[SOC] Facebook Withdrawal, The End of Debating, The Essential Miracle, Pascal's Wager Reconsidered, the Living Dead

I am having Facebook withdrawal right now. It has surprised me how much that site affected my life and thought patterns. I couldn't read anything without thinking about sharing it. I spent my day thinking up witty status updates. Now, those things cross my mind, but I remember that I quit using Facebook. It is annoying, but I am getting used to it.

The upside to quitting Facebook is that I have so much more time now. My wife doesn't see my backside in front of a monitor anymore reposting Grumpy Cat pictures. I've also been getting way more reading done. Plus, I think the C-blog will find new life as I actually spend time writing blog posts once again. It feels really good. I also feel my IQ slipping up a notch. I have to thank Leo Babauta for the kick in the pants.

I write a lot about simplicity here. The irony is that becoming Catholic has actually made this more important in my life, but it also brings balance. I started embracing a minimalist lifestyle a couple of years ago after being a bit stressed trying to manage my life. I started reading Zen Habits and The Power of Less and implemented some of the changes. The only area I didn't simplify was my online activities. Nuking Facebook was the first thing I have ever done in this regard, and it has paid immediate dividends. So, now, I want to simplify more stuff in my cyberspace life.

The problem with minimalism is that it seems done almost purely for the sake of being minimalist. This is where the Catholic perspective shatters that notion. Monastic life is all about simplicity. People who take a priestly or religious vocation pare down radically. The material aspect of their lives is reduced to the bare essentials. This doesn't mean sleeping on cardboard with a trashbag for a blanket like a homeless person. But it does mean not owning a Cadillac Escalade like some prosperity gospel televangelist. The simplicity serves as spiritual mortification but also as a means of freeing up time and resources. Those same lessons can apply to the laity as well.

My wife produced an epiphany in me as well the other day. She said that being Catholic settled a lot of things for her. She doesn't spend endless hours on Facebook debating atheists or trying to learn all the finer points of Austrian economics. These are things I do, but the epiphany came to me as I realized that much of my time was spent trying to think correctly about issues. The purpose of all my readings and debate were spent trying to refine my worldview. The irony was that I was piecing together a wheel that looked a lot like the Catholic wheel. For instance, I had come to the conclusion that an acquisitive lifestyle devoted to material possessions seemed like a genuine waste of life. That is Catholicism. I was coming to the conclusion that monopolies really do emerge in free markets and end up exploiting the workers in a way that diminished their lives. Once again, that comes from the Distributists who are Catholic.

The Catholic Church is important even for people of a secular bent because 2000 years of history and tradition has produced a body of thinking that has stood the test of time. In the areas of ethics, politics, economics, and philosophy, Catholics have a lot to say, and they are right. The ultimate area where the Church has absolute authority is the area of morality and ethics. Once you know right from wrong, everything else flows from that.

The other aspect of this has to do with the utter futility of debates. I am a fierce debater despite my unconventional tactics. Most of those tactics are now verboten since becoming Catholic because they are simply wrong. But my recent debates with atheists and Protestants shows to me that their unbelief is not sincere. Just as people can be insincere in their beliefs, people can also be insincere in their disbelief. For instance, I was a sincere atheist because I had come to distrust my own thinking on things following my friend's suicide. If he could be deluded, can't I also be just as deluded? So, my atheism was primarily a suspension of belief. It isn't that I didn't want to believe. I just came to the conclusion that the things I believed in were in error. I was right. I had embraced a destructive heresy. Subsequent heretics from various Protestant traditions from modernism to fundamentalism tried to sway me down some other wrong path. Then, I found the right path, and I responded to that.

I am naive because I think people are just like me. I think the reason they don't believe is because they simply don't know any better. I realize now that they don't want to know any better. They will lie to themselves in an effort to not see the truth. I don't know why, but I don't have that same resistance. I always listen to people I disagree with which is probably a saving grace because this is why I am on this Catholic path now. I listen. I hear what people say, and I consider what they have said. I may end up rejecting it, but I always hear it out.

I am at the point now where I don't really care to debate these things anymore. Seeing my Calvinist friend look me square in the eye with his jaw clenched and saying, "I will never be a Roman Catholic. Never." has made me throw in the towel on those things. I have made statements like that in the past with the most notable one being that I would never marry. But I don't think I ever said anything with such force, ferocity, or conviction as my Calvinist friend did regarding the Vicar of Christ. I was under no illusion that he would embrace what I had to say, but I figured he would be intrigued but doubtful as I was at the beginning. But what I figured would be an academic thing between believers was really not that at all. It was a personal thing between two people, and I was not one of those two people. It is up to each person what they will do with Christ and His church. I feel like a mailman delivering letters.

My Facebook melee with the atheists has primarily served to sever once and for all my connection to the freethought community. I am the Judas Iscariot of atheists. I have turned my back on those people, and I have betrayed them utterly. And it feels good to have done this. I didn't see it at the time, but my turn from atheism demanded some sort of public statement and a repudiation of my atheism. The irony is that it was highly contentious for a brief period, and that storm faded as quickly as it had begun. I was back to posting cat pictures when I happened upon the advice from Leo Babauta suggesting that I quit Facebook. It pricked my conscience, and I am learning these days to always follow my conscience. Debating atheists is about as valuable as posting pictures of Grumpy Cat.

I think the reason we do apologetics is to affirm ourselves more than to reach other people. It lets us know that we are not deluded, and that our faith is real. One of the Facebook atheists asked me if I had any proof for my faith, and I told him I did. It was the Resurrection of Christ. I could go on and on about various other miracles performed by saints in modern times, but the reality is that many miracles turn out to be hype and garbage. This would be the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. But St. Paul is clear that the Resurrection is the central miracle of Christianity:
. . .if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. --1 Corinthians 15:14-19 NAS
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Christian faith is null and void. It is a waste of time and a damnable lie. Naturally, this begs the question. How do we know it happened? We only have the words of those witnesses. And how do we know they did not lie? They were all imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and martyred for this faith and not a single one of them ever recanted. Trust me, if one of them had recanted, that would have ended Christianity then and there.

The recent disgrace of Lance Armstrong has only served to strengthen in me the belief that no conspiracy can last. Even Lance himself is considering coming clean. It boggles the mind to think you could get together 12 liars and countless others to stick to such a conspiracy and suffer so much for it. Lance's friends sold him out, and Lance was still alive. Or, they could have simply reduced Jesus to a martyred prophet and kept on with their new faith. But they testified to a lie they knew to be a lie. This is just stupid. It really happened. It takes more effort to not believe it than to believe it.

I have come across things in the Bible and in life that have troubled me. I did not understand it, and it caused me to doubt. But then, I would find out later that my doubt was mistaken. I didn't have all the information, or I was seeing it completely wrong. This has happened to me so many times that I simply resort to a patient dismissal now. What I don't understand now I will understand later. My faith has reached the turning point.

In the story of Abraham, Abraham at the beginning had a weak faith. He found it hard to believe that God would give him and Sarah a son. He disbelieved it so much that he hooked up with Hagar, Sarah's handmaid and knocked her up with Ishmael. But later on, the couple would have Isaac, and God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. By this point, Abraham didn't question it anymore. He had the knife ready to do the deed when his hand was stayed. He believed. He really believed.

I feel like that now. I have been through so much in my life that I simply know these things to be true. I lost my faith, and it was restored to me in the most amazing way. Everything I had lost was restored to me and better than it was before. I turned my back on God, but He did not turn His back on me. I didn't know but now I do.

Most people don't want to debate because they feel like their faith may be crushed by some sophisticated person slick with words and twisted logic. I am not one of those people. I know them all. I don't want to debate anymore because I see it as a waste of time. The only thing I have ever done in these debates is establish that you have no good reason not to believe. But this has never created faith in anyone. I remember telling people that I thought Lance Armstrong was a doper, and it amazed me how they would delude themselves to believe otherwise. People want heroes that badly. I face similar stupidity when atheists claim that I was never really an atheist. It only goes to show how unreasonable the Church of Reason really is.

The other side of this issue is what I call "Pascal's Wager Reconsidered." I never really liked Pascal's Wager argument because it reduced faith to a mere bet that you couldn't lose. As atheists point out, you could still lose it if the Muslims are right, and Allah punishes Christians for believing in the divinity of Christ. But in my reconsideration of the wager, I see it not as nothing to lose for believing but as nothing to gain by not believing. Atheism does not make for a happier life. As Camus put it, "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy." I can honestly say that a life without God really isn't worth living. If reality is reduced to sense experience, happiness is merely hedonism since it is only a delight in sense experience that makes any difference. Yet, no hedonistic pleasure in this world compares to what I feel at Mass or being at home with my wife. Those two things have brought me more happiness than anything else in my life. I have God to thank.

I think this is what St. Paul was getting at. Either Christ rose from the dead, or life is not worth living. Those are the two fundamental paths you can choose in life. You can choose life, or you can choose death. As someone who was dead, I can tell you it was not pleasant. Most of my effort in life was spent trying to distract myself from the nihilistic gloom. I had created a functional hedonism. This is all that atheism can offer you. You can have a few laughs, a few beers, and maybe gonorrhea. But this is to live as the living dead. Being a Christian means missing out on a life I didn't like living anyway.

Imagine you are watching Trash TV at home when a storm knocks out the power. In the darkness, you light a candle and find a book you had forgotten you had. You begin reading that book, and it is the best book you ever read. Even when the power comes back on, you forsake the TV to finish that book. That is my life. I lost something that was worthless and gained something that was worthwhile. Now, people think I am an idiot for missing the garbage on the TV. And I am realizing that no one is ever going to read the book I found. And so it goes. . .