Wow! I never expected the reactions I received in response to my post last month, “Reading Richard Dawkins Led to My Conversion.” Comments were predictably in two camps, those who loved the post and those who resorted to calling me names and questioning my intelligence. While the favorable responses warm my heart, it is the negative responses that stir up my thoughts. And I am continually surprised that I have yet to read a respectful, well thought out negative response from an athiest. Rather, their responses fall along the lines of Anti-Theism (@TheismAnti on Twitter).

Anti-Theism writes:

So bereft of intelligence, so dumb-witted is this person she believes the Jesus of the old testament would be in favour of;
The pope,
The Vatican,
The demi-god saints of prayer,
And all that other ‘stuff’ not mentioned in the bible.

First of all, it is my belief that the typical person resorts to name calling out of laziness. It is easier to call someone a name rather than craft a well thought out argument. Perhaps dumb-witted is an expression in British English (based on the author’s spelling of “favour” I will assume s/he’s British), but it does not appear in American English. The expression is actually “dimwitted” and is defined as:  “lacking mental capacity and subtlety, simple minded, retarded.” I’ve never in my life been called that before and would venture a guess that no one who knows me would ever use that adjective to describe me. Nor would anyone who knows me, even some of my atheist friends (imagine that!), ever call me “bereft of intelligence.” Anti-Theism also calls me an “idiot” and “obviously deranged.”

Second, Anti-Theism refers to “the Jesus of the old testament.” Really? Perhaps Anti-Theism should check his facts a bit more carefully. There is no Jesus of the Old Testament. While it is Catholic belief that Jesus was prefigured and foretold in the Old Testament, his birth signals the beginning of the New Testament. Furthermore, the Julian and Gregorian calendars have historically been divided into the two eras, BC and AD (Before Christ and Anno Domini or Year of the Lord). BC represents the Old Testament and AD the New Testament.

Third, the Vatican is a place, a sovereign city-state, established in 1929. It happens to be the official home of the pope and the location of St. Peter’s Basilica. Technically, however, the Pope’s seat as the Bishop of Rome is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. There is nothing doctrinal or holy about the Vatican city-state itself.

Would Jesus be in favor of the pope or the Vatican, as Anti-Theism asks? Or all that “other ‘stuff’” – one can only imagine what Anti-Theism is talking about here. While certainly Jesus would not be in favor of some of the behaviors of men (popes included) it was Jesus himself who established what we call today the papacy. He established a chain of command, a structure for authority. Without authority, anarchy ensues. Jesus himself named Peter as his successor as one can read in the Matthew’s Gospel. There is ample evidence based on writings of the Church Fathers as well as scripture dating from the first century that provides a solid foundation for apostolic succession through Peter and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (the pope). Furthermore, certainly some modicum of respect is due an institution that has outlasted any other institution on earth; the Catholic Church with all its bureaucracy, with all its good and bad, is 2000+ years old and still going strong despite what unbelievers might believe or hope.

I’m not quite sure what Anti-Theism is referring to as the “demi-god saints of prayer” unless it is the fact that Catholics pray to saints for their intercessory help. Catholics do not worship saints, nor do we worship Mary as is commonly misunderstood by non-Catholics. Rather, we look to saints and Mary as examples of well-lived lives of piety, humility and selfless love of other.

So, back to Anti-Theism and his penchant for name-calling. I would welcome a well-crafted argument against the existence of God. Such an argument is what I was seeking and what I thought I would find when I read (yes, I only read a third of the book) The God Delusion. Dawkins obviously does not suffer from a lack of intelligence (a lack of faith, yes, but that doesn’t make him “dimwitted” or an “idiot” or “obviously deranged” – all names Anti-Theism called me) so I would assume he is quite capable of an articulate expression of his beliefs without resorting to slinging names at those with whom he disagrees. On the other hand, while I refrain from calling others names, I would call Anti-Theism’s comments “dimwitted.” Anti-Theism said himself that he is “not one of the many that consider ignorance harmless. It isn’t.” If this is true, then I would suggest he compose an intelligent argument about the non-existence of God rather than sling names at those who believe other than he does. And … while he’s at that, he might want to check his vocabulary and his facts.

 

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.