Guest Post: From Catholicism to Unbelief… and Back
This is a guest post from Joe Landi. He says, “I am a marketing major at Clemson University in South Carolina. I suck at multiple things, some of which include golf, rapping, and philosophy. I plan to attend law school with the hope of getting in as much debt as quickly as possible.”. You can read his blog here, and follow him on Twitter at: @almostorthodoxy.
I come on this website as an outsider. I’m a Roman Catholic.
Don’t worry, I not writing this in the hope of converting anyone. As Camus said, no one has ever died for the ontological argument, and it is my best guess that I won’t have atheist readers of this article dunking their head in the baptismal font anytime soon either. It took Newman twenty-one years to make the move from high church Anglicanism to Catholicism. My expectations are poor.
But what I can do is attempt my best at telling a simple story of why I reverted to Rome. Nothing more. Nothing less. So here I go.
I grew up in a Catholic family and I became an atheist. Same old story; you know the deal. I haven’t room for details.
On a chilly Saturday morning last fall, I entered back into the Church. Why?
Well, I’ve been trying to write a piece like this for the past six months, attempting at no end to explain precisely why I reverted to Catholicism. I have given up. It ‘s pretty much like trying to explain why you think so-and-so piece of art is beautiful. It can’t be done; especially by an idiot like myself. But my failure will not end in silence.
Thinking about how I should go about this, I originally planned to provide a strictly intellectual, “rational” account of things. If I didn’t do so, then I figured readers would get on me for not providing “sufficient evidence.” But – against my best judgment – I will simply tell you a few of the many reasons why I love being a Catholic.
Love is thinking at its finest. No, not pondering existential quantifiers. No, not reading De Beauvoir while sipping tea. No: love.
See, there is this title available for saints in the Church of “Doctor of the Church.” It’s meant for those saints that were, may I say, smart. Basil, Jerome, Bonaventure, Augustine, and… Aquinas – I think you get the point. But wait a second, I see someone that doesn’t belong. Is that Thérèse? Thérèse of… Lisieux? That uneducated nun whose most intellectually sophisticated and only writing was her autobiography, who died before her twenty-fifth birthday, and who just happens to have her feast day on my birthday? Yes, that Thérèse. And that’s why I love being a Catholic.
The Trinity – to use technical language for a moment – secures an epistemological position where love, not the intellect, is what will truly lead us to the truth. It, so to say, levels the playing field, putting us in a world where an uneducated cloistered Carmelite can know just as much as, lets say, Aquinas. As the proverb says: “wisdom is easy,” in the sense that you don’t need a P.H.D. to attain to it. And this is precisely what puts the “catholicus” in Catholic.
Anyways, even while I was an atheist, I still had looked up to the saints. I had read pretty much all the classics – Chrysostom’s sermons, Theresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle,” Augustine’s “Confessions,” the writings of Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross’ poetry, the “Epistles” of Ignatius of Antioch, and last but not least Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul” – just to name a few. Needless to say, I had, in some sense of the phrase, developed a relationship with these people. Augustine’s writings had had a huge effect on me, and after reading Therese’s “Story of a Soul,” I could say without a doubt she would be the person from history that I would most like to meet. The thing was, all of these people were Catholics.
Before I move on, let me take a step back and clarify something.
A point that gets lost on most atheists is that religion is first and foremost a way of life. As Wittgenstein said, “although it’s belief, it is really a way of living, or a way of judging life.” Therefore, for me, being Catholic primarily means doing certain things, not simply intellectualizing them. I’m a Catholic not when I sit down and decide that the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection looks rather good, but when I go to confession and confess my sins.
With this said, part, not all of the reason, why I came back to the Church was simple. I was moved by the thought that my way of “judging life” would be the same as all the many saints that I had so looked up to. When I pray the Rosary, I am reciting the same prayers that reverberated off the walls of James Foley’s prison cell as he awaited his execution at the hands of Islamic militants. When I receive the Eucharist, I am doing exactly what made Aquinas cry. And – when I go confess my sins I can say right along with Augustine, “in my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.”
That is the “beauty so ancient and so new.” That is Catholicism. And that’s why I love it.
This was a guest post from Joe Landi. He says, “I am a marketing major at Clemson University in South Carolina. I suck at multiple things, some of which include golf, rapping, and philosophy. I plan to attend law school with the hope of getting in as much debt as quickly as possible.”. You can read his blog here, and follow him on Twitter at: @almostorthodoxy. If you would like to be a guest blogger on godlessmom.com, please click here.