Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-02-22 - Simon O'Dowd

Author Recorded Friday February 22nd, 2019

There are 47 episodes in the Versus:Atheist series.

Recorded February 9th, 2019

Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-02-09 - Greg

Recorded September 11th, 2016

Catholic vs. Atheist - 2016-09-11 - Renaud

I met Simon on my YouTube channel. He was raised in a vaguely Christian culture and soon became a Hard-Atheist. But today Simon spends a lot of time thinking and talking about religion and describes himself as a Weak-Atheist. I enjoyed our friendly chat. • Support the CVS Podcast: • Be a guest on a livestream:

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These YouTube transcripts are generated automatically and are therefore unformatted and replete with errors.
hi my name is Simon O'Dowd and you're listening to Catholic versus atheist so just tell us a little bit about yourself if you would please who you are what you believe and how you came to believe what you believe sure so I was born in New South Wales which is one of the more populated states in Australia into I guess a vaguely religious family if that makes sense there were you know christenings and just a general belief in God the Christian God but not not really you know we were going to church every weekend it wasn't really discussed it was kind of one of those assumed things as as I can turn my teenage years I started I guess asking asking questions about how do we how do we know these things that everyone seems to know and the more I looked into it the more it seemed to be based on faith rather than the concrete evidence and the kind of looked into that looked into the arguments for both sides and just initially entered a position where I was I guess what you'd call it strong atheists where it was like there's definitely no God and I know all of this because I do and then as I kind of looked more into it I realized that that's not a very honest position to hold either and now I kind of settle on what is often referred to as weak atheism or no one knows the actual answer so the more honest position is to say I don't know when I'm not convinced rather than just believe it outright what would you say was one of the earliest memories you can remember that has anything to do with religion there's not there's not really much of a religious presence in my family it was something where they were christened some members of my family were circumcised it's it's kind of it's a bit all over the place if I'm honest why and how did you discover my little podcast because it's not very big repop euler and do you have an interest in religion generally or in Christianity in particular I guess there's two kinds of atheists in the world there's the ones who could not give less of a care about religion I'm the other kind I am obsessed with it I talk about it with everyone who I can I have a very good friend who is a Catholic and she and I discuss it every single time I can pin her down and get her to talk to me about it so I my my YouTube algorithm is just religious video it's all since I'm one of the earliest conversations that we had which was in the comment section of one of your videos was the video that you did with our Unruh and that was the first thing that I noticed because I was so used to people not being able to actually have a conversation with Aaron so just searching I guess through videos for for our and yeah yours popped up and I thought omits and you haven't actually watched this one which is rare because I've watched way too many of them and that's what introduced me to your channel and got you and I talked yeah before we get into sort of the nuts and bolts of religion and atheism and all that I wanted to ask you about this Catholic friend of yours how long have you known her how did you meet her and when did your love of philosophy and religion start burgeoning and what was her reaction to that yeah so we we actually worked together we started working to they're about four and a half years ago but we didn't start really discussing the nuts and bolts of religion and philosophy until probably about two years ago and then we are actually in the same team once again it's an interstate thing for my company so we're interacting a lot more I guess on a regular basis and and because I've gone even further down the rabbit hole of the YouTube algorithm of atheist videos I have so much more that I just want to get the perspective of all of a believer because the thing that worries me I think the most is being stuck in my own echo chamber and only hearing the opinions of people who were great with me well you could start your own podcaster your own YouTube channel that would be a good way to get different voices you may have inspired me David yeah brilliant I think I think the first thing that I'd love to get more of an understanding of is what is the difference in the faith applied by Catholic versus the faith applied by a Protestant verse say the faith of a Hindu there's a three-tier system in my categorization of all world views including atheism basically you have a three-step hierarchy leading up to the Catholic Church the first step that an atheist would need to take and those that I categorize with the atheists which includes Manas solipsists and I can explain all these things if you want to get more detail about it but basically solo system familiar with monist is the term notes monism just says everything that is is God on the one hand you have atheists that are natural ists and there are pantheists in the sense of sort of like the way that Spinoza maybe saw pantheism and then on the other extreme you've got the more spiritual end where you've got Buddhists who believe that the only reality is the one mind of God and that everything here below is illusion the separation is illusion the other nests of the so-called other is illusion the one reality is the one mind so this along with atheism of all different varieties I clump them all together and that's sort of like my ground floor if you will to get to the first step the first level is called monotheism and this is a distinct step in the right direction where we acknowledge that God is separate from creation and there's one God and that could be logically known with certainty and then the second step would be into Christianity and this requires a historical analysis of Jesus Christ who was he and then the final step is based on Authority and that brings you to Catholicism so basically you've got monism then you've got monotheism then you got Christianity and the final step is into Roman Catholicism I understand ions in the scale to an extent I'm not seeing why someone would make the jump I guess from atheism you know I don't know how to explain psychologically how I went from Protestant Christian as a child to sort of a nice guy agnostic atheist and then Mike atheism became more and more intense until the point where I was a Satanist explicitly calling myself a Satanist and then I suddenly converted to Roman Catholicism so how do you explain that psychologically I don't know you you had a journey to the most extreme being sightless do you have a definition of Satanist well you need to understand that there are two major branches of Satanism one is theistic and the other is atheistic and I was very firmly in the atheistic Satanist camp and the ostensible purpose of labeling yourself an atheistic Satanist is to mock and ridicule all religion but Christianity in particular it's a theatrical movement it's not to be taken seriously and it is putting reason rationality first it's basically rationalism and if it sounds spooky and scary and intimidating to the old ladies at the church that your mum attends so much the better right but that's not really the point the point is to embrace the extreme imagery of Satan knowing as an atheist that Satan does not exist knowing obviously as an atheist that God does not exist so it's all theatrical it's all a show and it's all a mockery of the irrational because what is God to the Satanist is reason and not only reason in an abstract way but one's own reason so there's sort of an existential component to a theistic satanism where I am is the ultimate reality so it comes back to that solipsistic overlap that I talked about at the beginning so is is it in your understanding that lateness could not be charitable altruistic because there's an element of self-obsession there or is it just that they are interacting with the reality in the way that they perceive that reality everyone has their character everyone has their personality when I was in atheistic Satanist I was still more moral than some people that call themselves Christian and now that I'm Catholic there are still a theistic Satanists that are more moral than I am but people are people this is the way that I'm coming to understand that there's only really one distinctive important and essential difference and that is our orientation toward God as the highest good or toward self as the highest good but behavior istic alee it's often very very hard to sort people out into those two categories you would need to look into the heart and that's why it says in the Bible we should not judge the heart because only god can judge with the heart and it's easy to do the right things for the wrong reasons it's easy to do the selfish thing and have it look altruistic it's hard to see the motives really and the inner workings of the heart so all that to say I think we're all moral beings I don't feel morally superior to any human on the planet and I just thank God that I have chosen to orient myself toward him with his hope is is that been an assumption the motivation for a non-believer is selfish no I this is a concrete experience real existential set of data that I'm drawing on I was for 25 years an atheist and the way that I justified the limits to my depravity to my self-indulgence the way that I justify that to myself because there was part of me asking why don't you go further because you know I was a very timid sinner even as a Satanist so I would ask myself in the intimacy of a dark night of laying awake and just pondering reality I would ask myself why not push further and I did push further as a Satanist you know I was doing things then that I wouldn't do now but why was I so timid in terms of grabbing and getting because that really is one of the tenets of Satanism is to be bold in that way and I was not very bold in that way so I guess I was not a very good Satanist but then again I'm not a very good Catholic so maybe I'm just mediocre and whatever I do you you've you've obviously done a fair amount of reflecting on your own experience I think I can hear that a lot in every single thing that you say comparing your experience as a Satanist and there's an atheist versus being a Catholic so a lot of time we're hearing about your experience like this I think you've also highlighted a really interesting point there what you said that you're you're not a typical Catholic obviously you're not a typical Catholic is that a fair statement yeah that's very good so you want a typical Catholic you want a typical site nurse and then when I asked you about the motivations of non-believers you're telling me about your experience is there a chance that your experience as a Satanist or an atheist could that not be different for other people well yeah you need to understand that there is a subjective component to everything that we finite creatures experience there is going to be that subjective component but you should also keep in mind that there is a truly eternal and absolute objective morality by which we judge and by which we will be judged so this is one of my most deadly attacks on the atheist when they start to judge me morally I I just I love it because that implies one of two things either that their moral judgments are eternal absolute and objective in which case welcome to monotheism because that's my god that standard by which you're judging me or they're not in which case I could just laugh off your judgement as purely temporary relativistic and subjective so you brought in this idea that maybe everything is colored by my subjective experience well is everything up for grabs is everything relativistic is everything merely subjective and temporary I think when we're talking about things like truths objectively verifiable it's probably a key a key factor now obviously that doesn't mean that's always going to be 100 percent correct because as you said we're with finite fallible beings we can we can make mistakes and I think that's why the methodological naturalism and the scientific method have come about is part of that is the acceptance well we're going to make mistakes fairly often so having a system in place to be able to prove yourself or have others and to motivate others to prove you wrong that seems to be the most effective way of getting to the absolute truth if the absolute truth is even reachable which if in all likelihood not where when we appeal to an external eternal truth that appeal on that assumption that that being exists is either going to be faith-based or fallaciously based or am I missing a key stepping sign in the middle yeah yeah you're missing out on the philosophical proofs of the existence of God that are well established and airtight and it is actually a Catholic dogma that we can know with certainty by the natural light of reason without recourse to divine revelation that God exists and we can know many of his attributes that God is not temporal that God is not spatial that he's absolutely infinite in every perfection that he's absolutely simple he's not composed of parts these are airtight philosophical arguments I recommend you look into them if you don't know them and if you have any questions about my limited understanding I'll be glad to help you as best I can yeah if you are able to give me a crash course we might have to rename this to Catholic those Catholic if you do a good job is that missing part of the proofs of God the philosophical proofs of God and and how we can be confident that that translates into an actual proof rather than just well that concept looks good on paper yeah one of my favorite proofs of God's existence is that when I say that God is God and that I'm not God I know that I'm not wrong because if I'm wrong when I say that I'm not God then I am God and God could not be wrong therefore God is God so this is one of my favorite proofs of God's existence it's a solipsistic proof you need to have experienced Salt's ism to get that most typical atheist that I meet say well obviously you're not God but neither is God and they just haven't seen what I've seen in terms of the sort of existential encounter with being itself you can't essentially be wrong if you are good but is that not defining a God into existence is that it's not not defining the traits of something that isn't demonstrated to have that trait no well the thing is that being is not like other attributes like when we say an apple is juicy or it's red and it has being being is it in a different category altogether and this is why I asked you if you're comfortable admitting that everything in this natural world is contingent because that is the definition of contingency is that our essence is not existence so this microphone that I'm speaking into it exists you know given a certain set of assumptions it exists and that fact the fact that exists means that it is possible for it to exist it's a necessary truth that it is possible for it to exist even though it's continuing it's possible for it to exist so we have this necessary truth that we can build on and then we have this idea of being itself which is self-evident and it's something that we bump up against that we need an explanation for and because everything in this world might not have been everything that we encounter here is composed of parts everything here that we encounter here is composed also of being and of essence so this composition of essence and existence logically and necessarily philosophically leads every time to the conclusion that there is this non competent perfectly simple being whose essence is existence and that's what everyone calls God you understand why why you have become convinced by this I think there is still a gap in the middle I thought I will agree with you in as much as everything I'll summarize it in in non philosophical terms and and and please correct me for everything that is important I miss out everything that exists does exist and therefore everything that exists is possible to exist I'm not sure how we got to the eternal creator of everything though that bit always sounds like a leap for me yeah the analogy that I like to use lately this is something I've been toying with as a way to sort of communicate poetically to people what I'm talking about with this existential experiential confrontation with being in and of itself is death when some people you ask them about death are you going to die they say yes of course I am and they've thought about it and so on and so forth but when their plane goes down into the ocean and 12 days later they get it rescued and by some miracle they're one of the three people that survived and then if you ask them are you going to die they have a qualitatively different perspective on death on life and if they've had a spiritual experience through that near-death experience then they will probably be religious they will probably have a lot of beliefs that you find flaky and or to put it nicely mysterious and it's because of an encounter it's an it's because of a very real encounter and what I always say to anyone that I'm speaking to that's a non-believer is that I might just be insane I might just be crazy it might just be the bad combination of like my diet and genetics that makes me have this wacky and weird belief system I'm fully onboard with that possibility but I believe it you know so what I'm saying is this might just be a really wacky trip that I'm on but it is the trip that I'm on you understand the difference right yeah absolutely I think the camp that I belong in I have this tendency to not believe you when you say that you've had an experience so I will say that I am happy to accept that you did in the same way I'm happy to accept when a Muslim does or Hindu does where I think the sticking point is is where that gets attributed to and I think you made a really your your analogy of the plane crash was brilliant because they potentially did have what they would classify as a spiritual is experience but I think mysterious might actually be a better label because it's an experience that I'm assuming there isn't a naturalistic explanation for but does that mean the supernatural explanation is necessary without the supernatural there cannot be free will and without free will there cannot be morality and without free will it's also impossible to have reason or science or justice or truth or life or beauty or anything else there's a possible future to find Supernatural for me not natural the natural world is matter energy configurations distributed throughout space-time now science natural science deals with those configurations and it makes predictions and the reason that natural science works is because we live in an orderly universe and there is cause and effect there are principles that are taken as axiomatic in all the natural sciences for example the principle of sufficient reason tells us that when there's a little dip in our curve of our perfect data in the laboratory we don't just say there's no reason for that we always say what is the reason for that find the reason for the relationship between cause and effect basically yeah causality is a principle it's a basic principle without it there's no science and the principle of sufficient reason and the principle of proportionate causality that means that you can't give what you don't have and that everything we see in the effect was in the cause so what resides in the effect resides in the cause this is that vertical component of causality that I'm exploring now with blessed John Duns Scotus of the 13th century he's known as the subtle of the church because his thinking is very subtle so I'm gonna take probably a year to digest everything I took me eight years to tackle Anselm's ontological argument i still don't completely understand it but it was very critical in my conversion to God are you familiar with Anselm's ontological argument I've heard a couple of the ontological arguments the concept of God that we can imagine he must be the greatest possible being that we can conceive of don't put the label God on it yet it's just that than which nothing greater can be conceived so it's sort of like the greater than sign just in abstraction greater than it's always greater than so if we limit that then we've betrayed the definition so if we cannot limit it to our minds then we allow it to have a fuller reality and therefore we know with certainty that it exists now this proof is a riddle of sorts it has been very hotly contested my hunch is that it's true and that it's airtight but I can't prove it and many many brighter Minds have tried and failed but that's not really my primary point my primary point here is that by chewing on that it was very helpful in my conversion to God even though I didn't know that I was seeking conversion to God I was obviously a militant anti-catholic atheist but I found philosophy interesting I did chew on it and it did kind of bother me in a way that I couldn't easily dismiss it so it was sort of like a seed that was planted in my mind and I think it's the same with the conversion of a lot of atheists if you do study ideas and philosophy and religion there are seeds being planted I don't know if you see that as a warning that would sort of put you off of studying philosophy no it's not that I'm undeterred by that I think with with the with the ontological argument that we know that it still does sound like defining a God into existence this I mean we're essentially saying have a really great imagination and therefore that thing that we've imagined at the most that we possibly can probably exists well I mean you you still have to demonstrate that wouldn't you if everything is natural and if there is a sufficient reason for everything with this principle of sufficient reason and if causality the principle of causality and proportionate causality if these principles hold true and if of course the underlying principles of identity in our contradiction and the excluded middle if all these fundamental laws of thought are true and we do take them for granted in doing science and if there is only the natural if every cause it's natural and every effect is natural then hard determinism is necessarily the case and there is no way for anything to be other than what it is it just is what it is and so there is no freedom whatsoever there's only the illusion of freedom have we determined that free will is real no but are you willing to deny that you have free well I would say that earlier in my life I would have said absolutely yes there is free will but my reasoning for it would have been that it's self-evident that well obviously look at it but yeah self evidence is is just the ultimate subjective experience it's not shouldn't be convincing for anyone else and if it's not convincing for anyone else in my opinion it shouldn't be convincing few either so I would say that at the moment I am I am not convinced that we have free will and I have heard and seen arguments and and experiments and Malak that may highlight that free will is an illusion but just from my perspective year I'm not convinced that free will is actually a thing that exists yeah the the F word came up recently and face do you ever do you have a definition for faith yeah its belief without proof okay belief without evidence cool no no no no I didn't say belief without evidence I never said that I'm sorry I must mr. Chisholm I know I said belief without proof so for example I do not have faith that God exists its demonstrable and all of the amount of theistic religions draw on these proofs especially Catholicism but also other forms of true Christianity and even back in the day Islam Islam has modified its relationship with philosophy unfortunately and so it's distance itself a little bit from reason it's more faith heavy yeah it's taken a fede Asetek turn meaning that the absolute transcendence of God has made them suspicious of reason and if you read the history of Western philosophy you'll see the character of Immanuel Kant he set the stage for that insurmountable gulf between what actually is objectively and what we are able to know subjectively and it's called transcendentalism this worldview that he spawned and Islam and a lot of branches of Protestantism now fall into what I call fides ISM meaning that we have to have faith we can't trust reason Martin Luther himself said that reason is a horror and that's a bit ironic because he broke his vows of celibacy and chastity and was whoring it up himself so I don't know if that was a compliment or an insult to call reason to horror but anyway the basic idea is that you can use reason but some of the so-called monotheistic religions have drifted away from their trust in reason but the Catholic Church for one has always maintained that faith and reason are completely compatible there's no reason to distrust reason on the contrary God Himself is reason so there's no reason to be afraid of reason that was a very interesting last sentence I and maybe maybe it's because I'm not familiar with the the proofs of God as you're familiar and maybe this is something that we can connect with and after after I've I forget on your level of understanding we can have this conversation check out st. Thomas Aquinas second way he has five ways to prove the existence of God check out the second way it's the proof from efficient causality check that out and I've been obsessed with the temporal series of causality I can walk you through that one but I'm just so bored of saying it over and over and over again but if you want I'll walk you through it quickly let's do it quick if it's one that you're familiar with yeah it's one I'm familiar with because it's one that I came up with the basic idea is entropy the laws of thermodynamics and I studied physics at university so the laws of thermodynamics are among the most fundamental and most well accepted universally well accepted laws in physics okay and the first law states that there is a fixed amount of energy in the universe and by the universe it means the matter energy configurations distributed throughout all of space-time that includes every model it doesn't matter if it's bouncing universes with string theory or what your model is doesn't really matter okay multiverse is whatever the total thing I call it the universe some people like to call it the cosmos but anyway the first law states that there is a set fixed amount of total energy energy is not created and energy is not destroyed the second law is that the amount of usable useful energy that can be converted into work is constantly declining it's it's never increasing on average even though locally we can increase it like for example by charging a battery but it's always at the cost of that global amount of useful energy and so what this means is that there is a heat death of the universe which is inevitable it's coming and it has not yet arrived therefore there's a finite amount of time behind us and therefore there is a supernatural first cause the definition of supernatural being that which exists outside of our space-time you can if you're comfortable with that you can use that I mean I don't know if that's an exhaustive definition not natural is more exhaustive than being upside of space-time but I think we can use that so if something is occurring outside of our space on that if I accept that I still don't see that as a god there are many logical implications for the fact that everything in nature came from this non natural atemporal non-spatial being okay when did we just when did we discover it to being well I'm using the word being in its most broad sense an existent thing yeah okay brilliant so this this existent thing outside of our space-time may of cause our universe / cosmos as we know it no it's not that it may have it must have logically if the universe had a beginning no if it had no beginning that means infinite time behind us and we know there's not impotent of time behind us because the heat death which is inevitable has not yet arrived well I - ending of time and this could be way outside of my field time exists as at the creation of our universe so so that's why concepts like before the Big Bang don't really apply so so there could be there could be what we would refer to as a finite time but then prior to that event time wasn't really a concepts for the the idea kind of falls on its head yeah this is called an antecedent it's logically prior it's not prior in time because it can't be prior in time time began with the creation as you said I like your choice of word there by the way but the reason that we accept the existence of God is because we have no choice it's not like cavemen we're sitting around the campfire saying what's a really stupid idea we can make up and everyone will give us 10% of their income you know no people were thinking about the contingency of the natural world and where it must have come from because it cannot have come from itself and you asked why there must be beginning it's because like I said there is a time limit to how long it takes for the heat death to come because of entropy one of the one of the assumptions that we're making is that it must be a finite time because we exist in a finite time but you're referring to a period where the time was not existent let alone finite there's only a certain amount of energy in the universe and a certain percentage of that is useful energy that can be converted into work and the amount of useful energy is constantly declining until there's no more useful energy right so if you that you thought there was no first cause or that there was possibly a first cause but that first cause was natural meaning spatio-temporal then I would say both of those hypotheses are impossible why because no first cause means infinite time behind us and a natural first cause means infinite time behind us but infinite time behind us would mean that the heat death would have arrived it has not arrived therefore there is a supernatural or non natural first cause this isn't the heat death dependent upon the laws of thermodynamics or posited by I should say the laws of thermodynamics yeah which we observed today correct but those are laws that describe our current universe not a state prior but remember when I said that I want you to acknowledge that the laws of entropy apply to every model of every universe well it only applies to one that has time and it surely because that the nature the nature of M true P is temporal isn't it yeah all of the non temporal stuff does not take any time so that does not inhibit my approaching heat death in the slightest it doesn't delay the heat death in the slightest the heat death is coming because of entropy we know that and if you want to jam a whole bunch of a temporal universes in here you haven't bought yourself even one millisecond the heat death is coming that's a prediction likely an accurate one made based on the laws of thermodynamics which only apply to the current state of our universe right but non temporal universes do not buy you any time do you understand oh I'm comfortable I'm comfortable with the the inevitable heat death of of the universe that's that's that's ok I'm fine with that all I'm saying is from from my perspective even if I consider that there is a first cause outside of space-time there's still a little bit of work to to make him the man in the clouds with the white beard I'm not suggesting that you think that looks like that yeah I appreciate that but at the end of my interviews I do ask my guest to give a little closing thought just a little message of hope so just to wrap up the show what do you think you might be able to say to anyone that's out there listening now I'd say that irrespective of what your belief is in a God we can all agree that this is a planet that we're sharing together and there's no reason to have disagreements turn into hostility our conversation today was a highlight that people with differing worldviews can have a civil and friendly conversation about these kinds of things with no ill-will and ideally that would spread through the comment section of every social media and face-to-face interactions