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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 2

“Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.”
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What seems “likely true” might not always be the case. The pagan worldview had to surrender to the Judeo-Christian. Many presumed that the world was flat, that the earth was central with a revolving sun, etc. The majority held a view that was challenged by Copernicus and later by Galileo, both Catholics and the former, a monk. When science widely advocated spontaneous generation, Louis Pasteur discerned a small invisible world where contamination and vaccination was possible. When science took for granted a Newtonian view of the world, modern physics would largely rewrite the book. We strive to understand what is true, but that which is most likely can shift and change.

I am not convinced that all atheists are so objective. It seems to me that some of them fervently resist any and all assaults against their denial of a God and/or Creator. In other words, while they would applaud the rejection of God by believers; they would not permit any data on their radar that would imply his existence. Science is a wonderful area of investigation and knowledge; but scientists (religious and atheists) can and do battle with each other over what they “believe” and “wish” to be true. Indeed, these arguments can become very passionate: everything from a closed to an open universe to warm-bloodied dinosaurs over cold reptilian. Data is interpreted in a way that favors their views or hypotheses.

Nevertheless, Catholic believers are also called to be rationalists. We do not subscribe to the faulty proposition held by certain Protestants of a “blind faith” or “faith over reason.” Indeed, it is because of this philosophical demarcation that certain Fundamentalists hate and attack Catholicism. Catholicism proposes “faith seeking understanding.” While the fundamentalist argues for a literal six days of creation and a world that is six thousand years old; Catholicism accepts the reckoning of time from archeologists and physicists, unperturbed at the prospect of millions of years of evolution and a cosmos that is 13.8 billion years old, as long as one might posit intelligent design. The difference with the atheist is that the informed Catholic has a profound respect for divine revelation and refuses to invalidate his subjective experience of a relationship with a living God. Indeed, he feels that we are wired for God and have an inherent capacity to acknowledge the divine transcendent… a reality he tries to convey not only in Scripture and ritual but in poetry and art. I suppose we would argue that there is something measured here that is just as real as in the scientist’s mathematical formulae and in Hubble’s distant astronomical images. There is a sense of awe which many of us refuse to associate with chaos or chance but rather see the finger of God and providence. The proposition here seems to imply that it is a matter of “either/or” while the Catholic Christian would say it is a matter of “and.” Catholicism is the religion of the “great and.” It is not faith alone or the Bible alone or Jesus alone or even empirical science alone. Catholicism is the religion that speaks to faith and works; the Bible and sacred tradition; Jesus and Mary and the saints, etc. She is the religion that fostered great scientists, even as she stumbled sometimes to see the tapestry where science might be interwoven with faith. She embraces all that is good and true and claims it for her own. That is why the Church has the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on top of Mount Graham in Arizona. That is why our universities foster some of the best scientific research in the world. That is why the Pontifical Academy of Sciences includes believers and non-believers alike who further the advancement of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences and the study of related epistemological problems.

I suppose we need that child-like faith which trusts that what we believe can also be true. Atheists sometimes witness to this truth in their romantic liaisons and families. Cold science might argue for finding the optimum physical specimen for reproduction. However, most fall in love and embrace a mystery with their hearts even as their heads insist it is all just chemistry and sparking synapses. I suspect the transcendent shows itself even as certain critics contend that it cannot exist.