QUESTIONS IN VOLUME 1
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1. Please give me evidence that God exists. I have never had any such evidence for I do not accept the Bible.
What do you mean by evidence? Some people think that evidence must be seen and touched, as an animal sees a patch of grass and eats it. But men are not mere animals. They have reason, and can appreciate intellectual evidence. For example, the evidence of beauty in music or in painting is perceived by man's mind, not by his senses. An animal could hear the same sounds, or see the same colors, without being impressed by their harmony and proportion. Apart from the Bible altogether, reason can detect sufficient evidence to guarantee the existence of God.
2. What is this evidence for God's existence, apart from the Bible?
There are many indications, the chief of which I shall give you very briefly:
- The first is from causality. The universe, limited in all its details, could not be its own cause. It could no more come together with all its regulating laws than the San Francisco Harbor Bridge could just happen, or a clock could assemble itself and keep perfect time without a clock-maker. On the same principle, if there were no God, there would be no you to dispute His existence.
- A second indication is drawn from the universal reasoning, or if you wish, intuition of men. The universal judgment of mankind can no more be wrong on this vital point than the intuition of an infant that food must be conveyed to the mouth. The stamp of God\'s handiwork is so clearly impressed upon creation, and, above all, upon man, that all nations instinctively believe that there is a God. The truth is in possession. Men do not have to persuade themselves that there is a God. They have to try to persuade themselves that there is no God. And no one yet, who has attained to such a temporary persuasion, has been able to find a valid reason for it. Men do not grow into the idea of a God; they endeavor to grow out of it.
- The sense of moral obligation confirms these reasons. In every man there is a sense of right and wrong. A man knows interiorly when he is doing wrong. Something rebukes his conduct. He knows that he is going against an inward voice. It is the voice of conscience, dictating to us a law we did not make, and which no man could have made, for this voice protests whether other men know our conduct or not. This voice is often quite against what we wish to do, warning us beforehand, condemning us after its violation. The law dictated by this voice of conscience supposes a lawgiver who has written his law in our hearts. And as God alone could do this, it is certain that He exists.
- Finally, justice demands that there be a God. The very sense of justice among men, resulting in law-courts, supposes a just God. We did not give ourselves our sense of justice. It comes from whoever made us, and no one can give what he does not possess himself. Yet justice cannot always be done by men in this world. Here the good often suffer, and the wicked prosper. And, even though human justice does not always succeed in balancing the scales, they will be balanced some day by a just God, who most certainly must exist.
3. You, as a Priest, argue to a clock-maker. I, as a rationalist, ask, "Who created your uncreated clock-maker?"
That is not a rational question. I say that the universe is obviously created, and that what is created supposes a Creator who is uncreated, or the problem goes on forever, the whole endless chain of dependent beings as unable to explain itself as each of its links. It is rational to argue to an uncreated clock-maker. It is not rational to ask, "Who created this uncreated clock-maker?" God was not created. If He were, He would be a creature and would have a creator. His creator would then be God, and not He Himself. God always existed. He never began, and will never cease to be. He is eternal.
4. You talk of universal persuasion. Men used to believe that the world was flat!
A sufficient reason for that error is evident, viz., lack of data, and the fact that men followed their senses, which seemed to say that the earth was flat. That was not a judgment of the pure reason. The senses supplied no immediate manifestations that there might be a God as they indicated that the world might be flat. The cases are not parallel, and the transition from a judgment based upon the senses to one based upon pure reason is not valid. In any case, the scientific and metaphysical proofs justify belief in God quite independently of this psychological reason. They would be valid supposing that only one man in a million believed in God's existence. This latter supposition, however, will never be verified, for the common rational judgment of the vast majority will always intuitively perceive this truth.
5. There is no need to talk of future balancing of the scales. Virtue is its own reward in this life, even as the wicked endure remorse.
That will not do. Consciousness of virtue is not much good to a man about to be wrongfully hanged and who cannot live to enjoy it. Nor does vice always bring proportionate remorse. Many are too hardened to experience deep remorse. There will be a levelling-up some day, after this life, and by God.
6. Joseph McCabe believed in God, but he renounced bigotry and became an Agnostic.
There are many men such as Joseph McCabe who have given up their profession of a belief in God. But, they do not give up that belief because Agnosticism offers them a higher and holier life. They find Agnosticism less irksome, whether it be by emancipation from moral laws, or from the restraints of truth and logic. Nor should you talk of bigotry. Many Agnostics have a far worse bias than that which they attribute to believers, garbling facts and distorting evidence without any of the scruples which one who really believes in God would certainly experience.
7. If I sincerely believe that there is no God, and there be a God, would not invincible ignorance save me?
Such ignorance is not invincible. You can overcome it. You violated your reason in suppressing its spontaneous concept of God, and by persuading yourself that religion is false. If you took the pressure off your reason and let it swing back to the Supreme Cause of its very being, it would do so as the needle to the pole. Pascal rightly says that there are two types of men, those who are afraid to lose God, and those who are afraid that they might find Him.
8. What do you mean by the term God?
God is a spiritual, substantial, personal being, infinite in intelligence, in will, and in all perfection, absolutely simple or lacking composition, immutable, happy in Himself and by Himself, and infinitely superior to all that is or can be conceived apart from Himself. He is incomprehensible in His infinite perfection by all lesser intelligences, although knowable as to the fact of His existence as Living Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, almighty, eternal, immense, and distinct from all that He has created. That is what I mean by God.
9. How do you know that God is eternal, or always was, is, and will be?
Because if God ever had a beginning, then before He began there was nothing. Now nothing, with nothing to work upon, and no faculties with which to work, could never turn its non-existent self into something. But there is obviously something, and there can never have been a time when there was nothing. God at least must always have existed, and if no one is responsible for His beginning, there is no one who could possibly bring His existence to an end. He always will be. God rightly declared Himself the eternally existent Being when He said to Moses, "I am Who am."
10. Spinoza said that if God created the world for an object, He desires something He lacks, which denies His infinite perfection.
Spinoza's objection is not valid. He fails to distinguish between God's essential constitution, which is necessary to His being, and His free operations resulting in created things. If God's creating operations were necessary, Spinoza would be right. But God did not create in order to acquire perfection necessary to Himself. He created to bestow perfections upon others. If I am laboring to acquire, I lack something I want. If I give to others, that proves not my lack, but my superabundance.
11. Can men whilst earth-bound understand the working of the Divine Mind?
The Divine Mind does not "work." God does not have to reason slowly and painfully to conclusions, as do men. His Divine Intelligence is a permanent and simultaneous act of perfect knowledge embracing all things, past, present, and future. We cannot fully understand God's being, knowledge, and plans. However, St. Paul rightly said that the pagan Romans were inexcusable for not noting the power and divinity of the true God in visible things, and for not having glorified Him, nor given Him thanks. If it were beyond the power of man to know this much of God, they would not have been inexcusable.
12. Have we attained to a full knowledge of God, or are we advancing towards the fulness of truth?
The fullest revelation of those things of God which man is intended to know has been made as far as this life goes. It has been given by Christ, as we shall see later on. No man yet has sounded the full depths of the truth revealed by Christ, and as we progress in the knowledge of His doctrines we get nearer and nearer to that fulness of truth which is possible on this earth. I am speaking of the knowledge to be attained by individuals. The fulness of truth is contained in the deposit of faith confided to the Catholic Church. The perfect fulness of knowledge is possible only in the heavenly vision of God.
13. What becomes of God when you think of the misery and starvation in the world?
We have already seen that there is a God. Inability to comprehend every detail in the universe does not prove that there is no God, but merely the limited capacity of the finite human mind. However, the human mind can propose certain principles which go a long way towards the removal of difficulties.Firstly, evil is really the negation or privation of good, and if there is evil in the world, there is also much good which can be accounted for only by the existence of God.Secondly, the fluctuations of this mutable life cannot affect God's existence. I mean that you cannot have God when things seem to be all right, and annihilate Him when things seem to go wrong. If God exists before things go wrong, He still exists despite the unhappiness of an individual. And note that word individual. Viewing the race as a whole, we find that life is a mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable things. When we are happy, others are suffering. When we are suffering, others are happy. And we cannot say that God is existing for the happy ones, and simultaneously not existing for the unhappy ones. We must not take local and individual views only, but a universal outlook.Thirdly, and particularly as regards the uneven distribution of this world's goods with consequent starvation for some, God's providence has not failed. Man's administration is at fault. Whilst individuals suffer want, we know that the world has produced enough wheat, fruit, meat, and wool to feed and clothe everyone. God has not failed to provide enough to fill every mouth. But He has given this world over to the administration of men, and it is their bad management they must correct rather than blame God. At least their incapable administration should teach them the saving grace of humility.
14. Where is the justice of God, in permitting this uneven distribution?
A satisfactory explanation could scarcely be given, were this life all. But it is not. God permits these things only because He knows that there is a future life where He will rectify and compensate all inequalities. In the meantime He draws good out of these miseries, for they teach men not to set their hopes entirely upon this world as if there were no other, and help to expiate the sins of mankind. If we cannot be entirely happy here, let us at least make sure of being happy in the next life.
15. If God is almighty He could prevent volcanoes, earthquakes, etc., which kill innocent and wicked people alike.
If He were not almighty there would be no volcanoes to erupt, and no human beings to be injured or killed. These physical events happen according to natural laws established by God, with the operations of which He is not obliged to interfere because the finite minds of men are surprised by them. Nor does the death of such people terminate their real existence. The transition from earthly conditions to our future state is as normal as the transition from infancy to adolescence. Death is a natural law for all, and God permits it to come in various ways to various people.
16. If God is loving, just, and all-powerful, why does He permit moral evil, or sin?
Because God is Love, He asks the freely given love of man, and not a compelled love. Because He is just, He will not deprive man of the free will which is in accordance with his rational nature. Nor is this against the omnipotence of God, for even His power does not extend to contradictory things. Man cannot be free to love and serve God, without being free to reject Him and rebel against Him. We cannot have it both ways. Even God, if He wants men to be free, cannot take from them the power to choose evil. If He enforces goodness, He takes away freedom. If He leaves freedom, He must permit evil, even though He forbids it. It is man's dignity that he is master of his own destiny instead of having to develop just like a tree which necessarily obeys natural law. Men, as a matter of fact, misused their freedom, and sin and brutality resulted. But it was impossible to give man the gift of freedom and the dignity of being master of his own destiny without risking the permission of such failures.
17. At least, being all-powerful, just, and loving, He ought to give everyone a fair chance of obtaining the good things of this world.
Being all-powerful, there is no reason why He ought to do our bidding as if we were all-powerful.Being just, He is not going to give us a tin trumpet and let us think that to be our real good when it is not.Being loving, He will not usually allow man to have those riches which may cause difficulties in the way of salvation. I do not want Him to say to me, "Amen, I say to you, you have had your reward." We are Christians, and Christians are disciples of a crucified Master. We have no right to complain if we also must tread the path of suffering.
18. Do you tell me thai a good God permits deformed children, with a lifetime of misery before them?
God is certainly good, and if He permits evil of any kind it is only because He knows that He can draw greater good from it in the end. The human race misused its freedom, abandoned God, and found not happiness but misery. It is good to be just, and God's justice permitted this misery. Also, in His wisdom, He may permit a child to be born deformed who with health and strength would fling itself into pleasures which would end in eternal loss. Again, an imbecile is incapable of sin, and it would often seem to us a mercy had some apparently sane people been born imbeciles. Poor people, whether mentally or bodily deformed, do not spend the whole of their lives in misery and suffering. We must not judge them by our own experiences. Likewise, we must remember that what we call "the whole of their lives" is not confined to this earth. There is a continuance of existence in eternity, where all will be rectified.We might say, "If God be good, why did He allow His Son to go through excruciating torture?" Sin is the real evil, not suffering. Christ found happiness in proving His love by suffering, a greater good than mere health. And the miseries of this world have driven thousands to God who would have been self-sufficient and independent only for the naturally insoluble problem of suffering. If only for this reason we can discern an indication of God's goodness in it.
19. Is it, then, God's will that people should suffer from such terrible diseases as Cancer or Consumption?
We must disinguish between God's positive will, and His permissive will. He positively wills all the good that happens. Suffering He permits to occur, and this only when he foresees that good can result from it. He positively wills that I should be holy. If He foresees that I will make use of good health to sin and to lose my soul, He may mercifully permit my health to be ruined, and thus lead me to Him where He would otherwise lose me. There would have been no diseases had men not sinned. God did not will sin, but having made men free, He permitted it and its consequences. This permission was a less serious thing than would have been the depriving us of our freedom.
20. My poverty is due to the oppression of capitalism, not to the loving will of God.
God has permitted it, but it has come about firstly, by mistaken conduct, with all good will, on the part of man; secondly, by faults both on the side of some capitalists and of some workers; thirdly, through mere force of circumstances. It is not against God's positive will to try to remedy these things. But, meantime, the present state of affairs would not exist, were it not for His permissive will.
21. Could not God at least have made life much easier, instead of making everything hard?
Everything is not hard. Some things are. The things that are difficult are made easier by the grace of which so many people deliberately deprive themselves. All difficulty cannot be removed, for God has a right to ask us to overcome at personal cost our self-inflicted bad habits, sins, and other injuries. Men's complaints are often about as reasonable as those of a man who cuts his throat, and then blames the doctor because it hurts to have it stitched up again.
22. But life seems to be becoming harder and more painful.
There has been a succession of world depressions and world recoveries through history. In any case temporal trials do not mean that life is becoming worse. It may be a means of great good. It is easy to follow all our lower instincts; difficult to battle against them. If your policy is to do only that which is easy and pleasant in life, you will never be much of a man. Christ came to make men better, and offers His grace and assistance whenever virtue demands what is difficult and painful to our lower nature and sensitiveness. He offers His special grace to those who have the good sense to pray for it.
23. Why does He permit those who do serve Him to live in poverty, whilst the godless have a smooth path through life?
This is not always the case. However, when this does occur, it is not difficult to understand. The godless do not deserve to be invited to share with Christ in a life of suffering. Also, all men do some good in life sometimes. No one is entirely evil. God's justice rewards natural good, therefore, by natural prosperity, and that may be all that such men will receive. "You have had the reward of such good as you did," may be said at their judgment, "and now answer for the evil of your irreligious lives." On the other hand, those who love God are not given worthless and perishable rewards, but will receive a full return of supernatural happiness, the only kind that really matters. If Christ promised us happiness in this world, then let us murmur when we see the infidel prosper. But what did He promise? He promised what He Himself received, suffering here, and happiness hereafter. The disciple is not above his Master.
24. In all these replies to difficulties you are postulating free will, the sinful state of man, redemption by Christ, grace, and the eternal destiny of man!
That is so. These things are facts, and no problem can be fully solved except in the light of all the facts. I am quite prepared to justify these facts. Meantime, without them, no reasonable solution of the problems of God's providence can be found at all; with them, the solution, even though inadequate, is at least rational and intelligible. The world with its miseries may be a problem difficult to reconcile with the existence of God; but that same world without God is a far greater problem, leaving exactly the same miseries to be endured in hopeless despair. Christianity does not deny the existence of suffering, but it can give happiness in the midst of suffering, and this practical solution is the true solution God gives to men of good will.
25. What is a man?
Man is a living being, endowed with a sensitive material body, and a spiritual soul which is immortal of its very nature, and which rejoices in the two spiritual faculties of intelligence and freewill.
26. May we say that man has a soul?
We may speak that way. Strictly speaking, however, man is a composite being consisting of both body and soul, the soul, of course, being the nobler component element.
27. Prove that a soul does exist in man.
A living human body is not the same thing as a corpse. Now the soul is the difference between a corpse and a living being. A dead body cannot move, eat, think, express itself, enjoy, or be miserable. It can but fall to pieces and go back to dust. There is something that stops your body from doing that now. It is your soul. For every activity you must find a principle of operation behind it. The principle in a man which thinks and loves, and is happy or miserable, is a very real thing. It is not nothing, less than the very body it animates. Nor is it a chemical. No doctor, examining a corpse, can tell you what chemical is missing that it should not live. If there be nothing else save chemical substances, let doctors and scientists gather together the requisite chemicals and say, "Live!" They can effect nothing like this. There is something that chemistry cannot reach; it is the soul or spirit. Look anyone in the face, and behind those animated features, those changing expressions, in the very eyes, you will read the soul.
28. If a soul is the difference between a living being and a corpse, then an animal, or even a vegetable, must have a soul.
That is so. Sane philosophy admits a vegetative soul, a sensitive animal soul, and an immortal, spiritual, and intelligent human soul.
29. Man does not possess a soul. He is a soul. The Bible says that God breathed the breath of life into the body, and it became a living soul.
That breath of life was either a definite something, or it was nothing. But you cannot tell me that nothing vitalized that body. It was a definite something, and that something was a created human intelligent soul. Again, if man has not got a soul, then instead of being composed of body and soul, he is a body. And if that body is a soul, then a soul wears boots! However you quote the Bible, the authority of which we shall consider later. Meantime, since you accept it, you will notice that Christ clearly shows the difference between the material body and a spiritual soul when He said, "Handle and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have." Lk. XXIV., 39. A body, of flesh and bone, could never become a living soul. Man was but named after the superior element of his being.
30. Do the words spirit and soul mean the same thing?
The word spirit can have a very wide meaning. It is derived from the Latin word spiritus, meaning a breath. Then because the soul of man is as invisible to bodily eyes as a breath, and also because its presence is manifested by the breathing of a living body, the word spirit acquired a transferred sense, becoming a substitute for the word soul. If then we intend by the word spirit the principle of life in a man, that principle which enables him to live, to know and to love, to be happy or to be sorrowful, then the spirit is the soul. And in a further sense, because a man's dispositions depend upon his soul, we use the word spirit for character, and thus speak of a man's spirit. But this is only the soul, manifesting itself in a man's external conduct. The soul, therefore, is the living principle which makes the difference between a living man and a corpse, and spirit and soul in this sense mean the same thing.
31. Is not the soul the breath of God?
No, for God is a spirit, a purely spiritual substance, and does not breathe. The expression is only a human way of putting things. The soul is a spirit, and is called the breath of God merely because caused or created by God in its spiritual or breath-like nature.
31. Are you sure that, though the body must die, the soul will live on?
Yes, quite sure.
32. Did the soul exist before conception?
No. God creates each soul as each body is generated. It is difficult to fix the exact moment, but the more general opinion is as soon as the embryo begins to exist.
33. You spoke of the soul as being immortal?
Yes. The body is naturally mortal; the soul by its very nature immortal.
34. What indications have you that the soul is immortal?
That the soul will, and indeed must, survive the death of the body is demonstrable from many points of view.Firstly, its essential structure forbids dissolution by death. Death is the disintegration of parts. Only composite things can die. Yet the soul is not composite. Its power of pure immaterial thought proves its independence of matter. It is endowed with spiritual faculties, and is as spiritual as the faculties it possesses, which will enable it to live and operate when separated from the body. Not being material, it can never be destroyed or fall to pieces like matter. Nor would God endow it with a nature essentially fitted to live on just for an idle freak, and with the intention of annihilating it after all.Secondly, every individual experiences a sense of moral obligation, and every obligation demands a sufficient sanction. If the State said, "This is the law," and I replied, "What if I do not observe it," it would be ludicrous were the State to reply, "Oh, nothing will happen. I say only that it is the law. If you break it, you break it, I suppose." That would be a joke, not a law. I know that I shall have to answer some day for my attitude towards the interior sense of moral obligation. I can go right through this life without encountering anyone capable of judging me concerning it. The real answer must be given at the judgment seat of God, and my soul will have to be there. Consequently it must survive.Thirdly, a more universal view of human life shows us the many inequalities which offend against the sense of justice. We know that justice will be done some day, and as it is not always done in this life, it will be done in the next. This implies our presence, and therefore our living on after death.Fourthly, every soul naturally has an insatiable natural desire for happiness, and for lasting happiness. No earthly or temporal good can satisfy this hunger. Yet this innate natural tendency cannot lack its rightful object. You might as well try to conceive the existence of the human eye, perfectly adapted to sight, yet without the possibility of light anywhere to enable it to see.Reflection, then, upon the simple structure of the soul, upon the future administration of the sanctions attached to the moral law, upon the rectification of worldwide inequalities, and upon the teleological inclinations to a lasting and perfect good, makes it a violation of reason to deny the survival of the soul.
35. The idea of a sanction proportioned to the individual's sense of moral obligation has much less influence upon men than you religious people think.
I admit that it has much less influence than it should have, but their not thinking of it does not alter the fact.
36. It has no real bearing on morality, and if anything would have a bad influence, making men cowards.
Since there is a future life, it has a lot to do with morality. Man is endowed with reason and is bound to exercise foresight. The future as such, whether here or hereafter, is a reasonable motive for present conduct. I refrain from eating certain foods now, because reason tells me that future indigestion will result. That is reasonable conduct. I try to refrain from morally wrong conduct because it is wrong; offends God; is a personal disgrace; and will wreck my whole future existence if I persist in it, dying without repentance. All these motives are good. If the nobler motives fail to impress me in a given temptation, the thought of hell at least will tend to stop me.You will say, "So you are afraid of hell?" I reply, "Of course I am!" Knowing that hell is a reality, any sane man will live so as to avoid going there. It is not cowardice, but ordinary prudence. If a man leaps for his life off a railway line as an express tears past the spot where he was standing, you would not go up to him, tap him on the shoulder, and say, "You coward, you jumped for your life through sheer fear of that train!" God gave us our reason that we might use it for our well-being, and it is quite reasonable to weigh both advantages and penalties attached to moral law.Nor is this influence probably to the bad. The knowledge that retribution will follow violations of the moral law makes that law a real law. Could we say that all the penalties attached to the laws of the State are to the bad? Thousands of temptations to crime are resisted by citizens because of the thought of the future penalties. Nor does it matter much whether the penalty be future by a few weeks and in this life, or by some years, and in the next life. The principle is the same.
37. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, whether we are mortal or immortal.
That is true. But the difficulty is to make people do right because it is right, and avoid wrong because it is wrong. We have to be trained to right conduct from childhood, and that very training demands commendation or punishment. Spare the rod and spoil the child is a truism. We must take a sound psychological view of man's nature, and realize that right because it is right does not always appeal as the best thing to be done in practice. The advantage to be gained from evil conduct often seems better to many men.
38. Our code of morality must be founded upon the only life of which we have any knowledge - this one.
This life is not the only one of which we have knowledge. We can have knowledge in two ways, experimental knowledge, or knowledge based upon reason and authority. I have experimental knowledge of America for I have been in America, but I have no experimental knowledge of Africa. Yet you cannot say that I have no knowledge whatever of Africa. I certainly know that it exists. Now we have experimental knowledge of this earthly life. But we know by principles of reason and by the authority of God that we shall continue to exist when this earthly life shall have come to an end. We cannot expect to have experimental knowledge now of a state which is essentially future. The code of morality, moreover, should regulate your personal character throughout the whole of its existence, building up a moral perfection as a permanent attribute of your character as long as it shall exist. If your code is as extensive as your complete life, it cannot be limited to this brief section of it.
39. Your argument from justice weakens morality. If there were to be no rectification of things in the next life, all the more reason for men to remedy injustices in this world.
That might seem to you a reason why it would be better if there were no future life and reparation of justice. But we know that there is such a future life, and a priori possibilities cannot avail against fact. Also it is a fact that men who give up their belief in a future life are not consumed with a passion for the rectifying of injustice in this world. On the contrary, those who lead evil lives have every reason to persuade themselves that there is no future life. There are honorable exceptions of naturally good men who have not had all the data necessary for the formation of a right judgment, or who have not adverted to the force of the reasons for immortality. But they are the few. Men do not have to persuade themselves that there is a future life, but try to persuade themselves that there is no future life, just as the Christian Scientist has to persuade herself that pain and suffering do not exist.
40. Why bother about justice here, if all injustice is to be rectified and compensated in the next world?
You are forgetting your own principles. We must do right always because right is right. If we do not, we shall be punished by God precisely because the right was right and we should have done it. It belongs to God to adjust all seeming inequalities in the next world, but that in no way exempts man from his present duties. Men must acknowledge the benefits they have received from God, and discharge their obligations towards God, even as they discharge their obligations towards fellow men. This is a strict duty. Not all men will fulfill this duty in practice, and God will deal with them sooner or later, compensating those who have suffered from the injustice of their fellow men.
41. Can we say that there will be justice in another world because it is conspicuously absent in this?
Yes, because you would not advert to the absence of justice unless you had a sense of justice. The relative and inferior sense of justice possessed by men supposes an absolute justice, and that absolute justice will secure the absolute balance it demands - some day. The fact that absolute justice does not prevail in this life is indication enough that it will do so in a future life.
42. The injustices of this life demand another life, but I believe in reincarnation.
Justice does say that this life cannot be all. But your idea of re-incarnation is a mistaken notion based upon your notion that life is impossible unless on this earth. But there is no need for another life on this earth, which would involve further inequalities. There is a better life than this, afterwards and elsewhere. Reincarnation is a myth.
43. Your doctrine of immortality supposes consciousness after death. I do not believe it, otherwise the soul would be conscious under chloroform, or when the body is knocked senseless in an accident.
This fact does not invalidate the reasons given already, and is also easily explained. The soul whilst in a state of union with the body operates by using the faculties of that body. If the sense instruments are incapacitated, the soul can no longer operate adequately whilst united to the body. But once released from the body, its intelligence and will and power to love at once assert themselves. Hydrogen and oxygen unite to form a drop of water. They can operate as water only whilst united. Hydrogen is there, but it cannot operate as hydrogen until released from the union. Soul and body make one human being. And both elements must be fit to co-operate in the activities of a bodily human being. The soul cannot operate separately as a distinct unit whilst still united. But once released, it can operate independently every bit as much as hydrogen when released from its essential union with oxygen to form water.
44. Are the souls of animals also immortal?
They are not immortal. Animals are not capable of any operations which transcend the conditions of matter, and do not rise above the sensitive to the intelligible order. Also they are devoid of the moral intuition. Animal souls are therefore dependent upon matter both for their being and their operations, and cease to exist with death.
45. Why should the fact of our being born give us the right to exist forever?
It is not the mere fact of being born, but of being born with such a nature. The soul is fitted by its very nature to live on forever, for a spiritual entity cannot disintegrate and die. Why should we have been endowed with such a nature? Because He who made us chose to give us such a nature. Since we did not make ourselves we did not give ourselves our rights. They came from the One who is responsible for our being. If an artist painted an image of a girl on canvas, and the image were endowed with the power of speech, the girl might say, "What right have you to give me brown hair?" The artist would rightly reply, "Since I made you, I have the right to give you whatever colored hair I wish." God had the right to create indestructible souls if He wished. He did so. And our right to live on is vested in His will to endow us with an immortal nature.
46. What is the purpose of life on this earth?
Man is created to praise, love, and serve God in this life, and by doing so to attain eternal life with God hereafter. This is not our only life. It is but an infinitesimal part of it.
47. I can't imagine what this future life can possibly be like.
There is a vast difference between imagining a future life and conceiving it. This is the difference between imagination and thought. I cannot imagine or picture the future life any more than you are able to do so. The only images we could form would be derived from this life, and would fit this life, not the next. Yet although we cannot imagine what the next life will be like, we can conceive the fact that it will be, and also the intelligible principles by which it will be regulated.
48. Is the future spiritual world an educational one?
Not in the sense you probably intend. We are now progressing towards our final destination. There we shall have attained it. The one exception is in the case of a soul that goes to Purgatory, where it undergoes a progressive purification fitting it for the Vision of God. This cannot strictly be called educational, but it is a spiritual evolution towards perfect holiness.
49. Do these doctrines of moral obligation, sanctions, and a future life imply the freedom of man's will?
They do, for if man were not free he could not be responsible for his conduct, and could neither merit commendation by good actions nor condemnation by evil actions.
50. Prove to me that man is endowed with freewill.
It is a necessary corollary from all that has been said already. If man be not free, he cannot be expected to keep laws, and should not be punished for breaking them. There can be no obligation to observe a law when it is not possible to keep it. This is the judgment of every normal mind. The judicial and punitive application of human legislation is outrageous if men are not responsible for their conduct. The theorists who talk of determinism never dream of applying their doctrine in practice.Again consciousness affords sufficient proof for every normal man. We are not only conscious before acting that there are various courses open to us, but we are conscious that we may desist from a course of action already adopted, and after acting, are conscious of self-approbation or self-reproach, realizing that we were not compelled to act that way.Finally, the possession of reason or intelligence cannot be without freedom of will. Granted a reasoning faculty which can apprehend finite things under different aspects, freewill follows. For example, the acquiring of another man's money may be considered as involving the moral evil of obtaining it by theft, or as yielding one's own goods in exchange for the sake of possessing cash. The object itself allows a man to concentrate upon one aspect or the other, proposing motives to himself for a good or an evil choice.
51. Even granting freedom, man is not entirely free, but only within certain limits.
We admit that environment and heredity can weaken will power, and that lunacy can deprive a man of self-control altogether. But these are not normal cases, and God will make every allowance as regards salvation. He will blame men only for those things for which they are actually responsible, and in the degree in which they are responsible. Granted weakening factors, God knows that responsibility is lessened. A born imbecile will never be punished for sins which he is incapable of committing. But the question of how everything will be adjusted does not affect the fact that the human will is normally and of its very nature endowed with freedom.
52. If God knows all things beforehand, is not that the end of our freedom?
No. God's knowledge does not make us so act. An astronomer may be able to say, "There will be an eclipse of the sun." When the eclipse comes, no one says that it had to come because the astronomer said it would. The astronomer's knowledge was caused by the fact that it would come; the eclipse was not caused by the fact that he foresaw it.
53. If I am free, why was I given no choice as to whether I should exist or not?
One has to exist before one can be consulted, and then it is rather late to consult us concerning that which has already occurred. We therefore had no choice in this particular matter. Nor could we reasonably wish to have a choice. If a thing will necessarily be to my harm, I would reasonably wish to have an opportunity of declining it. But if you wish to send me $1,000, you need not consult me. You may say that life entails a great risk. It does. But there is no danger if we take certain means which are within the power of all. God has placed us all upon this earth, and we know that if we obey our conscience we cannot go wrong. And no one can force us not to obey our conscience. If men force us against our will to do things which conscience forbids, we are not guilty as long as we sincerely refrain from willing that the thing should happen.
54. It is necessary, then, that we should be on earth?
It is necessary in so far as God has decided that we should be here. It is not absolutely necessary for any being to exist except God. All other beings depend upon God's will. But God has willed that we should have our opportunity to praise, love, and serve Him in this life, and be happy with Him forever in the next. Surely a great destiny. The secret of life is summed up in three words - I come from God; I must live for God; and I shall go back to God.
55. You constantly speak of some kind of a relationship between God and man.
I do. A personal God exists. Intelligent human beings exist. Those human beings owe all they have to the personal God who made them, and, being intelligent, are able to recognize the fact. Reason demands that they do so, and render a suitable, practical acknowledgment of the fact to God.
56. What form will that practical acknowledgment take?
It must be expressed in the duties of religion, which will imply reverence for God's Person, and obedience to such instructions as He pleases to issue in our regard.
57. What do you mean by religion?
By religion I mean that act of justice by which we render to God, both privately as individuals, and publicly as social beings, the honor, gratitude, and obedience due to Him, and in the way prescribed by Him.
58. Is the practice of religion necessary?
Yes. God has definite rights which no man is justified in ignoring. Moreover God definitely commands you to adore and serve Him. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . this is the first and greatest commandment." A man with no religion, who never worships God, never says a prayer to Him, is far from fulfilling this commandment of love. It is not enough to admit off-hand that God exists, and then ignore His definite claims.
59. You suppose that He has made definite claims.
I do, and shall justify that postulate as a definite fact in due course.
60. I don't see that a man should kneel and pray to anyone.
Do you see that there must be a God? Do you see that you are one of His creatures? Prayer is conversation with God, and an act of religion. To ignore prayer is to ignore God and deny His rights. Being an adult male does not exempt from this duty. Men are not less the creatures of God than women and children. Nor will heaven be less worth having for men, or hell more tolerable. Or do you mean that you are above this sort of thing? Before God you are a child. There are no privileged classes in the presence of Infinite Wisdom; no exemptions before an Eternal God; no strength before Omnipotence. We are all children before God. Or is it that you are ashamed to kneel? Instead of being ashamed to kneel, you should be ashamed not to do so, for it is the only fitting attitude of a creature and a sinner before Almighty God. Men often pray almost frantically at the hour of death, fear making them do then what love and generosity will not make them do now. Is God less worth serving because He gives health and strength now than He will be then?
61. If there be a good God, He must wish us to try to make this world beautiful.
There is a good God, and He does wish that. But He does not wish our attention to be wholly given to creatures, and the Creator to be ignored. We must acknowledge and love Him. He can no more dispense us from this than He could dispense children from their privilege and duty of honoring and respecting their parents.
62. We want a religion, not of sanctifying piety, but of pity.
You seem to think that it must be one or the other. Both are necessary. There is no real sanctifying piety unless it inspires a religion of pity. If there is no pity, there is no piety and no sanctity, but self-deception and hypocrisy. At the same time, banish sanctifying piety, and mere pity or kindness is not religion. It may be philanthropy or humanitarianism, but it is not religion. Religion essentially means that we must love God, and that our love for God must overflow upon other children of God.
63. Will religion get us our bread and butter?
I might just as well ask you whether we can get milk out of a locomotive. However religion does inspire the supplying of bread and butter to innumerable people through thousands of charitable societies.
64. I don't miss much by not having a religion.
Religion is the virtue of justice which renders to God the honor and worship due to Him. Your remark is like saying, "I do not miss much in refusing to acknowledge my debts." However you do miss more than you think.
65. I am well known and respected.
You may be well known and respected by fellow men; but, though you are well known by God, He does not respect you for your neglect of your obvious religious duties.
66. The giving up of religion has made no change in me for good or evil, sorrow or happiness.
If you ever had a religion and it did not have any influence upon you, then you would not experience any change in being without it. You would perceive a difference in favor of the good and happiness if you became a really practical Catholic. You would then know the peace of Christ—a peace the world cannot give.
67. The laws of nature regulate all and I worship only at her altars.
Laws don't float round without a lawgiver. If nature has laws they have been imposed by a lawgiver. All legislation supposes a legislator. And who authorized you to specify that particular form of religion? Surely the one who is to be worshipped has the right to specify how he shall be worshipped.
68. You say that religion is necessary. I say that it is positively evil and degrading. It restrains our freedom.
Sincere religion spells freedom—freedom from vice, from all injustice and want of charity. There is no absolute freedom. You must be free from vice and subject to virtue, or free from virtue and subject to vice.
69. Nevertheless, religion degrades man, giving a God-complex or an inferiority complex, with a subconscious reference to a supernatural authority in all actions.
Not subconscious, but conscious reverence for the authority of God certainly guides the conduct of a religious man. Your terminology is based upon a false idea that the notion of God is a kind of psychological abnormality due to natural causes. It is true that one with a right idea of God is fully aware that he personally is inferior to God, and therefore possesses the saving grace of humility.
70. Where are a man's ideals who cannot do right for right's sake, but needs a heavenly policeman to keep him straight?
To do right for right's sake implies that right ought to be done. Why ought it to be done? Ought or must supposes some kind of law. All law derives its force from the right of the lawgiver. To do right for right's sake pushes us back to doing right for the sake of the Supreme Author of all right. No one can do right for right's sake if he ignores God, for without God he cannot prove that what he thinks to be right is right or has any binding force at all. Also in the state we have laws and policemen. But it is absurd to say that no citizen is good except through dread of the law, and that the police are necessary to keep every single one of us on the path of duty. A religious man knows that God is his Father, and he serves as a child of God from a motive of love, a love which casts out servile fear without diminishing filial respect.
71. You cannot face life unaided, and reliance on God saps self-reliance and initiative, and must develop the weakling.
The religious man knows that he cannot face life unaided, but that is not to his detriment. We do not ridicule a child at school who cannot face the problem of mathematics without the help of a master. If God needed help He would be imperfect. But man is not God. He is very conscious of limitation, and if he wishes to behave as if he were God, quite self-sufficient and capable of all things, he denies the truth of his limitation. The man who realizes that he did not make the universe, which anyway he cannot stop or rearrange, is nearer the truth, and behaves reasonably in asking the perfect Being who made him to preserve him from the mistakes and frailties of his own imperfection. An imperfect being should behave as if limited, not as if supremely perfect. Nor does religion sap man's self-reliance and initiative. These he uses to the full, and then asks additional help from God. If a man employs extra help in his business, is he sapping his self-reliance? Must he do everything himself? No man can do everything. God helps those who help themselves, but He expects men to turn to Him where they cannot help themselves. This secures full personal initiative, and the help of God to supply for one's essential deficiencies. As for the developing of weaklings, read the history of the early Christians in the days of Nero and the Roman persecutions. For the love of God and with the help of God, children faced the reality of torture and suffering before which strong men quailed. The irreligious man is the weakling, shirking the duty of rendering to God what is due to God; shirking the humility of admitting that he is not infinitely perfect; shirking the greatest reality of life.
72. I have no religion and am well off; the poor wretches who practice religion do not seem to gain much by it.
Religion is not supposed to be an easy road to temporal prosperity in things which death takes from those who have them. It is the road, not always comfortable, to never-ending and eternal happiness. We do not expect religion to result in earthly advancement. If it did men would rush it as a good business proposition, and offer to God a devotion quite without value. Temporal things are subject to the natural course of events. You are not materially well off because you have no religion. There are thousands who have no religion and are not well off. So, too, the poor are not poor because they practice religion. There are well-to-do people who also practice their religion. And if the poor gave up their religion they would not suddenly become rich. Meantime, you prosper because of natural circumstances or natural ability, or because God is giving you temporal rewards for such good as you do. Everyone does some good sometimes. For the poor, God often reserves their compensation for the next life.
73. I am perfectly happy. Your kill-joy religion will leave you feeling a dreadful fool when you find that death ends all.
If you are perfectly happy you are the only one on earth who is. Is there absolutely nothing further you would like to have but which you do not yet possess? Anyway, religion is not a kill-joy. One of the really happiest men who ever lived was St. Francis of Assisi, born and bred in the Catholic spirit. The simplest Priest finds more joy in saying one Mass, and the least of our Catholic people in one Communion, than you have experienced in your whole life. Then, too, I have already shown that death cannot end all. If it did, the religious man would hardly be able to feel a fool. But if it does not, as it cannot, you will scarcely enjoy meeting a God whom you have consistently ignored. The idea that death ends all is not the result of thought. It is the result of refusing to think.
74. Religion gives a dread of death which I do not experience.
If a religious man dreads death it is not because he is religious, but because he is not trying sincerely to live up to his religion. Then he has need to dread death. No one is asked to dread death in the name of religion, but one is taught to be ready for it.
75. If religion is such a wonderful thing, even though it does not advance a man's temporal welfare, it should make him better. But it does not. No one honestly believes that a religious man is less likely to embezzle or be brutal than a non-religious man.
Even were that true it would not justify irreligious men in their crime of ignoring the public acknowledgment of God. But it is not true. If one who professes to be religious is guilty of such things men experience a special indignation, and it is made much of precisely because the unexpected has news value. The majority of men know that they are less likely to find evil in a God-fearing man than in others.
76. All know that creed has nothing to do with conduct. Religious people sin, and are hypocrites.
All do not know that creed has nothing to do with conduct. In fact no man knows precisely what motive has moved men to do given things. God alone can read the heart. We have no experience save of our own interior dispositions. Religious people may sin. But they do not call vice virtue. They know they sin. Nor do their sins dispense them from the duty of continuing to pay due honor to God. I know tax-payers who are drunkards, but that does not exempt them from paying their taxes. If some are hypocrites, that is not due to the teachings of their religion. Blame them, not their religion. They must give up what is evil, their hypocrisy; not what is good, their religion.
77. I am honest without being religious. But I know many people who are religious without being honest.
Now you take your own virtue as a standard, and proceed to find other people wanting when measured by it. It often happens that those who practice no religion canonize themselves as the models of perfection, and regard religious people as sinners and hypocrites. But those who go to church are constantly told of their own failings, and that they must not judge others. It would be better for you to take up your religious duties. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to be really honest without being religious. Religion is the highest form of honesty, a strict duty to God. Take this case: Jones owes one man $100, and to another $1. He pays the $1, but not the $100. Smith also owes $100 and to another $1, but pays the $100, neglecting to pay the $1. Whose is the greater dishonesty? Now each man owes a tremendous debt to God and a lesser one to his neighbor. You may pay the lesser, but you neglect the greater. Your neighbor, who fulfills his religious duties, at least tries to pay the greater, though he may seem to you to neglect the lesser. But he is the better man at least in so far as he attempts to pay the greater. The man who is just to his neighbor, but does not bother about his duty of religion, is the kind of man who pays the baker for the bread he puts into his body, but nothing to God for the body he puts the bread into. Religion is a strict duty of justice to God, acknowledging our indebtedness to Him. If religious people sometimes fail in honesty towards their fellow men, I do not justify it. But their creditors are insignificant compared with the Creditor who supplied you with all you have and receives no acknowledgment from you. You are both in the wrong, but I would rather be in the position of those you condemn, if a choice had to be made, which of course has not to be made. Their religion may save them despite their faults. Your honesty will not save you.
78. Well, I believe in God, but practice no religion.
Thus charges give way to excuses. It is something to believe in God. But what notice do you take of God? You believed in the existence of your own parents, but I am sure you paid them more attention than you have ever paid to God, in whom you say you also believe.
79. I not only believe in God. I lead a clean life. Is not that enough?
On one condition—that you honestly believe no more to be necessary, and have never had an opportunity of discovering the real truth. But if, for example, you have ever heard of the claims of the Catholic Church and have refused to inquire into them, I could not answer for you. If you did inquire, realized that you should become a Catholic, and refused, you would have less chance still, for you would obviously be insincere.
80. What is your idea of a good man?
One who is firstly just to all others, including God. His first duty is to render to God what is due to Him. Secondly, and for the love of God, he renders all that is due to his fellow men. In addition he must manage himself in his own personal life, overcoming with fortitude the difficulties in the way of right conduct, and practicing temperance by restraining sensuality and other lower appetites.
81. But surely I can do that without adopting a particular form of religion. If I adopt a particular Church I antagonize my fellow men, so I keep neutral and bear ill-will to none.
Once you find that God has revealed a particular form of religion you must accept it. You will not assume any obligation to bear any ill-will towards others. Rather you will have an additional obligation to avoid it. But you are not justified in refusing to adopt that particular form of religion because you will thus antagonize your fellow men. If thus you secure the ill-will of others, that is not your fault, and it is their loss. We may never let what men think of us matter more than what God thinks of us. And after all, it is God who will judge us, not our fellow men.
82. I call myself religious, follow truth wherever it leads, and am not afraid of gods, devils, or clergymen. Is that sin?
You may follow what you think to be the truth, but how do you know that it is the truth? If because you think so, is there no possibility of mistake? If you accept ideas because wise men have uttered them, remember that equally wise men have denied them. You need not be afraid of gods, devils, or clergymen, if you are sincerely looking for the truth. But you need to be afraid of your own mental limitations. The wisest philosophers have fallen into the most absurd errors at times, above all in questions of religion. Meantime you owe a debt to God you do not pay in the way He rightly demands. If you refuse to pay earthly bills, you are arrested and have to answer in court. God is not foolish. He does not give commandments for nothing. He cannot be escaped. Death arrests every man, and he who neglects God's just demands for religious worship and acknowledgment will have to answer for his conduct.
83. There are many intelligent people who do not bother about religion.
In what way are they intelligent and clever? Some are clever in mathematics; others in law, but they may be very ignorant in the science of religion. A Catholic school-child could teach many of them quite a lot in this matter. Your argument might have some value if they were well instructed in the truths of religion. But it is little use saying, "I know a very clever doctor, and he has never studied music, so I do not see the use of music." The doctor's medical knowledge is no argument against music, and not all the learning of your friends in mathematics, science, physics, or astronomy, can be an argument against religion. Their knowledge of these things does not make heaven the least bit less worth having, nor hell one jot more comfortable. Let us serve the God before whom all the wisdom of men is childish prattle, and who in His infinite wisdom declares that religion is necessary not only in addition to honesty and goodness, but in order to be honest and good.
84. You keep hinting that God not only demands religious worship, but that He has actually specified the way in which men must offer such homage. Do you mean that God has actually told men of His demand, explaining its conditions?
Yes. God has told mankind very clearly why He created man, what is the destiny of man, and what man must do in order to attain that destiny. He sent the Prophets to teach men His will; after that He sent His own Divine Son, Jesus Christ; and Christ sent the Catholic Church—a Church still teaching with the infallible authority of God in our very midst.
85. What is meant by natural religion, and why is it not sufficient?
Natural religion is simply the religion a man would be obliged to practice, even if he never received a revelation from God. Man could know by reason alone that there is a God and that He must be acknowledged by a worship dictated by reason as to its form, and by obedience to the natural moral law as manifested by conscience. But this natural religion is not sufficient in the present condition of the human race. God has given to mankind a supernatural destiny higher than any merely natural destiny, and this requires the revelation of a knowledge higher than that which could be attained by the merely natural reason.
86. Granted immortality and the need of natural religion, could we prove that more would have to be revealed?
Even where natural religion is concerned, the lack of ability and of time for study amongst the masses of men, and the differences of opinion and absurd errors even of philosophers where the natural principles of religion and of morality are in question, would argue to the need of some help by revelation. But we could not prove that truths beyond the natural order would have to be revealed, because such revelation supposes a supernatural destiny for man, a destiny dependent entirely upon the good pleasure of God. We simply have to accept the fact that God has revealed supernatural truths beyond the requirements of merely natural religion. Once we have an historical fact, there is no longer room for speculation as to what should or should not be. God has revealed very definite doctrines and moral obligations. It is for us to accept and fulfill them if we have any idea of pleasing God and saving our souls.
87. Do you maintain that your mysterious Bible contains the revelation of God?
I maintain that it contains part of God's full revelation. All that is contained in the Bible has been revealed by God, although further information is given us in other ways. That the Bible contains very mysterious doctrines I admit.
88. These mysteries make me feel that there is nothing authentic about religion.
We attain truth by our intelligence, not by our feelings. You feel that religion is unreal. That notion must be tested by evidence. To hold it you must say that the proofs for the unreality of revealed religion are stronger than the proofs in its favor. This means that you must be able to prove that God did not reveal, or that He did, but does not know what He says; or else that He does know, but deliberately deceived us. You cannot prove any of these things. Your only argument is that you cannot fully understand some of the things He has revealed. That argument would be valid if the human reason had infinite capacity, and could expect to understand everything. But facts prove that reason is limited in capacity, and that many truths, even natural truths baffle it. "I do not understand, therefore I do not believe it," is an argument which no reasonable man would utter. "I can disprove it, therefore I do not believe it," is lawful argument.
89. We are material beings, and cannot believe in spiritual things which our minds cannot conceive.
That is a most extravagant assertion. It is true that we are material beings as regards our bodily frame. But we are not merely material. Our flesh and blood cannot think. But we have intelligence also, and we believe things with our mind, not with our flesh and blood. We cannot be expected to believe in things which our minds cannot conceive, but when you suggest that we cannot conceive things spiritual you hopelessly confuse your imagination which you possess in common with brute animals, and your reason which is proper to man. If you stood side by side with a horse, both sets of eyes could see chalk-marks on a blackboard. But in addition you would see an intelligible meaning in the writing which the animal could never discern. You have a higher and nobler faculty which is not merely material. As a matter of fact, you have disproved your assertion in writing it down. You have conceived ideas which you have committed to writing. Ideas are not material things. You cannot saw them up and burn them as so many logs of wood.
90. Anyway we cannot fully understand mysteries. How can God expect us to believe them?
The fact that you cannot fully understand mysteries is due to the limited powers of the human intelligence. You accept many natural things as facts, though their nature is most mysterious. That is not unreasonable. If we know a mysterious fact by revelation it is just as reasonable to believe it. Moreover, if God does reveal that a certain thing is true, He has every right to demand that you believe it. No finite mind has the right to call God ignorant or untruthful.
91. Is your God interested in propounding conundrums?
He is interested in telling men the truth, and in asking them to pay Him the homage of their reason by the acceptance of that truth, thus acknowledging His infinite wisdom and veracity. Reasonable men know that the truth concerning the nature and operations of an infinite Being will baffle a finite mind to some extent. But they are not so foolish as to deny a truth declared by God merely because they do not fully grasp it.
92. Homage of our reason! Blind unreasoning obedience would be a better phrase.
It is wideawake reasonable obedience. Instead of being blind, a man must know that God has spoken. He must prove this by examining the evidence. Once he knows that God has spoken, reason demands the obedient acceptance of God's teaching, even though it be as mysterious as radium, instead of pitting fallible human guesswork against such teaching.
93. You priests make the mysteries and pretend to be acquainted with the unknown, in order to boost your superior position.
God has definitely given His revelation. It involves mystery because the human mind is finite. Are there no mysteries for you, who do not acknowledge the authority of priests? Would you tell me exactly how much radium there is in Arcturus per cubic yard? You are wrong, too, in your talk of pretence. No Catholic priest pretends anything in this matter. He admits that the mysteries revealed by God are as much mysteries for him as for the people he teaches. I am a Catholic priest, and I can assure you that if I found part of my equipment as a priest was to be the art of pretence I would have left the Catholic Church more quickly than I joined it. Nor has any priest the idea of boosting himself. He fulfills his obligation to teach the truths he was sent to teach by God.
94. Is it not the function of priests of all religions to pretend to explain mysteries?
It is not the function of Catholic priests. Some so-called priests of humanly manufactured religions have been professional dealers in the occult. The Catholic priest is a very different being. He does not pretend to fully comprehend mysteries himself. He rather explains that there are mysteries in God, and in God's work.
95. Among other mysterious things, belief in the Bible demands a belief in miracles.
It demands a belief in certain historical events which cannot be accounted for save by the intervention of God.
96. I am a mechanic, you a theologian. There are no mysterious happenings in my trade. I want facts, not phantoms.
God's revelation is for all men, and clear enough in itself for all men whether mechanics or theologians. And all who have been confronted by it will answer to God for their acceptance or rejection of it. Religion is not within the scope of your trade and should not be judged by the standards of your trade. In any case there are many mysterious things involved in your trade, if you were but aware of them. And miracles are facts, not phantoms.
97. I am a materialist and cannot admit miracles, alleged or otherwise.
You are not really a materialist. Neither thought nor love are material things, yet you believe in them. Your statement, too, conflicts with reason. When you say "alleged or otherwise" you can only mean "alleged or not merely alleged but historically true." The miracles in favor of revelation are historically certain.
98. I am glad my religion rests upon its own intrinsic good, not upon foolish miracles.
Whence came your religion? Did you invent it for yourself? And are you sure that because it is pleasing to you it is therefore pleasing to God? Did He tell you so? And how can you say that you are glad that your religion ignores facts? That does not seem to be an intrinsically good position. Remember, also, that the revelation given by God is not only guaranteed by miracles, but really does rest also upon the firm foundation of its own intrinsic good. Your religion, including the denial of facts, does not.
99. Why did God perform incomprehensible miracles for the Jews, before the period known as historical?
Men cannot be expected to believe in a doctrine as of God unless they have manifest signs that God is really speaking. But what do you mean by incomprehensible? If you mean that we cannot believe that they occurred, then the whole of historical science is useless. If you mean that they really happened, but that no man can comprehend the laws accounting for them, you are right. A miracle is a fact that occurs in a naturally incomprehensible way. If we could fully account for it apart from God, it would be because we could account for it by the ordinary laws of nature, and then it would not be a miracle. Finally, if God performed miracles before a period known as historical, we would know nothing of them. We know of them through history.
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