Friday 22nd June 2018

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Reasons To Believe

September 4, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

Pope Francis made headlines back in 2013 when he responded to an open letter published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica by its atheist editor Eugenio Scalfari. Scalfari asked “if God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith if they sincerely obey their conscience?” The Pope’s answer: “God’s forgiveness and mercy is open even to the Godless”; the “key task for unbelievers is to obey their conscience; the goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.”
Predictably, some in the media seized the moment to contend that the Pope was diminishing the Church’s role in salvation history and suggesting a moral equivalence between Christianity and atheism. There is no reason to think that. Francis was restating Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of our obligation to follow our conscience even when it is in error. (Providing, of course, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that we “have made a sincere effort to form a correct conscience.”)
This has long been the teaching of the Church. It is also a truth confirmed by our personal experiences in life. I would wager that most of those reading this column know atheists who are good people, gentle, kind, with a genuine commitment to social justice.
But that leaves us with the question of whether all atheists reach their conclusion about the nonexistence of God in a sincere manner. Do most of them do that? Just some? Why do atheists not believe in God?
It strikes me that atheists would want to spend some time with a column by Robert H. Nelson published last spring in The Conversation, if they are serious about forming a correct conscience in this matter. (The Conversation is a web page established, in its founder’s words, to provide “an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.”)
Nelson holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland; he is also the author of eight books and more than 100 scholarly articles.
He entitles his article “Five rational reasons why God (very probably) does exist.”
(It can be accessed at https://religionnews.com/author/robert-h-nelson.)
Nelson seeks to demonstrate why it is logical to hold through reason alone that God exists, in an effort to persuade those who are unwilling to accept Jesus’ instruction about the existence and nature of the Father. It is what the scholars call natural theology, the study of the arguments for the existence of God based on reason and the ordinary experience of nature, unaided by Revelation.
1) Nelson begins with the “laws of math.” Why does the universe operate in an orderly and measurable fashion, everything from the orbits of the planets to the precise flow of blood through our body?
He writes, “Isaac Newton was considered among the greatest mathematicians as well as physicists of the 17th century. Other physicists sought his help in finding a mathematics that would predict the workings of the solar system. Newton made strenuous efforts over his lifetime to find a natural explanation but in the end he conceded failure. He could say only that it is the will of God.
“Despite the many other enormous advances of modern physics, little has changed in this regard. It takes the existence of some kind of a God to make the mathematical underpinnings of the universe comprehensible. It is a mystery that lies beyond science.”
Nelson is on the mark. Asking us to accept that the order in the universe is a result of blind chance is like asking us to accept that the complexity and precision of a Beethoven composition came about when a hurricane swept through a warehouse of sheet music and threw it all together. We would never accept that to be true, regardless of how many billions of hurricanes took place.
2) “The workings of human consciousness,” Nelson continues, “are similarly miraculous. Like the laws of mathematics, consciousness has no physical presence in the world; the images and thoughts in our consciousness have no measurable dimensions. Yet, our nonphysical thoughts somehow mysteriously guide the actions of our physical human bodies.”
Our minds lead us to create works of art, find cures for sickness, design the computers that have transformed our modern world. “The supernatural character of the workings of human consciousness,” writes Nelson, “offers a second strong rational grounds for raising the probability of the existence of a supernatural God,” a First Cause of the universe, an Unmade Maker.
3) The impact of Darwin’s theories. Nelson writes, “Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859 offered a theoretical explanation for a strictly physical mechanism by which the current plant and animal kingdoms might have come into existence, and assumed their current forms, without any necessary role for a God.” But modern scientists are finding this explanation too simple to accept.
“From the 1970s onwards, the Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, for example, complained that little evidence could be found in the fossil record of the slow and gradual evolution of species as theorized by Darwin.
“In 2011, the University of Chicago evolutionary biologist James Shapiro explained that, remarkably enough, many micro-evolutionary processes worked as though guided by a purposeful ‘sentience’ of the evolving plant and animal organisms themselves — a concept far removed from the random selection processes of Darwinism. With these developments bringing standard evolutionary understandings into growing question, the probability of a God existing has increased correspondingly.”
4) Miraculous ideas occurring at the same time in history. “For the past 10,000 years at a minimum,” Nelson notes, “the most important changes in human existence have been driven by cultural developments occurring in the realm of human ideas. In the Axial Age (commonly dated from 800 to 200 B.C.), world-transforming ideas such as Buddhism, Confucianism, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and the Hebrew Old Testament almost miraculously appeared at about the same time in India, China, ancient Greece and among the Jews in the Middle East — these peoples then having little interaction with one another.”
Why did that happen? Nelson argues we are looking at a “revolution in human thought, operating outside any explanations grounded in scientific materialism, that drove the process.” He sees the phenomenon as “further rational evidence for the conclusion that human beings may well be made ‘in the image of a God’.”
5) Different forms of worship. Nelson quotes a commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 by the essayist David Foster Wallace: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” Why does this yearning exist — in humans as different from each other as the tribes of the Amazon jungles and the yuppies in the bustling metropolises of the industrialized world? Why is it that all cultures yearn to believe in a supreme being, in a divine order?
The Marxists say religion is a projection of our human ideals upon an imaginary spiritual being. Nelson sees it differently, as a universal longing that indicates we have been made in the image and likeness of our Creator and long to live our lives in conformity with His will, that we have been made to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.
In his PBS 1980s television series Cosmos, Carl Sagan would explain all the wonders of the universe with the observation that it took “billions and billions and billions of years” for evolution to bring them about.
No matter how precise and orderly and awe-inspiring the natural phenomenon he was analyzing, that was always his answer: “billions and billions and billions of years” of evolution. Robert H. Nelson makes more sense to me. Jesus, too.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vikings host ‘LGBTQ summit’ to promote ‘inclusion’ in sports

EAGAN, Minnesota, June 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Minnesota Vikings are hosting a conference and fundraiser today for “LGBTQ inclusion in sports,” the first of its kind in the National Football League (NFL). The event will include speeches, interviews, and…Continue Reading

Catholic bishops are quick to attack Trump but slow to advise their voters

(RNS) — President Trump had no sooner returned home from his historic photo op with Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore when he faced condemnation from a host of religious leaders, from Southern Baptists to African Methodists to Catholics,…Continue Reading

Bishop: Deny Communion to Border Agents. It’s a ‘Life Issue.’

Is enforcing U.S. immigration law a moral evil that demands excommunication? Or would a new proposal politicize the Eucharist, strengthen organized crime, and hurt even more migrant children? Roman Catholics must face these questions after Bishop Edward Weisburger of Tucson suggested “canonical…Continue Reading

Argentina steps closer to legalising abortion

Catholic Argentina’s lower house has backed a bill legalising abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. After a divisive debate lasting more than 22 hours, 129 members of the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour and 125 against while…Continue Reading

Pope Francis rejects German proposal for inter-communion

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2018 / 06:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One month after Vatican and German delegates met in Rome to discuss a proposal put forward by German bishops to allow Protestant spouses in inter-denominational marriages to receive the Eucharist…Continue Reading

St. Paul archdiocese settlement is largest-ever in Catholic bankruptcy case

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has agreed to a $210 million settlement with 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse as part of its plan for bankruptcy reorganization, making it the second-largest U.S. payout…Continue Reading

Church’s teaching on male-only priesthood is ‘infallible’: Vatican doctrine chief

ROME, May 29, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The head of the Vatican office overseeing Church doctrine has insisted that the Church’s teaching on the male-only priesthood is “infallible,” and has offered a veiled rebuke of a prominent Cardinal who recently claimed the…Continue Reading

The revolt against Humanae Vitae continues to haunt us today

ROME, May 25, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — As in 2017, 2018 is also a year that is rich with important and significant anniversaries which we need to remember, because the roots of the present are found in the past. The best known…Continue Reading

Cardinal: Communion cannot be shared with non-Catholics like beer or cake

BUCKFASTLEIGH, England, May 25, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Protestants who want to receive Holy Communion should become Catholics, Cardinal Francis Arinze said this week, and added that “it is rather serious” to presume marriage can be dissolved for the purpose of…Continue Reading

Speaker Ryan Proposes a Return to Catholic Social Doctrine at Prayer Breakfast

Washington, D.C. – House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Thursday about how he believed the answer to many of the political problems society faces today, including “moral relativism” and “tribalism,” can be found in Catholic…Continue Reading

Judge rules ‘transgender’ high-schooler should have been allowed opposite-sex bathroom

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia, May 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A judge has ruled that a Virginia high school should have allowed a gender-confused former student to use the restrooms designated for the opposite sex. Gavin Grimm is a female Gloucester High School…Continue Reading

One of the most ‘liberal abortion regimes’ if vote passes

Ireland will have one of the most liberal abortion regimes in Europe if Friday’s referendum is passed, the No campaign warned during its final press conference on Wednesday. With the broadcasting ban set to come into force on the eve of the…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Cardinal Burke responds to Francis: We hand-delivered dubia letter to Pope’s residence

ROME, June 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Speaking with Reuters in an interview which appeared yesterday, Pope Francis criticized Cardinal Raymond Burke and three other cardinals who joined him in begging the Pope for clarification on key issues of faith. The cardinals used the long-standing ecclesial practice of issuing dubia, or questions to the Pope. There were five such questions altogether. But, according to Reuters the Pope said that “he had heard about the cardinals’ letter criticizing him…Continue Reading

GOOD NEWS . . .Fr. Phillips Exonerated

We have confirmation that after several weeks the Congregation of the Resurrection has indeed concluded its hearings and investigation of the accusations directed against Father Phillips. An independent Review Board of three public-spirited leaders from the Chicago area, who are not members of St. John Cantius Church, was constituted. Thereafter, the Review Board interviewed the detractors and several witnesses, persons who personally know the accusers, and other individuals who

Cardinal Brandmüller Questions Francis’ Claim Not to Have Received the Dubia Before Publication

Today, on 20 June, Reuters published a new interview with Pope Francis. Although the interview is making headlines because of the Pope’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, it also contains another controversial assertion: the pope surprisingly now claims that he only heard about the Dubia (concerning his document Amoris Laetitia) “from the newspapers” — a claim that Dubia cardinal Walter Brandmüller has now questioned in comments to OnePeterFive. From the text of the interview: The pope also commented on internal criticism of his…Continue Reading

US Cardinal removed after ‘credible’ allegation he abused a minor

NEW YORK, June 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A high-profile liberal U.S. cardinal has been removed from public ministry for credible and substantiated allegations of abuse of a minor. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former priest of the Archdiocese of New York and cardinal emeritus of Washington D.C., “is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry,” says a news release from New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan. “The review board found the allegations credible and substantiated,” Dolan’s statement said. “The Vatican…Continue Reading

Trump Admin Withdraws U.S. From UN Human Rights Council That Pushed Global Right to Abortion

The Trump Administration announced today that the United States is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council. That’s good news for pro-life advocates as the so-called human rights organization pushed for a global right to kill unborn children in abortions. According to news reports: The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Council, with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley calling the 47-member council “a protector of human rights abusers, an

Advertisement(2)

But What Happened To The News Coverage? . . . Pope Says Homosexual Couples Are Not A Family

By BILL DONOHUE (Editor’s Note: Catholic League President Bill Donohue on June 18 commented on remarks by Pope Francis that have been censored by the media.) + + + Pope Francis says gay couples cannot be considered a family. The media know he said this but, with few exceptions, they refused to run this story.…Continue Reading

Holy Bashfulness Vs. Shame By ALICE von HILDEBRAND

My dear young friend, Years ago, Cardinal O’Boyle was discussing some sexual matters with a group of men; all of a sudden the cardinal noticed that a young girl had joined the group, and interrupting his talk, he said to her: “Please excuse me.” But he was immediately rudely rebuked by one of the men…Continue Reading

On The Role Of Beauty In The Spiritual Life

By JAMES MONTI In recent years, thanks largely to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the role of beauty in the sacred liturgy — and the appalling chasm created by its absence — has been a topic of frequent discussion among those concerned with a restoration of the sacred in divine worship — the beauty of the…Continue Reading

Civil Court… Rules Fulton Sheen’s Remains Can Go To Peoria

NEW YORK (CNA/EWTN News) — The Superior Court of New York ruled June 8 in favor of Joan Sheen Cunningham, who had petitioned to move the body of her uncle, Venerable Fulton Sheen, to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria. The body of the late archbishop is currently in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New…Continue Reading

Lindsey Graham’s Unjustifiable Call for War

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY (Editor’s Note: Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. Creators Syndicate distributed this column.) + + + Question: Has North Korea reinvaded South Korea since it signed an armistice 65 years ago suspending the Korean War? Answer: No. Question: Why? Answer: It has been deterred. Question: Would it…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. Following up on a recent question about a divorced and remarried non-Catholic adult who converts to the Catholic Church, you said that the conversion would not change the status of the person, that he would still be married to his previous spouse and could not marry again without a decree of nullity or the death of the first spouse.…Continue Reading

None Dare Call It Treason

By DEACON JAMES TONER (Editor’s Note: Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Air War College, and author of Morals Under the Gun and other books. He has also taught at Notre Dame, Norwich, Auburn, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He serves in the Diocese of…Continue Reading

The Glorious St. John The Baptist

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Solemnity Of The Nativity Of St. John The Baptist (YR B) Readings Isaiah 49:1-6 Acts 13:22-26 Luke 1:57-66, 80 Today we celebrate the birth of a man who is important to us in a variety of ways. St. John the Baptist is, according to our Lord’s own words, the greatest man born of woman. For this…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Will Marriages Outside A Church Keep Couples In The Church?

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The Church makes exceptions to its own rules; this is well known. There are God’s rules, such as the Commandments, exceptions to which cannot be granted by man. And then there are the regulations promulgated by the Church, using the authority given her by the Lord, in order to better facilitate the pastoral work of…Continue Reading

The Sacraments Instituted By Christ . . . Understanding Confession More Deeply

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 33 When Jesus gave the apostles the power to bind and unbind things here on Earth (Matt. 18:18), He gave them authority over His flock. Hence, from the very first century, Popes and bishops passed laws to be observed by the people. Consequently, considering the seriousness of sin, and the risk many take for…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Joseph Cafasso

By CAROLE BRESLIN Truman Capote wrote: “Love is a chain of love as nature is a chain of life.” More important, grace is a chain of grace with one grace leading to another. And holiness a chain of holiness as God pours His love through one person to another, as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mediatrix of all graces, pours…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Joseph The Hymnographer

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the late sixth and early seventh century, the glories of Gregorian chant began to develop in Rome. Then, in the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote beautiful hymns to celebrate Corpus Christi and to honor the Real Presence. In the Eastern Church, around Constantinople, they also sang hymns, but it was not until the late ninth…Continue Reading