An Atheist Converts to Catholicism – Why? The Moral Argument

Leah Libresco, a blogger for the Patheos Atheist Portal, has written her last post for that site. She now writes under the Patheos Catholic Channel. What changed her mind and ultimately her decision for Christianity? She could no longer evade the problem of morality. Here’s how she explains it:

Then, the night before Palm Sunday (I have excellent liturgical timing), I was up at my alma mater for an alumni debate.  I had another round of translating a lot of principles out of Catholic in order to use them in my speech, which prompted the now traditional heckling from my friends.  After the debate, I buttonholed a Christian friend for another argument.  During the discussion, he prodded me on where I thought moral law came from in my metaphysics.  I talked about morality as though it were some kind of Platonic form, remote from the plane that humans existed on.  He wanted to know where the connection was.

I could hypothesize how a Forms-material world link would work in the case of mathematics (a little long and off topic for this post, but pretty much the canonical idea of recognizing Two-ness as the quality that’s shared by two chairs and two houses, etc.  Once you get the natural numbers, the rest of mathematics is in your grasp).  But I didn’t have an analogue for how humans got bootstrap up to get even a partial understanding of objective moral law.

I’ve heard some explanations that try to bake morality into the natural world by reaching for evolutionary psychology.  They argue that moral dispositions are evolutionarily triumphant over selfishness, or they talk about group selection, or something else.  Usually, these proposed solutions radically misunderstand a) evolution b) moral philosophy or c) both.  I didn’t think the answer was there.  My friend pressed me to stop beating up on other people’s explanations and offer one of my own.

“I don’t know,” I said.  ”I’ve got bupkis.”

“Your best guess.”

“I haven’t got one.”

“You must have some idea.”

“I don’t know.  I’ve got nothing.  I guess Morality just loves me or something.”

“…”

“Ok, ok, yes, I heard what I just said.  Give me a second and let me decide if I believe it.”

It turns out I did.

I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant.  It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.  And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth.  I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since).  Then I suggested hugs and playing Mumford and Sons really, really loudly.

After I changed my mind, I decided to take a little time to make sure I really believed what I thought I believed, before telling my friends, family, and, now, all of you.  That left me with the question of what to do about my atheism blog.  My solution was to just not write anything I disagreed with.  Enough of my friends had accused me of writing in a crypto-Catholic style that I figured no one would notice if I were actually crypto-Catholic for a month and a half (i.e. everything from “Upon this ROC…” on) .  That means you already have a bit of a preview of what has and hasn’t changed.  I’m still confused about the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, I still need to do a lot of work to accept gifts graciously, and I still love steam engines.

I find this all the more interesting because the Question of the Week for William Lane Craig this week was on whether the moral argument could actually be used as an argument for the existence of God or if it somehow begged the question. I think this shows how well it can actually work. Readers will recall this same moral argument was particularly persuasive in the conversion of C.S. Lewis. I welcome Leah to the faith of believers and hope she fully enjoys her new found faith tradition.

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2 thoughts on “An Atheist Converts to Catholicism – Why? The Moral Argument

  1. Pingback: Mere Christianity | My Bible Study So Far… | Josh Mosey | Writer

  2. Pingback: Former Atheist Blogger Leah Libresco is Received into the Catholic Church « Baker Book House Church Connection

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