Monday, November 27, 2006

Apostasy Now

I was reading this site the other day, and some thoughts occurred to me.

The first thought was that I don't believe the man. Not that, is, that I don't believe he's an atheist. I'm pretty sure he is. However, I don't believe his story for a moment. He makes fundamental and stupid errors that he should not, after his alleged years of study, be making - no matter what he now believes. I have often found it a curious mark of the dedicated apostate that he is, once "free," suddenly able to systematically refute not only certain problematic areas of the faith, but every aspect of it in its totality. It boggles the mind. To hear websites like this speak, Christianity has never proposed a single thing that is true. This is what makes his ideas so frankly untrustworthy and lame.

That said, I turned to considering how, hypothetically, his story could be true. Charity, after all, would see me taking him at his word. I found it difficult, to say the least, but I think I got something useful out of it in the end.

Considering the trends of apostasy, it is worth noting that it is predominantly the Protestant - and particularly the Fundamentalist - sects that produce so-called "intellectual atheists;" that is, atheists who produce ridiculous logical or conceptual objections to the faith (scriptural contradictions, historical dilemmas, issues of text and whatnot), whereas Catholic traditions, when they see apostates, typically find them to be leaving because of some purported moral issue, typically (and, in fact, almost always) related to sexuality.

This is only natural. The former worldview places supreme, exclusive and perhaps excessive emphasis on the Bible, and that text simply can not stand without the bulwark of Tradition and a Magisterium. Because of this, it is entirely possible for a man who has spent twenty years of his life (or what have you) not only practicing but professionally preaching his particular strain of Christianity to gradually (or even suddenly) turn away from it, and, where before he may have been well-versed in the perfectly reasonable explanations for apparent textual issues, he now turns upon the text with bile and venom in his heart, and, having appraised it uncharitably, finds himself suddenly finding every possible aspect of the Christian life worthy of ridicule.

With Catholic apostates, things are very much different. We do not see ex-Catholics bleating about the insoluble, faith-destroying difficulty represented by one passage saying King Whatsit had 70 horses and another saying he had 700. We see them rather addressing the moral claims of the Church; addressing them, that is, as if the establishment *of* the Church and her moral structure is already a given, and as such as if one's breaking from her really is a matter of importance. Protestant apostates turn away from Christ because their lives have become intolerably (perhaps inevitably) absurd. Catholic apostates turn away from Christ because they want to have more or different sex.

This, then, is what I have been thinking about. I must now return to writing an essay about Paradise Lost.


Keith said...

I've thought a lot about this, probably because I was formed in a type of Christian Fundamentalism and had, in my early twenties, a crisis of intellect and of faith. Since returning to the faith and finding the fullness of it in the Catholic Church, I remained fascinated about belief vs. unbelief. Through reading Chesterton, Belloc, Knox, and Lunn (esp. Lunn's Revolt Against Reason), I have come to the opinion that modern atheism is very much related to the Protestant revolt.

"Historically, Protestantism is committed to the notion that the act of faith is the mere surrender of a personality to a Personality, without parley, without deliberation, without logical motive." —Ronald Knox, The Belief of Catholics

"It is not the first time that a creative genius has been little aware of the extent of his innovation and its momentous significance for the future. In point of fact, the Reformers, though desirous of accentuating the divine, transcendent aspect of Christianity, promoted more than anyone else the development of humanism and, in particular, the religious individualism of modern times." —Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism

"Most of the great heresiarchs have been men who have lost this Catholic sense of proportion, and who, in consequence of this loss, have tried to simplify Christianity by reducing the faith to a single formula. Luther reduced Christianity to the single formula, “Justification by Faith”; the Puritans eliminated the complication of Free Will, and simplified salvation by predestinating themselves to Heaven and other people to Hell; the Quakers rejected all authority save the single authority of the Inner Light; Protestantism is tending to simplify apologetics by eliminating every argument excepting the argument from religious experience. . . Catholicism, which is as rich and complex as life itself, differs from the academic over-simplification of the great heresies much as Sussex differs from a map of Sussex. The universal Church is the home of all mankind, whereas every heresy is an artificial simplification with a limited and particular appeal to a particular mentality." --Arnold Lunn, Within That City

Kyro said...

This is a point that carries a deep applicability today in many areas. Consequently, it is also a very subtle point to be able to get across to someone who does not share a certain intellectual background. I have noticed myself thinking something similar when I read about enlightened atheism and secular progressive thought. These people are really not freethinkers, they are still fundamentalists, albeit apostate fundamentalists.

Very difficult point to get across, since the blame is on an attachment to Protestant thought, and not on Protestant devotion or zeal.

Chestertonian said...

Scratch an atheist and you get a fundamentalist. It is fascinating to watch, on blog after blog or messageboard after messageboard, atheists resort to Protestant proof-texting to, in their view, discredit Christianity.