Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-03-06 - Kent Schofield

Author Recorded Wednesday March 6th, 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

Kent reached out to me by email. His YouTube channel 'A Call to Reason' is 'taking commonly held beliefs and putting them on trial against sound logic.' He's a kind man and I have enjoyed getting to know him over the past few months. He'll be back on my podcast in future.

Catholic vs. Atheist - 2019-03-06 - Kent Schofield

Author Recorded July 30th, 2016



These YouTube transcripts are generated automatically and are therefore unformatted and replete with errors.
hi my name is Kent Scofield and you're listening to Catholic versus atheist so tell us a little bit about yourself who you are what you believe and why you believe it yeah so my name is Kent as stated I'm 29 years old I live in California a few hours north of LA so I'm actually in one of the more liberal states but I live in the most conservative area probably on the entire western side of the States I was raised in a strict Southern Baptist environment the whole young Earth Creationism once saved always saved mentality I would say evangelical Christian I did a bit of door to door myself and I never I never really questioned I had questions about some of the details I don't know if I ever got satisfying answers to all of them but sometimes I guess I decided to let faith be the beacon and just move by those things until there was an interesting occurrence when I was in 2021 somewhere in that area my younger brother who was also very involved in the same religious community as me came out as an atheist and that confused me beyond all comprehension I didn't even know what to make of it at the time I thought and he's just going through a hard time he's he doesn't mean that there's no way he could possibly mean that and I just kind of let it go and decided to let him have his own way and love him and support him whatever he chose and then a few years later I came across the show that a lot of people are familiar with called ancient aliens and after watching a good handful of episodes I became quite firmly convinced that this whole scenario was true I I was convinced that you know we were products of alien manipulation that they had had their hands in our history and all these great events in history they had helped us advance technologically if you've seen the show I bought into it hook line and sinker and it wasn't until I realized that there was a bit of a conflict between that and my religious beliefs that I saw some sort of problem and with my simplistic kind of which one sounds more convincing kind of approach I wasn't able to figure out which one was more likely true and that's when I discovered skepticism and now I don't hold either of those positions anymore so I'd like you to take us back to your childhood the earliest memories about religion and God can you just paint a picture of what sort of impression that made on you as a very very young child absolutely like I said I was raised very involved in it so it was you know we had religious activities at home we read the Bible I lived with my grandparents from about the age of 7 to 14 and we we had nightly Bible readings that our religious holidays were very religious we kept the religious aspects in them not always the more common cultural figures and whatnot I mean we did have Santa but we also knew that that was just for fun and that it was more about Jesus that's how we put it out there I attended church every chance we got I was involved in choir and church plays and shows and stuff as early as I could remember and I believed it all deep down to my core and I put my best into everything I did because I thought I was doing it for God's glory and that was what drove me from an early age I would say I was an outcast because I refused to do what others did because it didn't glorify God at least I tried to there were times I failed but I was always repentant and always felt the shame and the guilt in and needed to refocus my path I often asked my guests about rebellion puberty sex drugs rock and roll can you just paint a little picture without embarrassing yourself yeah not at all um I was abstinent probably far longer than probably most of my peers I didn't have sex until I was 17 and I did end up marrying that person that I had sex with because I felt an obligation it made the promise of abstinence until marriage and I didn't keep that promise so I decided to go ahead and follow through and marry that person at least so I never really did any drugs I didn't drink in high school the first time I did anything like that was after I was 21 and never done anything too crazy I have smoked some marijuana and stuff like that I've had some beer nothing crazy can you just talk about the sort of the highlights pertaining to the faith journey of your parents how they reacted to your coming out and your brothers coming out and any other siblings you have sort of like which one's lost the faith which ones came back to the faith your ex-wife and your current wife what was their faith during just in really really quick and brief overview anything interesting there sure one of the interesting things was when I came out there was a lot of neutral response oh well I guess I could say go ahead and say positive mostly people saying hey you know we're upset about this choice that you've made but we love you and support you anyway and we're always here for you and that was great so yeah I'd call that a positive response my ex-wife we had a child together as well and some issues arose in that when I began to explain things like the age of the earth and universe how we came to be through evolution I'm trying to kind of give him a simple understanding of what evolution is and how it helped to shape us and she found out about it and flipped her lid she was upset that I was teaching him about evolution I would say that's probably been the biggest point of friction and then I am prone to sometimes post things that bring some religious ideas into question on my personal Facebook and I don't think my family has responded well to that and understandably yeah I mean if you love your religion and you hold it near and dear to yourself it might be hard to see criticisms against it all that often especially from someone you love so I've tried to kind of slow down on that because I don't want to hurt anybody I just like the exchange of ideas and chipping away at the at the theistic foundation that lay underneath my whole worldview the way that we have things structured is there's your basic beliefs that you never think about they're just there and they structure the way that you see the world I call it a perspective so it's the perspective that you see other things through and even though I had stopped believing in God I noticed I was still looking at things through somewhat of a theistic perspective that being things like freewill just kind of taking for granted a moral sense things like that and and so I've been starting to hit those key topics and try to understand them from my new perspective Wow yeah that's interesting I always encourage atheists to do that to not settle and be mediocre in their atheism because mediocrity won't get you to heaven if you're a mediocre Christian it won't get you to heaven and if you're a mediocre atheist and won't get you to heaven but if you're a hardcore atheist I think that's one of the the fastest shortcuts to God because when you dig and when you probe and when you question an exam and the underlying assumptions of your atheistic worldview or of your of whatever your worldview is you will be confronted ultimately if you seek you will find and you will be confronted with reality that's my hope for all of humanity is to abandon the complacent mediocrity and really really go for it whatever you're into take it seriously don't be self-satisfied and complacent about it so I encourage you to do that and so were there any key issues that you wanted to talk about like freewill is one of my favorite topic okay so what is your view on freewill how does it play into our sort of perspective of reality well it's absolutely necessary for morality that we are able to choose among the different options right do you think you can make choices without free will yeah much of our will is determined by circumstance and a lot of atheists like to bring up the sort of physiological studies that show that we think that we made a free decision but really we're just rationalizing after the fact there's a lot of that there's a lot of that even if I wasn't aware of the psychological and physiological studies I would still know because my church teaches me that there are a lot of areas in life where we are determined our will is still a will it still chooses just like a dog or a cat or a monkey can choose but it's more instinct and the will is not free in those instances and even the free choices we make do have constraints on them I don't want to give the impression to anyone that we have a completely free choice ever there will always be conditions and these sorts of things that are constraining to a certain extent our will but those times when our will is not 100% hard determined those areas even if they're very rare they are what I call free so free is a negative term it means not 100% determined it might be 90% determined with 10% wiggle room in that one decision and that 10% is what is free okay I would say the very essence of our character is determined by factors almost entirely outside of our control well it's all very elusive okay because even my church teaches me that even when it comes to morality there are times where we think that we have sinned but God knows our heart and God knows the mitigating sort of circumstances that render us less culpable or not culpable at all so my church teaches me that even when I think I'm sinning a lot of the time I'm not able to not sin in that particular circumstance and God knows that and God will judge me accordingly so my church is telling me that there's more going on than what we're aware of but my church also teaches me that we are responsible that we do have free will and that we do make choices that matter and with that we can and we do sin so the fundamental option obviously is for or against God so in everything that I'm doing and saying and thinking and everything that I'm choosing not to do the sins of omission for example I have to be aware to put God first this is the first commandment you know there really is only one commandment we say there are ten commandments but there's really one commandment which is love the love of God and then we can subdivide that into the love of God and the love of neighbor and we can further subdivide down into six and then into ten and so on and so forth but the basic idea is that we were created by an all good god we have to love him and we do have opportunities because of our free will how extensive that free will is we don't know but we do have an opportunity to say yes to God or to say no to God and we need to be careful and to put that as priority number one okay what is your concept of Hell concept is separation from God it's just falling away from the one reality that one reality which is the fire of hell which is the fire of purgatory and which is also the fire of heaven there's only that one reality it's the fire of God's love if we're oriented toward that then it's pleasurable that fire but if we're oriented away from it then god help us because it's unpleasant to put it mildly okay so of me being an atheist I'm not necessarily doomed to the more tormenting aspect of that well I mean I would not be talking to you in this calm and friendly way if I thought that you were absolutely guaranteed to go to hell I would be a nervous wreck if I could look into your soul and look into the future and know that you are doomed to hell I would be physically incapacitated I would need to lie down from the trauma of that because I don't want anyone to deal with that and much less someone that I'm actually speaking to and interacting with you understand I'm a sensitive person I cannot bear the thought of anyone going to hell and so to be talking to you to actually entertain the idea that you are guaranteed to go to hell that's just inconceivable and my church teaches me that we cannot know that and that we never judge that someone is lost in that way the church never says that so-and-so is in hell there is a tradition in the church that Judas is in hell but I mean that's pretty much it in all the history books you don't get the church condemning Hitler or Mao Zedong or you know anyone else okay so that's a great example we can we can jump on that so Judas yeah so if we go with the case of Judas prior to the betrayal Jesus says beforehand one of you amongst me will betray me and this is necessary for the plan of Jesus being arrested and tried and crucified for our sins so it's all part of the plan so if there's free will at which point along this path did Judas will himself to become this step in God's plan if if it was part of God's plan and things go according to God's plan then at which point was that Judas's will to become part of that plan was he forced to be part of it no no no there are aspects of each of our lives that are forced because they are like we said we established that there are things that are hard determined right so I think it's really important that we emphasize that distinction between God's positive will and his permissive will so everything that happens is the will of God but he doesn't ordain everything that happens he only ordains with his positive will but he allows evil that's his permissive will so every evil that takes place every evil he's allowed by God by His permissive will but he wills it he does will it permissively because he can bring a higher good out of it now just because he allowed the evil of the betrayal of Judas for example and the evil of that man that he called Satan st. Peter to deny him three times right we have to remember that Judas and Peter betrayed our Lord now we have Saint Peter being canonized as a saint so we know that he's in heaven and we do not have Judas canonized and there's a tradition in the church that he is probably in hell although the church refuses to say that definitively so obviously there's a difference but there's no necessary connection between being a traitor being a sinner and then necessarily being condemned to hell there is always that chance of repentance and I like to think that there is that chance of repentance even for Judas even after death no no no no no no oh within the with ending within the period of his life yeah yeah okay okay so let's say for instance by the determined laws of nature I've become the type of person who's quick to anger and because of that maybe I'm the type of person that lashes out and and maybe sometimes I get violent and eventually through that violence I do something bad while I did make those choices it was my choice to strike that person it was my choice to cross the line and take it farther than it should have gone and cause harm to somebody that's a choice and I believe a person should be morally morally culpable for that I still don't see any justification for calling that free I think it's important that we shift emphasis here from trying to explain free will which is inexplicable by definition it's a mystery right - what would it mean if there is only 100 percent her determination of every event that happens in this natural world what would that mean all of the meaning of life is suddenly gone right nothing that was here before is now gone just because we've realized that it's deterministic now if you're already subconsciously favoring theism then determinism is hopeless and heartless and cold and scary and all without meaning and all without purpose but if you look at it from within itself you realize that the reality we've all been living in all along is deterministic and we've realized that there isn't some or at least we've realized that we don't have to conclude that there's some sort of wizard behind the curtain you know pulling the strings we don't lose love we don't lose empathy we don't lose morality or justice or hope or meaning or purpose they just shift in a different perspective yeah you and I both inhabit one in the same reality it's the same ultimate reality the question is is it a Catholic reality or is it the reality of the atheist The Naturalist the hard determinist right there are other options too but I just want to limit it to our two perspectives here so I can tell you honestly that I don't know with 100% certainty that we live in a Catholic universe I'm 99.99 repeated percent sure that we are but I have to admit because I'm a fowl human being that I might be wrong just like you will probably admit that you are probably about the same amount certain about your worldview but there is that negligible but nonzero doubt that you have about you being right right so whatever ultimate reality is might be kind of thing might be atheist it might be whatever whatever it is that's what we are living in right so we have in our possession all of these experiences all these wonderful things that make us human right I think that's what you're saying and I think I agree with you 100% absolutely yeah that's exactly what I say because I as an as an atheist one of the most frustrating things is encountering those of more theistic mindset who feel the need to throw lines out there like oh you're you're an atheist you don't believe in God then how could you have love because God is love and I say well you're just defining God is love I'm seeing love as a certain relationship between my emotional state and the external reality or even internal reality that helps to bring that internal state into being that's what love is to me it doesn't have some sort of and I know I know this is big in the theological brain stare at history talking about the grounding in this and the grounding and that whether it's morality or truth or justice or love they all point to God for that I don't believe that any such thing exists I don't see why it needs a grounding to begin with just choose what goal you're going towards what outcome you'd like to achieve and that's your grounding itself it's the grounding that you've chosen for that particular pursuit or experience or whatever you want to call it I like talking about morality and it's my perspective it's my view that I think people make it a lot more difficult than it needs to be I feel like people dance around the obvious truth because it doesn't match what they're used to hearing when it comes to morality and I I credit sam Harris for opening my eyes to this I know a lot of people even atheists I know a lot atheist don't buy into his landscape of morality I do I find it extremely convincing and a scientific basis for morality is simply the real physical effects that actions and behaviors have on conscious being does it help or hinder does it promote well-being or does it promote suffering and by that standard its moral or immoral and I think it's quite simple because by definition that's what we're talking about when we're talking about morality yeah you know my counter-argument against the serta morality is that it's a might makes right form of morality where you just society at large is carrying this big stick with which they curb those whom they deem arbitrarily to be aberrant or out of line with the established consensus on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable that's a hellish nightmare for me because I'm a little bit eccentric and different so I don't want a society that's going to curb my behavior based on this consensus rule of might makes right do you understand my predicament there no I definitely do and I think that's one thing that can be overcome by just getting a little bit further into the topic which is simply this isn't about anybody's opinion this isn't even about a society's opinion the truth is if I come over and lop off one of your body parts that is not unless that body part staying attached to your body is going to cause you harm me lopping that healthy and in legitimate body part off of you for without your consent is immoral because it does not promote your well-being and in fact it promotes much suffering and unnecessary suffering at that there was no reason for it to happen if I felt the need to do that if it made me happy it still caused suffering and my well-being was not promoted in any way by it my happiness may have been but that has nothing to do with well-being of course being happy helps your well-being but I can go on and do other things that don't cause suffering that can make me happy and if your unque pible of finding your well-being without causing suffering to others then there's obviously something wrong with you and that can be shown again through nothing more than the scientific facts about psychology and your physiology of your brain there's no judgment call here that's outside of the purview of pure objective is the standard by which you are judging morality is that standard of goodness absolute objective eternal and unchanging or not if it is then welcome to monotheism you are worshipping my god and if it's not then who cares about anything that you have to say of the criteria that you just gave one hits and that would be objective it's not absolute because chopping off somebody's hand generally is immoral but there are instances where it is the best move to make and that would be determined by the objective facts let's say somebody was bitten by a venomous snake and their hand is beginning to decay and pus and it's gonna spread up their arms so you chop that hand off you save their life today in a third-world country that may be the best thing to do 200 years from now when medical science advances to the point that that hand can practically decay away and they can just fix it with whatever new medical advances they have chopping that hand off is no longer the best thing to do and so it's neither eternal nor salute but it is still it's based on the objective facts right now now the conditions surrounding any given moral choice may change over time and that that's why I don't not only do I not believe in an absolute morality but I don't see why anybody would want one because what is moral in one situation is not moral in every situation and so it can't be absolute everything that you've said is completely in conformity with the Catholic teaching on morality of course there are shifting circumstances and that every and the context is very important and it depends on what we know and what what technology we have and all these sorts of things of course I agree with everything you said everything you said is Catholic and the whole point of Christian morality is that it's not easy to apply the Ten Commandments to tricky situations in the messy real world it's not easy if it were easy it wouldn't be a moral choice that you made it would just be an obvious choice where you apply rule 13b because that's the circumstance and you looked it up in the book there's your answer right it's not a moral choice unless we have to struggle to apply the ten commandments and to apply love and to apply wisdom and to apply the virtues and I wanted to ask you about virtue what is virtue for you because if you read the ancient Greek philosophers for example you'll see a lot of emphasis on the virtues is there a place for virtue ethics in sam harris and in your worldview i believe yeah absolutely so to me when I think of virtue it comes to mind is doing the thing that's more difficult to do because you realize that it would be the most appropriate thing to do so and when somebody says patience is a virtue for instance it's hard to wait but you know that waiting for that outcome in the future is the right thing to do because it's actually going to get you towards your intended goal much better than you're losing patience and taking shortcuts and cheating yourself out of a better result in that sense that we're at a point now where we're agreeing essentially on how morality functions it's not absolute in the sense that you know like you said rule a what you know 1a - 14 it says this and we must do this that's him that's what I mean by absolute is a set dictate like like it is morally wrong to kill not true there are instances where it's morally wrong not to kill so it's not absolute not eternal because it changes by context so the only thing that remains is objective because if you go to Saudi Arabia just by virtue of being an atheist they can kill me for that because it's so important whereas over here in America and I believe in Canada as well we're free to be of any religious affiliation that we choose to be so in that sense that's not objective but that's the problem if we could reason with the people of Saudi Arabia and get them to see the objective fact that being atheist does no harm and that they're doing more harm by having these legal mandates in place then we could come to a moral agreement on nothing but objective facts one great example that Sam Harris gives is he says people that like to say that he's cheating by saying what it what is moral is that which maximizes well-being while minimizing suffering he says you take something that has gray areas like nobody would argue that there's a difference between food and poison there is food that which you eat which brings nourishment to your body and doesn't bring harm to your body and there are things that are poisonous things that do only harm to your body and bring no nourishment or are outweighed by whatever nourishment they bring based on the the amount of suffering that they bring and the fact that there are gray areas that there are people allergic to peanuts that will die if they eat tuna or will not be able to have a properly functioning digestive system if they drink a cup of milk the fact that there are gray areas and even foods that all of us may be able to eat but it may do some damage to us it doesn't mean that there's no difference between food and poison and in that same sense when it comes to morality we do have these grey areas we have things like we can't agree with Saudi Arabia on how people should be able to practice their free religious preferences doesn't mean that there isn't a right and wrong answer essentially this is how I put it is morality is a man-made construct when there are no conscious minds to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks of any given action then there is no morality and she just simply doesn't exist a lion needs to eat so he eats the gazelle the gazelle wants to live so it tries to escape the lion there is no morality involved there all of those acts are amoral when I'm hungry and I see an old lady walking down a back alley to get to her apartment with a armful of groceries if I go and strike her dead and steal her groceries because I'm hungry that is an immoral act because there is conscious suffering involved even though I might try to be able to justify the taking of her life to support myself my family perhaps you know I might need to feed you know doing harm to that woman brings unnecessary suffering into the world we were already suffering we were already hungry taking from her creates more problems than it solves and therefore it is immoral yet one of the things I like to bring up with atheists about morality is that if there is no difference in outcome then there is no philosophical basis for morality what you and I are both headed for complete and total annihilation according to your worldview whereas in my worldview hopefully we'll both end up in heaven but both of us may end up in hell or one in heaven one in hell how do you respond to that devastating argument I say again you have to be looking through a theistic perspective to begin with in order for that to have any weight at all if you're just looking at from a neutral or naturalistic perspective what could matter more than the effects that take place during any given lifetime or during the totality of human lifetime if I strike an old lady dead what have I done well I've taken somebody's life well say there's nobody left in her family she was the last one who have I hurt maybe nobody except for her but still what I've done is I've taken part in an activity that if allowed in a society would bring havoc and could throw the whole of human civilization into disarray obviously I'm not going to be allowed to do that if they want to find the person who did that and hold me accountable that's something that has to happen for society to exist so I have to be held accountable whether or not there's a heaven or hell that she's living in afterlife or that I will be held accountable for that with in the afterlife the accountability is here and now and so a great example I always hear is Hitler you know Hitler had all those millions of people killed and then just killed himself so on an atheistic worldview he got away with it well no he didn't because he died I mean sure it would have been great to maybe draw out his punishment a bit more but he didn't get away with it he died if it doesn't matter what you do if you're guaranteed a same outcome no matter what you do then we can cater to our lower instincts and when I play I don't play a lot of video games I don't like them but when I find a video game that I like there are different sorts of games in some games you have to be careful that you don't die in other games it doesn't matter how many times you die you just try that puzzle again and try and try and try and try different thing and there are many different game mechanics and video games that make a real difference on how you approach the puzzle that's before you are the challenge that's before you in that particular scene of that particular level of that particular game it does make a difference if there is no god and there's no heaven there's no hell you can literally do whatever you want and you can try to maximize your pleasure and as long as you don't get caught then you're winning you know you don't have to suffer through doing the good thing to just do the do the right thing because it's the right thing to do that's a pain it's a pain to do the right thing just like it's a pain for me to cook a healthy meal I'd rather just grab a bag of chips and a bag of cookies or whatever well no ok so I see where you're going and no it's it's a great point you raise and it's it does require serious attention and again I I got to keep this is one of my biggest points when I talk to people is it all comes back to the perspective with which you're looking at it so let's just say today after talking with me I know I'm not going to have this effect on you so this is completely hypothetical you decide you've been come convinced that there is no God we've been living in a natural universe this whole time you realize that every effort you've made to be a more compassionate human being that has brought you joy that has helped others around you and the fact that you were able to connect with them through the empathy that is allowed by the biological structure of your brain your mind which is a product of the brain all of that is still there if that isn't motivation enough for you to do the right thing then there's something psychologically wrong with you because that's the way our brains are programmed our brains are programmed to be generally empathetic now in an ultimate sense if I kill somebody and get away with it it sucks that that can happen but having a crappy outcome doesn't mean that we just decide that that reality isn't the case you know it's it seems to me I called this an argument from emotion you know an appeal to emotions fallacy because whether or not we get away with it ultimately doesn't mean that we have to imagine that there is something that grounds it to Eternity that that person who killed somebody and nobody ever found out well how they got theirs in the end I mean of course we want to try to discourage those kinds of people from feeling as though they have the freedom to do that but those people I guarantee you each and every one of them has something psychologically physiologically wrong with their brain and if they got the help that they needed or if they were secluded from society then that problem would cease to exist well as a whole the human society runs on empathy and love and compassion yeah yeah I mean it is it is beyond obvious that even though it's a longer more painful route to happiness it's a more secure route it's the right thing to do and people try to have for the most part you know balanced and healthy lives so we can agree about that but the question really is about justice I have a worldview that tells me that justice is achieved finally you live according to a worldview that says that justice is not achieved on balance in the big picture if you look at the big picture people are striving for justice and sometimes it's partially achieved sometimes it may seem like there's a victory where justice was completely achieved in a small context in a particular way in play some time but we know that if justice is a perfectly white piece of paper and injustice is a black mark on that paper we know that there's at least a certain percentage of that white sheet of paper that's covered permanently in black marks of injustice right sure and as it's one of those lessons that your parents teach you from an early age is that you know what sometimes life isn't fair and if the world on a whole is not completely just then that's just an objective fact and if we're trying to strive towards a more just world how else could we get there besides focusing on objective facts and trying to achieve justice through that I don't believe perfect justice can ever truly exist that may be an ideal that comes to you from your theism but I don't see it being a reality that we can demonstrate and use to argue for theism it's something that comes out of it not something that can be used to get to it did your beeper signify anything there for you oh that was my wife coming home oh okay but yeah my it seems my daughter will probably wake up here in just a minute as well too so okay so there's a lot more I want to talk to you about maybe we'll do part two sometime in the future but um that'd be great you know how at the end of my episodes I like to have the guests wrap up and give a little final closing thought something nice what could you say to anyone that might be out there listening now I say no matter what you believe no matter what side of the fence that you fall on the truth is that we all live in this world together we all live out our lives in connection with other people that believe differently than us and I think the best thing we can do is to try to share and compare ideas but in the meantime try to be respectful because nobody's going to listen to you if all you do is disrespect them and and treat them horribly so whether you're an atheist trying to talk to theists or the other way around don't presume to know better than them in every instance and don't treat them like garbage just because they think differently than you

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