“To be or not to be, that is the question.” –Hamlet
If each century is an act in the drama of The Story of People on Earth, then we are still in the beginning scenes of Act 21. And it is time for some of us to start giving more attention to our lines. After all, we are each a player in this global theatre that moves through the pages of time. Our lines—the words of our lives—cannot be said meaningfully if they are not understood in context: if we don’t know the family history, the human history, of what has been said before us (or even about us), then we listen and speak (write and read) without understanding and without sense.
Some of us are quick studies, but most of us are not, and we must rely on diligence to accomplish much of anything. Fortunately, we have friends to reward such diligence, and these brothers and sisters of ours are committed to helping us do our part in understanding reality and the drama of our lives: two such people are the authors of this book. One is a former atheist, and the other is someone whose dead faith sought daily to empty the cross of its power over him. Ronda Chervin’s childhood scene was atheism in a
Marxist and culturally Jewish family on the East Coast. Dietrich Von Hildebrand and Company directed her to a window looking onto a different scene in which the people had joy and were not just acting. Her life has been directed by a call to help others discover that same joy which is an authentic dimension of the Christian life: her call has been a call to share.
Sebastian Mahfood’s life was touched by the same Church and the same joy. While serving in the United States Peace Corps in Tunisia, this skeptic interested in keeping religious demands at a distance found himself in a scene not of his own design. A priest friend invited him to a church, and while there, Saint John Paul II shook his hand. The mystics and wanna-be mystics (like myself) will appreciate his retelling of the electric connection that opened his eyes to new scenes in his life: he found his new lines to be old lines that never rust or lose their transcendent goodness, their reality. His call has been to connect others to eternal truths.
Solzhenitsyn famously said that “the battle line between good and evil is drawn across each of our hearts.” Likewise, truth and falsehood are both occupying powers. The truth liberates us. Falsehood, confusion, and misunderstanding put parts or even or all of us in a kind of gulag or wasteland. Such a hell on earth was chosen by the Macbeths— who given every opportunity to live by truth gave up truth only to lose everything—from ambition to love.
Chervin and Mahfood seek the truth and show how it leads to love unending. They are good guides. Dialogue with them as you read. So whether you are atheists or Christians, just curious or looking for arguments to tear into, this book will bring you clarity and understanding—on what atheism offers and does not, and about what Catholic Christianity offers and affirms. In the end, we may still disagree, but we will not be able to easily say that we do not understand each other—that we do not know what the lines mean.
Atheism is in revival
Many in the 21st century lack a belief in a supernatural Creator. This requires an emboldened response from those who also live by faith, doing what God has called them to do, and not through their five senses alone. (2 Corinthians 5:7) As Pope Benedict XVI said in his January 9, 2013, audience, “The event of the Incarnation, of God who became man, like us, shows us the daring realism of divine love.” Those of us who ‘see’ that daring realism are called to share it with others, and that is the idea behind this book called Catholic Realism.
As Catholics, we can share a response based on revelation and interpreted by the Magisterium, but that will not satisfy the atheist.
Indeed, it does not satisfy many who believe that the Gospel message is true but do not live faith-filled lives. For that reason, a philosophical response is a necessary pre-evangelization tool. This book is designed to assist the everyday evangelist in developing such a tool.
Dr. Ronda Chervin
Professor of philosophy at Holy Apostles and Sminary, in Cromwell, CT. More than fifty books of hers have been published by Catholic presses, in the area of philosophy and spirituality. Dr. Ronda presents on EWTN and Catholic radio.
Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, O.P.
Vice president of Administration and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT. He is the author of Radical Eschatologies: Embracing the Eschaton in the Works of Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Ayi Kwei Armah and Nuruddin Farah (Lambert, 2009).
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.