Friday, June 1, 2012


I came across an atheist site that had a "challenge" of sorts. It listed the attributes of a "Hoax Religion" and asks the question "How is your religion different from a hoax religion?" Now, I'm not saying for one minute I think these are accurate attributes, but I thought it would be interesting to see how my religion (Catholicism) stacks up against what an atheist would think made a religion false. So here goes.
  • The deity never appears in person to an credible person of group of people, and his very existence is unverifiable.
Jesus appeared in person to thousands upon thousands of people, both before and after His resurrection. His existence is verified by secular as well as religious sources, and is soundly documented in history. No credible historian doubts that Jesus existed.
  • No miracles or supernatural events are ever documented by any credible source.
All miracles approved by the Catholic Church are documented and verified by not only the Church herself, but by secular authorities competent in those areas. The amount of documentation for the miracles of Lourdes is immense and includes solid medical data, such as before and after X-rays. The miraculous image on the tilma of Juan Diego is on display today in Guadalupe and is still unexplained by science. The miracles of St. Pio are varied and well documented, including bilocation and levitation. His stigmata, like those of St. Gemma Galgani, were photographed and examined extensively by doctors.
  • Praying to the deity has no measurable real-world effect.
Aside from the above mentioned miracles, and things like the fall of the Soviet Union, those who have a regular prayer life have a measurably longer life, and are happier than those who don't.
  • Belief promises a reward and non-belief promises a penalty but these consequences are unverifiable.
Well, they got me there. Catholicism doesn't promise a reward for belief. Even a strong believer can fall into sin and lose salvation, as the Bible says in numerous places. Nor do we declare non-believers damned. We trust in the mercy of God to decide what each person deserves. On the other hand, we do have evidence of rewards. Each Catholic saint has miracles attributed to his intercession. As noted above, these miracles are scientifically verified. In addition, there are incorruptible saints who indicate the love God has for us.
  • Holy text makes unsubstantiated claims and describes events of questionable historicity. There is no clear evidence that the text has divine origins.
In every case where Biblical places or events have been able to be tested, they have turned out to be accurate. As for divine origins, since God has created the universe in a sense all things have divine origins. But I think the intent is that there is some aspect that is more divine than any other text. Although we believe that scripture is inspired by God, we don't believe it is dictated by God. That scripture is holy or good can be demonstrated by the fruits it produces, or by the authority of Jesus and the Church He founded. Admittedly this point rests on another, but the other is either sound (as demonstrated above), or there's no point in worrying about this one.
  • Regular groupthink meetings are held to reinforce belief. A person of authority is present to interpret the holy text, and money is collected.
Holy mass is held every day all over the world to worship God, not to reinforce beliefs, although it does both. A person of authority is present and one of the things he does is read the Bible, but that is not his main function. We go to mass because we recognize that God is deserving of our worship. It is voluntary. Likewise, money is sometimes collected, but it is always voluntary. Nobody is turned away because they refuse to pay, unlike most organizations. So I guess I can grant at least a half point here. Still I don't see how this is indicative of a hoax. If holding meetings with people who are authorities speak, and money is collect means something is a hoax, then I guess the inaptly named "Reason Rally" is a hoax as well.
  • Followers have justifications for all these failings, and believe wholeheartedly.
What kind of idiot would follow all this unless he believed wholeheartedly? And how would this be an attribute of a "hoax" rather than an attribute of any system of thought? If it is a criterion for a hoax, then atheism is as much a hoax as anything, since atheists have justifications for all the things they believe wholeheartedly. As for justifying the "failings", what failings have been demonstrated? The only point applicable is that mass is held, and that is hardly a failing.

Conclusion? What can we say about the truth of Catholicism?


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