Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I am Catholic - Part 1: we begin at the end

A few months ago I was asked to give a talk entitled “Why I am a Catholic”. While preparing the talk I thought of my many relatives and friends who have left the Church. While some have left for emotional reasons (they’re mad at somebody), and others for what I will just call “conjugal irregularities”, I believe most have left or dropped out for wont of a reasoned explanation to stay.

I have often ask such folks if there is a particular reason why they left and have they ever considered returning.

While some were simply indifferent, most just had unanswered questions. What’s amazing is how simple those questions are and - when those questions are engaged in a charitable way - how willing many are to return to the Church.

What is also amazing is how so much pain could be avoided by simply knowing how to engage such questions and where to look for the answers. Parents whose children no longer practice the Faith are particularly pained - particularly when grandchildren are involved. Parents who have grudgingly accepted the religious waywardness of their own children often find it more difficult to accept their grandchildren being raised in a different faith or no faith at all.

It is probably hearing other parents share their distress that first caused me to develop a short “Reason to be Catholic” for my own children. But rather than wait to be confronted with their doubts and questions, I opted for a pre-emptive catechetical strike to not only help them fend off challenges to the Faith, but to assist them in engaging those challenges so that they might be able to keep others from leaving the faith or even bring new souls to it.

In working to restate this “catechesis” for publication, I have augmented it for “big people” as a sort of mini “Case for Catholicism”, but it can be scaled up or down to address the desired audience in case you would like to use it or portions of it. Let's begin.

My “Case for Catholicism” begins with a certainty, the only real certainty: death. I will die. You will die. For all of us there is one, single, absolute, glaring, uncompromising certainty: we will die. On this, theist and atheist, must agree. So we begin at the end: death.

Upon death there are two possibilities: there is either an afterlife or there isn’t. It’s simply a 50/50 proposition. Atheists may argue against life after death but the argument does not change the odds.

Given the 50% chance that one may live on after death in some form, one may choose to consider the possible nature of that form, or choose not to. Given the many possible proposals of the nature of the afterlife, it would behoove us to consider those possibilities, especially since some of the possibilities are not that pleasant.

Our prospects in the afterlife are many: We could live on as a cow. We could inhabit a tree. We could haunt a house. We could wander the universe. We could rule our own planet (Mormon). We might dwell in Paradise with 72 virgins (Islam). We could become a star, an angel, Elvis... There are as many proposals as there are belief systems, and then some!

However, there is one prospect that we must take more seriously than any other: the possibility of eternal damnation. The possibility of a living, conscious, state of eternal torment of body and soul is so frighteningly horrific that even the slightest sliver of a chance of it possibly being real demands consideration of the greatest gravity.

But, let us stop here and review: 

  1. Death is certain. 
  2. There is a 50/50 possibility of the afterlife. 
  3. If there is something after this, we should consider the possibilities, 
  4. There are several possibilities to consider. 
  5. The possibility of eternal torment is too frightening to ignore.

Go here for Part 2.


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