Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guess I gotta be a Catholic now

Much has been made on the net lately about Leah Libresco, a "prominent" atheist blogger who has converted to Catholicism.  Forgive my quotes, as I've never heard of her until this conversion.  Now, I don't mean to imply that a person can't be prominent if I don't know of her, but I'm pretty familiar with various atheist bloggers and forums, so I'm just going to have to take everybody's word that this was a person who held some importance in the online atheist community.

Since she's converted, I guess that I have no choice but to become a Catholic myself.  Never mind all of my objections to things like the supernatural, the idea of a god, Christianity in general, Catholicism in particular; if an atheist has converted, then obviously I need to follow suit.  So, this Sunday I'll be there at mass, and I'm going to get me some prayer beads (that is a thing, right?) and learn how to do the sign of the cross properly.  I'll also take a mental note of all the commandments I've broken this week and get ready to confess them.  (What's that?  Why can't I just pray directly to God and tell Him myself?  What do I look like?  Some frikken' Protestant?)

At least, this was the plan until I learned about a couple of Catholics who converted to Islam.  Maybe I should just skip the middle step, declare that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet, and then I'll start pointing East and praying to Mecca twice a day?  (Five times?  Dang.)

Of course, it gets even more complicated that there's a Muslim who converted to Catholicism.  Am I doomed to live my life in an endless flip flopping of confession booths to prayer mats?

Maybe I should just start again from square one.  After all, there was an agnostic who converted to Judaism.   Antony Flew became a deist.  A self-described "belligerent atheist" became a Hindu!

Crud.  What the heck am I going to do?  This is difficult enough, especially considering that I once considered myself a Christian and would eagerly argue in favor of the existence of (The Christian) God.  Not only that, but there are many nonbelievers out there who were very religious at one point.  Some of them were even members of the clergy!

Because let's be honest, every time a Christian hears about somebody who leaves the faith and becomes a nonbeliever, all of those Christians drop their Bibles and immediately renounce their faith.  I mean, that's the way it works, right?

Or maybe it's a better idea to not get too caught up in who's converting to what.  Maybe the important thing is to pay attention to the reasons for believing in various religions and/or not believing in any of them.

Years ago, I was reading the book Into the Wild.  In it, the story recounts a man who declared himself to be an atheist because a young man whom he admired died while living out in the wilderness.  He figured that there was no way God could exist and let that sort of a thing happen.  What was my reaction to all this?  I didn't think: "Yes!  One more to add to the ranks!"  No.  I thought:  "That's a bad reason to be an atheist."  After all, a god could exist, and that god could be cruel or indifferent.  Shoot, even the "mysterious ways" argument might be true (although I can much more easily accept one of the former ideas over that one).

What about Leah Libresco though?  She spells out her reasons here.  She strikes me as being sincere.  One thing that I will not do is question her motivations and/or accuse her of not being a "real" atheist.  Honestly, it seems to me that she is just being honest with the way she sees things and feels about the world.  Now, I think that she's mistaken and gone off the rails, but then again, maybe I'm the one who's mistaken.

Reading her post, I get a bit lost in the philosophical talk at the beginning.  I'm not very well-read in all of that, so maybe there's something that I'm just not getting.  Still, there isn't anything in there that directly addresses my objections to faith, or most of the arguments you hear from my fellow nonbelievers.  In other words, her conversion isn't having much of an impact on me.  I'd be more impressed if they discovered verifiable, historical documents for the life of Jesus or something more tangible like that.  Instead, it's all a bit too heavy on the philosophical side of things, and it strikes me as an argument that she's believing something because she likes the idea of it moreso than she's believing it because it's actually been proven.  Maybe I'm wrong.

And that's what we need to take from anybody who changes their mind about something.  What were their reasons?  If a guy I really admire, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, said tomorrow that aliens are visiting us, then I respect him enough to at least read what he has to say on the matter.  However, if he gives the same kind of "evidence" for this that we get from the usual loons, then I'm not going to be convinced of that either.

It's the reasoning that's important - not the person.

No comments: