Catholic vs. Atheist - 2016-08-27 - Vahik Manookian

Author Recorded Saturday August 27th, 2016

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

My sister introduced me to Vahik in Ottawa, where I interviewed him in his home. He was very gracious and open and we could have continued talking, but I had to catch a bus back to Montreal. A fun chat. • Support the CVS Podcast: • Be a guest on a livestream:

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my name is vahik manoukian I would label myself as a non-practicing atheist a Catholic is a Catholic it's it's a religion it's a creature a Muslim or a Protestant or Buddhist there's a Creedence it's based on what you believe or what you practice orthodoxy orthopraxy but at the end of the day there is set instructions there is no such a thing for an atheist that you say go you must follow these things to become an atheist so many people can label themselves as atheists one thing that binds atheists let's say is the belief that there is no God it's just matter and energy and that's it at the end of it the minute I try to say there is no god but i do not have proof i am stepping into the realm of having faith which means i'm contradicting myself i do not want to contradict myself yeah I don't believe it but I cannot prove it so I'm a non-practicing atheist I wanted to take us back to your childhood how are you raised what did you believe what sort of ups and downs did you go through with your fader with your atheism I grew up as an orthodox christian i was a very good Christian boy I'm an Armenian at some point I started reading I saw you know like evolution creation it's just my mind one of sudden one day I woke up and I said you know what just this this this belief doesn't just make sense to me so I just moved on how old were you at that time I was 13 14 something like that that's the age i lost my faith Christianity I was 14 I remember the exact moment when I lost my faith do you remember the moment there wasn't a moment for me there was there was it's more it was more like progressive you know like I was like okay you know like we are seeing this evolution there that exists so but there is also a God so probably yeah of course God when create city has a means of creating things so yeah evolution is the mean so you know like so for a long time growing up I'm like yeah that makes sense but then as it further progress I'm like you know what it looks like there is no God so you spoke about the inability to prove that God does not exist was there a time when you fight maybe you could I was at you can call a militant atheist the likes of I guess Richard Hawkins things like that they are very much into converting people into atheism and they think religion is evil and the source of evil and all those things of course when you're growing up you're exposed to revolutionary ideas such as Marxism and all those things religion is evil this and that and this and that looking back I would never be able to prove there is no God scientifically I could only prove that let's say creation did not happen exactly as written specifically to that but the Orthodox Church agrees with you that the biblical account of creation is not to be taken scientifically I'd be very surprised if the Orthodox treated any differently because then they'd have to abandon reason did you come out of the closet so to speak with your atheism to your parents to be honest they kind of ignore let's say yeah okay bohica it's okay we love you and we pray for you I'm like okay thank you just keep praying for ya did they still have practice their faith oh absolutely absolutely being in Armenian mainly means being an Orthodox Christian is it's very much deeply rooted in you if I was brought up as let's say another ethnic background again I would have be proud of that ethnic background I am I was brought up as an Armenian I am proud of being an Armenian basically are you attracted to any particular worldview no i am not attracted to any specific more than the other ones even buddhism I'm not sure anymore I think more and more I find them very similar which which is great I mean there's nothing wrong with religion or anything like that when it comes to let's say specifically between Islam Christianity and Judaism I kind of feel Judaism is more fun more exciting more challenging when you talk about theology when you talk about God and its relationship with in God and man because they really feel that connection with in God you know like as a chosen people we of this teaching that all of the Jews will be saved I'm a Catholic I'm not guaranteed salvation when the Jews are guaranteed salvation now there's a caveat that we don't know exactly who gets to be categorized as a Jew God knows the only God knows so am i confident that Woody Allen's going to go to heaven no I'm not it all comes down to that question of who is a Jew I want to change gears a little bit now and talk about the ultimate foundation you exist you can't deny that you exist but you can legitimately deny that I exist and that the world exists why are you comfortable taking the leap of faith into the so-called reality which I is a Catholic acknowledged as real but why are you comfortable making that leap of faith to me this whole existence it's a weird thing why this thing exists and then the question is why it shouldn't exist the same thing can go either with God or without God why God exists why shouldn't it exists are you one hundred percent certain that the sensory data that's coming into through your eyes and three years and through your sense of touch correspond to an actual reality that's outside of you and that's independent of you when i'm looking at it from a scientific point of view which you know i cannot prove or disprove we boil down to let's say electrons and protons and quantum particles that come in and out and sometimes their energy and sometimes their matter and whatnot so if you look at it there is a bunch of electrons right in this geographical space and there's another bunch of electrons right there turning around and doing stuff in our brains and then we can communicate when you go down that level it's just a bunch of matter and energy going back and forth and turning around and understanding each other so I mean who is really doing that it's just the existence itself in a way how many people do you think are in this room how many person is how many minds how many beings are in this room right I don't know can consciousness exist on its own independence of a flash that rots away I don't know yeah there could be some other form of consciousness I could be part of a greater existence as we know universe it's expanding expanding into what what is it expanding into you bring to mind this idea that the universe is expanding and cooling and it inevitably through entropy is going to dissipate into what they call the heat death sure if they say so I can are you comfortable with that idea I don't care yeah you don't care no just leave your life a good life worry about after if there is a God for example let him decide and if there is no God just be a good person just give your life you don't feel the need to investigate this rumor that's going around that there are two final destinations heaven and hell you know I mean if there is a God I'm comfortable he'll make a judgment based on what you said who is to decide who is a Jew at the end of the deal to say God will decide and who is to say you will not go to heaven because you believed in me or you did not believe in the same people that gave you the idea that there's a heaven and hell also told you that God requires certain things from you to get to heaven you need to love him first and foremost you need to obey Him what is love what is obedience if we go down that path don't kill people be a nice person you know don't cheat I can do all of those things without living in him if there's a god do you think that the devoutly religious are better prepared for death and for their journey to the afterlife I don't know it's not my place to answer that again I'll go back to what you said about saving the Jews would Woody Allen go to heaven or not I I don't worry or maybe that's why they called him woody okay let's talk a little bit about free will do you believe in free will the question of free will you have to somehow be able to believe in God first then debate on free will or not so for me to believe in free will or not I have to first believe in God or not if I would believe in God i would say freewheel is is a very almost an impossibility because when you create something as a creator at almighty and everything you create everything everything that comes into that system as a program let's say so you think that God's grace and his omnipotence and omniscience is incompatible with human free will when you create something you create everything belonging to that system it's a closed system everything is determined at the end of the day you say it's God's will where's my role if I have a free will that means there is something outside of God's will is this what we are saying the Catholic teaching is that God will has always done always if a criminal does something evil he's still doing the will of God but what he's doing is the permissive will of God not the positive will about so we need to make that distinction st. Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries made that distinction so God's positive will is always good what God permits all kinds of evil and because we have free will we can choose to go against his positive will God can bring good out of evil that's why he allowed us to have free will the main reason he allows us to have free will is because love has to be free he loved us freely and he created us for love why does it know if love is not free it's not love if a man and a woman are married and they love each other and she gives him a kiss on the cheek every morning before he leaves for work I think he'll be a little bit disappointed if he wakes up one morning and realizes that she's just a robot and she's programmed to do that love has to be free if it's not free it's just like being married to a robot and if we are to serve God we have to serve him freely that's why free will is so essential to Christianity we have to serve God freely we have to obey Him freely when I obey god it's not a mechanical process it's the most free thing that I do so love is something that God created no love is uncreated god is love but the concept of understanding love as we know it as humans that's that's a creator that must be part of the creation you cannot create just the physics of universe you have to create the logic of the universe the mathematics of the universe the feelings of the universe v without these we will be just rocks the component I think you're missing as a materialist is the supernatural so you think of your mind as an epiphenomenon of all the molecular activity in your brain I think of the mind as a supernatural could be I'm not gonna I'm not discarding that oh so you're open to the supernatural absolutely as I said I'm a non-practicing yes like I cannot disprove it if I if I was at that practicing atheist I would say no and I would categorize myself as a religious person because I would have faith in no God and nothing else just mat matter and energy do you think that logically we necessarily need a first cause because that's what my god is my god is garish cause I stopped thinking about that and trying to have an answer for that how can you have matter on its own big bang on its own out of the blue as the first cause for example you know just just doesn't make sense God is defined as the only necessary being existence is in essence so my definition he exists and by definition he's the first cause it seems to me that you have to accept God is there any logical reason to reject God if you want to define that this is what God is which if it really exists you cannot define God by the way sure yeah I mean if you want to define God as you said yeah there is God but that's the definition that you want to put if we are all contingent beings that means that our existence depends on something else that chain of dependencies hangs on something that in and of itself is not dependent and that is God the fact that we're here proves God's existence just the fact that we're here no it could be a circular thing based on the recent things that i read few years ago all the string theory and all those things some planes they kind of curtains they touch each other and we created the Big Bang and all those things which is like way more interesting than science fiction movies that we have sinned so to answer your question Christianity and Judaism and Islam that it's very its linear based view if you look at Buddhism and Hinduism it's it's very cyclical thing I I don't understand why this dissipating universe points to God God is the first mover and he's the first cause and the only way we can avoid the first cause is to say there's an infinite universe that stretches back in time infinitely and if time in the past is infinite then the heat death would have already arrived let's picture the universe as a train that is now on a plateau and it's just running on momentum okay and the friction of the wheels means that it's slowly coming to a stop okay that we're still in motion means that there's not infinite time behind us so there is a beginning in time for that train the motion of that okay the other way you can look at it is a train going uphill we have to acknowledge that there is an engine pulling us uphill okay it can't just be an infinite chain of cars attached to each other and you can't just say it's a circle because we need an engine to pull us up this hill why we can't say it's an icicle I challenge you to build me a perpetual motion machine using a hill and a circle of drinks yeah but that's because we cannot create a non frictionless surface hey so you see you're you're trying to use science to disprove basically atheism yeah using pure reason we can determine the reality of God in the necessity of God my church tells me that yeah that I cannot debate I don't think it's fair for me to try to change your mind in a way no you should you should try that's what this whole podcast is about is to expose my worldview to different attacks and to try to find the Achilles heel in in my world view because obviously you don't believe that the Catholic Church is the one true religion I don't believe there is any true religion including atheism having faith without reason it's a little bit hard to swallow how important is reason to you in your world view central is a peripheral it is central what is the basis the rational basis for your morality I do not have an answer for that in a sense of is it from God or not and I don't know whether this is right or wrong how much of it makes sense have an homage of it is true but there are things that okay we're all social social beings and the you know like evolutionary wise at the end of the day somehow some sort of a social norm comes about based on the way you live within a group you kind of develop your morality so I don't know I don't know where the source of morality I don't know why I'm i am a good person or a bad person what do you want to get out of life is it happiness is it pleasure what is it ya know being content have friends simple life is it necessary for you to get the things you want through honest means because of the nature of the things that you want people that want pleasure can use dishonest means to get pleasure well if you want love can you cheat to get love can you manipulate someone to get love not for the love that I'm looking for maybe some people they don't care and from you know like they cheat and maybe the earth their content with that for me personally no I like I want it to be real let's talk a little bit about justice looking in the world today do you get the feeling that too often people do get away with that stuff and aren't compensated are being lifted too often people get away with it so how do you feel knowing that I have a world view where all the accounts are perfectly balanced and there is justice achieved do you feel envious of my position my love you not a bit you prefer life sucks and then you die ignore I do not prefer but it doesn't mean that because there is that view that at the end people will be rewarded I do not need to believe in you in that view that you just said to continue living a good life being a good person meaning be kind respect others live your life you know don't lie don't cheat don't kill don't steal all the stuff that is written but in the Ten Commandments I I do not need to know that once I'm dead I will go to heaven or not to be a good person do you think that there's a connection between virtue and happiness there is yeah I mean I mean money by it doesn't buy happiness but if you're a good person you're you're happier yeah so I'm just wondering what you think of Pascal's wager his logical argument was that the only rational on same choice is to believe in God because even if you're wrong you're no worse off than anyone else but if you choose not to believe in God and he does exist that's the worst possible outcome if there is a God he's not gonna care whether I believed in him or not for him to judging me to send me to hell or to heaven because he's going to say you know what I created this world for you and you ended up following the permissive we are of not believing in me but you did all the right things that I want the believers to do to go to heaven so you know what you did follow what I wanted you to follow so go to heaven if God exists in God is infinitely lovable I think it's natural that you would love him do you acknowledge that I have knowledge that you a logic here I'm telling you right now that God does exist infinitely lovable and how could you dismiss that message from me right now I'm not dismissing that message in a way I am just saying if what you're trying to tell me is correct even though i say i don't believe in god i am already there i am doing what he wants for me to do so is it really that important for me to say I believe in God or not given that he knows he knows the reasons is it that in portant for for you the messenger for me to say yes and no if you told me that you were married and you never tell your wife that you love her I would say your relationship will only improve by expressing your love to her daily not only daily but hourly why does he need that he knows everything that God teaches me to do religiously like whether it's going to church on Sunday or or giving alms to the poor whatever it is that he tells me to do it's all to increase my eternal happiness what are you doing to prepare yourself for death because at dash everything isn't running smoothly everything is falling apart usually yeah you yeah so I'm preparing now for death what are you doing to prepare just accept the reality that it's coming to an end or who knows maybe it's not coming tonight I don't know but what I'm trying to do right now as a preparation just to be the good person that I think I am just live your life be content and see what happens what is the best case scenario for you at death if you can use your wildest fantasies I actually have never thought about that even at the very last moment I still exist so from that perspective there is no precaution effort because I just will never experience non-existence of course there is the other way that my soul will survive my physical body and I'll move on that means there is a God nothing decide what he's gonna do with me so is there a rosy picture that you could paint of something good happening after you die to my soul per se yeah or to your body to my body my body will decompose like just that's the best case scenario but that's the reality of what we see today so I'm not asking what reality is I'm asking you to fantasize about oh you're asking my fantasize my god I don't live in fantasy the Atheist point of view where you die and you're Niall ated and it's like you were never born compare that with heaven it's pretty bleak it's pretty depressing it's not heaven is better you'll have to admit okay talk to me a little bit about heaven I'm thinking it will not be physical you'll end up in some sort of a conscious state that you recognize your part of the greater the god you have loved or feeling great or whatever for eternity which is timeless for you to transcend into timelessness that means you're actually have to surpass the time in itself so in a way you become part of God or you become United with him or do you think it could ever become boring boredom hatred love things like that are part of creation if you transcend creation boredom does not exist anymore because boredom is part of this existence not transcendence can you describe to me the best parts of life on Earth list me some of the top things that are good about living on earth married down to one actually it's the knowing that your life will end because if I am immortal why would I go and let's say take religious courses this year and why would I try to save my money and buy a car and so that I'm happy for the next 10 years I can do that a million years from now so to me the fact that I'm dying the fact that there is life there is an end it motivates me to achieve something and what kinds of things do you want to achieve I think I've can't achieve what I wanted have a good life be a good person have a good friend so the idea of immortality is a little bit of a turn-off because you think you'd be unmotivated and immortality on this yes but if the immortality of your soul exists that you join god it's a different experience in my religion there's a very strong parallel between the goods of Earth goods of heaven for example we have a body but our body is not subject to pain and disease and aging we have power we have pleasure we have all the things that we see here first and foremost among which is love and of course we'll have knowledge and we'll have discovery and we'll have all these things we're not going to be sacrificing any of the things that we love and cherish here below they'll be augmented they'll be perfected it will be elevated so it'll be very familiar and it'll be very comfortable and homey and you'll be at home the image that you painted of heaven is a little bit more abstract and a little more science fiction I am interested in understanding why you became an atheist and then as you progress you discover that there is a God at the age of 14 I specifically remember having a beautiful dream about Jesus standing on a small island with a palm tree on it and he just looked at me and smiled and I woke up and I realized that I had lost my faith and it was very counterintuitive because that should have strengthened my faith basically at the age of 39 I'd been studying philosophy as a hobby I had read many many things and explored many avenues as an atheist my journey in to atheism I got deeper and deeper to the point where I realized that logically it was not scientific to posit the existence of the other I only had myself and I became God and of course in the back of my mind I knew that I was contingent and that I depended on many things but I could in my soul eps ism i could escape that by saying it's just a dreamer it's just an illusion and i'm just a god who's confused and I was reading Rene descarte he had a very offhand solution to the problem of solipsism which was something like yeah of course God is good and of course God exists of course the real world exists and let's get on with science it wasn't set out as a proof and it certainly wasn't set out to convert anyone from atheism to God but that's the effect it had on me because of my journey it was philosophy that led me to salep season Rene descarte brought me out of solipsism to God the Father and then I had to pick a religion I didn't believe in Christianity but I made the pragmatic choice to start my journey as monotheists as a Christian because I live in a Christian culture but i will say that reading st. Augustine's Confessions maybe fall in love with christian for the first time because I was antagonistic towards Christianity and as an atheist and I think it makes sense when you abandon Jesus Christ you hurt him when you hurt someone it's hard to face them but luckily I have the church and I have marry and have the Saints and I can't approach Jesus in an indirect way and that's what I have been doing took 25 years as an atheist to come back to God but I was very very happy and I hope it happens to you too if being a Catholic makes you a good person then be a Catholic just all that I can say I would say if my message is to atheists from a non-practicing atheist to atheists look back and see if you can scientifically prove there is no God we cannot do that so for us to insist on the religious person to give up their worldview and join the Atheist worldview I think we are on the wrong path in a sense at the end of the day both religious and atheists can be evil and also can be good if you like a worldview if you think it's got some questions piano tell all you got to do is all you piano tell all you got to do is all you got to do