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Belief systems

Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays.

Belief systems

Robert Wall ; : 2001-01-01

I accidentally stumbled across your website while searching on a non-related subject with the AltaVista search engine. (By the way, I’ve been to Vancouver a few times and enjoyed my stays.)

I felt compelled to read much of your content regarding your stance against Christianity.

I believe with a passion much like you against the fables and illogical conclusions mankind has made throughout history. But I’ve arrived at a different conclusion. I am now a practicing Catholic.

In many ways I believe we think alike. Neither of us will accept a teaching that is not logically substantiated. Thus, I believe that my belief system is logical, grounded, and unbiased and that yours is distorted. Conversely, it would make sense that you insist that it is my belief system which is truly distorted.

Perhaps you could convince me to agree with your beliefs. I think not. Perhaps I might convince you that my beliefs are indeed true. You think not.

But each of us has a desire to lead the other to a better way of life. In fact, you may want me to embrace your beliefs, if only for my own good, regardless of whether or not you receive any benefit. That is my attitude.

You appear to have done your homework in supporting your belief system.

If you’re up for it, I’d like to dialogue with you via e-mail. The rules are as follows…

  1. This dialogue is civil and charitable. We do not tear down the other person.
  2. We make our best attempt to stick to one subject at a time. Let’s not overdue it!
  3. If necessary, we agree to disagree in certain areas in order to move on to the next subject.
  4. Each of us is open to a modification of these rules, if we both agree to the change(s).

I’ve never done this kind of dialogue before, but have never chanced upon a website that was so outspoken and contradicting to my beliefs. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll give it a try. I think we both stand to learn and benefit.

If you accept my proposal, then please respond to the following…

I’ll start with my basis for why I think I should dialogue with you.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once stated, Not one hundred people in the United States hate the Catholic Church, but millions hate what they believe it to be.

I believe you fit into this category. Respectfully, I believe that you sincerely believe that you don’t fit into this category.

I am a pragmatic person. I judge a belief system by how its adherents behave. The Christians I mostly have run into are ones very keen on seeing me rot in hell and denying my ordinary civil rights because I am gay. The other ones who meddle in my affairs are inerrantists who want the Bible taught in science class as if it were science. There are many other flavours of Christians, but they don’t have much interaction with me. I am primarily interested in combating the fanatics and fundamentalists.

Now I’ll defend against one of your claims. I wasn’t sure where to start, after reading your barrage of attempts to disprove Christianity. I’ll try one that hits home with the action I’m taking now.

Under your list of Disadvantages of believing in God you state the following…

"You tend to sit twiddling your thumbs praying rather than doing something useful about a problem."

A true Catholic would instead embrace the more grounded biblical approach, as interpreted and taught by Saint Augustine. Pray like everything depends on God. Work like everything depends on you. Ignatius Loyola advised similarly, Use human means as though divine ones didn’t exist, and divine means as though there were no human ones;

Then why bother praying? It is just a distraction. That may be official Catholic dogma but I have a protestant Christian friend, Damon, who killed himself in 2000 by trusting prayer instead of medicine. The efficacy of prayer is both a lie and a superstition. It has never been shown to be effective. You might do it to calm yourself or to please God (though I find it improbable that God likes being continually pestered for favours), but it makes no sense to do it to persuade God to give you a miracle. God’s universe runs in an orderly way without special exceptions for petitioners. Even Christians admit that God already knows your needs long before you express them. Prayer is naïvelyly hoping for a free lunch. Granted there are spontaneous healings in people who pray, but then again, there are also spontaneous healings in people who don’t. It is like snapping your fingers to scare away the elephants.

I look forward to your reply.

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