Posted by: Jack | November 13, 2007

Catholicism’s Greatest Enemy: Poser Catholics

For a couple of years now Anna and I have been talking about how we would appreciate some sort of regular community event where a group of people organize to discuss ideas, volunteer and just generally try to improve the world…or at least the neighborhood. Many people have such an event and they call it church. As atheists, we’re not interested in sitting through sermons regarding a morality that is handed down from a deity. We just want to make connections with people and be active in shaping the world in which we live.

Well we’ve lucked out. It turns out that the United States Atheists (USA) organization was founded and is based here in Portland and also operates the first Atheist Community Center to be established in the US. Anna came across this awesome find just yesterday and last night there happened to be a special event: Atheist and Catholic Dialog Night. I later found out that the idea for the event was brought about by the Catholics which was a bit of a surprise to me.

The event took place just a few blocks from our home and consisted of a panel of six persons; three representing the USA (including the president of the organization), and three lay-Catholics sharing their opinions rather than attempting to represent the church.

It was nice to see a relaxed exchange with very little accusation or heated confrontation. Though attendees were never polled or questioned about their own beliefs, during an open Q&A at the end it became apparent that a majority of the crowd were atheists and this included, to our further surprise, a significant population of elderly individuals.

Now I certainly have a biased perception but after the event, when speaking with a self-proclaimed fundamentalist Catholic of 70+ years (who muttered in disgust throughout the entire 90 minute dialog and was overheard saying things like “Sagan the Pagan” in reference to the late Carl Sagan) we both agreed that the Catholic panel was made up of very bad Catholic’s who did little to convey any upside to their faith.

When the Catholics were asked, “Why are you Catholic?” two of three proclaimed they were raised as such and all three brought up what the church community provides for them emotionally and socially. Believe it or not, none of them ever mentioned God in response to this question.

Repeatedly, it was admitted that the bible is not to be taken literally (except for some parts), but rather it offers many metaphors as a means of teaching the right way of life. When asked why the story of Jesus could not also be a metaphor they all responded with a variation of, “Well, Jesus was a historical figure. He actually existed. Adam and Eve probably did not and even Moses is highly suspect. But Jesus was real.”

One of the Catholics repeatedly dismissed miracles (the Christian God’s only means of intervening with the physical world) saying that it doesn’t matter if Jesus actually walked on water and that researchers have shown how said water may have been frozen at the time of this happening. I really regret not standing up to ask the following as a continuation of this issue: If you choose to dismiss Jesus’s miracles in order to reassure others that you are a logical thinker, how can you decisively declare that the resurrection — Jesus’s/God’s most significant miracle — actually occurred.

As the discussion went on it was revealed that none of the Catholics really believe in the ideas of heaven, hell or original sin. They also don’t believe that non-Catholics are in anyway condemned. They all explicitly said that through their years they’ve developed their own faith and belief set. I, and I think the fundamentalist next to us, wanted to stand up and shout, “THEN YOU ARE NOT CATHOLICS!!!”.

After some tremendous cookies and drinks, we biked home while discussing how we’re pretty sure those Catholics are just atheists who don’t wish to lose their church community. If a Christian God existed, it would not be so just because people believed in it. Likewise, claiming a belief in God in order to better one’s life does not really make one a theist.


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