Pharyngula

Jennifer Fulwiler is an ex-atheist, she says, and is now a Catholic. With her deep knowledge of both Catholicism and atheism, she is writing a book about her conversion experience and has now posted a short guide to understanding atheists for her Catholic fellows. Oh, did I say deep knowledge? My error, I meant to say “bubble-headed delusions”.

She lists five misconceptions Catholics have about atheists, and tries to explain how atheists really think. She gets one right.

  1. First she argues against the idea that atheists feel like they’re missing something in their life, which is one of the more common faith-based claims. I’ve lost track of the number of times some sincere believer has asked me if I wouldn’t feel better if I brought Jesus into my life. Fulwiler gets this partly right, in that she recognizes this is a misconception, but then she goes on to say this:

    …looking back, I actually did have a pervasive sense of incompleteness, but I simply didn’t know how to recognize it. I do believe that each of us has a God-shaped hole in our hearts, that only God alone can heal.

    Nope. I’m not incomplete. But if I turned Catholic, I would be—I’d have lost my sanity.

  2. She gets the second one right when she explains that arguments laced with Bible quotes are completely unpersuasive.

    …most atheists think that large parts of the Bible simply aren’t true, and many see the entire thing as a work of fiction.

    Her only failing here is understatement.

  3. She thinks it is a misconception to believe that atheists are aware of Catholic doctrine. No, we’re actually fairly familiar with the basic concepts, although we might be fuzzy on the specific details of their magic spells and incantations. I think a better case could be made that most Catholics are unaware of Catholic doctrine, or at least, that they ignore a lot of it. American Catholics and contraception, anyone?

    And then she gets really silly.

    I find that when misconceptions like this are cleared up, my atheist friends are pleasantly surprised at how fair and reasonable Catholic doctrine is.

    Bwahahahahahaahaha! No, not at all. Original sin, the trinity, blood sacrifice, transubstantiation, souls, Space Disneyland after you die, etc., etc., etc. Catholicism (and Christianity, heck, religion in general) is crazy town.

  4. She thinks it’s a fallacy to try and simply reason with atheists — you also need to have an emotional appeal. And I think that is partly right, that there is more to an argument than cold-blooded reasoning. But while she pays lip service to reason and evidence, she really doesn’t understand how fundamental that is to getting through to us — see #3 above.

    …at some point you have to have an openness in your heart as well as your mind. This is why we should always focus more on showing Christ to our atheist friends rather than just offering data about him.

    No Catholic has ever offered me data about Jesus, nor have they shown him to me. All the fervent heartfelt belief in the world wrapped around an empty data set is not going to convince an atheist.

  5. Guess what? She thinks we’re not immune to the power of prayer, and suggests that a good Catholic response to an atheist is “doing nothing but praying for him”.

    Hey, maybe she really is an atheist mole! I can think of no better advice to give the religious than that they should shut up, crawl into a closet, and beg and plead their magic man in the sky and all of his angels and all of his saints to persuade us of the power of faith. She’s completely wrong — prayers will do nothing at all — but I totally approve of her proposal to send all the god-praisers off on a futile snipe hunt.