To any position that exhibits a Christian nature, the typical current-day Westerner responds with doubt or indifference. These responses–unwitting, effortless, even natural–are the fruits from the liberal, post-Christian environment in which most are immersed. Despite their ubiquity, for the reasons which follow, these responses should be rejected for being ignorant and close-minded.
The basis of Christian truth
Regarding the Apostles and their unique credibility as public witnesses to the Resurrection, Fr. John Laux concludes,
“If their testimony is not true, what testimony is true? If we doubt the simple, definite, unanimous story of the Evangelists, the blood-sealed testimony of the Apostles, can we believe in anything?” (page 94 of Catholic Apologetics: God, Christianity, and the Church; my emphasis).
This challenge may equally be rephrased in these terms: “If Christianity is not true, what is true? Can we believe in anything?” For any judgement involving a worldview and extending beyond the purely self-evident, the answer is no. This answer becomes apparent to any fair-minded observer, who considers the sheer volume of rational arguments which substantiate Christian truth.
The alternatives to Christian truth
Christianity authoritatively claims to explain existence, the purpose of human life, and our eternal destiny after death. Even at its lowest point, Christianity is a serious, sincere attempt to explain the universe and our place within it.
But what about the alternatives to Christian truth? The Gospel of St. John encapsulates the true nature of this contrast, relating an exchange between Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ shortly before His Crucifixion.
Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth, heareth my voice.
Pilate saith to him: What is truth? And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith to them: I find no cause in him (John 18:37-38; my emphasis).
This contrast is as clear today as it was 2,000 years ago. Either one submits to Christian truth; alternatively, one is left completely unsure of or with an insufficient grasp of reality–thus Pilate’s reply to the Incarnate Word Himself: “What is truth?” In practice, the intellectual successors of Pilate fanatically enjoin themselves to passing, transitory beliefs before re-attaching to new beliefs as fresh circumstances arise.
Given our rational nature, to effectively reply “what is truth?” or “there are some things we can’t know” to supernatural questions of an infinite, eternal magnitude–is utterly inadequate. It is a failure and, as put by David Hart in The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss “an abdication of the responsibility to think.”
Indifference is a partial position
Indifference to Christianity is a partial position, a stance. Ordinary atheists seriously misunderstand this in considering such indifference to be an objective, impartial position. As regards this misunderstanding, below, is an extract from this writer’s ‘Liberalism is dogmatic’ post from May 2021:
On why it is now so common for people to close their minds to the bare possibility of an objective supernatural truth, the dogmatic nature of Liberalism explains much. For, as captured in Liberalism is a Sin by Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, Liberalism “knows no dogma except the dogma of self-assertion” (page 15). Liberalism, Fr. Salvany continues, is defined “by virtue of its opposition to truth,” it having denial as “its unity in general, and this ranges through the entire realm of negation” (page 23).
Applying the above Liberal reasoning, it is not simply that the existence of God is unlikely or insufficiently proven; instead, it is that He cannot exist.
Liberalism is certainly not unique in its dogmatism. However, Liberalism is unique in that it poses as neutral, denies an ideological frame, and all the while influences people to hold dogmatic views, such as those outlined at the outset of this post. As explained by Patrick Deneen on page 5 of Why Liberalism Failed,
“In contrast to its crueler competitor ideologies, Liberalism is more insidious: as an ideology, it pretends to neutrality, claiming no preference and denying any intention of shaping the souls under its rule. It ingratiates by invitation to the easy liberties, diversions, and attractions of freedom, pleasure, and wealth. It makes itself invisible, much as a computer’s operating system goes largely unseen–until it crashes.”
Because Liberalism makes these pretensions to neutrality, people are oblivious to the ways in which they have been induced to think. Which is especially pernicious, as when considering the array of modern convergent influences contributing to liberal (and left-wing) thought, people are more intellectually conditioned than at any prior time in human history (my emphasis).
In short, to live as if God did not exist or Christianity was untrue, is a practical decision to deny the truth and embrace blindness. Such ignorance, moreover, is “not excusable, when instruction is to be had” (page 176 of The Devil by Father Delaporte).
The inadequacy of denial
Describing the exorcism of a priest who was overwhelmed by rationalist thinking, Fr. Malachi Martin wrote,
But his horizon itself had become a tall, unscalable mesh of steel; it was misted with unknowing and agnosticism: with the “We cannot know exactly” of the pseudointellectual, the “Let’s keep an open mind” that opens every argument against belief (pages 163-164 of Hostage to the Devil; my emphasis).
This description raises an important point: anyone, ultimately, can deny anything. A person can deny certitudes as obvious as reality, reason, free will, consciousness, and gender. In this connection, the case of recent US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is instructive. Jackson is doubtless a person with considerable intelligence, on account of being nominated as a judge to the US Supreme Court. In spite of her intelligence, when questioned during Senate confirmation hearings, Jackson refused to define a woman on grounds of “I’m not a biologist.”
Notwithstanding this capacity to deny, in response, the primary question should be this: are these denials true? The latter warrants our close attention, as opposed to bald, unsupported claims which derogate from Christian truth. For any thinking person bald, unsupported denials should be dismissed as easily as they were made.
The root causes for doubt and indifference
On a natural level, essentially, there are two causes for doubt and indifference in non-Christians.
First, non-Christians refuse to entertain the possibility of Christian belief, because of the moral obligations enjoined by such belief. This is understandable, from the practical difficulty posed in repudiating much of one’s past behaviour and making future amends. Fundamentally, this refusal is gravely misconceived for the reasons outlined by St. Alphonsus Liguori:
At present sinners banish the remembrance and thought of death, and thus seek for peace (although they never find it) by leading a life of sin; but when they shall be in the agonies of death, about to enter into eternity, “when distress cometh upon them, they will seek for peace, and there will be none,” then can they no longer fly from their evil conscience; they will seek peace, but what peace can be found by a soul laden with sins, which sting it like so many vipers?” (page 39 of Preparation for Death–A Popular Abridgement; my emphasis).
Second, non-Christians have simply not thought about or examined questions of God or Christianity in any detail. Instead, they occupy themselves with work, hobbies, entertainment, the opposite sex, and family. This is the true character of the division between Christianity and atheism; by no means is it a clash of ideas with comparable explanatory value and intellectual rigour.