Very Dear Sam
So good to have lunch with you and Emily at Gabe and Carrie’s on Sunday. “All this and Heaven when we die,” I said.
You were unkind enough to cast doubt on the worth of Heaven if Gabe is not going there.
Three things occur to me in response:
1) I have not become a Catholic because I am afraid of going to Hell. Theism, Christianity and Catholicism are where I’m at not because of terror but because they/it just make sense and nothing else does.
2) I was about eleven when I rejected Christianity precisely because it would make Heaven otiose for my mother if I wasn’t going. I knew how much she loved me.
3) I believe in a loving Creator, an infinite Father and, of course, He doesn’t want Gabriel to be damned!
All Catholics pray for non-Catholics. None of us, on our knees, hate God because He is going to gleefully damn our non-Catholic loved ones. God is Love! Some horrid “Christians” look forward to observing the torments of the damned. I pray for the salvation of Sadam Hussein, Adolph Hitler and DW.
You have grown up in post-Christian Britain. I didn’t; but I rejected Christianity, largely because of 2) above. Your rejection of Christianity, and Gabriel’s, seems to me to be a natural absorption of post-Christianity. It’s hard not absorb the zeitgeist!
I grew up to be a socialist because not to be one seemed evil – socialism meant looking after the poor. The zeitgeist had it so! Socialism now is almost synonymous with evil in my mind. All blueprints for heaven on earth (Socialism, Nazism and Islam in its political manifestation) are going to involve, and have involved, the slaughter of millions – what is more evil than that? Mugged by reality?
This is for me the biggest problem. It is a new one. The vast majority of humans have been idealists of one stripe or another. The default assumption has been that the world is the product of divine intention. Western philosophy has been described as footnotes to Plato. Almost all the great western philosophers (Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant) and most of the great scientists (Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton) have been Platonists to the extent that they believed in the teleological nature of all reality.
Then materialism (or naturalism) burst on to the scene in the nineteenth century. Physical reality is all there is.
There seem to me to be two major questions about materialism: One, how do you get to materialism? Where does materialism lead?
Where does materialism come from?
The statement that physical reality is all that there is is a metaphysical assertion with no apparent grounding in evidence or logic.
Peter Atkins states that Science explains everything. He alleges that he understands how people “desperate to believe” would believe to fulfil their own wishes. Then, in defiance of all reason, he claims that these two assertions amount to a refutation of religion.
There is a very amusing you tube clip of him having made this absurd claim, where William Lane Craig subjects him to a total logical demolition.
Craig numbers five things which are reasonable to believe but which Science cannot prove:
1) Logical and mathematical truths, which Science assumes. To assert that Science proves or explains Mathematics is patently circular.
2) Metaphysical truths, such as that there are other minds than our own; or that the Universe was not created a minute ago with the appearance of age.
3) Moral truths, such as that courage is superior to cowardice and that generosity is superior to selfishness.
4) Aesthetic truths. Science has no way of establishing that Bach is superior to the Spice Girls.
5) Science itself! Relativity assumes that the speed of light is constant. Einstein didn’t prove this; he assumed it.
Dawkins, in his hopelessly inadequate attack on religion, The God Delusion, seems to start from a visceral dislike of the Hebrew God.
Many (moral) atheists admit that without a belief in the transcendent there is no foundation for morality. This amounts to a rejection of the following entirely convincing syllogism: Belief in God is the only possible basis for believing in morality. Morality exists. Therefore there is a God.
Where does materialism lead us?
Clearly, there are decent (if confused) materialists. They embrace courage and generosity but deny the transcendent. Materialism doesn’t (necessarily) make you a bad person. However, if you follow the logic of materialism (there are no objective moral standards), it is the smallest step to saying that there are no objective reasons for condemning any behaviour which furthers any objective we may choose. So, if you are a selfish, greedy person, then there is no rational objection to behaving in a selfish, greedy way, as violently (or as cunningly) as other selfish, greedy people will let you get away with.
Where has materialism led us?
The twentieth century, the century of anaesthetics and space flight, is also the century of materialist political ideology. Materialist ideologues carried out the worst programmes of democide in the history of the world. Dawkins lies when he says that atheists have never committed atrocities in the name of atheism. The Nazi (National Socialist) persecution of Christians may have been carried out in the name of bizarre quasi-religious ideas about blood, race and destiny; but the Nazis were avowedly followers of Darwin and they were materialists. They sterilised and euthanized the “unfit” not because the unfit worshipped at the wrong shrine but because Nature had declared them unfit.
The Communists (International Socialists), Stalin and his crew in Russia, Mao and his crew in China, were more explicitly materialists. They were the biggest killers of all time. Hundreds of millions of men, women and children were deliberately shot, starved and worked to death in support of the state ideology. Apparently, only Albania called itself “atheist”; but Marxism/Leninism/Maoism are materialist and atheistic.
Does this mean that only materialists do bad things?
Clearly not. The Inquisition, the catholic/protestant wars of centuries gone by were very bad. Islamofascists are very bad. Any bad idea will have bad consequences. But compare the carnage of communist democide with the total atrocities of Al-Qaeda. Even bad religion pales in comparison with atheist ideology. I hope that this continues to be true. If it doesn’t, it will be because the Islamofascist blueprint resembles the socialist blueprint in asserting that any slaughter in its support is justified. I am very frightened by the thought of nuclear mullahs.
The Damnation of Gabriel
I want you and Gabriel and Jonny and your loved ones to be Catholics, because it makes sense to me and nothing else does. Can I explain away all objections to Catholicism? Probably not.
Damnation, as I understand it, involves an act of the will, knowingly to decline God’s grace – I don’t think this is heretical or simply wishful thinking. You are all “good people”. I honestly believe that God loves you all even more than Barbara and I do. I love you three (as Jonny loves his boys and as you will love Madeleine) to the human limit. God’s love is limitless. Jonny understands parental love better than you do – he is a father. Nothing you ever do will come between us – except (logically) a decision on your part.
So, all this and Heaven too!