Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's Not "Totally Unexpected"; It's Obvious

Did you hear that story of Robin Rinaldi, who gave up her wedding vows for a year? Do I need to tell you what happened?

There was the story of a pastor who decided to try atheism for a year. Guess what happened.

Each time, modern secular "forward-thinking" society nods its approval, and also professes surprise. I'm going to say that's mostly dishonest. They have always known of the intimate connection between profession and action; that's why Cranmer changed the liturgy; that's why Comte founded a "church."

We actually have this foolish notion first of all that all possible choices we make are value-neutral. The other part is that we think they are on equal footing. If you express revulsion and disgust at a murderer, he'll disgust you further when he says, "Hey, don't knock it until you try it," but he's got a point. We become like what we do.

Grace doesn't really allow Christians to say, "Fake it until you make it" to a person struggling with faith, but really, it is wise and good to continue doing what believers do, even if it doesn't seem honest. The fact that what we profess is supernatural doesn't change the fact that we're whole people. And we're animals, in a real sense. We have habits. We should not expect that a broken habit attached to a profession will allow that profession to remain for long. If you stop going to church, you will be an unbeliever, quite apart from the consequences of that one error.

I think of a couple people who now profess to be atheists or agnostics, and I think that we may not have distinguished between a difficulty, which is an intellectual problem, which can be helped by having smart people around, and a doubt, which is an act of the will. For instance, take that instance in the Gospels, where in one place it says the two thieves hurled insults at Him, whereas in the other, one did, but one professed faith and received the promise of eternal life while he died alongside Jesus. I could find a thousand of these, and I might say, "Yes, I can see why this could be troubling for the inquirer; let's find the answer" without ever thinking, "They lied to me! Sod it all, I'm going to the bar, and the gentlemen's club. See you in two weeks!" Doubt is a habit of soul; it's not cured, or even helped, by answers. Its root is pride, which is why the end of the definition of "heresy" in CCC, 2089, says, " obstinate doubt concerning the same." In any case, develop human habits that fit the habits of soul that you want. Then maybe ask if what you think you want is really what you want.

You've probably met a 3-year-old who asked about a thousand questions, all in that same form: "Why?" She probably just wants to know that you care. It's adorable, even if it gets annoying. But I'm sure we've seen that guy in a public meeting who stands up and says, "I want some answers!" He doesn't want answers; he wants us to know he is mad, and he wants to be taken seriously. I wonder how many of these "atheists" on the bestseller lists are really just like this guy? Don't be that guy.

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