try and redefine the term ‘atheism’ to mean ‘a lack of belief in God or gods’ instead of the classical definition of ‘the belief that that there is no God or gods.’

    Speaking of, is a lack of belief belief?

    On that note, is cold not just the absence of light and darkness not just the absence of light? I mean, what positive qualities do cold and darkness have that make them things rather than a lack of something?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      No gymnastics. I can try to explain the thought in simpler terms, if you are curious.

      • Comment by VunderGuy:

        Oh I am. Thanks to the kind folks at Doug Ernst’s blog, I was directed to your site (as well as Vox Populi’s) and have been reading through both of your collected blog posts most vigorously, and though I disagree on some parts (your take on the Superman character for example and Vox’s apparent libertarianism) for the most part, I do wholeheartedly agree.

        Certainly more than I did with my old sci-fi/fantasy teacher I had a few months back. That guy would certainly be at home amongst the Pink Sci-Fi folks at Tor and elsewhere with his constant conservative and republican bashing screeds. Funny enough, he had the gaul to say that a certain part of story outline documents added nothing to it because I made a clear statement that there was no cliche, black and white conflict between the supernatural and super sciency elements of my proposed short stories world. When he made ideological statements that promoted unjust conflict, it was called teaching, but when I make ideological statements that avoided unjust conflict, he gets to force me to edit it.

        Where was I? Oh yes.

        In summation, I’d be very, VERY, interested in what you have to say out of respect I have for you, I didn’t think you’d actually comment because you’re a busy man, so, please, do explain, because I am quite curious.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I’d say it is the opposite of gymnastics.

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      It reminds me of how some atheists will actually try and redefine the term ‘atheism’ to mean ‘a lack of belief in God or gods’ instead of the classical definition of ‘the belief that that there is no God or gods.’

      That’s a new one on me. I used the distinction you mention many a time, but it was never an issue of redefining the term, and I fail to see what the object would be in the attempt to use it as a definition as opposed to what the OED defines as “the disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a God.”

      The object, in calling to attention the aspect of a lack is in underlining the intrinsically negative nature of atheism – it is right there in the word a-theism. The different wording is to highlight that atheism is not a positive belief, but a negative. Hence, it is not some form of slippery linguistic play (at least I’ve never seen it used as such-and I’ve been all over the atheist playground) since the lack is also the denial.

      You also have to see the use through atheist eyes. To the atheist you have something he does not, which is not a positive thing for you in his eyes. His lack is a boon, like you possessing cancer and he not. His lack of a belief is a form of tabula rasa, an mental or spiritual ailment you possess but he is clean of – whether he sees that as childhood-brainwashing, stupidity, gullibility, bad premises, cloudy thinking, fear, low self-esteem doesn’t matter.

      So again, to use that wording is no slight of hand, he is one of the lucky few, who is not hindered, he lacks a mental virus, so to speak, that has afflicted mankind throughout the ages.

      • Comment by VunderGuy:

        Actually, there is a logical difference between the saying that atheism is a lack of belief in God or gods or is the belief that there is no God or gods.

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/definition-of-atheism

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-definition-that-will-not-die

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/a-manual-for-creating-atheists

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          Of course there is, I said so in my answer. But one does not negate the other, the disbelief in God and the lack of belief in God are merely naming the same fact from two different perspectives. There is a difference and they are both correct.

          Lane is talking about the New Atheists. I never hung with those guys. I read one book by Hutchins and one by Dawkins – goodbye, not interested. Now those guys perform mental gymnastics. I wouldn’t doubt they would try to redefine the term for some reason I have no interest investigating.

          Also, etymologically the OED definition is interesting because the dis- prefix in disbelief has its origins in Latin that means, twain, asunder, apart. Since we are talking about a belief in God I’ll leave it to your imagination why that is interesting.

          • Comment by Triledgets:

            “the disbelief in God and the lack of belief in God are merely naming the same fact from two different perspectives”

            It is common amongst New Atheists to emphasize the distinction for polemical reasons: if a-theism is simply the lack of a particular belief, one is under no obligation to rationally defend it. It is a rhetorical trick to try to shift the burden of proof back to the theist who, the argument goes, is the one making the positive claim.

            Of course, it also makes it difficult to distinguish atheist from agnostic, hence it’s a matter of some controversy within NA.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Much as I admire Mr Wizard, I respectfully disagree with his answer. I was not an agnostic, I was an atheist, that is, I had an argument which (to my satisfaction, at least, at the time) disproved the proposition that God existed. I was an agnostic in regard to Apollo and Thor and Santa Claus in that I did not hold it to be logically impossible for them to exist, perhaps in some hidden place, but neither was their valid evidence that they did exist, and there were natural explanations to say why men told tales about them.

              The difference is an atheist is bold enough to claim he can prove his case. The agnostic is one who holds human reason, or current evidence, or the nature of the question, makes a definitive claim either for or against the proposition impossible. By that definition, many Evangelical Christians are agnostic Christians: they say human reason cannot prove God exists, but that faith in God is nevertheless valid and admirable and necessary for salvation.

              • Comment by Triledgets:

                Of course, even New Atheists who champion the weak definition aren’t consistent about it. It is, after all, a rhetorical device, not a defensible philosophical position.

                Their problem, of course, is that it’s a trap: since the weak definition equally applies to agnostics, a NA cannot employ it to dodge the obligation to defend his atheism without surrendering the right to call himself an atheist.

                Yours was a much more honest atheism. But I’m sure you already knew that.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                I completely agree, and I too had my own arguments perhaps not too dissimilar to yours. I am not sure I have ever heard your full, articulated argument before.

                I am not sure where the disagreement is, but I fear it may be my lack of clarity in the matter.

                1. I agree with the classic definition of atheism, not the new-fangled attempt of redefinition to “lack of belief” (which, upon sacrificing an hour of sleep, I have trolled the internet enough to find the original claim of VunderGuy to be true).

                2. However lack of belief is still a characteristic of atheism in general, but it is not the definitional characteristic. I.e., it is not one of the characteristic(s) by which we differentiate it from all other classes, e.g., agnosticism.

                What I am saying schematically is this: Say I define Man as the rational animal and you agree with that definition. If I also start pointing out other characteristics such as he is featherless and a biped, you make no argument by tossing a plucked chicken over the fence at me because we have already agreed, by delimitation of the definition, that these characteristics are non-defining.

                Perhaps, originally, it would have been far more clear if I had stated simply that it was an attempt to define a term by non-essential characteristics.

                And you are correct, by defining it merely as a lack of belief it is not possible to distinguish it from agnosticism. But that doesn’t mean they don’t share the characteristic just as man shares the characteristic of having eyes with a chicken.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      1. “Belief” is the general intensifier “be-” (cognate to the German “ge-”) plus the word for love (“lief”). So belief is close to the German “geliebt” or “beloved.” A belief is therefore something one holds dear.

      2. cold, light, warmth, dark are not “things”. They are forms of things; typically accidental forms rather than essential forms.

  3. Comment by VunderGuy:

    “the Islamic barbarians never invented anything…”

    Ummm… excuse me, but, while I am indeed no jihadist or Muslim, what about the Kalam Cosmological argument for God’s existence?

    • Comment by DGDDavidson:

      St. Thomas Aquinas refuted it.

      • Comment by VunderGuy:

        That’s a new one, and no, he really didn’t, especially in light of what we know about cosmology now adays.

        • Comment by Patrick:

          To assist interested readers, here’s a take by token Catholic Philosopher Ed Feser on cosmological arguments, et. al.:

          http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

        • Comment by DGDDavidson:

          Sure he did. He demonstrated that it is not logically incoherent to suppose that the universe was eternal, if God were understood as logically prior and not chronologically prior to the creation. He accepted on faith that the universe was of finite duration and simply did not anticipate that physics would discover the universe’s starting point.

          The kalam argument is that there cannot be an infinite number of past days because it would then be impossible to have arrived at the present day, since it is impossible to pass through an infinite medium. St. Thomas answers that the count from any particular day in the past to the present day is finite. His argument, which is only about what is logically possible, stands or falls on its own merits regardless of the discoveries of physics.

          • Comment by VunderGuy:

            @DGDDavidson

            With respect to Aquinas, that argument of his you listed commits an elementary fallacy in logic and does not stand under serious scrutiny.

            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-8

            Also, I’m pretty sure proponents of the Kalam DO accept that God existed casually prior to the beginning of time (or logically prior, as you put it) and actually like to drive that point home, so I don’t know why you have the view that they don’t, unless you’ve misconstrued God’s infinity as a quantitative, mathematical assessment rather than a quality that encompasses his superlative attributes like omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and so on.

            • Comment by Mary:

              What view that they don’t? DGDDavidson was talking about Aquinas’s belief about His existing casually before the beginning of time, and whether this was revealed truth or could be deduced philosophically.

              To read that as a comment about someone else does not arise to the dignity of an elementary fallacy in logic.

              • Comment by VunderGuy:

                @Mary

                The dude said that Aquinas refuted the Kalam, which argues for God’s existence by pointing out the impossibility of an actual infinite number of things in the real world (as opposed to the minds of mathematicians), like say, an actual infinite number of past events and said that Aquinas’s refutation came in the form of saying that within said infinite set, the number before it or after it would not be infinite, which is indeed fallacious especially considering that you can’t get an actual infinite by successive addition or subtraction and because it confuses the parts that make up something with the whole thing like the weight of an elephants hair with the weight of the whole animal.

                So, in other words, forgive me for inferring by his position and the way he worded his post that he was insinuating that defenders of the Kalam did not agree about God existing casually prior to time (as opposed to the more temporal ‘before). For though I and other defenders of the Kalam would whole-heartedly disagree about the coherence of an actually eternal universe, God’s relationship to time is a point of agreement.

  4. Comment by johnmc:

    Re: the belief that everything has a definition.

    Aquinas argued that God didn’t have a definition, because God is Being itself and being itself is not a genus.

    The idea that being itself is not a genus can be defended as follows (I think Aquinas would agree with this although not all of this argument was explicitly said by him): If you define a dog there are some beings who are not dogs, and the dog definition distinguishes the beings who are dogs from the beings who are not; but you can’t have beings who are not beings. “Being” is in all genera so it cannot set one genus apart from another. But you can distinguish finite being within a genus from Infinite Being which is outside all genera. Also Aquinas believed this side of the grave we did not know “what God is” except by analogy (after death if I have not misremembered we would know what God is, and we would see God face to face).

    STTJOHMC

  5. Comment by Brian Niemeier:

    First, from Larry Correia’s site: http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/07/24/the-official-alphabetical-list-of-author-success/
    “By awesome, I mean I just read the scene in MONSTER HUNTER VENDETTA where the hero has the stuffing kicked out of him by lawn ornaments…”

    Now here: “…in the scene where Colin fights the garden hose…”

    We may have found the common thread that runs through their writing.

  6. Comment by johnmc:

    Apologies if this comment is repeated.

    Re: everything having a definition.

    Aquinas said God did not have a definition because he was Being itself and Being itself is not in a genus.

    STTJOHMC

  7. Comment by johnmc:

    Sorry I meant Being itself is not a genus. (In other words delete the “in” before “a genus”) Though it is true that God’s being is not in a genus.

    STTJOHMC

  8. Comment by johnmc:

    In fact I think what Aquinas said was that being (small letter) was not a genus. So my first post should read

    “Re: everything having a definition.

    Aquinas said God did not have a definition because he was Being itself and being is not a genus.

    STTJOHMC

  9. Comment by Robby Charters:

    Interesting that you mention the Gnosticism of the character Thelxipeia in Orphans of Chaos. It was for that reason that I first Googled your name to see if you were really a Gnostic and discovered your story. I’ve been following you since.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Who in the world told you I was a Gnostic? I went from a hardhearted utterly zealous atheist to a hardheaded utterly zealous Catholic, that is, from Lawful Good to Lawful Evil. Gnostics are chaotics. I have always been the exact opposite of a Gnostic in every way, even while changing my beliefs 180 degrees.

      If someone on the Internet said such a thing about me, it is a clue not to believe the Web of Lies.

      • Comment by Robby Charters:

        Actually, I’d never heard of you before. The idea arose from my own jumping to the conclusion based on the character of Thelxipeia. I quickly found out otherwise when I did a search. Since I’m a fan of C.S.Lewis et al, I subscribed to your RSS feed, and have been following, off and on (very long RSS list), ever since. Don’t worry, I didn’t spread anything on cyberspace in the mean time, nor have I seen anything to that effect.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Thelxipeia was one of the bad guys. You think I put my own ideas in the mouth of the bad guy? An odd idea. I thought that it was painfully obvious that Victor Triumph, token Vulcan, was the author’s sockpuppet.

          • Comment by Robby Charters:

            Sorry — it’s been about six years now since I read it. I’ll have to go back and re-read it, and it’s sequels (which I didn’t read yet), just as soon as I finish reading William Hodgson’s Night Lands, which I got hooked on, also thanks to you.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              I am delighted that my humble work is worthy of rereading. You are generous. However, I am not complaining — you are not the first person who suspected that something the bad guys in that story said was my own opinion. One read believed Grendel Glum’s version of events, and another thought Headmaster Boggin was speaking for me. It kind of takes me by surprise since I always assume bad guys lie when I read a story. Unlike William Blake, I do not assume Milton’s Lucifer is telling the truth when he addresses his minions in a public speech.

              There must have been something I did in that story which made the bad guys seem more believable than they should be. Or maybe I just have skeptical bent which not all readers share.

          • Comment by R.Carter:

            Strange. I never really saw Thelxipeia as one of the villains. She was always a slave in my mind, broken and directed by powers she had long since stopped fighting. Did she do bad things? Of course, but when offered even the smallest chance to rebel she took it. She was certainly sympathetic enough to seem like a victim and not a true villain (at least in my mind).

            My first time through the Chronicles of Chaos I read Thelxipeia’s story and thought it such a delicately beautiful account that the author had to be a Christian of some stripe endeavoring to introduce the concept of a Prime Mover without overwhelming a fantasy predominantly concerned with ancient gods, magic, and monsters.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              I try to make my villains and villainesses have sympathetic, or at least comprehensible, motivations.

              I was not a Christian when I wrote the first two books of the Chronicles of Chaos, but I was by the third. So, if you can detect a difference in my themes or writing style based on my conversion, you are a better man than I. At that time, I thought my mission in life was to tell a story and give the customers what they wanted.

              Now, however, exposure via the internet to the gossip and yammering of all the Morlocks and Potatoheads in fandom have convinced me I should write only for fans who like the same kind of books I like. My next novel will be called ASLAN IS A SLAN, and be about a telepathic lion with two hearts being hunted by ruthless atheists from planet Dawkins. His archenemy will be an evil winter witch and lovable socialist drunk named Jadis Hitchens, a writer for Vanity Fair.

              Sorry, I was so busy choking on my own snark that I forgot to thank you for your kindhearted compliment. Unlike most atheists of my acquaintance, I did then and do now notice that Platonic and Neoplatonic and Stoic paganism — including the idea of an Unmoved Mover — blends nicely with Christianity. As an atheist, I took this to be a sign that Christianity was natural, since it evolved from paganism; as a Christian, I take it as a sign that paganism is supernatural in that is was divinely ordered to prefigure and foreshadow Christianity, as if the same Hand that planted the seed also prepared the soil.

          • Comment by Mary:

            At the point at which she was declaiming on her religious views, she was at least an anti-Villain.

  10. Comment by CatLady:

    I was where you are seven years ago, struggling with loss and despair. The best answer I can give you is pray. Pray for sign posts, pray for guidance, pray for mercy, pray for help. Things will come in to your life. If you reach out a hand, it will be grasped. For me, it did not happen over night (or I did not recognize it. I can be stubborn that way.) I still struggle. But I no longer doubt. My focus now is more on sin and sinning and what that means. Thy will not mine. Which is a hard enough battle. Blessings and best wishes.

    • Comment by johnedko:

      Woolyram,

      If I may be so bold, I would echo what CatLady suggests – although I would also add – listen. Prayer can be many things, from the Rosary (long, specific wording) to a quick ask to St. Anthony for help in finding the car keys (short, more a plea) – but also just trying for stillness. When you quiet the concerns of the material world – that can make is easier to hear what you need. (Quieting in this sense includes quieting the emotions, no happy/sad/etc. Just be.)

      But I would also recommend talking to some fellow Orthodox who have maintained their faith – it might be more comfortable to talk about these things with someone who has a shared cultural background. And also read what you can about Mother Teresa, although she did good works and few would doubt that she was doing God’s work – she spent 50 years in a spiritual wasteland – confronted by doubts. This might be seen as her bravest battle – caring for the poor in the way she did was hard enough, but doing it while all the time beset with these doubts in her soul – that makes what she accomplished breathtaking.

      Good luck and Godspeed in your journey.

      -John

  11. Comment by Zaklog the Great:

    So would it be accurate to say that you could have chosen not to follow Christianity, but doing so would have been a violation of your conscience? Of course, as time goes by, to borrow a biblical phrase, your heart would have hardened, and your conscience would bother you less, but it would still be there.

    Again, checking if I understand you correctly, even if you were not part of a predominantly Christian culture, the unique (and outrageous, if false) claims of Christianity would still have made it your enemy, even if strictly rationally, you placed it in a category with all the rest. Is that right?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      More accurate to say that, for a man who has seen God, to disbelief in God would be a violation of my reason. It would be madness.

      I cannot speculate on what a version of me raised in a pagan culture would have thought on an issue as delicate as ranking various believes I dismissed as false by their falsehood. It was not until my neopagan best friend told me some of his beliefs that I began to have a very, very grudging respect for Christianity, because I realized for the first time that the worldview of Christianity was not the most evil, most absurd, most obnoxious, most pathetic the human mind could devise. Neopaganism has no theology, and so there is no matter to reason about. Theology presupposes a belief in the divine and a belief that the divine is something open to reason. The Christians are one of the few, if not the only, faith that believes faith is reasonable, and hence is one of the few, if not the only, faith open to theology. When I realized that neopaganism by its nature could not and could never have a theology, I gained the smallest imaginable half of an infinitesimal speck of respect for Christianity.

  12. Comment by Triledgets:

    “Since I was convince nothing supernatural could possibly exist, I was convinced no gods (defined as supernatural beings) could possibly exist.”

    Humans have believed in God or gods for thousands of years, but the natural/supernatural dichotomy (and hence the definition of gods or God as supernatural beings) is a modern construct. Since the existence of God is not dependent on the categories to which we assign Him, did it occur to you then that denial of the supernatural does not logically entail denial of the existence of God?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      No, it did not occur to me, nor should it have, since the statement is illogical. If the natural/supernatural dichotomy is modern but valid, then it applies to all gods; if invalid, that is, a construct, it applies to no gods, whether the construct is modern or not.

    • Comment by Zaklog the Great:

      It’s a bit surprising to hear chronological snobbery (e.g. this idea is from such and such a time period and therefore wrong or irrelevant) used against the modern age. It’s quite common these days to see people dismiss an idea as old and therefore wrong, but to see someone say this idea is new and therefore irrelevant, haven’t seen that too often.

      • Comment by Triledgets:

        I will admit what is already obvious: I am not a philosopher, nor do I have a philosopher’s (or writer’s) talent for linguistic precision.

        I did not intend to say it was irrelevant because it’s modern. My point was only that since — as demonstrated historically — not all concepts of God depend on natural/supernatural categories, why would denial of the supernatural necessarily entail denial of the existence of God?

        I see now I shouldn’t have introduced history at all; I probably would have been better off just asking something like, “What would Aquinas have made of the assertion, ‘I don’t believe in the supernatural, therefore God does not exist.’”?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I think Aquinas would have answer the argument as it was stated, which is, the concept ‘supernatural’ is incoherent because everything by definition has a nature, ergo nothing supernatural exists; God is supernatural by definition (or else He is just a being superior to us but as natural as we are, like a Martian of HG Wells); ergo God does not exist.

          Another comment in this thread already identified the error in this logic: God has no genus, therefore is not defined. Infinite beings are not defined by definition. It is a category error, and perhaps even a circular argument, if it tacitly assumes from the outset that ‘everything’ mention in the first premise means ‘everything in nature’.

          I am not a genius, and cannot speculate how Aquinas can answer. I can say how CS Lewis would answer, because I’ve read his answer on this point: he, in effect, says that God is both natural and supernatural just as man is. The relationship of supernature to nature is like the relationship of mind to body.

          • Comment by Triledgets:

            Of course, we must also take care not to fall into equivocation.

            OED: “Nature: 1) The phenomena of the physical world collectively. 2) The basic or inherent features, character, or qualities of something.”

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              The argument I would make — if time permits me to answer VunderGuy’s request that I do so — would be to argue that those two definitions are one and the same, or, specifically, that the essential nature of the world is that it follows the regular and repeated patterns of the laws of nature, and that therefore elfland, if it is part of the world, does also. Next that elfland if it communicated with the world, or created effects in the world, is part of the world. Ergo the essential nature of elfland would be repeated patterns properly called laws of nature.

              Now, this argument would be a purely academic exercise, since, as someone here has already pointed out, St Thomas found the error in the argument. But it is not the error of ambiguity.

            • Comment by Mary:

              I think you would enjoy Studies in Words.

    • Comment by Mary:

      Eh, it’s certain in place earlier than that. C. S. Lewis has an interesting chapter on “Nature” in Studies in Words.

  13. Comment by johnedko:

    John,

    Thank you for posting more about your story – I find these articles about yourself to be some of the most interesting. Thank you for allowing us to be “on the inside”.

    -John

    PS: Chapter 4 in Count to Infinity and really enjoying it. (I would recommend Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, about the Lewis and Clark expedition.)

  14. Comment by Mrmandias:

    Far from Thelxipeia looking silly, making her the last Donatist actually made her story more poignant. Something had happened to her so profound that it would make her gently hold to a faith after it had apparently completely failed. Then again, I am a Mormon, which apparently gives me an affinity to obstinate redeemed mermaids. :)

  15. Comment by Vicq Ruiz:

    So it was my archenemy, my only real enemy……I blasphemed and mocked God and Christ as often as I could.

    Not the first time I’ve seen this self-description in your writings.

    Is it your opinion that this detestation of Christianity is common to all atheists, or only a portion of them?

    If the former, how would you characterize the worldview of someone who has (1) investigated Christianity (and other religions) over a period of several decades, (2) finds each of them, in one way or another, lacking in intellectual coherence or explicative power, but (3) to the best of his self-awareness, bears none of them any malice, provided they do not, in the well worn phrase, seek to break his leg or pick his pocket?

    Should I no longer call myself an atheist??

    • Comment by John C Wright:


      Is it your opinion that this detestation of Christianity is common to all atheists, or only a portion of them?

      Only a portion, obviously. Theodore Dalrymple is an atheist, but he has great respect for Christianity.


      If the former…

      You have left comments on my blog for many months now, so you should have some idea of my character, and should know better than to ask a question such as this. If I had emotions, I would be offended.

      I am confident you are a paragon of logic, and have no personal enmity toward one religion as opposed to another. But no one was talking about you.

  16. Comment by jesusLover:

    Mr. Wright–

    You are not a follower of Christ. You are the follower of a pagan wizard in a white robe. You are not a worshipper of Christ. You are a worshipper of Mary, and not even the real Mary, but the Roman goddess Juno your lying Church tells you is Mary. You do not follow the Bible, you follow Papal bull. Turn from the lying Great Whore of Babylon and embrace Jesus Christ as your personal Savior or you will burn for eternity in the Lake of Fire right next to Richard Dawkins!

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I assume this is a parody. I have from time to time encountered the very slightest hint of bigotry against the One, True, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church, but not an actual run-on sentence style signboard-loonhobo rant. Hard to tell from something this short, but it sounds suspiciously like a Leftist trying to do an impersonation of their idea of a televangelist.

      Dear Ranting Loon-Hobo, Yes, you are of course correct. The wizard in a white robe I follow is Gandalf the White!

      Here is my credo:
      I believe in One God, Eru, and in his only messenger, Olorin, who was borne on a ship from the Undying Lands, suffered under the Balrog, was defenestrated, died, and buried; he descended into the abyss. In the Second Volume he returned from the dead. He returned by ship to the Undying Lands, and is seated in honor on Mount Everwhite. I believe in Caspar the Friendly Ghost, the Great Galactic Spirit, the kryptonian god Rao, the Communion by Whitley Strieber, the forgiveness of Parking Tickets, and THE EVERLASTING MAN by Chesterton.

      By the way, in case you are serious and not a nutcase, please recall that you will have to answer for your every lightest word on Judgment Day, and that you are yourself, right here, right now, violating the terms of the last and longest prayer Christ ever prayed, which was for unity. See John 17.

      • Comment by Robby Charters:

        I’m afraid it’s probably not a parody. You’ll see this sentiment in Jack Chick comic books, and in some of the more conservative of the Protestant (fundamentalist) churches of N.Ireland and the American “Bible Belt”. They’ve practically rewritten the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to mean the Catholic Church, especially the Jesuit order and the “Black Pope”…

        …and your reference to John 17 is most appropriate — Amen and amen!

      • Comment by jesusLover:

        I count a single run-on sentence in my original essay. I do not have the resources of Satan, the god of this world, to provide me with an editorial staff. False Men of God often are often taken aback when confronted with the real thing, as per this story:

        http://www.slideee.com/slide/reverend-wonderful

        In your case you seem to fetishize over commas and semicolons to avoid confronting the truth about your soul

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          No, here he is again. It is a parody. No real Christian, fundamentalist or not, talks this way. It is an internet rant-hobo poking fun at us.

          A real Christian would remember the words of John:

          Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
          He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
          In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
          Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
          Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
          No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
          Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
          And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
          Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

          I confess that Christ is the Son of God. QED.

          • Comment by M. L. Martin:

            Maybe the reference to Juno should have been a clue–most of the time, in my own limited experience, the undue association is made with Isis or Ishtar.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Isis-Ishtar does make a lot more sense as being related to the hyperdulia of Mary than what I know of Juno, not that I want to get into that again, but I am wondering why he thinks Juno is a better fit.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Juno also had the title ‘Queen of Heaven’ in some Roman devotion, and gave virgin birth to Vulcan, at least in some versions of the myth.

                • Comment by jesusLover:

                  Thank you for clarification. Unlike most Catholics, you appear to have some knowledge of your own religion. Unlike older versions of demon goddess, such as Isis, the Catholic Mary is a more direct copy of Juno.

                  More on Mary & Isis:

                  http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0074/0074_01.asp

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    Sorry, my brother in Christ, but I am going to have to ban you, since I don’t want to encourage your crazy, and it is a sin to stir up enmity between the brethren.

                  • Comment by Mary:

                    And Jesus is a copy of Nebuchadnezzar and Satan?

                    “Indeed thus says the Lord GOD: I am bringing up against Tyre from the north, Nebuchadnezzar,King of Babylon,king of kings, with horses and chariots, with cavalry, and a mighty horde of troops.”

                    “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning!”

                    “the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords”

                    “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”

                    Abandon your Satanism!

                    Alternatively, abandon your slander of accusing anyone who uses the same title necessarily means the same thing by it.

                    • Comment by M. L. Martin:

                      Actually, Mary, I have seen people use Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 22:16 to ‘prove’ that all translations other than the KJV are Satanically inspired, due to the fact that they don’t translate Isaiah 14:12 as “Lucifer”, thus allowing for the same comparison you’ve made.

                      There are those who have zeal, but not knowledge–or at least, the knowledge they have can lead them into strange places. I found a pamphlet on the Metro today that declared salvation was no longer available after May 21, 2011 (and it was dated this April). There are people who need prayer and fraternal correction out there.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Well, they’ve got to justify the schism somehow.

            • Comment by jesusLover:

              Isis, Ishtar, Juno and the Catholic Mary are all manifestations of the same demon whore who seduces many away from the true teachings of Jesus. Juno seemed to me the most direct link because this was the name originally given to her in Roman culture. All the Catholic Church did was change her name to Mary.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Snap out of it. You are hysterical.

              • Comment by Zaklog the Great:

                At this point, I have to ask, do you believe, as a matter of historical fact, there was a woman named Mary who lived an unusually holy life and was chosen by God to be the virgin mother of Jesus?

                • Comment by jesusLover:

                  Yes, but we are not to worship her but only worship Jesus himself. Christians understand this; Catholics do not. The worship of the feminine is demonic paganism. Catholics just change the names of “Juno” and ‘Vulcan” to “Jesus” and “Mary” but keep the demonic substance. Changing words does not change reality, no matter what Catholics say!

                  For more info, go here:

                  http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0040/0040_01.asp

                • Comment by R.Carter:

                  Actually, I want to ask him if he believes (as Jack Chick does) that the Catholic Church has his name and the names of all Protestants collected in a computer database hidden beneath the Vatican. Does he believe that the Catholic Church was behind the advent of Islam, the American Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln, the Nazis and the Holocaust, Communism, and the Ku Klux Klan? Does he believe Alberto Rivera to be a credible source of information on the Catholic Church (or anything for that matter)?

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    You may talk to him privately, then. His email is jasonwilsonxxx2013@yahoo.com

                    But I do not think it is very nice to made fun of people who are off their meds.

                    • Comment by R.Carter:

                      You’re right. Mea culpa. They were not especially charitable questions. Still, it may be that he will actually look up who Roberto Rivera was and the influence he had on Chick.

                      Unfortunately, jesusLover’s response to your post on Architect of Aeons leads me to believe that your assessment of his mental state is accurate: he actually is suffering from some sort of psychosis.

              • Comment by Mary:

                Well, apparently he doesn’t believe in the Bible, which is what says that Jesus’s mother was named Mary.

                And he should try imitating Jesus, who honored His father and mother.

          • Comment by Robby Charters:

            Actually, I was right on the money. If you follow the link, it takes you to a Jack T. Chick comic tract. There are dozens of titles, ranging from 3 inch booklets to full sized comic books to actual books. He seems to believe in a number of conspiracy theories, particularly ones about Catholics and Jesuits.

            Why you think it’s a parody — it’s almost funny if it weren’t true that some get their entire theological education from comic books.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              That’s … sad. Well, my opinion of Leftist has improved. I finally met a Christian bigot. I thought they were just invented for rhetorical purposes.

              I can say a prayer for the poor soul.

              • Comment by Triledgets:

                You are most fortunate. Your journey from atheism to the Catholic Church took you right past American fundamentalism. Myself, I wallowed in it for many years, and on occasion actually used to distribute Jack Chick tracts. The number of jesusLovers out there is not inconsiderable.

                • Comment by Robby Charters:

                  It’s okay if JesusLovers are truly motivated by their love of Jesus, and not hatred of those slightly different from themselves.

                  • Comment by R.Carter:

                    I would like to think that the vast majority of them are motivated by their love of Christ.

                    Of course, the Jack Chicks and Westboro Baptists of this world stand as proof that at least some of them are operating from a severely compromised position.

                    Sometimes it is hard for me to tell the difference.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

                    • Comment by R.Carter:

                      @Mary
                      Well, yes. St. Paul has some pretty scathing things to say about those who call on the name of Jesus but who do not follow Christ’s teachings. I suppose I may be trying to be too charitable here.

                  • Comment by Tom Simon:

                    No, it’s still not OK. They are bearing false witness against their neighbours, and I seem to recall a rule against that somewhere or other.

                    And if you argue that they do not know the truth, and therefore cannot tell their witness is false, I respond: It is the duty of each one of us to find out the truth before bearing witness to it; and if we have not found out the truth, it is our duty to remain silent and let those speak who know, and if questioned about it, to answer honestly that we do not know.

                    • Comment by Robby Charters:

                      …although being TRULY and consistently motivated by the love of Jesus should eventually move them,slowly but surely,towards a clearer understanding of the Truth, even if it means God responds in His mercy to show it to them (ie. by revelation, by rebuke, by encounter with a Good Samaritan, etc).

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Or obstinately persisting in slander will chip away what love they have.

              • Comment by johnedko:

                I remember going to a wedding on my wife’s side of the family. Somehow I ended up talking with the father of the bride (wife was related to the groom) who had a little too much to drink. He regaled me with stories on how Catholics never read the bible. I maintained a slight smile and let him go forth – after 5 minutes of this he asked me what religion I was. I told him Catholic and that I had read the bible quite often – and we even had bible readings (three of them!) during every service. He wandered off pretty quickly.

                Unfortunately some seem to think this – of course my grandmother thought it was the end of the world when her son wanted to marry a Lutheran – so there is bigotry all around. If we all remembered John 17 I think it would be much better.

                -John

                • Comment by Richard A:

                  Four, actually, the psalm between the first two readings, obviously, is also from Scripture. Besides that the rest of the Mass is, for the most part, stitched-together verses and snippets from the Bible.

                • Comment by The OFloinn:

                  I read a comment one time by a Canadian Lutheran-turned-Catholic priest that when he was growing up in Ontario, he understood that Catholics and Lutherans were different from other Protestant churches. Catholic and Lutheran churches had crosses on their steeples. The others had weather vanes.

                • Comment by Zaklog the Great:

                  To be fair, even a lot of Catholics joke about Catholics not reading the Bible. I could cite a few of my friends who’ve done so. Now as to those people’s faithfulness to Church teachings, this was some time ago, and I couldn’t really say. Please don’t cast too much blame on Protestants who have that impression when some Catholics seem to as well.

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    Myself, I became a Catholic because I don’t trust organized religion. badumtish.

                    More seriously, of course the Protestants are going to be more serious about the scripture than Catholics, because what a Protestant is, is someone convinced that the whole of Christian life and work and salvation is in the scripture rather than in the sacraments. No matter how much attention Catholics pay to the scripture, if we say Christ is also in the sacraments as well as in the scripture, the scripture-solely devotee will of necessity pay more attention to it than we.

                    • Comment by R.Carter:

                      “More seriously, of course the Protestants are going to be more serious about the scripture than Catholics, because what a Protestant is, is someone convinced that the whole of Christian life and work and salvation is in the scripture rather than in the sacraments.”

                      I have thought something vaguely along those lines before. The demands of sola scriptura are severe and paradoxical within both a scriptural and historical framework. This was one of the primary concerns which eventually convinced me to convert.

                    • Comment by Robby Charters:

                      No one is truly “sola Scriptura”. Those who claim to be, do so according to a tradition that tells them how to interpret the scripture. At best, they’ll see an odd scripture and say, “What did Calvin (or Wesley, or the Baptist Convention) say about that?” At worst, there’s a lot of political baggage that they assume all “true” Christians must hold to.

                      Protestantism has plenty of tradition. Among those traditions are, “This is what the Catholics believe.” The idea that Cathoics never read the Bible, is a Protestant tradition.

                      The word, “Protestant” means protest against the Catholic Church, particularly against some of those excesses that might have been prevalent at the time of Martin Luther. Both the Catholic Church and the Protestants have come a long way since then, but many Protestants that take the meaning of their name seriously, are now “protesting” things that they assume are so about the Catholic Church, because Protestant tradition tells them so. In actual fact, as I told some Catholic friends, the only true “Protestants” I know of are Catholics, because they’re the only ones who know what it is they’re protesting.

                    • Comment by R.Carter:

                      @Robby,
                      Perhaps I should have explained that I came from one of those Protestant denominations which claimed to uphold sola scriptura. As a teenager I was very familiar with the works of Josh McDowell and Ravi Zacharias, and I would have probably fallen within the Evangelical umbrella of Protestantism. Much of their writings are informed by this concept and inform in turn a great number of Protestants. Furthermore, since sola scriptura was articulated by Martin Luther himself it seemed to me then just as it does now that it must be taken as a keystone of the Protestant position regardless of individual denomination.

                      This is not to say that anything you have said is wrong (on the contrary!). I only wish to state that it is my opinion that all Protestants should consider the implications of Luther and Calvin regardless of their denominational or personal beliefs on the matter. I certainly did at the behest of a Catholic friend, and look where I ended up.

                    • Comment by Triledgets:

                      And yet, early in my progression toward Catholicism I was struck by the irony that Richard noted: for all Protestants consider themselves to be Christians of the Word, I was surprised to discover I heard more Scripture during the course of a fifty-minute Mass than I did in a ninety-minute evangelical service. (And as a corollary, I was extremely irked the first time a Catholic pointed out to me that the Ave Maria was mostly just Scripture; how could a Protestant possibly object to that?)

                      I’ve often wondered how much historical context played into this: Catholicism, for most of its history, has had a largely illiterate congregation to deal with. Protestantism, which post-dates the printing press, has had the luxury of being able to emphasize the Scriptures and private Bible study (imagine St. Patrick landing on the shores of Ireland and urging the Irish to “read their Bibles”). But the Protestant view that it has the higher view of the Word of God rests largely on a truncated understanding of the Word.

                      “what a Protestant is, is someone convinced that the whole of Christian life and work and salvation is in the scripture rather than in the sacraments”

                      It could be pointed out that for Calvin the marks of the Church included both the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, but preaching of the Word was always the first of the marks, and indeed today few Protestant denominations are sacramental.

                    • Comment by Robby Charters:

                      @ R Carter
                      Some good points. We seem to agree on all but a few of the semantics. My background is rather similar to yours.

                      Tradition isn’t a bad thing. “Sola Scriptura” is a tradition, handed down to us by Luther, and though very few actually manage to live up to it, it’s also not a bad thing. It sort of gives many of us a target to shoot for.

                      Jesus never condemned tradition as a whole, only those particular traditions that contradicted the plain meaning of scripture.

                      And sometimes, a tradition can clarify what was meant by a particular scripture passage. In fact, it will probably take all of us together, with our differing traditions, to enable us to see the whole picture — which brings us back to John 17…

                    • Comment by Robby Charters:

                      …oh, and I think Luther, with his “sola scriptura”, was also a sacramentalist. In fact, if I understand correctly, he even held to the Catholic side of the great Transubstantiation debate. As for the Church of England…?

                    • Comment by Triledgets:

                      @Robby

                      “No one is truly ‘sola Scriptura’. Those who claim to be, do so according to a tradition that tells them how to interpret the scripture.”

                      To be fair, this is only true of a sort of Poor Man’s Sola Scriptura, which tends to be the understanding of evangelical pew warmers. There are far more sophisticated enunciations of the doctrine floating around that do recognize a Protestant version of Tradition.

                      “In fact, if I understand correctly, [Luther] even held to the Catholic side of the great Transubstantiation debate.”

                      You may be thinking of the Real Presence, not Transubstantiation. There was a great deal of criticism amongst Reformation theologians about the Catholic doctrine being far too dependent on Aristotelian categories like substance and accidents (keep in mind that the Catholic Church only later dogmatically defined transubstantiation in response to Protestant, well, protestations; the dogmatic definition did avoid the Aristotelian language).

                      Luther himself was spoke of a “sacramental union”. He did hold to the Real Presence, but also believed the bread and wine retained their original substance. Transubstantiation holds that they retain only the form of bread and wine.

                      Evangelicals, conversely (who are not sacramental), do not believe in the Real Presence, holding to a purely symbolic interpretation (as if symbol and Real Presence are somehow mutually exclusive).

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      “To be fair, this is only true of a sort of Poor Man’s Sola Scriptura, which tends to be the understanding of evangelical pew warmers. There are far more sophisticated enunciations of the doctrine floating around that do recognize a Protestant version of Tradition.”

                      As an objection, this would be far more impressive if people did not continually haul out the Poor Man’s Version to use as a bludgeon when they don’t want to defend their statements.

                    • Comment by Triledgets:

                      @Mary – Sorry, if you’re implying I have made statements I’m unwilling to defend, you’ll have to be more specific. Which statements, exactly?

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      I didn’t say you used it, I said that telling me that only selected people use it has limited currency when many Protestants will leap to use it when denying a Catholic doctrine.

                      (That they then often deny plain scripture — I have seen more than once, one of them say in so many words that only the Pauline epistles count — is a character flaw. But it does highlight the incoherence of sola scripture)

                  • Comment by Triledgets:

                    @Mary:

                    “I said that telling me that only selected people use it has limited currency when many Protestants will leap to use it when denying a Catholic doctrine.”

                    I was addressing Robby’s comment that “No one” is consistently Sola Scriptura, pointing out that it would be unfair to assume that all Protestants hold to the simplistic formulation we’re discussing here. Refutations of the Poor Man’s SS would not have impressed me even as an evangelical, since I had always recognized a role for tradition.

                • Comment by Mary:

                  I have seen with my own eyes a Protestant trying to claim on a Catholic blog that Catholics don’t read the Bible after a long dispute in which we cited it, and he didn’t.

              • Comment by Mary:

                I have seen quite a number of them in blogs more dedicated to discussion of the Church.

                They can often be frightened off by quoting Scripture at them.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      An unusual, but not unheard of atheist rant. How similar their styles. How wary they are of the same thing.

    • Comment by Mary:

      What a fool you are. On what basis should I believe in this Jesus?

      Because the sacred text of the lying Great Whore of Babylon says so?

      You can not ask me to put my trust in documents whose only provenance is someone whose honesty you denounce.

  17. Comment by DGDDavidson:

    This is off-topic, but I appear to have picked up my own version of Dr. Andreassen on my Brony blog. Alas, I fear I have not Mr. Wright’s chops to sustain the argument. Anyone’s welcome to join in: http://www.fimfiction.net/blog/355472/in-reply

  18. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Robby Charters said:
    “…the only true ‘Protestants’ I know of are Catholics, because they’re the only ones who know what it is they’re protesting.”

    I would not be so sure that protesting Catholics or Protestant ex-Catholics, or cafeteria Catholics, really KNOW what they are protesting better than cradle Protestants. All first generation Protestants were Catholics to begin with. Like Archbishop Fulton Sheen said about anti-Catholic sentiment, there are huge numbers of people (including at present large numbers of nominal Catholics) who hate what they think is the Catholic Church, but very few who hate the real Catholic Church. They just are unable to distinguish the Holy Church from the sinners in her midst, and the Holy Church teaching from the noise made by her enemies or their own bad faith.

    • Comment by Robby Charters:

      The “protesting Catholics” I was referring to were ones who were Catholics by virtue of *Loving Jesus* (see earlier thread) and they believe in Apostolic Succession. They criticise from inside as ones who love the church, and want to see change, more openness, and more liberty in areas such as in the requirement of celibacy for the clergy. I think there’s a profound difference between them and those outside who criticise in order to destroy.

      • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

        This was precisely what I was talking about. Those who you think do not criticise in order to destroy in fact work for the devil to what Paul VI called the auto-destruction of the Church. Their only excuse is that they do not know what they are doing, but the rule in that case is to keep silent and obey as children of the Church. The requirement of celibacy for clergy is a good example: Luther was, I think, the first to protest that, and I do not see how it did any good. Priests are married to the Church, marrying another person makes for difficult choices between wife and family against their flock, as was the case for Eastern clergy under Communist jackboots. Another sad example would be the horror of contraception that entered Protestant Churches through the demand of married clergy in 1930 at Lambeth.

        • Comment by Zaklog the Great:

          What you’re saying here worries me. It doesn’t seem like you leave any room for honest criticism of the Catholic Church, and, being an institution made up of humans (even if divinely guided) there will be times when things must be criticized and corrected. You can say Luther’s overall course was wrong, for instance, but it’s hard to argue that some of the things he was attacking were genuine abuses.

          • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

            Like all the abuses we hear about in the present time, the abuses of Luther’s time were errors, sins or crimes committed by men. Every wrongdoing of churchmen that I was made aware of until now was clearly and repeatedly condemned by the Church. The Bride of Christ cannot then be held accountable for the sins of her children, and never deserved criticism in their stead.

            After more than 30 years of practicing, studying and discussing the Faith (the last 3 years reading this blog and a few others are not the least), I have still to encounter one criticism that would be applicable to the Church. Every one I saw so far, now or in history, applied only to men.

            If we are to take Christ’s word for it, I think it is in fact logically impossible that the Church as a whole would err like she is constantly accused of doing, because it would mean the gates of hell would prevail.

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