Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Holy Unexpected Development Batman!

So, Leah's a Catholic

I have to be honest- I'm not shocked by this.  Surprised, absolutely- I did not wake up this morning thinking the next Unequally Yoked post I read would be in Patheos' Catholic portal.  But Leah has held what I consider internally inconsistent beliefs for quite some time (and she knew it).  I've been quite vocal about the fact that I can't rectify virtue ethics (or really any other ethical system) and the materialism I think necessarily follows from Atheism, so I'm not surprised that someone who I agree with a lot couldn't rectify them either.  She's just a lot more sure of the former than I am.

That said, this is a staunch departure from some of her comments as recently as 8 months ago.  I'm really interested to see how she goes about dealing with all of the reasons she's given in the past for why Catholicism isn't compelling to her.

In point of fact, she seems concerned with much different features of religion than I am- she is concerned mostly with morality and telos, whereas I spend a lot more time looking at the less attractive parts of various religions (like the Old Testament, or the Buddhist doctrine of detachment, etc.) under the assumption that if you reject one pillar of a given religion, you must reject the entire religion.  I don't know that one method is categorically better than the other, but I am really interested to see how she defends her new position.

Ultimately, I'm really excited for Leah.  I legitimately hope she's found truth- but even if she hasn't, this will be a tremendous learning experience for her (My understanding is that she's a cradle Atheist, but I could be wrong there).  I obviously don't think she's right- at least not at the moment- but I've read enough of her blog to be convinced that she is legitimately looking for truth.  And if her search for truth has lead her down a path that I don't quite agree with, then at the very least it should be taken as a clue to me to take the position seriously.

I know from personal experience how hard a conversion can be.  You need a certain level of intellectual honesty to admit that you've been wrong your whole life.  For someone as well known and influential as her, I'm sure it was even more difficult than I realize in light of the reaction she knew her hundreds of Atheist readers would have. That takes a great deal of moral fortitude.

I'll certainly be challenging her on her new beliefs in the coming months, but for today, I'll just say good for her.  I don't agree with her conclusion, but I do agree with the way she went about getting there- and I'm definitely rooting for her.


  1. You seemed to indicate that there is a kind of morality that naturally follows from atheism; that would certainly be news to me. What I would say is there are a variety of systems of morality that are consistent with atheism but not directly implied by it. Here's a list of a few such systems off the top of my head:

    1. Natural Law Ethics
    2. Humanism
    3. Utilitarianism
    4. Moral subjectivism/relativism
    5. Sam Harris' view from "The Moral Landscape" (which is probably the same thing as (2))
    6. Deontology
    7. The evolutionary view, which may or may not be compatible with any of these others

    I did a video blog (in which my face is stretched out due to a technical problem) here: http://etratio.blogspot.com/2012/06/objective-morality-without-god.html

    In that video blog entry, I'm responding to a YouTube Christian, an excerpt of whose video is featured at the beginning of mine.

    1. I didn't mean to say that I think any particular morality follows from atheism, but rather that a purely materialistic world view (Physicalism) necessarily follows. I don't think this is news- I don't know of any self-described atheists who also believe in a supernatural component to reality (though I'm sure there are a few)

      I think the more controversial claim I'm making is that I don't consider any of those systems of morality compatible with materialism. Not that someone can't be a materialist and a Utilitarian (plenty of smart people are), but rather that their choice to be a Utilitarian is arbitrary. They could just as easily choose any other option. There's no metaphysical truth underpinning any of it, so it just ends up being a free for all "do whatever makes you happy". If that happens to be one of these ethical systems, then more power too you. If not, I as a materialistic atheist can't condemn you for it (other than punishing your in order to disincentivize behavior that is bad for me)

      Thanks for the link- I'll check out your video next chance I get

  2. I really hope her atheist readers stick around to hear her out, as I think her very analytical way of presenting things will be fascinating indeed.

    I have another book suggestion for you, I know, I know but I promise this is the last one, for this week. It's The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn. I read it years ago and recently came across it again and I forgot how interesting and eye opening it was for me. He explains the mass and it's correlation to Revelations (the book of the Bible) and discusses Jesus's prophecy to return. I think it really ties in well to our discussion about Catholic understanding of the Bible and that prophecy in particular. Thankfully it's a fairly short and easy read but I understand you have a lot books in the queue. If you would rather I present relevant passages here, I will gladly do that.

    1. "I really hope her atheist readers stick around to hear her out, as I think her very analytical way of presenting things will be fascinating indeed"

      Me too. I'm really excited to hear her defense of a lot of Catholic positions (though I worry that she may spend all of her time on "interesting questions" instead of taking a serious run at defending the basics of Catholicism. I say "worry", not because I think it would be wrong, but because I selfishly want to hear her answers to those basic questions)

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I'm trying to make my queue FIFO (first in first out), but I always get excited for new books that I get and want to read them right away (hence why I haven't gotten to "four fathers" and *gulp* the Catechism yet)

  3. Do you mind if I ask what the list looks like right now? I enjoy trying out books I would not normally seek out and trust your judgement. I know I still need to get GEB and I can't remember what else. I've forgotten what discussion you wrote the list out in.

    1. I decided to make this its own page, since it seems like something worth recording.