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On Non-Christians

The Tricky Business With Theistic Apologetics

In my recent post on atheism, which can be read here by those who find interest in such things, I received comments from not one but two rather impolite atheists. I will never, most likely, understand why people do that and go out of their way to add in various appeals to the stone and ad hominems. I gave up very soon. I suppose I should feel it the greatest honor to be counted worthy to be ridiculed for Christ’s name, but I am an imperfect human being and a rather young one at that. My grandfather, I am informed, used to tell my mother, “You see the world through rose-colored glasses.” Perhaps I, considering my age, am unreasonably assuming people will be more reasonable.

One of the problems with this, in my view, is that being impolite actually gives the idea to one’s opponent that they cannot come up with a real response. Someone cannot usually think as well for one thing if he is being insulted. Nor is it as easy to call out the errors of a person’s reasoning if his opponent is always being rude and labeling one’s arguments as “nonsense”.

In all fairness, there may be a somewhat more charitable understanding of their actions. They could actually believe that theistic arguments are very weak and write out of frustration. Or they could blame theists for causing all the problems in the world. Whatever is the reason, taking out their frustration on me is in no way just.

Or they may think I am purposely sifting through words and already know atheists are correct. In that case, it is rash judgment (and at any rate, they are wasting their time trying to convert me if I am not even interested in the truth).

If I may be completely fair, I am not only calling out atheists here. There is an Orthodox blogger by the name of Craig Truglia who wrote an article called Top Five Bible Passages Relevant to Orthodox Mariology. The Orthodox generally believe that our Lady was not purified of Original Sin until the Annunciation (a claim, by the way, which I believe I have dealt thoroughly here). To my dismay, I found someone had commented the following:

“The Eastern “Orthodox” are wrong. All your subjective commentaries and opinions are trash. You reason like a Protestant when you appeal to Scripture. Remember, this guy Craig uses his secular name, not his patron saints name (obviously influenced by Modernism), and I saw him in a video wearing a Def Leppard shirt. Give me a break.”

Think about it. A Catholic, in the name of defending the Mother of God, pulls an Ad hominem by a flimsy charge that he was a modernist (completely contrary to the actual definition of modernism, by the way). This commenter labels Mr. Truglia’s arguments “trash”. I really do not think the commenter’s defense of our Lady pleases our Lady.

There is a reason why I think it is so important for us to approach our dialogues with non-Catholics with charity. Our goal as apologists is to save souls, not win arguments (or in atheists’ case, make atheists). When one makes an argument in an uncharitable manner, for one thing, he will not give the impression that he is not listening to his opponent. Now, I expect that atheists (possibly the same atheists) will comment saying I am “making excuses” and cannot actually answer their objections. I can, but I do not have the mental energy to respond to impolite people. I mean this with the upmost respect, but they did not give me the impression that they were willing under the correct circumstances to change their minds.

To show my own open-mindedness, I will explain what it would take me to become an atheist. This is important for any apologist to think about since we need to think about what it would take to change our views as we would expect our opponents to do so.

First, they would have to show me how all things can exist by nature, specifically the existence of absolute goods and the existence of…stuff, in general—something instead of nothing. Second, I must be shown that there is no evidence to miraculous occurrences existing and all alleged such can be explained by science.

I have an argument for atheism which I consider the strongest as well—the existence of suffering. I find that ultimately unconvincing, but I still think this the best argument I have heard.

Again, atheists may say I am making excuses. In that case, try me. Try being polite and see if I am better disposed to talking about it. I would be so glad and relieved to receive from a respectful and polite atheist, or any other form of non-Catholic. I apparently seem to be unlucky, however, since that rarely happens, although I once had a rather fruitful discussion with someone who writes under An Apostolic under this post. There I felt we were both listening to each other, for which reason the discussion actually went somewhere. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for most of these atheists whom I have encountered online. The same can be said of others, including certain sedevacantists and fundamentalists (although not many have so commented on my blog). I am actually more disturbed by them because they should know better and have respect for everyone as children of God.

Still, we need to pray for these less than polite persons. God wills everyone to go to heaven. Maybe I, under their circumstances and background, might have done the same for all I know. There are certainly many atheist apologists out there who are quite reasonable. I might mention Anthony Magnabosco and Alex O’Connor as two rather influential modern atheists who come to mind who might be worth our time since they do not generally seem overly impolite when dialoguing with theists. I wish some atheists who would actually listen to what I had to say would comment on my blog. Unfortunately, they have not come yet.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

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On Non-Christians

Mary in Islam

I have heard some compare Islam to radical forms of Protestantism. This is in some ways true, as they reject priesthood and mediators and icon veneration. Still I would certainly account Protestantism as closer to orthodox Christianity, on account of this verse at any rate…

“People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, ‘Three.’ Refrain; better is it for you. God is only One God. Glory be to Him — That He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth; God suffices for a guardian.” (Sura 4:171)

In other words, Muslims deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, two doctrines which Protestants accept. However, there is quite a war among Protestants against the Blessed Mother. Apparently, Muslims are closer to getting her right. You will soon see what I mean. Let us begin at her birth:

“God chose Adam and Noah and the House of Abraham and the House of Imran above all beings, the seed of one another; God hears, and knows. When the wife of Imran said, ‘Lord, I have vowed to Thee, in dedication, what is within my womb. Receive Thou this from me; Thou hearest, and knowest.’” (Sura 3:33-35)

Imran, by the way, is St. Joachim, making the wife of Imran St. Anne. This verse is reminiscent of the apocryphal Protogospel of James which states:

“And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: ‘Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.’ And Anna said: ‘As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life.’” (Protogospel of James 4:2)

What follows in the words of the Quran will be surprising to someone who does not already know about Islam:

“And when she gave birth to her she said, ‘Lord, I have given birth to her, a female.’ (And God knew very well what she had given birth to; the male is not as the female.) ‘And I have named her Mary, and commend her to Thee with her seed, to protect them from the accursed Satan.’” (3:36)

Think about what this means for a moment. And I have named her Mary, and commend her to Thee with her seed, to protect them from the accursed Satan. So neither Mary nor her Offspring were touched by Satan. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” (Gen. 3:15)

Muhammed actually said: “None are born except that Satan touches them upon their birth, due to which it comes out screaming from its touch, except Mary and her son.” (Ahmed) So Muslims agree that our Lady and her Son were without personal sin. This may be mind-boggling to Protestants, but I as a Catholic welcome it with open arms. Now I should note that Muslims would say that they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception exactly because they do not believe in Original Sin. However, I think it is still refreshing to hear this from the Quran, considering the Fundamentalists whom I have read attacking our Lady. As far as Mariology goes, I like Muslims much better.

None other than Zechariah, according to the Quran, was chosen to rear her. “Whenever Zachariah went in to her in the Sanctuary, he found her provisioned. ‘Mary,’ he said, ‘how comes this to thee?’ ‘From God,’ she said. Truly God provisions whomsoever He will without reckoning.” (3:37) So she was fed presumably by angels. This is amazing indeed. I do not know if this actually happened, but it is certainly something which could have happened.

Now an apparition from an angel:

“And when the angels said, ‘Mary, God has chosen thee, and purified thee; He has chosen thee above all women. Mary; be obedient to thy Lord, prostrating and bowing before Him.’” (3:42-43)

This is reminiscent of Elizabeth’s words: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42)

After this there is an account of the Annunciation, which I quote at length.

“When the angels said, ‘Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous he shall be.’ ‘Lord,’ said Mary, ‘how shall I have a son seeing no mortal has touched me?’ ‘Even so,’ God said, God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing He does but say to it “Be,” and it is. And He will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel, to be a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God. I will inform you too of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. Likewise confirming the truth of the Torah that is before me, and to make lawful to you certain things that before were forbidden unto you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so fear you God, and obey you me. Surely God is my Lord and your Lord; so serve Him. This is a straight path”.’ ” (3:45-51)

Let us compare this to the biblical account:

“And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:28-38)

Clearly many similarities can be seen between the two, but also a few important differences. The words attributed to Jesus, “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so fear you God, and obey you me. Surely God is my Lord and your Lord; so serve Him. This is a straight path” are reminiscent of John the Baptist, which makes sense, seeing that Muslims deny the divinity of Christ.

Something I find even more disappointing is that the Quran does not mention her assent. In the Bible, Mary says: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” In the Quran, it is God who says “ ‘Be,’ and it is.” Obviously God caused the miraculous pregnancy to happen, but our Lady’s assent is a very important aspect which was left out. I suppose this makes sense because Muslims (and also evangelicals) do not seem to realize the importance of our being co-workers with God. Yet the Fathers and Council’s could not stress our Lady’s assent enough. 

St. Irenaeus says: “So also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race.” (Against Heresies III:22:4)

Or to quote the Second Vatican Council: “Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under Him and with Him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption.” (Lumen Gentium 56)

The fact that she, in a secondary sense, caused our salvation is so important because on that account she became the Mother of the Redeemed in the order of grace. Yet the Quran omits her Fiat, her free choice to become the Mother of our Lord. Now I grant that Muslims do not see Him as God Incarnate nor as Savior of Mankind, but still I do believe they are taking something important away from Mary.

“So she conceived him, and withdrew with him to a distant place. And the birthpangs surprised her by the trunk of the palm-tree. She said, ‘Would I had died ere this, and become a thing forgotten!’” (19:22-23)

Traditionally, Mary never had birthpangs in Christianity. It is written, “Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son.” (Isa. 66:7) Indeed, back in Genesis 3:16, God cursed the woman for her sin, saying “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Yet Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” (Ineffabilis Deus, Pius IX) However, Muslims do not believe in Original Sin, so this makes sense. I am also not sure about how I feel about Mary wishing she had died before this. It is not something I would imagine our Lady to say.

Finally, let us see the Quranic account of the Nativity.

“But the one that was below her called to her, ‘Nay, do not sorrow; see, thy Lord has set below thee a rivulet. Shake also to thee the palm-trunk, and there shall come tumbling upon thee dates fresh and ripe. Eat therefore, and drink, and be comforted; and if thou shouldst see any mortal, say, “I have vowed to the All-merciful a fast, and today I will not speak to any man. Then she brought the child to her folk carrying him; and they said, ‘Mary, thou hast surely committed a monstrous thing! Sister of Aaron, thy father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother a woman unchaste.’ Mary pointed to the child then; but they said, ‘How shall we speak to one who is still in the cradle, a little child?’ He said, ‘Lo, I am God’s servant; God has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet. Blessed He has made me, wherever I may be; and He has enjoined me to pray, and to give the alms, so long as I live, and likewise to cherish my mother; He has not made me arrogant, unprosperous. Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up alive!’” (19:24-33)

This certainly differs a fair deal from the biblical account. We see Jesus being born by a river rather than in a stable. Nor do I see a mention of Joseph here. The people address Mary as the sister of Aaron. Mary the sister of Aaron, also the sister of Moses, lived fourteen centuries earlier. Still, we see them accusing Mary of adultery, which is probably what happened, so I like that. We see Jesus speaking to her even before He was born. I doubt this happened, but I am quite sure He was capable of doing so. Jesus is obviously a created creature here, a prophet not God Incarnate. Blessed He has made me, wherever I may be.

However, important truth can be found in the following verse: He has enjoined me to pray, and to give the alms, so long as I live, and likewise to cherish my mother. Jesus set an example for us to follow. Indeed, Jesus did perfectly honor His mother.

Mary is the only woman specifically named in the Quran. All others are generally “the wife of” someone. In Islam, the four greatest women in history are considered to be Aasiyah the wife of Pharaoh, Khadeejah bint Khuwaylid the wife of Muhammad, Fatima daughter of Muhammad, and Mary the mother of Jesus.

Muslim mariology, as I have shown, is by no means perfect. Most importantly, they reject the first of the Marian dogmas, which Protestants are most likely to accept, that being the Theotokos, the Mother of God. Nor do they accept many other doctrines about her, including the Perpetual Virginity, the Spiritual Maternity, the Mediatrix, the Assumption, and the Heavenly Queenship. Still, perhaps this can be a bridge, a starting point where Catholics and Muslims can agree whereby we might bring them to Christ.

“They [Muslims] also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion.”—Vatican II, Nostra Aetate 3

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version

All Quranic verses are from the Arberry Translation

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On Non-Christians

Answering Weaker Arguments for Atheism

The following I mean in the most charitable way possible. I am sure many atheists who say these things are well-meaning. The following arguments which I will debunk are simply the ones atheists usually only use as standalone arguments if they are amateurs at this thing (while an experienced atheist debater, in my opinion, would first bring up different ones).

“Atheism isn’t a claim, since we are not believing in something. I do not need a reason for not believing in God.”

This is an attempt at re-defining atheism. Traditionally, the question in mind has always been: Does God exist? The theist says: yes. The atheist says: no. The agnostic says: I could not say, sir. There may be such a Power beyond us and there may not. The agnostic says this, of course, in an English accent, copying Jeeves’ accent particularly. To say that there is no God is a claim, a very great one at that. Do atheists have to produce evidence of their own that there specifically is no God? Not exactly, but they must show all theistic arguments to be inconclusive. Atheists sometimes insist that no one can really “prove” the existence of God. First of all, what is it to prove? Should we be ninety percent sure? Ninety-five? Ninety-nine? Second, he still brings forth a very big claim. An atheist who says this must debunk the arguments from cause, motion, necessity, design, perfection, Absolute Goods, and miracles. Otherwise, although theists have the burden of proof, they have given it. For instance, technically those who believe in the moon landing technically have the burden of proof, but we might still ask why someone does not, as the apparent evidence is so obvious.

“There are so many gods in which people believe: Vishnu, Zeus, Apollo, Ra, Aton, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and others, along with Christ. I therefore only believe in one less god than you do.”

Actually, this is not true. For one thing, we are arguing particularly for the monotheistic God, which limits things very much. Still, this is not a good reason to be an atheist. Most scholars think Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays, but people are not of one mind. So imagine if someone were to say: “Well, some people deeply believe that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays, and others Christopher Marlowe and still others Edward de Vere or Sir Francis Bacon. Now I will believe that no one wrote Shakespeare’s plays. See, I believe in only one less playwright than anyone else.” This argument obviously is absurd. Obviously someone must have written Shakespeare’s plays since they exist. So also someone must have made the universe by the very fact that it does exist, although precisely who did it is disputed. An atheist would say that we know playwrights exist but we do not know God exists. However, that is not the point and this argument therefore does not affect the original question at hand. Furthermore, the scholars, when they decide who wrote Shakespeare’s plays, do not arbitrarily choose someone (usually William Shakespeare), but they pick which one is most credible. Hence I pick Christ.

“It is true that many things about the universe are unknown, but this is hardly a reason to suppose, since you cannot explain everything yet, that God must have done it.”

This last one is an appeal to the so-called “God-in-the-gaps” fallacy. The problem is that this disproves atheism just as much. A claim is falsifiable if evidence can be presented to disprove it. For instance, evolutionary theory could be falsified by the discovery of modern animals that were fossilized in ancient rock layers. The belief that that the Gospel of John was not written until the year 150 A.D. or later was falsified by the discovery of manuscript P52 of the Gospel of John, which is dated to the early second century. So scientifically speaking, for atheism to be falsified, we must prove that God exists. But even if some spectacular miracle with God appearing in the sky were to occur, this could be considered a “God in the gaps”. I am willing to bet that before long skeptics would just say that it was a result of mass hysteria, partly because miracles so spectacular have occurred at other times and they have said the same. Obviously in this case if a saint were to miraculously heal a leper, the claim that we do not know how he did it does not follow that God did it, according to the same premises. In this case, no amount of evidence can really falsify the “God in the gaps” objection. As noted, the claim “There is no God” is an actual claim which can be falsified in spite of the fact that it is a negative, just as the view “There are no aliens” can be falsified.

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On Non-Christians

Q&A: Is Pastafarian Morality More Reasonable Than Christian Morality?

I received the following email recently:

Thanks for writing the blog post about Pastafarianism. As a Pastafarian myself, I found your analysis quite entertaining. One thing to keep in mind is that Pastafarianism expects its adherents to follow their own innate sense of right and wrong when making decisions. 

Although it is suggested that we shouldn’t kill anyone, it is only suggested because an outright command means that there is no room to account for the context of a situation (eg. killing in self defense, or as per Numbers 31:1-18, committing genocide of an entire country and raping the women and girls). 

Similarly with the lack of laws over fornication or adultery, there are a few: refer to The Eight I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts, #4 and 8. Basically, if your partner is ok with it, then go ahead.

With your analysis of the Pastafarian afterlife, I could say the same towards the Christian afterlife.

All the same, thanks for your analysis! It was an enjoyable read!

Miguel

I am actually rather surprised that the first person who wrote to me objecting to the Catholic Faith was a Pastafarian. But I suppose they have as much a right as any. I am glad you enjoyed my article. There are probably relatively few Christian apologists who seek to present the teachings of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in an objective light and I did so. I suppose it would be wrong to mock Pastafarians as it would be wrong to mock any religion with which we disagree. Now I will respond the best I can to each of these claims.

So you say Pastafarianism (and, I suppose, the FSM) expect Pastafarians to follow their innate sense of right and wrong and make their own decisions. The Catholic Church would agree with this as far as it goes. We are called to follow our consciences, provided they are properly formed. Now, is it written in our hearts not to murder, but it is generally easier to follow this law if we see it written in stone from God. Also, if one’s conscience is badly poorly formed (as it can become by repeatedly doing evil, for instance), it is much easier to reform them properly if we have written laws.

Both Christians and Jews have always understood God’s command “Thou shall not kill” to refer only to murdering people. It is the only thing that makes sense, considering that in the same book, Exodus, God commands the Hebrews to kill people on multiple occasions. My problem with phrasing all the FSM’s commands as suggestions is that it appears to me that there is no fixed morality. There are, for example, exceptions to “Thou shall not kill”, but these exceptions themselves are fixed. It is always wrong to wantonly and deliberately take innocent life, for instance. This is part of the reason I am uncomfortable with the FSM’s command: “Speak unto the children of the seven seas, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the 8 “I’d Really Rather You Didn’t’s” of the FSM concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them: I really don’t care that much. I’m all for flimsy moral standards.” (Piraticus 4:2-4) I will get into that later.

Numbers 31:1-18 is the section in which they kill the Midianites at God’s command. Genocide would generally be wrong, but God, the Lord of life and death, has the authority to command such. Moses did not commit this wantonly, but he carried out the justice of God. Pastafarians, perhaps, might not have much a different viewpoint. The FSM on multiple occasions cautions against Holy Wars, but obviously they hold that at some point in a person’s life, the FSM takes him to the Great Pasta Bowl. However, it is certainly false to say that they raped the women and girls. I think you are referring to Numbers 31:17-18, “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” They did not spare their lives for licentious pleasures. That was against the Hebrew law. He preserved the lives of the girls because they might be presumed innocent and live to do good. The boys were slain, either because they might be inclined to avenge the injury done to their relations or possibly because they were consecrated to the demon Beelphagor.

The two “I’d Rather You Didn’ts” which you quote are as follows:

4. I’d really rather you didn’t indulge in conduct that offends yourself, or your willing, consenting partner of legal age and mental maturity. As for anyone who might object, I think the expression is go f*** yourself, unless they find that offensive in which case they can turn off the TV for once and go for a walk for a change.

8. I’d really rather you didn’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you are into, um, stuff that uses a lot of leather / lubricant / lass Vegas. If the other person is into it, however (pursuant to #4), then have at it, take pictures, and for the love of mike, wear a condom! Honestly, it’s a piece of rubber. If I didn’t want it to feel good when you did it I would have added spikes, or something.

This is obviously differs from Christian morality, but that is not directly relevant. So basically the FSM calls for only willing sexual behavior and usage of contraception. As you have noted, it seems that that one’s partner should approve of it. But as noted, unless I am misinterpreting Piraticus earlier, the FSM does not care very much and is “all for flimsy moral standards. But thou shall try to remedy thy ignorance and read them. They’re actually pretty funny.” (Piraticus 4:5-6)

I would question, however, why it matters that one’s partner should approve. I would assume one of two things: either it the FSM condemns it or it hurts others. If the former is the case, three possibilities arise: first, things are good because the FSM says so; second, the FSM says things because they are good; or third, those things are good because they are in line with the FSM’s nature. If the first is true, then the FSM could suggest anything including rape, murder, and so forth, and it would be good. Since all these things are suggestions, we are still technically free to still do them. Alternatively, if the FSM suggests things because they are good, there must be something greater than the FSM, who is said to be “omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, and the creator of all reality.” (Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster 157-158) I believe the FSM is said to be an invisible spirit who chooses to manifest himself as spaghetti and meatballs and not actually made of these things. As for the third possibility, that goodness is the nature of the FSM, this is the Christian viewpoint, but I am doubtful that this would be true of a monster who describes himself as “all for flimsy standards.” As for the other possibility, that whatever is good is good because it does not hurt or it even helps others, what is intrinsically good about the anti-aggression principle? Some would say we cannot hurt people because we must continue of our species, but then I do not quite see what is so special about our species which makes us need to be furthered, as I have explained in depth here. If, however, one says that we are not to hurt others because the FSM has endowed us all with dignity, I have a problem with that as well, since anything he gives to us must already exist to a greater extent in him. So I hardly see how our dignity infused by a deity who is “all for flimsy moral standards” is a good reason to behave with moral rectitude.

As for my views on the Afterlife, I suppose that same argument would be efficacious on Muslims. I do not know precisely what your qualms with my arguments are, but I am again glad you enjoyed it.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

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On Non-Christians

Why the Quran is Untrustworthy

Today I will discuss Islam. Roughly 31.2% of humans self-identify as Christian (or 16% Catholic). Following this 24.1% of homo sapiens happen to be Muslim—Islam being the religion with the second greatest number of adherents after Christianity. So basically Islam teaches that the Quran is the Word of God, channeled to the Prophet Mohammed in Seventh Century Arabia. What I would like to argue is that the Quran cannot be trusted as the Word of God.

The Quran was written six hundred years after the life of Jesus and six hundred miles away, so there is no particular reason why we should value it from a historical perspective, as we might value the four gospels so this is a matter of whether we trust this as Divinely revealed. Joseph Smith, Zoroaster, Bobby Henderson (the Pastafarian personage), and others made similar claims to have heard from God, so it must be proved that this particular one is true. Now the usual claim made by most religions is that miracles occurred, but the Quran admits that Muhammad performed no miracles. Surah 13:7 states, “The unbelievers say, ‘Why has a sign not been sent down upon him from his Lord?’ Thou art only a warner, and a guide to every people.” Muslim apologists will general put forward two defenses for how they know that the Quran is the Word of God on account of alleged miracles within the text, as follows.

Objection 1: Although Mohammed performed no miracles, the Quran does provide an internal argument for why it is the word of God: “And if you are in doubt concerning that We have sent down on Our servant, then bring a sura like it, and call your witnesses, apart from God, if you are truthful. And if you do not — and you will not — then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for unbelievers.” (2:23-24)

To this I respond that in ordinary language this seems to say If you don’t believe the Quran is the Word of God, go and write a better one. If you still don’t believe, you’re going to hell. One must beware hell, of course, but I do not personally find this particularly convincing. The “argument by eloquence” basically states that because the Quran cannot be reproduced due to its eloquence, it is necessarily God-breathed. Supposing that it actually is as eloquent as it claims, however, I still do not find it particularly convincing, since the same could be said of Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, or Tolkien. None of them are the Word of God as Muslims suppose the Quran is. Now there is the point that Mohammed was illiterate, wherefore we can conclude it is certainly impressive if he produced something so eloquent on his own, but I consider it a fairly weak argument that this is the Word of God, as men have often done incredible things and other religions claim things which are impossible to explain with science, as opposed to this, which is simply unlikely. It is not as if he wrote the Quran down himself, as it was dictated, and he knew how to speak Arabic. As I consider it a reliable historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead, I think the claim that Mohammed was a prophet on account of unaccounted for eloquence is relatively weak.

Objection 2: The scientific miracles in the Quran are beyond count. For instance, Sura 39:6 states: “He creates you in your mothers’ wombs creation after creation in threefold shadows.” These “threefold shadows” refers to the linings of the abdomen, uterus, and amniotic sac, a thing that Mohammed could not possibly have know without divine intervention. Similarly, Sura 51:47 states: “And heaven — We built it with might, and We extend it wide.” But how could Mohammed know that the universe was expanding?

To this I respond that this is rather vague and the “threefold shadows” could refer to a number of things. It seems to me that people are reading these three things into it now that they know about the abdomen, the uterus, and the amniotic sack If the Quran had described the structure of an atom in detail, for instance, I would consider it more convincing, but as it is, this seems fairly vague to me. As for the universe expanding, the Quran is probably trying to show (rightly) the great extent of the size of the universe and God’s glory in it, hence it says it “expands”, but, at least to me, I do not find it particularly strong evidence for a scientific miracle.

Furthermore, Sura 86:5-7 states: “So let man consider of what he was created; he was created of gushing water issuing between the loins and the breast-bones.” This is not a particularly good description of how semen is actually made, as it suggests it comes from somewhere in the torso. Some Muslim apologists would argue that this refers to intercourse itself, hence God means to refer to sexual areas of the man and woman. But the Quran seems to be referring to a singular water which gushes forth from that area (most translations say “from between the loins and the breast-bones”). And a woman does not produce fluid but eggs. Others would say that this verse refers to blood from the aorta, but man was not “created of” such blood. Furthermore, such vague language requiring multiple interpretations does not strengthen the claim that in other places there would be scientific miracles if it is not actually obvious what it is saying. Even Muslim apologist Abdullah Yusuf Ali concedes:

“A man’s seed is the quintessence of his body. It is therefore said metaphorically to proceed from his loins, i.e., from his back between the hipbones and his ribs. His backbone is the source and symbol of his strength and personality. In his spinal cord and in the brain is the directive energy of the central nervous system, and this directs all action, organic and psychic. The spinal cord is continuous with the Medulla Oblongata in the brain.”

The Meaning of the Glorious Quran p. 446

Hence Yusuf Ali admits that this language is metaphorical. I do not think this invalidates the Quran, but it invalidates the belief that it can be used to discover scientific fact.

So I do not see why the Quran is particularly trustworthy. If I have left out any Muslim arguments, they are free to write and tell me. In the meanwhile, I welcome Muslims to home home to the Christian Church.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

All Quranic verses are from the Arberry Translation.

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On Non-Christians

Why Can There Not Be Many Gods?

One objection which atheists frequently bring up when Christians argue from nature and reason that there is a God that we cannot prove from nature that this God is actually the Christian God. The argument goes something like this, “Well, it’s all well and good that you argue for the existence of a god, but think about it. There are thousands (if not millions) of gods which are worshipped: Zeus, Odin, Thor, Amon, Apollo, Vishnu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as well as Christ. How can you prove that your God is the true one?” It is tempting to turn to Divine Revelation, but we can go a bit further with Reason alone. This is because we are not simply arguing for the existence of “God” from Reason. We are arguing for the existence of the monotheistic God, which basically limits us to the three Abrahamic religions, at least concerning major world religions with many adherents. So if we already see the necessity of one First Cause, here are Aquinas’ three reasons why there must be particularly one God.

The first is because God is simple. In other words, God is His divine nature. Now, if a thing has both form and matter, its nature only denotes what is contained in its species. Now, humans vary concerning their exact form and matter (some male, some female, some black, some white, and so forth). Now since God is without form and matter, it makes sense that He would be completely simple. What else would one expect from a non-contingent Cause which put all effects in motion than a Simple and Supreme Singular Act? Furthermore, for a thing to be a particular thing, it needs a principle of differentiation from all other things. For instance, Donald Trump is a man. Now other people are also men, making Donald Trump’s manhood. However, he cannot communicate his “Trumpiness” to other people since there is only one Donald Trump. Now God is His own nature. Therefore, there can be only one God.

Second, whenever perfection exists in an effect, it must be found in some way in an effective cause. A hippo, for instance, produces a baby hippo, for instance. Earlier I said Trumpiness cannot be communicated to others. Actually it can to an extent, as others can copy him by making circles with their fingers as they talk or overusing the words huge or tremendous. However, this is only because Trump emits Trumpiness which is found most perfectly in Donald Trump. So an effect always potentially pre-exists in its efficient cause. Now it is true that a pile of organs and skin exist in a more imperfect way then when they are put together to form Donald Trump’s body (still using Donald Trump as a random example!), but an actual agent in making something is perfect. If an effect pre-exists in an efficient cause (the cause which put the form and matter together, as it were) would not exist in a more imperfect, but in a more perfect way. Now God is the First Cause so the perfection of all things must exist in God in a more perfect way. Now if there were many gods, they would necessarily differ from each other. So if one was missing something which belonged to another, they would not be absolutely perfect. Now God comprehends in Himself the whole perfection of being. Therefore, there can be only one God.

Finally, perhaps in the most graspable way, there must be only one God because of the unity of the world. Everything in the world is orderly and harmonizes with each other. But diverse things do not harmonize with each other unless they are ordered by one thing. Now many things can only accidentally be the cause of one thing in the sense that they are in some way one, but one thing is intrinsically the cause of one thing. What is first is, of course, most perfect and is not accidentally the cause but intrinsically the cause. For instance, many cells and various organs make up Donald Trump. However, they could not make up Donald Trump if he had no singular DNA instructions. Therefore, it makes sense that everything should have one cause, that Cause being God.

And these are the three Thomistic (and Trumpy) proofs for monotheism. As noted, this basically leads us to Judaism, Islam, or Christianity. I chose Christianity.

And this is how Donald Trump helped me prove monotheism

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On Non-Christians

The Problem of Evil

I now seek to discuss what, in my opinion, is the best argument for atheism, and then I will debunk it—that being the problem of evil. Who has not heard an atheist say: how can you believe in a God who let the Holocaust happen? I am about to answer that question.

So God is the omnipotent and omniscient Supreme Act of Being. So he was perfectly able to reign fire from heaven to kill the nazis. He could fire a lightning bolt at Emperor Nero and destroy Stalin with the snap of His fingers. Why now has God allowed this coronavirus pandemic to occur and shut everything down? Relations between India and China are not going particularly well and it would be rather bad for the world if they were to go to war. I am an imperfect person, and if I were omnipotent, I am sure that I would not let such things as this happen. So why would our omnipotent God whose nature is in direct contradiction with sin allow such great human suffering?

Well, think first about it this way. Should God actually stop all evils? We have all done some evil at some point. If an eight-year-old chooses to eat four cookies when his mother strictly told him to eat no more than two, he does something wrong, this being, of course, a byproduct of the gift of free will (in itself, a good thing) which God has given him. So should God stop him? Or rather, could you imagine a reason why an omniscient God might allow that to happen? Is it possible that with infinite knowledge, God might allow this to serve a greater good? Or what about a natural evil, such as a five-year-old dropping her ice cream cone. After all, when one is five, what could possibly be sadder than ice cream? An atheist would probably admit that if an omniscient God did exist, he at least might allow lesser sufferings like this to prevent worse evils.

This is the place where I will probably be accused of being a terrible person. But before the reader comments saying something along the lines of how dare you compare a five-year-old dropping an ice cream cone to the Holocaust? let me explain my point.

Well, we can always see reasons why some natural evils might exist. The five-year-old, by dropping her ice cream cone, may learn the virtue of temperance or patience. Suffering, for instance, allows a person to develop virtue. What is courage but the willingness to do what is right in the face of suffering? What is compassion but suffering along side others? What is charity but putting another’s needs above one’s own wants? Natural evils may be an acceptable consequence a world governed by natural laws that lacks gratuitous miraculous interventions. A fire, for instance, is a good thing that warms us, but it can also kill us unless God miraculously prevents it. It is, in fact, an ideal place for mortal men to live, grow in virtue, and come to know, love, and serve their Creator.

“But how can good come forth from the Holocaust? I see nought reason, wherefore nought reason must exist!” The fact, however, that an individual cannot see the reason for God allowing something does not mean he has no good reason. On the contrary, this reasoning simply concludes that because no reason is immediately apparent, there must be no evil. When I see no hippo in my living room, we can generally conclude that it is not present. However, I cannot be justified for saying that there are no dust-mites in my back yard because I do not see any. Humans are limited in space and time and therefore cannot expect to understand the mind of an infinite God. We will never know why God allows everything he does until heaven. Perhaps the eight-year-old who was kidnapped by a serial killer and slain went to heaven, when otherwise he would have grown up to become a serial fornicator and usurer, dying and going to hell.

So atheists basically make this syllogism: If God exists, then pointless evils do not exist. Pointless evils exist. Therefore, God does not exist. I would respond with this syllogism: If God exists, pointless evils do not exist. God exists. Therefore, pointless evils do not exist.

This might seem hard for some to accept, but think about it this way. The eight-year-old whose parents were killed in a tsunami, what else ought he to hear, but Son, I am sorry, but if God would not have allowed this unless he had a good reason and I have the feeling that if you knew what that reason was, you’d be on your knees in prayer thanking God? 

However, I must go deeper than this. We were not made to suffer and there is no suffering in heaven. The answer goes back to Genesis 3. We suffer because we have sinned.

Actually, we do not suffer because we personally have sinned, but because humanity collectively has sinned. The connection between sin and suffering is as necessary as the connection between running at an angry water buffalo and being trampled or empaled. The connection between moral evil and natural evil is the connection between the soul and the body. The soul and the body are in psychosomatic unity, wherefore as the soul declares independence from God, so does the body. The soul’s authority over the body is dependent. If the soul will not serve God, the body need not serve the soul. Hence all human suffering is a byproduct of free will since we were all harmed by Adam’s sin.

Now some would question why we must suffer individually. Most atheists would have no trouble with God raining fire and brimstone on Hitler and Stalin, but why us? Imagine if there  were a man who was friends with the CEO of a massive airline. As a result, he could always get first-class seats for himself and his family when they fly. One day, he collaborates with a terrorist organization to re-enact 9-11. His friend, finding out about this, no longer allows him on his airline (and probably the man is arrested). The man’s children, therefore, also are unable to have free first-class seats on the airline. Is it wrong of the CEO to deprive the children of free first-class seats on account of the sin of their father? Of course not. Then why is it wrong for God, Who is infinitely above all, having made everything out of nothing, to allow us to inherit the sin of Adam rather than eternal life? Yet out of His great love and mercy, eternal life was indeed returned to us by the merits of Jesus Christ, His Son, Whom he sent to die for the whole world, but until then we must strive through this vale of tears on a journey ere were reach our final destination, knowing that God would not allow us to suffer unless He had a good reason.

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On Non-Christians

The Unstable Afterlife of Pastafarianism

On All Saints’s Day, I think it a good idea to defend heaven. If the reader is unfamiliar with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, also known as Pastafarianism, it is basically a group of people who worship a “Flying Spaghetti Monster”. This is what he looks like:

Flying Spaghetti Monster

So, the adherents say that Pastafarianism is a religion as much as any other. If so, I suppose they will not mind my arguing against it as an apologist. Specifically, I wish to argue with its afterlife. According to Pastafarian theology (or as they call it, pastology), true Pastafarians will be taken to the Great Pasta Bowl to join the Flying Spaghetti Monster and enjoy a volcano of beer (and other beverages for those who do not want to be drunk for all eternity), a stripper factory, and computer terminals accessing any number of worthy and unworthy websites and anything the person personally likes will be provided. The Volcano, apparently was made on the second day of creation, and the FSM “tasted it and declared it to be quite good. So the evening and the morning were the second day.” (The Gospel Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster p. 70) But then he apparently became hung over and woke up the next day in the Indian Ocean. I noted that the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not seem to have any laws against fornication and adultery as God does. His first two “suggestions” are: “I am the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Thou shalt have no other monsters before Me. (Afterwards is OK; just use protection.) The only Monster who deserves capitalization is Me! Other monsters are false monsters, undeserving of capitalization. Thou ought not do stuff thou already knowest is wrong, like killing, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Dost thou really need these carved into a rock?” (Suggestions 1:1-2) So it us not a commandment of the Flying Spaghetti Monster not to kill and steal but a suggestion. But, for the sake of argumentation, I will grant that, in a Pastafarian worldview, indulging in lust and drunkenness are moral, considering the afterlife. The FSM elsewhere teaches: “If he feels my rules are bad, he may choose to ignore them. I’m cool with that.” (Piraticus 11:2-3) Lustfulness and drunkenness are not acceptable to the God of Christianity, but if it is acceptable to the FSM, I will let that pass.

As an analogy, imagine you had one meal which you loved very much. Now, imagine you met a genie who granted you a wish that you might eat it forever without it becoming full. Now, at first it might be good. Perhaps you would enjoy getting to eat the same food for three hours without getting sick. But what about nine hours? Would you eat it for a day? What about a year? A decade? Now, Pastafarians have many pleasures in their heaven, not simply one food. Still, the point is that they have all eternity to use these pleasures. They may alternate with them, but will it not eventually get tedious? True Pastafarians may receive whatever they want, but their number of desires must be finite. If a person has an eternity to go through the same limited number of pleasures, will he not eventually repeat himself an eternity of times? Will this not get boring? Furthermore, what does a person do without anything productive to do? For most people, perpetual recreation is tedious. We must work and do something good for society. If in heaven Man takes the same pleasure in food, drink, and lust, I assume he has the same need to be productive. Now, some might argue that they should have perfect happiness in the presence of the FSM. If he is our creator, I concede to this point. Nevertheless, if that is the case, why all these temporal pleasures? If you can have perfect happiness by seeing the FSM face to face, what use is it to have a volcano of beer?

So what am I suggesting as an alternative? “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, RSV) The heaven in Christianity is principally a state of utter and absolute fulfillment in which the blessed will experience what cannot be put into words—a radical union with God that transcends anything we could envisage and also a union with the other members of the Body of Christ. The faithful will see God in the Beatific Vision. They do not, of course, see God with eyes, as God is pure spirit, but rather with an intellectual “vision” or comprehension of God. Each person will “see” or comprehend God in the Beatific Vision in accordance with his own capacity dictated to him by his state of grace at the moment of death. To quote St. Thomas Aquinas: 

“Since the vision of the divine substance is the ultimate end of every intellectual substance, as is evident from what we have said, and since the natural appetite of everything comes to rest when the thing reaches its ultimate end, the natural appetite of an intellectual substance must come to rest completely when it sees the divine substance. Now, the natural appetite of the intellect is to know the genera and species and powers of all things, and the whole order of the universe; human investigation of each of the aforementioned items indicates this. Therefore, each one who sees the divine substance knows all the things mentioned above.

“Again, the intellect and the senses differ on this point as is clear from Book III of On the Soul [4: 429a 14], the power to sense is destroyed, or weakened, by the more striking sense objects, so that later it is unable to perceive weaker objects; but the intellect, not being corrupted or hindered by its object but only perfected, after understanding a greater object of the intellect, is not less able to understand other intelligibles but more able. Now, the highest object in the genus of intelligible objects is the divine substance. So, the intellect which is elevated by divine light in order to see God’s substance is much more perfected by this same light, so that it may understand all other objects which exist in the nature of things.”

Summa Contra Gentiles Book III, Chapter 59, Paragraphs 1-2

No such temporal pleasures—computers, beer, and lasciviousness—are necessary. In God indeed one can find eternal happiness.

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On Non-Christians

A Historical Defense of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I am aware that I have a couple Protestant followers. For that reason, I always wish to do at least one post every month with which Protestants will agree. I regret to say that the main reason why I spend so much time on Protestantism is that I find it fairly easier—partly because I have spoken to a number of Protestants about doctrines with which we disagree (I have a number of Protestant relations) and partly because unlike non-Christians with whom I must always stick with logic, science, and philosophy, I am able to simply appeal to Sacred Scripture. I certainly never particularly liked science anyway. Nevertheless, at this moment I am doing a defense based on history (and also logic and a little science) concerning of why Jesus Christ must in fact have risen from the dead c. A.D. 33.

At first thought, the most likely theory would be that the whole business with the Resurrection is a myth. In Egypt, one calls the dying god Isis or Osiris or in Asia Minor he calls him Attis or Cibele. To the Norse, one might call him Balder. Some people do not know this, but it might be even more apt to appeal to Odin. Odin actually sacrificed himself to himself by hanging himself on a tree. Now, I must defer to fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien for the answer. One time, when not inventing hobbits, Tolkien said: “We have come from God and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”🐷 Indeed, do you not think that when God would reveal Himself to the world, that He would do so in a way that He would accept? Or if God actually made us to be saved, do you not think that He would instill in us an instinctive longing for a coming Redeemer? Of course, none of these could be considered akin to plagiarism. Odin, for instance, sacrificed himself for his own gain to become wise while Christ sacrificed Himself that we might be free from Original Sin.

Very well. Perhaps that argument does not discredit the Resurrection, but how do I specifically know that it is not a myth? Surely, any extraordinary claim requires an extraordinary proof. First we must remember that every historian agrees that Jesus of Nazareth was actually a historical person. Within thirty years, Christians were openly persecuted for that very claim by Roman Emperor Nero. Even ten of the twelve apostles (excluding St. John who was exiled and Judas Iscariot who committed suicide) all died for that claim—the apostles who were supposed to be eyewitnesses of that resurrection. Can such a large myth simply appear that fast and be believed by so many when the contemporaries were still alive? According to tradition, the gospels according to Matthew and John were written by two eyewitnesses. (Fragments of Papias 6, Eusebius Church History 5:10:3, Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:1:1) St. Mark had St. Peter, another eyewitness, as his source of information, Mark being Peter’s interpreter. (Fragments of Papias 6, Irenaeus Against Heresies 3:1:1) St. Luke starts his gospel as a historical account. (Luke 1:1-4) Even if these are not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, although certain books were long disputed in the canon—James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Hebrew, and Revelation, the authenticity of these four gospels as accurate records of the life of Christ was basically agreed upon since the Early Church, that is, since close to the time when the historical Jesus Christ actually lived. Besides this, Paul claims that five hundred people saw Christ at once. (1 Corinthians 15:6) Why not go to Galilee and ask about? Let us compare this to Odin or Osiris, whose stories appeared somewhere in the unknown depths of time, neither of whose historical existence can be validated. Certainly there is no evidence that we have the writings of eyewitnesses or those who might have known those who had seen any of these ancient gods.

This leads us to the second theory—the conspiracy theory (nothing to do with Hanger 51). This is basically the belief that the disciples stole the body in order to pass off the idea that Christ had actually risen—thus perpetuating the greatest hoax in history still effecting the world today (and no, I do not believe the Da Vinci Code as fact). This is probably the most likely theory when one considers history, since, according to St. Matthew’s gospel, it was actually the theory preferred by the pharisees. (Matthew 28:13) According to the testimony of the gospel, the pharisees bribed the guards to say that they had fallen asleep and as they slept the disciples had stolen the body (we are treating the gospels now as simply historical documents and not the inspired word of God as one might site Thucydides to find out about the life of Pausanias). First we must remember that the apostles had nothing to gain and everything to lose from such a lie. As St. Paul rightly put it, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”🐮 (1 Corinthians 15:14) I say this for a number of reasons. As noted, ten of the apostles—Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Philip, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, James the Just, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Thomas—were all martyred. St. John was exiled. St. Paul likewise was martyred. Who would die for a lie? Perhaps one might be insane, but why all of them? They had absolutely no rational motive whatsoever, other than to perpetuate a false religion, and preaching the resurrection and divinity of a man who had recently been executed for preaching blasphemy and sedition was risky business.

It can be noted that if the guards had actually fallen asleep, there is no way they could know who had stolen the body, only that the body was stolen. It is unlikely in itself that all the guards would have fallen asleep at once when they were professionals, and there would be a serious penalty for a guard, Jewish or Roman, who had fallen asleep on duty. As already noted, Paul alleges that there were five hundred persons who saw him, “most of whom are still alive.”🐮 (1 Corinthians 15:6). Any conspiracy involving five hundred conspirators is sure to fail or at least is not worth risking.

There is also the swoon theory, the belief that Jesus simply fell unconscious and the Roman soldiers simply mistook him to be dead. I have a problem with this one as well. For one thing, the Roman soldiers were professional executioners and knew what they were doing. I believe that the penalty for not letting a man die in a crucifixion was death. The writer of the fourth gospel adds that blood and water poured forth from Christ’s side—a sign of death. “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe,” St. John adds. (John 19:34-35) He apparently would have to invent that detail (which, in itself, I find unlikely), having the medical knowledge to know this, without explaining the significance to his readers who were presumably for the most part medically unsophisticated. This still does not explain how Christ would also have removed the heavy stone from His tomb and left on Sunday morning (although Christ would not have eaten since Friday when He had been tortured excruciatingly), and present Himself in a manner that could be passed off as a resurrection. Imagine the state He would have to be in when He had recently been tortured to near death. Considering those great improbabilities necessary for this to be true, what is the chance that the one to have survived would be a great rabbi of whom it would make sense, considering His teachings, that rising from the dead would logically lead to the founding of a huge and immortal religion? At any rate, this still does not explain how Christ flew into the air forty days later never to be seen again, rather than going back to living His normal life.

There is also the hallucination theory—the theory that the disciples hallucinated Christ’s resurrection. I have a similar problem with this theory as I had with the objections made by skeptics to the Miracle of Fátima, with which I dealt here. For one thing, I see no reason why all of the disciples should have hallucinated the same thing at once. As noted, Paul alleges that He was seen by five hundred people. What are the chances that five hundred persons would hallucinate the exact same person at once? I certainly know of no evidence that that is possible. What would be the chance, do you think that once you had died, five hundred of your friends hallucinated your living self? That is at least very implausible, probably impossible. Besides, the gospels mention He ate fish after His death, (Luke 24:42-43) started a charcoal fire to cook fish, and provided bread. (John 21:9) Can a hallucination do these things?

The hallucination theory still requires that at least someone to have stolen the body hence the empty tomb. I suppose that it is much more credible that there were only one or two conspirators than that there were five hundred. Still, whoever stole the body must have done so either before or after the hallucinations began. It could not have been before—or else how could they know that the apostles would hallucinate Christ? I suppose they could put something in their water, but in that case they would have to somehow manage to drug five hundred people to hallucinate the exact same thing. However, according to the testimonies of the gospels, the stone was moved away before the apostles saw the risen Christ. If the truth was that the events were reversed and that they had seen the risen Christ before seeing the stone moved away, then all four gospel accounts were wrong. Also, we must suppose that there was one disciple who found out about these hallucinations and somehow managed to steal the body and put it in an undisclosed location without anyone finding out—a strange deed without much motive in itself.

Thus concludes my essay. There are other theories, of course. There is the theory that they went to the wrong tomb, which I find implausible since that would mean the pharisees, the women, and the apostles would all have been confused to a degree that they would never discover their mistake until the apostles were martyred. There is also the alien theory—the theory that aliens faked the whole thing. Of this I can only ask if you seriously think it is more credible that aliens were going about two thousand years ago starting religions, not bothering to, for example, reveal themselves or easily conquer the world (considering their extremely advanced technology), than that God actually was working among men. Still, for the purposes of this essay, I believe it is complete.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

🐷https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/16480-we-have-come-from-god-and-inevitably-the-myths-woven Accessed August 14, 2020

🐮RSV

Categories
On Non-Christians

Fátima: An Optical Illusion or a Miracle?

“It must have been 1:30 P.M. when there arose, at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time

“The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly cleared; the rain stopped and it looked as if the sun were about to fill with light the countryside that the wintery morning had made so gloomy. I was looking at the spot of the apparitions in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening and with diminishing curiosity because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it and now shone clearly and intensely.

“Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet…turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations had been focused, and look at the sun on the other side. I turned around, too, toward the point commanding their gaze and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight. It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled nor dim. At Fátima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina. [During this time], the sun’s disc did not remain immobile, it had a giddy motion, [but] not like the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl.

“During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described, there were also changes of color in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything had assumed an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. Everything both near and far had changed, taking on the color of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same color.

“Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed all at once to loosen itself from the firmament and, blood red, advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was truly terrible.

“All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them. Finally, I must declare that never, before or after October 13 [1917], have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena.”

This is an eyewitness account of the Miracle of Fátima, also known as the Miracle of the Sun, by Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal. Thousands of witnesses also saw this miracle.🐷 The Miracle of the Sun had been predicted only by three illiterate children, Lúcia dos Santos (10), and her cousins, St. Francisco (9) and St. Jacinta (7) Marto of Fátima, Portugal. They had been seeing apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the thirteenth day of each month since May until the October when the miracle occurred (although they missed August for reasons I will deal with later as they concern the subject of this essay). What happened was that the sun danced around in the sky changing different colors. At the same time all the rain which had previously been present dried up. The sun was also visible to the naked eye without damaging the retina, although there was no fog. Naturally, certain individuals sought to prove that it was a scientific phenomenon. This is perfectly understandable, as anyone should look to the physical to explain something before looking to the metaphysical. The Catholic Church approved this in 1930 and such miracles are not generally approved unless no scientific explanation can be discovered. I will attempt to prove in this post that there is no way to explain this miracle scientifically.

The first argument is that people do not all report to have seen the exact same thing. Some mention the sun turning different colors. Others say that it moved in zigzags. Others say that it looked like the sun would crash into the earth. The testimony which I have just shone mentions both the changing of colors and the sun appearing to be crashing into the earth. Now, eyewitness testimonies are not always exact on the details, especially when describing terrifying phenomena. For instance, when a bank robbery occurs, one person might remember the robber’s gray eyes and another his hoarse voice. Does that mean that the robbery did not happen? When the sun is moving in zigzags, it is reasonable, when one is maddened with terror, that some people might be afraid the sun might crash into the earth. Any journalist knows that when reports match up too closely, it is probably a conspiracy. What makes the most sense is that the Sun did indeed turn different colors and at the same time moved in a zigzag pattern in a manner that looked like it might crash into the earth. They were terrified and did not necessarily report all of the details. None of it necessarily strikes me as contradictory. Their fright is also the reason why there are no photographs. Cameras were big and bulky in those days and the cameramen were too busy running in terror to take the time to take a photograph. If they had not been too terrified but had still seen the Sun dancing, I imagine that they would have taken a photograph and seen later that the Sun was not dancing in it. Alternatively, if the cameramen had not seen the Sun dancing, there still might be a photograph of everyone running in terror.

Now, there is one manner of report that contradicts all of this—the report that some of the witnesses saw nothing whatsoever. I have yet to find a quote or primary source from one eyewitness who said he or she saw nothing out of the ordinary besides everyone panicking around him or her. The closest thing which I can find is the report that people were asking each other if they had seen anything. It is possible that there was some evidence from their faces that they did not see anything if people asked each other such a question. It is also very much possible that the people were seeing something so insane that they asked others if they were seeing the same thing to find out whether or not they were hallucinating. The description above refers to a “a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people” which was heard, suggesting that at least most people certainly did see it. Alfredo da Silva Santos of Lisbon describes his wife as having fainted and a man with a white beard running about, challenging atheists as to whether a supernatural event had occurred.🐮 Evidently, it looked as if the atheists had seen something. If you look, you will find many other quotes from eyewitnesses which describe the same thing—that everyone around them seemed to see an incredible phenomenon and panic.

Now, considering that this was all predicted by three children and actually came true, the most reasonable supposition for how this might come about naturally is that people were expecting and praying to see a miracle and therefore saw one due to mass hysteria and hallucination, because otherwise, if children were to predict a miracle and then a terrifying natural phenomenon were to occur just when they predicted the miracle, it would be the most statistically improbable thing in the history of the human race. Let us assume the theory of mass hysteria which would be caused by the children’s predictions. Generally, it is supposed that the crowds would be in a suggestive state on that account. However, think for a second. Would you really be in a suggestive state on the word of three children? Think of the scale of this mass-hallucination. There were thousands of people there. Try going into a church, claiming that you are hearing from God that there will be a sign in heaven in a few days in a certain place and see if they actually end up imagining they see a miracle. Believe me, hoping and praying for a miracle is not enough for thousands of otherwise sane persons to see the sun dancing around and changing colors, provided they are not all intoxicated on LSD. That is only considering the religious people in the crowd. Many atheists who came to mock also saw it, as already noted. A certain Alfonso Lopes Vieira, who was nearly twenty-five miles away described it: “On that day of October 13, 1917, without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda….”🐮 If he did not even remember the children’s predictions and so could hardly be in a suggestive state. He may have subconsciously thought of them, but do you really think that that is enough for him to hallucinate? Fr. Ignacio Lorenco, who was eleven miles away describes much the same phenomenon, and speaks of people shouting and begging God to pardon their sins. Lorenco describes seeing at that time “an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fátima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.”🐮 I doubt this man was in a suggestive state. At that time, Lorenco was only nine years old.

Now let us discuss the motive. It would be supposed that Lúcia, the oldest of the three, the main seer in Fátima, and the one who lived past childhood, invented this story of the Lady appearing to them and then somehow used her influence on the younger two to get them to go along with it. It is certainly something which I can imagine some children of that age doing, if they are of the mischievous sort. However, it should be noted that it was St. Jacinta who first opened her mouth about it. According to Lúcia’s memoirs, she did not wish her to tell anyone. It was, however, Lúcia’s mother who was most earnest that she confess to lying (this was before the miracle). “One day, before I set out with the flock,” says Sr. Lúcia, “she was determined to make me confess that I was telling lies, and to this end she spared neither caresses, nor threats, nor even the broomstick. To all this she received nothing but a mute silence, or the confirmation of all that I had already said.”🐼 In other words, she was beaten with a broomstick and still did not deny that she had heard the message from the Blessed Virgin. Lúcia was then dragged before the priest, her mother commanding her to confess that she had lied, but Lúcia did not. The priest thought these apparitions were from the devil. At her age, it would seem hard on me to continue inventing these apparitions. Sr. Lúcia would not have made this story up, as when she originally wrote this, much of her family was still alive and could testify it to be true or false. However, if that is not evidence enough, know that they were abducted by the administrator in Fátima, Artur de Oliveira Santos. More specifically, they were put in prison with criminals and threatened death, if they did not tell the Secret which the Blessed Mother had entrusted to them. Nevertheless, none of them told him (this is why they missed the apparition in August), nor did they confess that they had made it up. I can hardly imagine anyone at all doing this for a lie, much less anyone of their ages. Even if Lúcia was mentally unstable and actually believed that she had seen the Lady, I could hardly see her influence going so far as to bring Francisco and Jacinta not to recant in a life-or-death scenario. Certainly Francisco was not much younger than she. Elder cousins do not have infinite power over what their younger relatives must do. St. Francisco and St. Jacinta died of the Spanish Flu (the last global pandemic) not long afterward, but still held that they had seen the Lady until their deaths. Lúcia, on the other hand, lived until February 2005 and died at ninety-seven. All that time, she held that she had seen the Blessed Virgin in 1917. That hardly sounds like a childish fancy, although perhaps insanity. However, to the best of my knowledge, none of her relatives ever noted her to be mentally unstable in any other way. Now, the Second Secret predicted World War Two. It is generally pointed out by skeptics that it was not put into print until 1941. It is supposed that it was written down until after the second world war had already begun. However, if Sr. Lúcia were insane (which is the only reasonable explanation I can come up with; I have already illustrated why I do not think she could have been lying), that would mean that Sr. Lúcia would have made up the Secret between 1939 and 1941 and actually believed she had heard it twenty-four years prior. That level of insanity is sure to be picked up by her family and the fellow nuns in her convent, and I imagine it ought to manifest itself in other ways that might be marked.

It is commonly pointed out that there is one sun and that it was in one place everywhere else in the world. I could not say exactly what happened, but that does not mean that a supernatural event did not occur, as it seems to me one evidently did from the arguments above. Perhaps God made light move in an unscientific and uncanny way or possibly bi-located it to actually make the sun be in more than one place at once. He does that with His own body every Mass after all. At any rate, if you will recall, it was raining that day, yet, if one puts any reliability whatsoever on thousands of eye-witnesses, all the rain stopped and immediately dried up at the time when the miracle occurred. I do not need to know much science to know how much energy it would take to dry up all the rain for miles around. Generally speaking, what ought to be left is a big, black crater somewhere.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

🐷Professor Almeida Garrett’s full account may be found in Novos Documentos de Fátima (Loyala editions, San Paulo, 1984)

🐮https://www.ewtn.com/fatima/sixth-apparition-of-our-lady.asp Accessed July 24, 2020

🐼Sr. Lúcia dos Santos Fátima in Lúcia’s Own Words16th edition p. 50 (2007)