The New Evangelization Series, Part I: The Atheists are Right

September 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Catholic Apologetics, Counter-apologetics, Featured


03You’ve probably heard the question, “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?” It’s a question that supposedly introduces a person to the perennial struggle between optimists and pessimists – one which is supposedly never to resolve. We’re taught that these are two divergent ways of seeing the world, and are led to believe them to be incompatible. However, if we approach the question soberly, it becomes apparent that the one true answer, is (drumroll, please):

The glass is both half-empty and half-full.

Once we see this truth, it can never be unseen, and after such a rite of passage, we come to realize that anyone who sees it as being one way or the other is either not seeing enough or is selling something.

If we ever find ourselves in a position to observe a debate about the status of the glass from this new vantage point, we are enabled to see that it is a debate between two equally true positions while also being a debate between two equally false positions. This type of disconnect from reality and the unnecessary interpersonal division it engenders is very ugly indeed.

We’re here to tell y’all that a similar situation applies to nearly everything happening in apologetics (and “evangelization”) today. That is, atheism, Catholicism, and a lot of other positions are about as compatible as the glass being both half-empty and half-full at the same time. That may sound ridiculous, but over this series we’ll show why this is so. Please be patient if we offend you. It’s for a greater good, and it all works out in the end.



There is a great deal of what could be called “atheism awareness” in Catholic circles right now. Ironically, this is really tantamount to atheism unawareness.

Maybe some of us haven’t encountered them in person, and have only heard scare stories about the “militant atheists”. Perhaps we are angry with loved ones who have become atheists because they’ve seemingly rejected everything we taught or shared with them. Perhaps we make fun of a parody of their worldview via various Catholic “memes”, or complain about how “they” are taking over the country and ruining morality. Perhaps we pity them, and feel that if only we could get them to “see”, then they could finally accept a loving God and have “peace”. We argue with them, debate them, disparage them, despise them.


This kind of “Us vs. Them” scenario is set up on both sides . There is fault enough to go around for this, but the heavier claim would be on the apologists, whose line of work is essentially an outreach and a ministry supposedly representing Christ in some way. Now, unless such a ministry has its basis in love, it’s not going to be effective. However, instead of loving the other side, we’ve been afraid of “ceding ground” to them, and therefore our best attempts at “dialogue” are doomed to fail.

This fear of losing ground has largely backfired: we’ve “lost” an enormous amount of ground, and the irony is that we’re not even in the right war.

We don’t realize that we are losing – instead we write people off by assuming that they’re being too blockheaded or too stubborn to understand us.



It is a fashion in apologetics to “respect” another’s worldview, but what would real respect mean? Well, we can at least say that if we have to fake it, then we are, in fact, faking it.

Now, this is important: You can’t really respect another person’s view unless you also believe that their view is true. Sounds radical, but think about it. What respect does a falsehood deserve? None at all.

You may have seen it on apologetics sites that are supposedly serving God:

“Well, that’s a really great idea Jim, but now let me tell you why you’re totally wrong”.

You don’t think that Jim has a great idea, but you pretend to.

And that’s really weird; a totally transparent lie.

You may not know that you’re lying.

But Jim knows.


The intention may be good (deliberate malice is quite rare), but although it meets the social requirements for respectful dialogue, it’s far from the genuine article.  One thing’s for sure: We don’t know how to convince Jim. And why do we want to convince? Too many reasons to count, really. Some of them noble, some of them ig (as in “ignoble”).

Our way thus far has never really convinced anyone and never will. If the truth be told, we’ve actually gone for something that is a different endeavor entirely; we want to feel better informed than we really are so that we can shore up our insecure beliefs.

The present “apologetic” unto ourselves may make a contribution to the great cosmic map of how ideas intermingle, but here’s the truth: You can only convince someone by taking what they already love and giving them more of it.

You can only convince someone by taking what they already love and giving them more of it.

[We said that twice in case you already loved it.]

As an important example, consider that Jesus wasn’t into taking good things away from people. He didn’t turn the wedding at Cana into a treatise on the evils of drunkenness. He didn’t take Mary away from her place at his feet when Martha complained that she was being lazy. He defended the woman who broke the alabaster jar in the presence of her detractors. He affirmed and defended the good wherever it was. He only elevated things, even the law: You’ve heard it said….well, I say… He addressed everyone on their own terms, even bandying with the Pharisees/Sadducees who wanted to test him by using their own tactics against them. See, Jesus didn’t have a script or a plan. He was giving Himself to everyone just as he was, and just as they were.

He also criticized the Pharisees for taking good things away from people – “you place burdens and don’t lift a finger to help”. Whose burdens have we been carrying, and with reference to whom have we taken the lower place?

Consider that authentic respect is something that reveres the other person’s truth regardless of whatever untruths are woven into it. This is what Jesus did. He went to “those” parties held by “those” people. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to picture that the dinners held by prostitutes and tax collectors probably didn’t have entertainment in the way of tea and crumpets with a nice game of bridge. But that’s where Jesus was, right in the midst of it. And were people scandalized? Yes.

Jesus didn’t tell Zacchaeus that he wasn’t going to eat his food because he acquired his riches dishonestly. If you read the story, Jesus didn’t say anything about dishonesty to Zacchaeus at all. Jesus enjoyed the goods that Zacchaeus had and didn’t negate them. It was the presence of Jesus that changed the heart of the dishonest tax collector, not a sermon, and not even a debate.



So, how is it possible to believe that atheism is true (as far as it goes) while also being Catholic?

The following short exposition on theodicy is just one of many examples. We are not suggesting that the problem of evil is the only (or even the most cogent) reason by which people are drawn towards atheism. In fact, it seems safe to say that there are as many reasons for atheism as there are atheists. However, looking at this little tidbit on God and evil will help us understand that people, and specifically atheists, are right in their unmitigated rejection of what is truly worthy of rejection, and this makes it a good starting point for making our broader point.

Let’s start right out then:

The word “theodicy” derives from two Greek words: theos “god” and dike “justice”. The term refers to the human attempt to explain something about “God-justice” when considering the question of why the world is the way it is if God is real and really cares.

If God is so good (i.e. just), and so powerful, then why doesn’t he prevent what appears to most people to be unjust suffering or at least do something to help and maybe tell us why he can’t (or won’t) do more?

The answer given by a believer is almost always of the following form:

God either causes or permits human suffering and death because of a greater good that is to be derived therefrom, and this greater good is somehow worth it whether or not we know why or agree.

So, we believers have opted to describe God-justice according to the following luminous ethical principle:

The end justifies the means.

It happens to be the ethical fulcrum favored by tyrants and thugs of all types.

The Catholic Church has never officially taught a theodicy. However, the Church has unequivocally taught this important tidbit:

“The end does not justify the means.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1759)

And this seems to us to be rather important since a lot of people have been and still are satisfied with those theodicies in which the polar opposite moral idea is cavalierly ascribed to God as the divine modus operandi. We’ve theorized scumbag ethics to be at the moral foundation of the universe, and, all the while, we consider the founder perfectly good and wonder why so many good people don’t see it our way.

Despite this contortion, many people in various walks of life who have been gifted with an allergy to self-betrayal (usually atheists) consistently offer warnings to the following effect:

The idea of justice is the first thing to be thrown away in any of the usual attempts at describing “God-justice”.

They’re right.

Most of us have been believing something insane. And as a reader of this article, you can go out into the world and see just what a jungle it is out there in apologetics with nothing more than this one little gem as your monocle. There’s a whole bucket of monacles besides this one.



Do we see them? Do we see them not seeing us? Likely not.

Consider that a vast multitude of people have, in all seriousness, defenestrated the belief that the justice we know and love is really worth anything to God. And once such a disconnect is made, it is nearly impossible to recover what has been given up. That’s because the religious person’s hope is now illegitimately riding on that disconnect never being reconnected or even seen.

After a self-injury of this sort, it becomes more or less impossible for the compromised party to talk to anyone who has not been similarly done in. Most Christians don’t even consider (despite the hue and cry of their critics) that their inability to be heard is due to a pernicious and directly-willed disconnect from humanity (starting with their own). And it was all for the sake of making sure that justice and innocence would not be a problem for a God who had some divine right to violate both for a hidden purpose. If one has the correct theodicy, this disconnect need not be the case, but you won’t see that much.

[And we say this in full obedience to everything that the Magisterium of the Church proposes for our belief on this and every other topic.]

Now, this is only one of many dimensions of the fight that shouldn’t be. Anybody up for half a glass of humility?

We will continue this series by expounding upon all of the aspects of the disaster that we presently understand.

The bottom line is this:

Unless and until the true, good and beautiful aspects of the atheist critique are subsumed by Christians (or at least by Christian apologists), there will be no substantive progress in any Christian apologetics efforts. Lip-service “respect” does not serve in that capacity, and neither is there merit to any action taken as part of a strategy for facilitating a “win” (or as a concealed means to bring about a conversion by “gotcha” maneuvers).

We must take care that we are not employing any kind of contrivances in order to convince people, or else we are not really talking to people, but to an imaginary audience.

And, most importantly, if atheists believe that Christians are trying to take their truth and/or hope (such as the hope that justice = justice)  away from them, then they are truly justified in fighting as they do. If apologists are attempting to take away their truth and/or hope, they had better have something better to offer. But that requires that what we have is at least as good as what they already know is good. Presently, almost nobody does.

Don’t worry about strategy; you either have the something better or you don’t. People will know right away if you don’t have the better part even if you are much “smarter” than they are. That’s because they’re people.

The truth of our enemies is the hope they preserve. It’s the hope they would rightly die to preserve. And it is also the hope that we have put to death (and now secretly envy in others who are not like us), in order to preserve what we could. And if we miss their truth (i.e. their good), then the devil has us until we come to our senses. We are forced to envy them for what they have because it is, in fact, an authentic good that we supposedly never will enjoy due to our having sold out at some point. If we think we are at peace with that, human nature knows better than our fraudulent religiosity, and it protests our treachery due to an elemental loyalty to reality.

There’s hope, though, that we need never set hope against hope, truth against truth, or good against good. It’s called Catholicism, and if you’d like to listen, we intend to talk more about it.

  • Husky Fan in Mass