Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-02-16 - Matthew Baker

Author Recorded Saturday February 16th, 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

When Matthew first reached out to me via email a few months ago he described himself as a Christian Agnostic Atheist, meaning someone who is culturally Christian and a weak or Agnostic Atheist. We mainly talked about free will and the first cause argument. • Support the CVS Podcast: • Be a guest on a livestream:

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hi my name is Matthew Baker and you're listening to Catholic versus atheist so if you would just tell us a little bit about yourself who you are what you believe and why you believe what you believe my name is Mathew Baker and some from Washington DC I was raised as a evangelical more in the Pentecostal or charismatic vein of that tradition and I started there and I ended up with Orthodox Christianity before I finally threw the towel in and lost my faith and been I'm agnostic atheists for the last five or seven years since that's in a nutshell my story can you take us back to your childhood and just sort of paint a picture of religion in the home just some of your earliest memories and then sort of the general atmosphere up until the age of puberty and that sort of thing just paint a little picture for us if you would please sure so my family is extremely developed we were memorizing Bible verses at the age of three and four my mother is very kind and my father is more of a thinker and yeah we went to church Sunday Saturday Wednesday night like all the time and my family was also extremely involved in the church like my dad was an elder and my mom has always been in ministry we always went to really small churches or middle-sized too small oh this is before the mega church movement so I think a lot more churches were small back then this was in the late 70s early 80s and the churches that I went to were very dramatic and theatrical in that there was a lot of casting out of demons like exorcisms and of really good like rock-and-roll music like one of we had some of the members of striper um and one of the churches I went were leading worship so it was pretty great music well it was very emotional because that is the core of that sort of Christianity is it's all about battling the devil and your crying and screaming and you get very people get very very worked up and that's just part of the service not every Sunday but a lot of Sunday's can you sort of flesh out for me the transition into the Orthodox religion and what sort of intellectual hurdles and emotional hurdles did you have to overcome in order to sort of switch camps like that okay so like I had said my home denomination was more like Pentecostal or charismatic but that was not a good church for me because I don't know like I've always been more of an intellectual like brainy kind of guy so um I guess immediately after high school I started looking for something else so like I tried the Methodist Church but that actually wasn't that different but I ended up in a Calvinist Church which is a bit ironic because the whole reason that my mom's family is in the country is that the Calvinists and Catholics were killing us off the only way I ended up in a PC a presbyterian which is the conservative branch of Presbyterianism Church and I was attracted to that because it was very intellectual it at least at the time I thought it was very intellectual they had like um very strong dogmatic beliefs so I did that for a couple years but I kind of moved past that because I realized that you really have to kind of abuse the Bible to get that so I moved more towards like everything is a mystery like we can't know anything so that was kind of the appeal of orthodoxy and I think like G K Chesterton was someone who really pulled me in the that direction I know he's Catholic like Western Catholic but anyway so I became interested in orthodoxy so that it was the American Orthodox um anyway so I did that for a while and like I really was not cool with some of the things were going on at that church some of the doctrine and some of the messages from the pulpit and then I kind of just drifted along I didn't want to make a big splash or anything but like a combination of several things that happened in my life caused me to go ahead and come out as an atheist so let's talk a little bit about what separates your world view from my world view that's why I call my show Catholic verses because I'm most interested in what separates people because I don't want us to be separated I'm not one of these people that thinks that every form of diversity is good I think that in essentials we should have unity and then in non essentials we should strive for a natural and organic diversity and in all things we should have charity this is the message of Vatican 2 I don't you know anything about Vatican 2 but this is one of the central sort of messages so do you want to just sort of talk about some of the ideas the most central or interesting ideas that might be contentious between the two of us sure well I remember a couple things from the Orang raw interview and one of them was it seemed like you had this interesting idea about will versus belief the second thing I remember was um you seemed very interested in the utility of religion and it seemed to me like you were more interested in the utility of it then whether there was literally true and maybe that was just me miss reading it so yeah those are two things I remember from the Orang raw interview the more time I spend in Christianity the more comfortable I get and complacent I get and one of the most popular insults against me is that I'm smug but there is a genuine complacency that I'm settling into as I get comfortable in my Christianity because it is such a privileged position it's such an unassailable position I feel more and more that my version of apologetics is sort of devolving into interpretive dance where I just hold my hand up to my face I put my thumb on the tip of my nose and I start wiggling my fingers at you and it's more of a drunken ecstasy then a really intellectual project and I'm guessing you don't have a what Protestants would call a high view of Scripture yeah I do I do have a high view of Scripture it's inspired there is absolutely no error contained in any of the 73 books of Scripture and yeah I do revere Scripture but I'm very much an Augustinian in the sense that with August and I say that we don't need the Bible and I wouldn't I for one would not believe in the Bible where it not for the authority of the Catholic Church I tend to be a little bit extreme in my Catholicism in in as much as I put the Popolo of God Almighty the same way that if I lived in the time of Noah I would say that Noah is more important to me than God Almighty because there plenty of people that believed in God but they didn't believe in Noah so they didn't humble themselves and bow to no it's easy to bow to God Almighty it's not easy to bow to Noah it's easy to bow to God Almighty it's not easy to bow to Pope Francis especially if you're on the conservative side you can see for yourself that there are many many otherwise ostensibly Catholic people who are really really having a hard time humbling themselves before Noah or Saint Peter or Pope Francis for me it's all one in the same person no wife st. Peter and Pope Francis it's all the same so I think we need to be humble and we need to get into the arc and we need to submit to the person of Pope and to the office of Pope so you said something about 73 books instead of 66 how do you know which books are legit and which ones aren't on the authority of the church precisely because of the Canon precisely because without the authority of the church there is no official Canon right but which church right that's the thing it's the church that spoken of in Scripture there's the sacred deposit of faith which includes Scripture but which also includes tradition and so there has to be that living Magisterium that can guide the faithful guide the flock right but I guess the problem is that every church claims to be the one and only church and so you know and then the other thing is like it doesn't seem like Catholics have a binary approach to Scripture they have like oh the scriptures okay and the Scriptures better you know they have good books and less good books like the deutero canon you would see that as less useful than say like the four Gospels I'm not sure about that I don't know if that's accurate because there are some doctrines like the doctrine of purgatory for example draws very heavily on the Maccabees and there are different doctrines that rely more heavily on the dewdrop Canonical's but when it comes to finding the one true religion because obviously there can only be one the first step is to God the God of monotheism the God of classical theism and we can talk about polytheism we can talk about atheism but once you've accepted monotheism then it's not that complicated we've got Judaism Christianity and Islam and they all talk about Jesus Christ the person of Jesus Christ the historical figure of Jesus Christ who was he was he the promised Messiah of the Jews yes or no did he die and did he rise again like these are things we can look at with a historical eye we can look at the story what do the Jews say what do the Christians say and what do the Muslims say I think it's pretty clear that there is a historical record that shows that there was a promised Messiah whether you happen to believe in that prophecy or not is irrelevant to what I'm saying are you talking about Isaiah I'm talking about the whole Old Testament and in particular the prophets but think back to when you were a Christian what were those prophecies supposed to have been a boat were they about the coming Messiah it's to be about the coming of the Messiah it's just that now that I've actually you know spoken to some Jews about that and I've actually heard some analysis by biblical scholars it seems that the only people who believe that that's a prophecy about Jesus are Christians especially from the lists yeah it's beyond obvious that those who think that Jesus is the Messiah I think that Jesus is the Messiah and those who do not think that Jesus is the Messiah do not think that Jesus is Messiah right we need to understand why people like in the Old Testament talks about Jesus being called a manual but he's never called a manual in the New Testament you want like a literal name tag like with a big flashing arrow this is the Messiah or what do you want I mean have you looked at the Christian perspective on the prophecies well of course I was raised with them the problem is that as soon as you hear the other side you suddenly see how terrible your belief was for just accepting what the Christians say at face value historically when you look at Judaism do you not see a major break and a major change in the Crete for example the priesthood has been abolished completely well most you were atheist first of all yet so you don't see a major shift yeah major shift with the destruction of the temple yeah so what did the Jews say about the destruction of the temple it's not peripheral to their religion it's central to their religion the temple is still central to their religion right the temple and the Messiah they don't seem to see it that way the Jews I've spoken to you don't see a problem with not being able to do sacrifices or whatever in a temple there have all kinds of excuses just like Christians do right just do everybody has excuses for the problems in their book and the problems with their people yeah I'm not gonna deny that it requires faith to be a Jew or Christian or a Muslim but it my problem with atheism is you've got just as much faith but no God it's just like you've got all the bath water but you don't have the baby you know I mean and your beliefs each and every one of those beliefs is proof or an evidence for the existence of the god of classical theism the God of monotheism the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob if you would only examine your own faith your own beliefs as an atheist you would understand that it's irrational and it's self contradictory you would come in to monotheism and then you would be faced with the historical problem of who is Jesus Christ so while I have faith that you know there is a universe and I'm probably in it I'm at the mercy of my perception and I don't have a lot of faith in my perception you say that I have sense perceptions therefore I can trust my sense perceptions but it's those very sense perceptions that are in question and you're using them to validate your sense perceptions it's a vicious circle there's no way out you just have to take a leap of faith what I just said is I don't have a lot of faith I have some trusts based on you know repeatable results in my perceptions but I don't have complete faith in them yeah there is some base level assumption that and the assumption that I'm gonna make for this conversation is that I'm talking to you and that we're both at least marginally sane and so that that's not really circular that's just our starting point so let's talk about this uncaused first cause the supernatural first cause that is the god of monotheism but we do that you still haven't really answered my question about what do I have faith in well you've just told me you just acknowledge that you do have faith not faith it's a set of assumptions based on testable hypotheses no no no no there's absolutely no test that you could devise to validate your sense perceptions because your sense perceptions will necessarily be involved in each and every test that you could possibly devised to validate your sense perceptions there is absolutely nothing you can do to test them nothing that's like the definition of schizophrenia right if you're having a psychotic break and you don't really know what's real for all of us who are not schizophrenic I don't I just don't think that's a fair point that you're making that's like me saying to you the you suffer for mental illness because everyone knows that God is real and is good and you should worship Him right it's the same argument it's just a dismissive argument not everyone takes the leap of faith that you take so dismissively the leap of faith into the real world and the other I was a hard solipsistic or I became a Catholic I believed that I was the only being I am it's the name of God I am maybe it's because you're like a really smart guy and you have a vivid imagination but I wouldn't say that's like a normal thing for Humanity to fall into that's just you you've jumped into Catholicism but you still haven't given me a reason that Catholicism is better than orthodoxy like I said the leap of faith I took was that I'm not God that God is God so that's monotheism from there you look at history well who is Jesus Christ and then from there you look at Authority well where is the infallibility because God is infallible right so where where is the infallibility in religion what does infallibility mean to you it's a negative thing it's protection from airing on essential truths related to faith and morals that's why I am Catholic and not Orthodox okay so you're the Pope has never been wrong the Pope can be wrong as much as he likes but when he teaches doctrines of faith and morals in a way that is recognizably binding all Christians then he cannot air I mean I think that you probably know the history that I know and you're trying to kind of cover up for the church because when you when the Pope is calling for Crusades etc how can you get behind that I see nothing wrong with the Crusades personally so would you say that the Pope is the person who's closest or has the most access to Jesus Christ or God the Father no but there are Pope's who have been holy there are many canonized popes the office of Pope is infallible regardless of the holiness of the person of Pope it's the same thing with the with the sacraments I could go to a pedophile priest for the sacrament of reconciliation or confession and it's valid as long as the priest is doing what the church intends for him to do in the sacrament and there's matter and there's form as long as he uses the right matter in the right form and he intends to do what the church does then the sacrament works by virtue of the sacrament itself it doesn't depend on the holiness of the minister even if that minister is a despicable sinner would that priest go to heaven I hope so if he repents if he doesn't repent he's in danger of eternal damnation obviously you're saying that it's okay if corruption goes all the way to the top not about it's not okay it's tragic but it doesn't change who Jesus Christ is it doesn't change who God is and it doesn't change Jesus Christ and God or if their top office of their church is corrupt no it doesn't you ever the Bible where it talks about you'll know them by their fruits like it just seems like a complete contradiction of the scripture your view of the church is probably darker than mine I see the church as a glorious pristine baby amid the murky bathwater you probably just see it with church didn't try to kill your family and your church did try to kill my family my family's Protestant all the way back so I'm sure I have many many many relatives who were killed by a Catholics it's irrelevant it's tragic but it's irrelevant to the truth of Catholicism but it was ordered by the Pope how can I get behind your church when you can't give me a good reason for why they have a handle on the truth number one and number two they tried to kill my family what does the church teach about murder and what is it always taught about murder I thought you were a fan of Augustine yeah Augustine seemed okay with murder no and torture no no we do have to stand up to evil and to enemies of the faith we do have to stand up to that the Inquisition for example I firmly believe in the Inquisition when you say the word Inquisition what does that mean to you internal housecleaning so you've got wolves in sheep's clothing who are pretending to be Catholic but who in their heart of hearts are not actually Catholic which to be killed well back in the Middle Ages it was the government's that were killing people it wasn't the church it had to do with political stability and it was the government that was executing these people and it was the church that was begging for mercy and clemency now the church argued for lawful slain in most of Europe they the government and the church were really intertwined so when you just say oh well the church was trying to have leniency and the government was executed them that's not the way it was at all even in the cases where the government did the executions are you asking me where and when the death penalty should be applied I'm asking you if if somebody violates the Ten Commandments if they should be executed yeah of course not you think that I want everyone to get the death penalty every time they violate any of the Ten Commandments everyone would be dead right now if that were the case what about if you're a witch I'm not interested in killing all the sinners because there would be no one left right right so the problem is that you're in disagreement with the Pope's because what you said is that the office of the Pope is infallible on you know certain essential issues and when I look at history I see that it was acceptable to kill witches in fact it was part of the Pope was involved in this if there was a policy handed down from the top by the Pope it wasn't a dogmatic decision it wasn't an infallible decision it was just a discipline look more important to somebody than their life like that's the most important thing that a Pope could have a hand in as whether people live and die you are in the same situation you also have life in your hands it might be only your own life it might be the life of people around you that care about that you are toying with their lives right because everyone ultimately will either go to heaven or go to hell so really if you want to talk about decisions that affect life everyone is responsible for their own life first and foremost and for the lives of the people around them that they influenced by their teaching by their example and behavior right but what I'm trying to do is is go back to where we started and you were telling me why you trusted the church but then you can't defend the head of your church well let's say that Pope Francis today says I'm gonna kill everyone that's not a Latino okay that wouldn't make me question my faith I would just say the Pope's crazy that's it he's crazy but he can't define error concerning faith and morals so I don't need to worry about that doesn't work in a global society where we all have to get along we can't wait for a nuclear Pope right listen we just wait for that to happen this is this is not a Puritan religion where the Pope is the holiest man on the planet and where you know it's all rainbows and flowers no people are human people are idiots people are violent people are selfish and that includes the Pope so we're just gonna keep supporting that or the Catholic Church until some Pope decides to nuke the Middle East is there some rumor going around that the Pope's gonna nuke the Middle East well it's just a it's a matter of odds if if you think we have you know thousands and thousands of years left switch I don't but maybe you do then it's just you know there's a certain percent chance every Pope that one of them is gonna be crazy and have some kind of influence on the little red button you worry about they started some things I worry about way too many things so what about monotheism can we talk about getting you from atheism to monotheism and what would be involved you know yes so why should I be among atheists I am a monotheists well you believe in in the devil yeah but the devil is not a god the devil is a creature Wow in most religions he would be a lesser God or maybe in the equal God not in monotheism hmm what about the Holy Spirit is that a God the Holy Spirit is of the three persons in the one god yes did you not learn about the Trinity when you were a Christian well even when I was a Christian I didn't understand it but I was told that that was okay that was just part of the mystery yeah yeah it is a mystery we'll never understand it but you don't even understand your own life your own free will your own reason you don't understand these things but you apprehend them you don't comprehend them but you do apprehend them and that's why you are morally responsible for your free and irrational choice to deny the existence of God because it is patently obvious by the things that are made that there is an all good and omnipotent creator and the fact of your own life the fact of your own morality proves that there is an eternal objective and absolute standard of truth and goodness that you bow to do you believe that there is a first cause there could be I don't know okay let's imagine that there is not a first cause okay what would that mean you know my brain hasn't really evolved to deal with anything outside of the woods and the meadows and the creeks well you see that Creek where the waters flowing downhill that's entropy right the total amount of usable energy in the universe is constantly on the decline and we still have useful energy therefore we know there is a first cause so that answers that question are you fully on board with that scientifically we're not in a closed system with universe don't really deal with the universe right we live on earth like the universe isn't really hospitable to humans so if we're gonna appeal to the universe it seems just kind of like mental masturbation no it's not mental masturbation we know that the natural world is different configurations of matter energy distributed throughout space-time do you agree with that definition of the natural world yeah okay so we also know that the total amount of useful energy in that is always diminishing and it will approach zero this is called the death on top like we can't even imagine it doesn't matter it doesn't matter the point is that it would only require a finite amount of time to bring about the heat death and if there is no first cause then there is infinite time behind us but we know that there's not infinite - because the heat death has not yet arrived therefore there is a first cause do you see any flaw in my reasoning there so you're talking about our universe though right because there's probably infinitely many universes it really doesn't matter all we need to know is that the natural world is matter energy distributed throughout space time that's all we need to know about nature I'm not convinced that there wasn't always matter here and other matter is necessarily spatio-temporal right so that means that if there was always matter then there's infinite time behind us but we know with certainty that there is only a finite amount of time behind us because if there were infinite time behind us the heat death would have arrived my dad's a physics PhD I'm not put him on the phone now but my understanding is that the current theory is that matter pops into your and out of existence all the time only in a quantum field and a quantum field is not nothing because there is no state of nothing that's the whole point well not for the scientist because a scientist can't deal with nothing there's absolutely nothing for the scientist to talk about with nothing the philosopher has to grope with metaphysics the physicist has to deal with matter energy configurations in space-time that's why science is more limited it's a lower science than philosophy philosophy is a higher science and so that's why we have to use pure reason the reason breaks down outside of our you know the this world that we live in like the universe is not reasonable I mean just if you read any physics you know that outside of the little world that we live in physics even physics doesn't work the same as we are our monkey brains expected to so that's why it's a terrible idea to use philosophy to understand these things no science by definition is limited to scientific data which is configurations of matter energy in space time science doesn't have the authority to talk about non science and it has to examine what is within its scope within its domain yeah that's only deal with with science right a lot isn't is interesting but we can't talk about use philosophy to think about the origin of the universe that's ridiculous of course we can of course we can so most to run board with what you're about to tell me right just because you're a brilliant scientist doesn't mean that you are a good philosopher that you that you understand metaphysics or that you know how to use reason I've met PhDs and physics who didn't believe that one plus one equals two that's how low the bar is in science today yeah well I don't think I can grant you that you can use philosophy to tell me things that I can't use science to glean I'm completely cool with saying I don't know the answer to something yeah but you know you do know that you're free that you have free will right you admit that I have kind of a nuanced view on that okay so it's a yes/no question does everything obey the laws of nature or not and if so then everything is hard determined right no everything does obey the laws of nature as far as we know right so maybe there is something supernatural but it hasn't been proven yet it hasn't we have no evidence for it we do have a fitness for in your free will and in morality and in reasoning itself when you reason what are you doing are you reasoning in a way that is free are you weighing ideas in your mind and choosing options or are you just a machine that's arbitrarily doing exactly what it has to do because everything is 100% hard determined and following inexorably the laws of nature everything does obey the laws of nature but the laws of nature are probabilistic yeah but there's no freedom in randomness if you're dealt a random set of cards and you have to play those cards in a random order the randomness does not give you any meaning it does not give you any freedom it does not give you any reason it doesn't give you any freedom and whether I choose chocolate or vanilla because because because the the equation that is used or this the competing forces the many many competing forces that are components and the choice that you make there's so many of them that even though it may be technically mechanistic it's so complicated that it feels like a choice and and it is a choice because consciousness is emergent property which is also a whole bunch of forces there any choice that you make is just how the forces align that day it's very common among atheists agnostic stew under hide in complexity the complexity of the quantum world the complexity of cosmological models and these sorts of things yeah it's all very complex but we can ask ourselves in principle is there any freedom or not and if you want to say that so-called quantum indeterminacy is a source of freedom then you're simply wrong because there's absolutely no freedom in that or if you want to say that there's freedom entailed in complexity then you're just wrong well that's part of what I said but that's not all of what I said so where is this freedom this alleged freedom this nuance of freedom that's what I'm asking you I see consciousness as an emergent property from many many forces inside the minds both internal and external on because of that I do believe humans have free will but I think that the free will is just the results of a massive computation that happens with all these forces who you are as a person is just an emergent property and so because of the nature of who and what you are you actually do have a choice because you are made of those choices you make that come from the many forces inside of you I don't believe that consciousness is an emergent property but I'm happy to grant for the sake of argument that it is and what I want you to do is to zoom in on the mechanism of freedom and to tell me if it's in conformity with the laws of nature or not and you've already told me that it is and so if it is in conformity with the laws of nature 100 percent of the time then you are a hard determinist I don't know why don't just come out of the closet and admit that the laws of nature are never violated therefore Hart determinism is the case and I'll just enjoy the illusion of freedom and the illusion of justice and the illusion of love and the illusion of reasoning but my reasoning actually is 100% determined now I haven't thought through this enough to to even know a hundred percent what I think yes okay I do think that this question of free will is intimately tied to the question of what is consciousness and I don't think you can solve one without the other yeah for sure whichever way it is I don't think it's easy so I still think that what you're doing is creating a false dichotomy either way well if you are willing to say that there can be more ality without freedom that I'd love to hear your reasoning on that well what is imperative well that's a good question what do you think morality is what do you think it's responsibility for the choices we make the free choices we make so therefore built into morality is freewill the only thing the Atheist can say if he's a naturalist if he rejects the supernatural which every atheist I've met does the only thing he can say is it is what it is this is where this worldview shines the mechanistic world view because with Catholicism you have to punish people right no in Catholicism were free to make a moral choice I am I gonna punish this person is it the right thing to do in your worldview everyone and every molecule and every quark in the universe is doing exactly what it has to do have you seen these German clocks with the little dancers that come out noon and the bells chime and all this sort of thing there's the mechanistic dance that these little men and women do in their fancy outfits in these elaborate German clocks there's no way to heap praise or blame upon the little dancers doing their little dance and everything in the universe according to the naturalistic atheist everything is just that clockwork dance there is absolutely no praise or blame assignable to anything and the fact that we do have these notions of praise and blame these things are just part of that dance there's no more merit in the choices that you make then there is in that little dancing doll in the German clock if somebody is doing a behavior that is good then we encourage them with praise right because we want more of that so what is this good you said that someone does good behavior versus someone that does bad behavior so what is the good but that's all programmed into us like we know what good is right we know when we see it we don't know one has to teach me what's good and I don't have to teach my children what's good right so let's say my son gives my daughter a hug in our family it's subjectively a good thing and they get praised for that even though they don't need it they get a good feeling from it without praising them but the praise just reinforces it they also get it from the community standard which hopefully is in line with my standard and standard do change over time but usually things change very slowly I don't understand why you mock and ridicule the fake morality of the dancing doll toy but you take seriously for some reason this more sophisticated dance of this biochemical machine which is obviously a lot more sophisticated but it's just a machine that needs to be fixed like when a vending machine is out of order no one would take seriously putting it before a judge and sending it to prison for its crimes right so why is the human being in a different category or would you argue as many atheists do that we just don't have the technology yet to fix this machine this biochemical machine but when we do we'll apply those technologies and we'll fix the human and so we can fix it a little bit with some huge percentage and I never with the numbers of people who were convicted of violent crimes have frontal lobe damage I mean yeah they're broken and we don't know how to fix them yet so yeah I think I'd probably put myself in that camp I don't know if you know but at the end of my interviews I do ask my guests to give a little closing thought just a little message of hope so what do you think you might be able to say to anyone that's out there listening no I would say that faith is a shortcut and it's something that you really don't need and you should rely on yourself and those around