Pharyngula

I’m getting a clearer picture of Jennifer Fulwiler. She’s very much a Catholic, she thinks she’s an expert on atheists, and she likes things in fives. First it was five misconceptions atheists have about Catholics, and now she’s written five Catholic teachings that make sense to atheists. As if she’d know. She claims to have been an atheist once, but her list of stuff that makes sense indicates that she was an awfully Catholic atheist.

  1. Purgatory. Why? “it made sense to me because it explained how heaven can be a place of perfect love, and God can still be merciful to people who had some work to do in that department when they died.” Does she even realize that including speculation about the nature of God and heaven, especially speculation that ignores the monstrous tyranny described in the Bible, means it automatically makes no sense at all to an atheist?

  2. The Communion of Saints. Why? “I didn’t struggle with this doctrine at all—it struck me as an articulation of a spiritual truth known to the human heart from time immemorial.” The communion of saints is the idea that all Christians have a mystical bond with each other, both alive and dead. Magic ESP restricted to people who believe in the right god (the damned don’t get it) is not exactly a truth. What atheist would hear that and think that was perfectly reasonable?

  3. Veneration of Mary Why? when I heard that Catholics place a huge emphasis on the Mother of God, my reaction was basically to shrug and say, “Yeah. Of course.” She even acknowledges that atheists with a Protestant upbringing might find the Mary worship weird, but then blunders on to simply say it’s obvious that we ought to worship the human being who gave birth to all-powerful cosmic ruler of the universe. Errm, we don’t believe in gods, period; the fanciful story that a Palestinian virgin squirted him out of her vagina two thousand years ago in a stable doesn’t strike us as somehow intuitive or even possible.

  4. Salvation for Non-Catholics and Non-Christians Why? “It struck me as fair and consistent” that you wouldn’t get damned if you never heard of Jesus. This is the idea that if you’re a good person, but you’ve never heard of Christianity, you won’t go to hell. Of course, if you have heard of the gospel because some caterwauling missionary or proselytizer bellows at you, and you reject it because the whole shebang makes no sense at all, you will go to hell. This does not strike me as fair, or even sensible.

  5. Apostolic Authority Why? “this one God-guided Church has final authority on matters of doctrine”. She complains that all those other churches had people struggling to interpret and understand the Bible, and all coming up with different explanations. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, tells you to sit down, shut up, don’t question, here’s the one correct answer…therefore, this should be more appealing to an atheist?

Can you imagine what would happen if some well-meaning, kindly, thoughtful Catholic read Jennifer Fulwiler’s post about what would represent common ground with atheists, and then came to me with charitable intent to discuss our shared ideals? The poor thing…it’d be like they were walking into a woodchipper, thinking they were going to get a cup of tea and a cookie.