God in Nature, God in Church

Few experiences beat the serenity and peace found in a long hike up a mountain. There is just something incredible about being physically disconnected from all the bustle, noise, stress, and on-goings of city life. The crisp air, the sounds of nature, the fresh smells. Something here speaks to a very fundamental place in humanity.

I reflect on this reality often when I am confronted with a common denunciation of organized religion: nature is my church, I go there to worship God.

It is true that the prophets were often drawn to the wilderness, to the high places. Christ Himself often sought refuge in the stillness of secluded and isolated locations in the desert and elsewhere. Still, I have to ask myself, can nature replace Church?

I see two helpful roads for this discussion. The first being what really lies at the heart of this argument (or more accurately at the heart of its supporters), and the second addressing what we have to gain by worshiping in common.

I hit a wall very quickly when I try to see the reason in this refusal of Sunday worship: since when was it an either or equation?

Plenty of my fellow Christians love the outdoors and go there often. At the same time, they share a devoted passion for liturgy and communal worship. The idea of “worshiping in nature,” really has nothing to do with nature at all, but a distaste for what happens in a Church.

Often I get the impression that what these folks mean by “worship” is something rather similar to enjoy. To enjoy something is for the individual only, and not for God. To worship God is to give all reverence and glory to Him who created it, and that is an external action. It requires effort and acknowledgment.

The heart of the matter simply remains that if we really wish to worship God, then we worship Him according to the means He provided for our own good. The emphasis is not on where and how I want to worship, but precisely upon God’s preference and desire.

This is to love God.

I am sure there are many causes for this hesitancy or out-right refusal to worship in community.

One perhaps being a general mistrust of others. This may either be a unhindered distaste for humankind in general stemming from past wounds and rejections, or perhaps just an inability to express something intimate, my relationship with God, in the presence of the community.

Another reason could be associated with the anxiety of being seen in a place of worship, the fear of being associated with “them,” the church going types. Being a believer is increasingly becoming a counter-cultural act, and a rather unpopular one at that.

In any case, the mentality that I can go it on my own, without the fraternal aid and support of the community is folly, and if left unchecked, it leads to spiritual ruin. For no person is wise enough to travel the long and arduous path to God alone. There are simply too many pitfalls, traps, and snares which await the sincere believer.

We need each other.


In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis articulates the idea very well: “God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body.”

The second downfall of the notion of worshiping in nature exclusively is the immense loss of missing out on communal worship.

Anyone who has played in a well practiced and unified band knows that this experience can be nearly mystical. The combined and harmonized efforts of the group creates a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. From this experience is created incredible music.

It is also true for worship, and the fruits of communal worship is truly mystical.

As Lewis points out, not only is communal worship better, it is also exactly what we were created for. In the Catholic tradition, even the most secluded hermit prays in communion with all the faithful using prayers which match exactly those of the faithful worldwide. In addition, they attend if at all possible a communal Sunday worship with their brothers or sisters.

They understand always that they leave the world specifically to be united to it, and to pray for it, with a greater fervency and intensity.

My point being that they are never separate, or on their own.

This is never the feeling I get from those who follow the idea of worship in nature.

They most often strike me as those lacking the energy and spirit of charity towards neighbour. They are often the types to be judgmental of all the failings of church leaders or those who attend, while not seeing their own.

A priest once told me of an exchange he had with a man on the street who said to him, “Why would I go to church, it’s full of hypocrites!” He immediately replied, “Yup, and we’ve got room for one more.”

It is true that every church community has its wounds, its errors, its failings. After all a church community is a family. Should we expect anything different from a family?

If it is not the communal aspect of church, the other which can often turn people off, especially since the social upheaval of the sixties, is the structure and order of the Church. The dogmas, the rules, the hierarchy, etc.

C.S. Lewis recalls an experience where he was giving a talk on theology and “an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, ‘I’ve no use for all this stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!’”

Lewis continues to explain that this man had a good point. That to go from this real experience to the dogmas was akin to “turning from something real to something less real.” Like going from a view of the ocean itself, to a map. “Turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper.”

However, he finishes by making the point that the map, though not as real, contains thousands of combined experiences coming from thousands of different people. That this map, which is not the thing itself, does tell us how to navigate the dangerous ocean safely.

“The doctrines are not God.” They are, however, a guide to reach our destination safely.

He drives his point home: “You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work…”

Without the work to which Lewis refers, we also fail to obtain the fruits: supernatural charity, love, and perseverance in all kinds of difficulties and evils.

We need each other, we need the map.

In the end we work to accomplish here what we hope to discover in heaven. Heaven is a community of persons, of love. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t work to accomplish that goal right here and now.


Take Courage


Whoever denies their need for the mercy of God, denies the very air they seek to breathe.


Even beyond this the question is absolutely outside the realm of what we need, though we do need it! It should be known that any who understands the mercy of God desires it more than the air they breathe.


The perfect mother but only shadowed the tenderness which awaits the repentant heart. He tells us, “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” The caring affection of a grandmother is like a small stream compared to the vast flowing currents contained in the oceans of God’s care for His children.


Our everyday experience of hatred, darkness, betrayal, ignorance, disgust, and apathy are constant pointers in the opposite direction. If these evils assails us, there must be their opposite to relieve.


Sadly, many despair of the hope this world can give and relinquish themselves to this darkness which poisons.


For many it seems easier to hold on to a lie, than to face the pain of changing, admitting fault.


Resist the wholesale apathy which the world sells today. It is a lie and a detestable one. One which claims that human beings are not worth more than their subjective experience of pleasure. One which claims that our hearts are nothing more than the beating of flesh and blood, and certainly not a sign of the life-force which is pumped into us from the divine source, from our divine Father.


Take courage.NmnKzKIyQsyGIkFjiNsb_20140717_212636-3


The darkness is weak, it will always flee before the light. Darkness can never consume light where it resides. With that said, it is ours to invite the light, to embrace it.


Have you ever had the experience of finally overcoming ego and pride to forgive one who may not even have deserved forgiveness? Did you feel the lightheartedness, the release, the peace which followed such an action? For one who forgives, there is no wound that can overwhelm.


No amount of destruction could outmatch one pure act of love, sprouting from the plenitude of God’s mercy. Not even death can overcome love. For we look everyday to the saints who died, who were murdered in often times brutal forms, with forgiveness being the last gift released from their pure hearts. Still they hold us in loving concern.


They forgive their executioners.

The agents of their death. They do this because they know the plenitude of God’s love for which they willingly take up this sacrifice.


If it is abundance you seek, then you need God’s mercy. If you seek security, God is the only totally trustworthy being in the universe. If it is affluence you seek, I cannot even begin to describe the splendour of the heavenly riches given to us through a small act of compassion!


To claim that we can have compassion without God, is no different than to claim that we can have life without oxygen. All the while taking in its sustenance, even to claim those very words. This is but another example of God’s compassion who gives his gifts even to those who reject Him.


What must a person do to find this love, this mercy, this fatherly care?


To say nothing more than: “Papa, I’m here. I’ve missed you.”

Suffering (Part 3 of 3): God Will Never Test You Beyond Your Strength

torn_copyPain is awful.

Suffering can be unbearable, and unthinkable. Especially when the source of our torment is the suffering of someone we love, like our children, the discomfort can be extraordinary.

There is within scripture and Christian tradition the idea the God will never give us more pain, or a greater trial than we can handle.

Recently I noticed a couple articles online which argued the opposite: that God will overwhelm us.

In order to believe this a person must hold a very narrow interpretation and understanding of the commonly cited quote from 1 Corinthians 10, “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength.” Beyond that, if we take two known characteristics of God, that He is both all-powerful and all-loving, then this also supports the notion that God would never test us beyond our limit.

Within suffering, powerlessness rears its ugly head. Our limitations and finiteness become apparent. That can be a terrifying realisation, but one from which the greatest drop of truth is born. In our helplessness comes the knowledge of our need for help, for divine assistance.

Those who seek to fight the crashing waves of suffering on their own are inevitably crushed and thrown about. Though a person may survive the onslaught, they emerge with jadedness, with anger. Either that, or they emerge with a dwelling attachment to suffering and the battle that surrounds it.

When you suffer, beg the Lord of all mercies for help!

He will come to your aid.

Not in the way you might expect or want, but He will come.

Do not forget, reliance on God is not a one off, once and done kind of deal.

Relying on God in our suffering means repeated prayers, a constant personal reminding, a striving to turn again and again, back towards He who can give peace in the world’s worst turmoil.

God will never give you more than you can handle.

Our human strength is frail, it is inevitably empty.

If it is our own strength which we seek to rely upon, then yes, we will encounter trials which are too great.


God always offers the grace, but it is up to us, the receivers, to accept it.

Like a tool with no one to wield it, without acceptance grace is impotent.

The notion that God will give us more than we can handle is a flawed one which extols the “glory” or significance of our suffering above God’s grace and love. Even if, as most of these articles point out, being overwhelmed leads to the knowledge that we need God.

One man claimed that this promise is not in scripture and remarks that the line from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is about temptation and not suffering. It is actually about both:

God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.”

In every form of suffering we have a choice: to rely on our own strength, or to trust in God’s.

To rely on our own is a temptation, and a serious one because it can lead to despair, the greatest separation from God’s mercy. It is pride that motivates us to shirk God’s help, and it is from this pride that God gives us ‘a way out’. The choices we make during our suffering is exactly what Paul is writing about. He asks us to trust God.

Trust placed in God is never in vain.

If we only trust Him so that the world may unfold in our image, it is folly.

Some struggle just to be able to accept that good may come from suffering. Those who can accept this reality often endure suffering only because they have their own notion of what they hope to accomplish through it. It is no wonder then, that the pain becomes too much, because they hope for something which has never been promised.

When we plan out for ourselves what good things we will receive from our suffering, we will be overcome. When we seek to embrace suffering only on a temporary basis; we will be overcome. When we attempt to utilize suffering for our own ends; we will be overcome.

Only when we embrace suffering with complete openness and abandonment to God’s mercy, plan, and love, will we have the grace–and as a result the strength–to endure anything.

‘God will give you more than you can handle is satan’s motto.

He spreads this notion because he wants people to lose absolute trust in God’s goodness.

For a God who delivers His followers into snares from which they cannot escape is either not loving or not powerful enough to deliver them.

The evil one glosses over this lie with notions of compassion and understanding. He whispers that if we don’t acknowledge the lie we are not compassionate towards those who suffer. When if fact, we steal from those suffering the very tool to find help immediately, not after defeat.

One author introduced the idea that Jesus had claimed that the passion was too much for Him, that in His agony in the garden he paraphrased this to God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And He went al ittle beyong them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Shortly after He continues, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

If it was too much, Jesus would have fled. He would not have given His will up to that of His Father.

Instead, Jesus handed Himself over to his own crucifixion. He who could have called legions of angels to his assistance. Instead He humbled Himself to embrace torture, beatings, slander, and eventually death. It was not too much, because Christ allowed it to happen, he willingly participated in his own execution.

The immensity of Christ’s suffering should never be confused with a bowing of His will before the pain.

In imitating Christ, we must all willingly lay down our lives in our sufferings. Our emotional reaction to suffering does not have to become our actions. We must acknowledge that without God our trials are too much, but with Him, in God’s love, we can do everything. God never gives us more than we can handle, because he also supplies the grace.

While staying at a community in Ontario I was suffering under immense pain and confusion. To find help I asked a question to three of the communities leaders: “What do you do if you’re overwhelmed?”

They responded, “Stop relying on yourself.

It is time to draw ourselves up, out of self-pity, and into God’s love!

Suffering is the precursor to glory if we remain in His grace!

Do not lose heart, but bear your afflictions with joy. For He who has created the universe, He who has risen from the dead, will also carry you through your current hardships and into a life so resplendent and glorious that this current moment of suffering will seem like a distant, faded memory.file8781234480355

Suffering (Part 2 of 3): If God is so Good, Why do People Suffer?



If your a sucker for repetition, look into a video or online story about a great tragedy in which either the author, or a commenter, thanks God for the salvation of the people involved.

If the article is broadly popular soon after you will see comments like, “If God is so good for saving this one person, why did he let the others die?” Or, “If God is loving and all powerful why did he let this tragedy happen in the first place?”

Rather than being genuine curiosities, these comments are sucker punches directed at the weak stomach of a suffering soul.

This ridicule is lacking in a proper understanding of human life. Those who wield them fail to fully include all elements of their own argument.

If God exists and is all loving and all powerful, as we Christians claim, then the reality of the soul is a fact. If the soul does exist then eternal life is a question of real importance. Thus, if God truly loves us, which we believe, then His chief concern is our eternal life, above all else.

That means that freedom from suffering and death are part, but not all of, the life of the soul, which is eternal by nature.

This very reality was exemplified by the God we believe in.

Not only does he treat us as a parent lovingly treats a child, but He went one step further and lived out suffering as we must.

Christ is the living example of pure goodness, pure love. What did He receive for being the unblemished lamb? Death, brutal death, at the hands of the Sanhedrin and the Romans. Where was our supposedly good God then?

For Christians the crucifixion is not the end of the story, but the beginning:

This saga calls us to a greater intimacy, a greater understanding of this mysterious and often ridiculed God.

To heal only our physical sufferings but to pay no attention to our spiritual maladies is akin to curing the symptoms of serious disease but ignoring the disease itself. It may feel better for a time, but in the end the patient is far worse off.

Thus, forgiveness trumps relief from suffering every time.

Forgiveness brings intimacy and relationship. It brings the possibility of reunion which, since God is who we claim He is, is the most important aspect of every human being’s life.

Christ endured more suffering then can be imagined.

He was the only person who actually had no guilt, who actually deserved no punishment, let alone capital punishment.

He endured this suffering because there is something greater then relief from pain.

He endured this suffering so we might know freedom from the deepest pains of the human heart, those which are indescribable, and far worse than any external tragedy could bring.

Most parents, whether they are religious or not, understand the importance of attending to the greatest good. Parents will deny their children what they want, causing suffering to their children temporarily, knowing that a spoiled child will suffer tremendously in the future, something far worse then this mild discomfort that is occurring in this moment.

We all know that a parent who caves in too often will spoil the child, and this is not love. It is a form of selfishness because the parent caters to their own anxiety and not to the needs of the child.

If God merely relieved us from every physical discomfort, it would actually spoil us into decadence while our spiritual life careened out of control. It would cast into jeopardy the most valuable treasure any human has: relationship with Him. Because God exists, death is not nearly as final as it would seem. It means that death is a transition and not an ending, which means that our human understanding of what death is, is incomplete.

Though it can be unbearable as we remember those we’ve lost, those who die are not lost to us. If God would allow any human person to die in a world where death is final, He would be a lie.

But if death is only the gate through which we enter into His presence, then who’s to say death is ultimately bad?

Any person who attempts to undermine the belief of another with the argument “If God is… , then why does this happen,” would be wise to consider fully just what life with God means. There comes a time in every believers life when this very question arises, and it is an important question to flesh out. When it is born through a genuine hunger for understanding, amazing beauty comes from this query.

When it is wielded as an assault on the beliefs of others, or as an idle thought in an otherwise unconcerned mind, it serves no purpose.

As a good parent hates to see their child suffer, but may allow it for the good of that very child, so we may rest assured that God only ever allows suffering if it is for the greatest good of our own our hearts and souls.

Belief (Part 3 of 3): The Simplicity of The Ancients


It has been said that God makes sages out of fools, that the intelligence of the intelligentsia will become their own stupidity; the simplicity of the fool will become his path to true wisdom.


While pondering these words I couldn’t help but compare ourselves, living in the age of over-abundant skepticism, to our more straightforward precursors.


Think of the times of the Romans and the barbaric clans who surrounded the refined Roman borders. Or of the ancient Jews who were a seemingly insignificant people in the ancient historical records. Or of the ancient pagan civilizations of the Middle East, Indian, Mesopotamia, Egypt etc.


Perhaps you have no experience of these cultures? Allow me to entertain you with a few ideas of these times.


The people in Old Testament biblical times were pretty straight forward about their gods. You worship the god you need to worship in order to avoid being fried from the earth. Simple. If some passer-by could introduce to you another god who visibly and tangibly displayed his power, then by all means you were forced to believe in this new god.


There was a certain poetic practicality to their believing: believe and worship the right god, get all the good stuff, avoid destruction.


Though not perfect, I can admire this mentality. Where they have one up on us, is that they actually looked for signs of the power of another god, they even had recorded competitions between their gods.


These people, through not experiencing the delusion that they had mastered the world via modern science, still understood their powerlessness. They still understood themselves within the most awesome perspective of mystery and wonder.


This reality has not died, but man in his limited scientific success has deemed himself deity of the world. It may come as a surprise that curing illness does not grant man supernatural power, like creating something from nothing.


Likewise, none of our technologies, bound by the laws of the universe, are capable of anything beyond the predictable reality of the universe.


We cannot even create one speck, one atom, one iota of the most fundamental part of every person’s, every animal’s, and ever living thing’s existence: life.


Admittedly we may borrow the faculties which have been given us to create life via the known methods of procreation, but even then we only take the seed and the egg which have already been given us. No man or woman has ever truly, from nothing, produced life.


I digress: Do you know why science is often very exhausting? Because some prune has the audacity to claim that he has mastered some field of the universe! When he truly is nothing more than a careful observer.


Yes, I know that many a scientist exclaim regularly about the great realities and mysteries of things like quantum physics and black holes and relativity. Yes they say these things, but something like atheism would never exist if they didn’t believe in their hearts at a deep fundamental level that everything left unknown is just more stuff to be discovered; like finding more species at the bottom of the ocean. Even when considering the awesome possibilities of worm holes or parallel universes, you can’t help but get the impression they are just describing an ultra-complicated jigsaw puzzle that has a simple, materialistic explanation after all.


Fairy tales are not interesting because they present impossible realities for the fancies of children. If that were true no adult would love a good sci-fi or fantasy novel. We love fairy tales because they resound with the mystery which resides daily in our hearts.


No scientist, philosopher, or everyday thinker should ever claim to understand the universe, or to be at the verge of understanding it, or something so inane as that science is about to break the boundaries and understand all things.


Nothing could be less scientific.


One man once said to me that ‘science was on the verge of proving that God does not exist’.


I could say in reply, “It is fairly definitive that your curiosity does not exist.”


It should be remembered that without curiosity, a hunger into knowing the unknown, a field like science would never exist.


In knowing our boundaries we discover mystery, and in knowing mystery we begin to open our eyes to the places and parts of the universe which cannot be found in telescopes, microscopes, or in the tired fancies of egoists.


Everyone who’s ever read a good fairy tale knows that the things that cannot be seen contain the greatest powers and are integral parts of every great adventure. What would happen if we all had a little more simplicity like our ancient brethren and awoke our eyes to see beyond the veil of being “masters of our universe”?


Have you ever felt that crushing feeling? The one that traps you, and no matter what you do it crushes, smothers, and oppresses all your thoughts, actions, and motions. It’s like a voracious hyena that nibbles at your heels every time you stop to rest. It is a kind of discontent, like a film over top of contentment that prevents us from touching it, no matter which direction we approach from. It takes our successes and gives them that “just not right” smell that milk gets when its about to go.

I wonder if this state isn’t something similar to what was frequently called, in an age gone by, the blues. I would call it the Great Burden, a kind of cosmic weight bearing down upon us.

For Restless 2To elucidate my own experience with this universal struggle, allow me to take you back five years to when I spent my summers hitchhiking across the breadth of Canada.

I can recall a time when I first began praying. It was during my long hours spent on the side of a highway that I’d started to ask God, or the Universe, or whatever was out there, for the things I wanted most. It appeared like my prayers were being answered. Again and again I told myself, it’s just coincidence, you’re praying for the things you need after all. This did not explain, however, both the speed and shocking accuracy with which these prayers were answered.

Imagine thinking to yourself, “Man, I’d really love a ham sandwich with tomatoes…”
No sooner had you uttered these words then someone would walk up to you and say, “Hi! Sorry to bother you, but I just ordered this ham sandwich but they put tomatoes on it and I don’t like them, do you want it?” It was in the face of situations just like this one, where reason had to suggest – this is greater than coincidence, something else is has to be going on here. Truly, there are no coincidences with God.

Though what I pined after was hardly below the surface levels of desire, it was all granted to me.

With that said I should note that I do not seek to create the impression that prayers are always answered in such a fashion. It was, according to that time in my life, how God so decided to show me his presence.

My journey of indulgence came to a peak.

I’ll never forget this moment so long as I live: I was sitting on a couch, in a bar which belonged to my girlfriend’s brother, and I was weeping. In the middle of the dancing, the drinking, the chaos, and the celebrations, there I was having a good cry. My girlfriend approached me and inquired into why I was so downtrodden. I responded, “Everything is great!” They were not tears of sadness, but of happiness. “I have gotten everything I ever could have asked for!” I told her, between sobs. It was true. So overwhelmed was I from my prayers being answered on such a regular basis, I wept because I realised that I was so happy, that I had nothing left to want for.

Within a week from that day, everything collapsed. My travels ended, she dumped me, I hit the bottom soon after. Numb from the turmoil I felt nothing, but continued to pray and meditate in silence for long periods of time every day. Had God abandoned me? Had He, who is said to be Love, played a cruel trick on me?

Quite the opposite: He was calling me deeper, beyond my shallow desires into a communion of persons. God would not remain a merchant in my life, but a living and acting person with whom I began a friendship, a dialogue that continues to this day.

In my moments of meditation one message reached me over and over again: Go to the local soup kitchen, live there.

This particular soup kitchen, located downtown, serves the homeless. I had doubts. It never occurred to me that anyone might actually live there. Within my experiences of the past, I had learned not to dismiss the message outright, but to seek out its authenticity.

Those who ran the soup kitchen accepted me into their life.

Though they have no official policy for accepting guests, it was decided that my presence was, one way or another, in line with God’s will. During my stay I put forth my best effort to serve the poor with my whole heart. For someone who had just lived for two years off the kindness of others, while travelling the highways of Canada, it wasn’t hard to sympathize with these struggling men and women.

In addition to my firsthand and full time experience with serving my brothers and sisters, I also had lots of quiet time for reflection. During this time I searched for the answers to some important questions: If I had obtained everything I knew to desire, why had I plummeted so quickly into chaos and turmoil so soon after? Was there any amount of worldly things that could fill this void within me? Why was I always still hungry, always still yearning for more?


Pope Francis sums up the emptiness I experienced in his apostolic exhortation Joy of the Gospel. He informs us that “desolation and anguish” are “born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” And, as though to highlight my own transition, he teaches further that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.”

Who hasn’t seen this process in their own lives? No amount of goods, money, or possessions has ever resulted in a peaceful and content heart. The lack of food and daily necessities can lead to great suffering, but to have these things alone is never sufficient for an equation equalling peace.

In order to effectively treat an illness a wise doctor must asses the cause of the symptoms, and not just the symptoms alone; likewise, in this context I learned to seek out the cause of my discomfort. I sought to understand why I was not satiated by mere heaps of “stuff”, instead of blindly piling more things into the emptiness, always ending up hungry again.

Social Darwinists will be quick to say that due to our evolutionary ancestry it makes sense to have endless desires for things, comforts, and security, that these things ensure a greater chance of survival. Though there is often merit in these types of arguments, I am not so quick to delude the human family into a pack of evolved animals. I do not deny our evolutionary ancestors; however, I affirm that we are much more than evolved apes and the evidence lies within our hearts. It was in silence, in meditation, in searching inwards that I noticed something so spectacular, so fulfilling, so incredible, that a mere few seconds of this experience left me hungry beyond belief for more.

It may be argued that I had just replaced one hunger for another, but this was different. This experience satiated all other hungers, it produced peace, contentment, and fortitude. In the realm of consumerism and selfish indulgence we are given fading and inevitably empty promises. In direct contrast and spoken powerfully in the words of Saint Augustine:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Atheism: The Paradox Between Liberty and Tolerance


Some years ago while on a walking pilgrimage through Ontario I stopped in a small city. I had walked hundreds of miles to get there and hadn’t spoken to more than a person or two in three days. Unwary of where anything was in the city, I approached a man and his son at a nearby park. I asked him for directions to the city center. He supplied me with some directions and I said, “Thanks, God bless you my friend.”

He replied curtly, “I don’t believe in God.”

Taken aback, I decided it needed no further comment and departed. This man’s reply represents something I’ve been trying to put my finger on for some time. If we observe the conversation closely we can see the deeper underlying messages. By outright stating that he didn’t believe in God when I wished him to be blessed, he was not making a unbiased statement in response to a question. He made a verbal attack on my beliefs. When someone wishes me a happy Hanukkah, I do not turn around and slap away their well wishing and tell them their belief is wrong. No, I accept their gift with an open heart and say thank you. I seek to understand the true intent of the statement.

I realise this man does not represent all atheists, but he does represent a recurring pattern in our society: atheism advocating intolerance, in the name of “tolerance”.

Some groups, in the name of atheism, are wielding lawsuits in order to push around schools. Most schools, lacking adequate funding for lengthy legal battles, are incapable of fighting back and thus crumble under the pressure.

One such example was when a school was forced to remove a painting of a shepherd with his sheep from it’s walls due to legal action. Please help me understand something: how does an innocuous painting of a shepherd and his sheep, if God does not exist, pose such a threat to these apparently deeply threatened atheists?

Another recent example is how the American Humanist Association closed down a schools Christmas box drive because of its affiliation with a religious group. Again, using the threat of legal action, the school was forced to give in, not having the funds to fight back, and the box drive was canceled. There has been no reports of the atheists filling the gap and supplying the toys and school supplies to the children who will now receive nothing. Merry Christmas.

Such lawsuits are on par with Russia’s draconian laws enacted towards homosexuality.

They are acts of intolerance, plain and simple. Some groups of atheists are beginning to rival extreme fundamentalist Christians in the propagation of their beliefs. Much like these Christian groups, the atheists’ proselytization is coming at the cost of tolerance and respect. You need only hear a reference to “fairies in the garden” or other popular atheistic rhetoric to know what I mean. There is a tone in such language that is unavoidable and intentional: your beliefs are stupid and irrational. This is tolerance?

Just as the man I met in the park completely missed my intention to wish him well, so these atheists are missing the point altogether. If atheists want the freedom to express their beliefs “outside of their homes”, then it behooves them to start respecting the rights of believers to express their beliefs. Catholicism represents and defends religious freedom. It recognizes the fact that in order to ensure human freedom, religious freedom is necessary. To allow such freedoms means to allow public display, education, and celebration of religious practices and belief. Catholics work to ensure the freedom of believers and non-believers alike, atheists included.

Outfits like the Freedom From Religion Foundation are dogmatic institutions with the goal of eradicating religion. The battlefront today is our schools, but they won’t stop there. Here’s a direct quote from their “winter solstice sign”: “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds”. This was written by a softened, compassionate heart? The statement lacks insight, maturity, and respect. It shows no indication of a person who is “enlightened” or overflowing with kindness. For a foundation that represents free thought, they seem to have closed their minds to particular subjects.

True tolerance is always filled with respect.

Underlying all tolerance needs to be a deep love for the other. If any Christian hates or rejects someone because they choose a homosexual lifestyle, then they have failed in tolerance. Likewise, anyone who attacks or belittles someone with religious belief, have failed to be tolerant. Neither side of this struggle is without error. If life giving dialogue is going to exist, then both sides need to analyze their usage of language and their motives. Without respect we will only slide deeper into childish ravings and bullying tactics.

Good Shepherd painting: http://www.whiznews.com/content/news/local/2013/11/15/decision-made-regarding-jesus-painting

Winter Solstice Sign: http://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/19547-ffrf-places-%E2%80%98natural-nativity%E2%80%99-winter-solstice-sign-in-wisconsin-capitol

Christmas Drive Closed: http://www.bizpacreview.com/2013/11/16/school-cancels-christmas-toy-drive-over-anti-religious-groups-lawsuit-threat-87245