Sunday, August 28, 2011

My crisis of faith (as an atheist)

This is a continuation of an old post How I lost (my atheistic ) religion. So kindly read that post to get a sense of what this post is all about.

In that old post, I shared how I transformed from being an atheist to a theist (but note not yet a Christian). Note that there, I did not abandon atheism because I saw some bad or evil atheists. At university where I became an atheist, I belonged to a philosophy club and in that club there were only two kinds of people, atheists and agnostic, there were no one in between. I aligned with the former because I thought the latter were wussies. Anyway all of them were congenial friends - we hanged out, played chess everyday after lunch, went to talks together etc etc.

Anyway, it was not because of anything that atheists did that made me abandon my atheism, it was because of the external observation of nature or creation and the philosophical truth that something can not come out of nothing, ex nihilo, nihil fit. One might say that this was an incident of general revelation described in Romans 1:19-20. As I said, when I agreed with the assertion "there must be a God", i.e. a Creator, my life became internally disturbed than when I was an atheist. This truth disturbed me and so I went the library and soaked my self with books about other religions and philosophies - they were Confucianism, Taoism, Budhism, and a bit of Hinduism. Note that Christianity was not in the list. I reasoned, no, I will not be satisfied, I owe myself the truth, I must get to the very bottom of this.

All of these religions, as in others, discuss some truth that is conducive and attractive. They all promote moralism etc. I was not satisfied with Confucianism because it did not make sense as to why I should comply with Confucius' idea of a gentleman for its own sake. It did not give authority - for example, he says, we should honor our ancestor. Ok but when you ask Confucius' why? His answer would be - well it is bad, you are not being a good gentleman, so I comeback and say - well so what, what is it to you, why should I follow your dictums, you are not God are you? So his moral pronouncements are not unassailable.

As to the other three, I had a problem with their mystical and vague pronouncements. For example Lao Tsu made mention of The Ultimate Reality but in practical terms, how does one touch that or get a hold of that or relate to that etc.? What did that mean? Such terms I found to be operationally absurd and unfeasible. As to Budhism, well it is a non-Creationist religion and so did not answer my premise of God as being Creator of these things I could see which are bigger than me and too awesome in its beauty and variety. Besides Zen Budhism is just as paradoxical and absurd in its teachings so same thing. Budha wants me to meditate to reach nothingness, a release from my selfishness, and be part of everything etc etc.

So I went back to the Roman Catholicism of my parents, the one that I was brought up in, after graduating from university. I went back to the practices - novenas, masses, confession, penance etc. After a while I would go to confession and the priest would give me my penance, like pray 100 Our Fathers, 50 Hail Mary's etc. I found myself playing a game of doing a deposit of these (i.e., do the penance in advance) so that when I did go to confession, I would deduct my deposit of prayers from the required so I just pray the balance. Why? Because right after doing my religious labour, I was intending to reward myself when I got out, that is paint the town red. I remember going out of church, saying hmmm, paying for my sins seems trivial, I do the penance and it is fixed, but how long do I do this, this is tiring and what if I die in this state? In actuality it was not fixed. One might say, clearly my faith was in those works prescribed by the church.

This went on for a couple of more years and my watching TV got me pegged to a revivalist preacher. He went to my city (in Manila) and one evening I, together with my wife went to the meeting. I did here the Gospel in that meeting some 30 years ago. I can relate more on the few things he said along with his methods which may easily be criticised must be corrected, but that night I did understand the portion on why Jesus died on the Cross, that he died on that Cross as payment for my sins, as a free gift, because I was a sinner never being able to pay for my sins in front of a Holy God. I heard the priest always saying Jesus died, Jesus died, but it was only on that day did I realize, it was for me and my sins. I, along with my wife, left that auditorium, assured that God would accept us not on account of our works but on account of the sacrifice and bitter suffering of His Son.

The journey as you know, those of you familiar with this blog, did not stop there.

With regards to the religions or philosophies I have studied - they bring up pertinent issues but the way they answer the issues leave gaps in between. Below are my summaries and of course I am being simplistic and practical in outlining them here (I can not conduct a treatise on these):

Confucianism lacked authority for its moral precepts whereas Christianity answers that premising the moral precepts from the revelation of God, the ultimate authority and sovereign.

Taoism says we lost equilibrium with the world, with the cosmos and our being; the aim is to practice certain things to capture that equilibrium. Christianity on the other hand surmises that we have no stability because we lost our anchor or relationship with God but He provides Christ to give us peace sending the Holy Spirit in his name. Peace is a by-product of faith in Jesus' Gospel.

Buddhism is correct in identifying selfishness as the source of suffering and advocates meditation as way of saving ourselves from ourselves. Christianity identifies sin as the source of our troubles and the solution is to be forgiven through the suffering of Christ paying for our sins. Christianity teaches that we have a saviour who saves us rather than us doing a doit yourself salvation.

Hinduism, well it has many gods but again, philosophically who and what was the source of such divinity? Christianity on the other hand says there is only one true God, Jesus is his Son and he has won peace for all mankind through his bitter death and suffering. Thus only one God needs to be appeased, such peace, Christ has won freely for every human being and God grants this peace through faith in Christ's name.

Psalm 119:160.

20 comments:

Pr Mark Henderson said...

100 'Our Fathers'...50 'Hail Marys'!
Man, you were either quite the sinner or you had a uber-strict confessor, Lito. I suspect the latter? We need more confessors like that to prepare the ground for the Lutheran, Evangelical Faith! Yes, personally, I think the recent lurch towards 'conservatism' in the RCC is a good thing, but for different reasons than erstwhile Brother Shutz would aver.

LPC said...

Hi Pr. Mark,

I do not mind saying it is the former.

I am out of RC news so I do not know the conservatism they are into. Shutzie is my favorite Lutheran who thinks he has become an RC ;-)

LPC

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Lito,
OK - winding back the post Vatican II liberal excesses, re-introducing the Latin mass, encouraging people back to private confession, basically bringing back that 'old time', legalistic, works based Roman religion. I've met many ex-Catholics who grew up with that who have found a home in the Lutheran Church.

Unfortunately, the post-Vatican II theological revolution of the late 1960s and 70s resulted in a flabby Catholicism in the English-speaking world which is thankfully on its last legs. As I've always said about those who grew up influenced by _that_ sort of Catholicism: 'a liberal Catholic doth not a good Lutheran make'.

Gregory L. Jackson said...

My Notre Dame professor Frank Fiorenza is now at Harvard. He is quite the expert on the New Theology of B-16. Frank loves Tillich and thought that I could not comprehend Tillich. "Lutherans don't," he said. He also loves Rahner and was president of the Barth Society. I would summarize all these theologies as faith without belief. Once that concept is grasped, anything is possible and any audience can be fooled. Therefore, any claim of Roman conservatism is a sham, a vast billowing cloud of smoke. Rome is universalistic in nature, with heavy doses of canon law and all the hypocrisy that goes with it. Any Lutheran who moans, "Oooh, aaah, Rome, Benedict, their masses!" is sinuflecting to Rome.

LPC said...

Rome is a chameleon. When they are in a Protestant dominated country, they look subdued, mild and calm. But when they are in a country where they dominate then you can see how much they bully that government.

Up to now they meddle with the policies in the Philippines. They behave arrogantly with the Bishops receiving gifts from government officials without the knowledge of the people.

LPC

Brett Meyer said...

Great post Lito.

It is to be expected that those in the Lutheran Synods who embrace the false gospel of Universal Justification would, with equal fervor, embrace the Antichrist as Christian and cheer the changes that secure him and his church as the church of Satan and enemy of Christ. At home in the house of their father below. May Christ, in His grace and mercy, call the faithful out of such apostasy.

God's grace and peace be with you LPC,
Brett

LPC said...

Dear Bro. Brett,

I know of one former theologian of LCAus who has gone RC. Apparently he was consulted when I objected to UOJ but he affirmed it (that was when he was still Lutheran).

So when I heard he became RC, I was not the least surprised.

There is stream of universalism that runs in RC specially since Vatican II. Mother Church will let you be what you wanna be, it does not matter even if you are a confessing atheist in her midst so long as you do not oppose the pope, she is fine with that. Cause that is all that matters.

LPC

Schütz said...

I'm here and listening. The penance of 100 Our Fathers is utterly unthinkable. Is that really true? Neither can you build up a "bank deposit" of penance before you are actually given the penance by your confessor. It doesn't work that way. The efficacy of the penance relies upon the grace of the sacrament - it isn't a plus and minus equation of good works. Our penances do not - of themselves - have efficacy apart from the sacrament. Most confessors i know give lenient penances for grave sin precisely to drive home this fact. I am afraid that, while you may think I "think" I am a Catholic, the practice you describe here is only a travesty of Catholicism. 

Schütz said...

"faith without belief", Gregory? Benedict XVI? You've got to be joking me, yes? Have you even read anything he has ever written or said? Try his encyclical "Spe Salvi".

Really, I sometimes think you guys just like dishing the Cathoic Church because it is a "default" position you have adopted. You sound like the new atheists who dish Christianity but have never taken the time to study it, or to actually talk to believing Christians.

And with regards to "universalism", have you read "Dominus Iesus", Lito? Doesn't sound like "universalism" to me.

LPC said...

Hi Dave,

The penance of 100 Our Fathers is utterly unthinkable. Is that really true

Yes Dave, it is true. You have underestimated how the Filipinos and the Latin Americans revere their RC Priest.

Our history shows that Spain needed not send thousands of soldiers to keep my ancestors in line. The King of Spain only needed to send a priest to a rebellious village and the village would line up. No soldiers required and it worked. I can also tell you why my ancestors was easily led to being RCs if you are interested.

Imagine, the only Moslem country who became RC en masse, that speaks a lot.

That is the problem, you only know of Catholicism while you live in a Protestant dominated country. You should live for a while in Latin America or the Filipinas and you will see that the Romanism you get here is so prot compared to the one in those countries - there her real theology is lived in the grass roots.

Neither can you build up a "bank deposit" of penance before you are actually given the penance by your confessor

The bank idea was mine and I did practice it. You see, I always got the same priest because he was always there before communion. So I figured if the guy gives me again 100 Our Fathers, and I have already preempted that the days before praying many Our Father, then all I had to do was to do the balance. If you were in my situation, would you blame me?

If it sounds excessive may be he took my sins seriously than some ex Prots gone Catholic?

Shall I tell you my experience with a priest when I was 13, he got out of the confession box and got mad and screamed at me for not fully reciting - "Bless me father for I have sinned, my last confession was etc etc."

I could still see him with my eyes, he was big larger and had was Franciscan.


I am afraid that, while you may think I "think" I am a Catholic, the practice you describe here is only a travesty of Catholicism

I always get this from ex-Prots gone RC. Remember Christine before she went back to being Lutheran? She said the same type of thing to me, claiming I misunderstood the system.

It is like blaming the hooker for being raped. Sorry to be crude in illustrating this. I am glad you are semi-protesting.

If it sounds like a caricature etc do not blame me, put it this way, - there must have been a problem in quality control. Looks like this priest I got was not following the standard.


Like I said, you guys know nothing about Catholicism as is practiced in Catholic dominated countries. I challenge you to study it in those countries.

LPC

LPC said...

For further reading...


http://extranos.blogspot.com/2007/02/luigi-desanctis-i.html

LPC

LPC said...

Dave,

Please read my post on Desanctis above.

I think ex-Prots should for the time being suppress their love for Rome but rather, study Romanism not from its formal pronouncements but how Rome practices her theology in the countries listed by Desanctis.

I always get this form Lutherans who study Rome based on documents. They often tell me, I am wrong.

Yet they only know of Romanism where Desanctis says they should not learn it from.

LPC
LPC

Schütz said...

Lito,

I think I need to challenge you on this one a bit more personally.

Desanctis wrote:

"If you observe the Papacy in different countries, you will find it most varied. In the south of Italy you will still find all the superstitions of the medieval age; in England, and in Germany where Roman Catholics are mixed with Protestants, you will find a Papacy less superstitious and more tolerant, to be transformed into superstition and intolerance in the day when it shall have become dominant"

I don't know about his last point (it seems to me to be a rather unfounded and unproven assertion based upon his own bias) but his point about the variety of Catholic practice throughout the world is as true now as it is then. I am not ignorant of this fact.

Yet the same point could be made of Lutheranism - which is practiced not only in a variety of ways in a variety of countries, but even with great variety within the same country (compare the LCMS and the ELCA and the Wisconsin Synod, and then look at the EKD and the Church of Sweden). What is one to make of that? You have chosen your own particular kind of Lutheranism and assert that that is truly Lutheran. Is it? By what standard?

Would you not defend the authenticity of your brand of Lutheranism by appealing to the official confessional writings of the Lutheran Church? Although you would recognise other Lutherans as Lutheran, would you not say that this or that aspect of their practice needs purification and reformation?

If so, how is it any different for me, a Catholic, to point to the official teachings and guidance of the Catholic Magisterium and say "This is the standard of Catholic practice and teaching; all practice and teaching to the contrary is not true Catholicism but is an abuse needing purification and reformation"? Why need I accept that abuses - such as the priest who screamed at you or the confessor who gave you 100 Our Fathers as a penance or your own abuse of trying to build up a "deposit" of penance - should be the standard by which Catholicism is to be judged, when the Church herself recognises these as abuses? Would you expect me to ask you to accept the practice of the Church of Sweden in ordaining female homosexuals as authentically "Lutheran"? Would you not say that this is an "abuse" and not authentic "Lutheranism", despite the name that they attach to their practice?

Both Catholicism and Lutheranism are one thing to an anthropologist and another thing entirely to the believer.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

David,

I think you need to go on a 'world tour' of Roman Catholicism to see how it functions outside of the relatively enlightened Melbourne Archdiocese. My wife, like Lito, also comes from a non-Australian Catholic background, and I could, if I wished, tell you stories about how RCism functions on a day to day basis in other countries which would make any person not blindly committed to that institution seriously doubt that it has any understanding at all of the Gospel. There are many places the Reformation hasn't touched!

Now, the whole point with RCism is that it is headed from Rome, is it not? Does that not make the Pope ultimately responsible for what happens in RCism?

(Pardon me for butting in, Lito)

LPC said...

Pr. Mark,

No need to apologize for butting in.

This is the type of conversation we should have.

We both disagree with David, we are both fond of his friendship.

I am thankful that he follows this blog even linking to it.

Carry on.

LPC

LPC said...

David,

Thank you for the challenge.

I don't know about his last point (it seems to me to be a rather unfounded and unproven assertion based upon his own bias) but his point about the variety of Catholic practice throughout the world is as true now as it is then. I am not ignorant of this fact.

His assertion is true David.

Let me explain. Anthropologists have said that the ancient Filipinos were superstitious. They were specially superstitious about the use of water, that it could bring some healing benefit. This was the reason (some theorized) that the Filipinos readily subjected themselves to Baptism.

The abuse of Rome is in the way she rules over people's faith. Something that St. Peter said church elders should not do. As a further example, the village priest supports superstitious beliefs if it so happens to have a link with Catholicism. So what happens? False doctrine happens and are encouraged.

So then Romanism gets blended with folk religion and the latter finds support and is sustained by the former.

Pr. Mark's point that Rome is monolithic viewed from the outside is instructive. So his remark takes the cake. Every Catholic is governed from the Vatican so no excuse for the One True Church.

This is not true in Lutheranism so for the case that there are Lutherans ordaining women, Lutherans are in a fight.

I can give you another story about a venerated statue of the Virgin Mary some where in my country of birth, its origin was that it used to be a venerated animist idol.

The saying is true David, power corrupts.

LPC

Pr Mark Henderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pr Mark Henderson said...

PS

It has always disturbed me that the LCA did not conduct a 'heresy trial' in absentia for David and his cohorts (or at least issued a public excommunication). This would have made it clear that we still disagree with the Papacy on momentous questions (i.e. the Gospel) and would have (I hope!) served as a sober and serious call to these erstwhile brothers to re-consider their course. As it is the matter has been left hanging, which is confusing to those laity and clergy who know the details.

Schütz said...

Dear Mark and Lito,

I will address both of you in the same reply, if you don't mind. I want to come to the point that you are using a couple of double standards.

The first "double standard" is in respect to the way you evaluate the role of the Pope and the Roman Magisterium within Catholicism.

On the one hand, you seem to be saying that I am in error when I take the official teachings of the Magisterium as the basis for my evaluation of what is truly Catholic. On the other hand, you say that "the whole point with RCism is that it is headed from Rome, is it not? Does that not make the Pope ultimately responsible for what happens in RCism?" Is there not a double standard here? Either what is officially taught by the Catholic Church in her public statements of faith is "truly Catholic" or it isn't. Which is it to be?

It seems that you want to have two things in reference to me. When I say that such and such is official teaching of the Magisterium, then you come back and say that I am not taking into account the huge diversity of Catholic practice and belief throughout the world. But then, when you criticise this same variety of Catholic practices, you say that it is the Pope's responsibility to clean up this situation and bring about uniformity throughout the Church. Which is it to be?

The second double standard is in the way you judge my own conversion by standards which you do not apply to your own. May I point out that you are both, like me, converts to your chosen religious community. You did not grow up in the Lutheran community. Where did you go to learn the teachings of your faith? Did you, like me, consult clergy and teachers of the community of faith to which you converted? Did you, like me, consult their official public teachings? Did you, like me, study the history of that religious tradition? Of course you did.

Did you go on a "tour of world Lutheranism" before you adopted your chosen faith? Did you study how Lutheranism is practiced in "Lutheran dominated countries" such as Germany? Did you live in Sweden for a while to see how "Lutheranism's real theology is lived in the grass roots"? I at least can say that I did grow up in a "Lutheran dominated" community. Like Lito's experience of his ancestral Catholicism, I knew Lutheranism culturally inside out, in a way that neither of you could possibly know it. Do I judge your Lutheran faith as deficient for this reason?

It is entirely valid to study any religious community – and to make judgements about it – from an anthropological point of view. But you didn't do that with Lutheranism, and neither did I do that with Catholicism. What we all chose to do was to study the official teachings of our religious community, and we chose it on that basis. We can both point to what we regard as abuses within our respective communities – but that doesn't make our judgements deficient, because that was not the basis on which we made our choice. We chose our religion on the basis of the official public teaching of our religion's respective authorities. That seems to me to be an entirely valid thing to do, and we should not call into question the authenticity of our respective conversions for that reason.

LPC said...

Hi David,

Sorry for this late reply, your comment is not being ignored.

Let me go straight...
Do I judge your Lutheran faith as deficient for this reason?

I do not judge your Catholic faith as deficient.

What I am about is that if Catholicism is judged from its documents (which itself is already a subject for discussion) but not in practice as officially performed by her priests, one will have an unbalanced view.

The case is not the same with Lutheranism. The reason is that it is not a monolithic church and it has a different category - it does not work on an authoritative paradigm. This is both a weakness and a strength.

On the other hand with RC, which is ruled by the Magisterium, the variety of practice is more onerous on Catholicism itself. If they are allowed to vary in their practice, then what is the point of being centralized? The authoritative aura in Romanism becomes a myth.

Lastly, the BoC speaks about adiaphora in practice. At least in Lutheranism they could have a debate on such and such an issue. There is room (rightly or wrongly used) for disagreement.

That struggle is not an annoyance but part and parcel of a church (the Lutheran church) that continues to go through reformation. Semper Reformanda as they say.

LPC