Amid dwindling attendance in Catholic churches across the U.S., Brandon Vogt hosts a continuing dialog between Catholics and atheists on his website, StrangeNotions.com. He is using his online interactions with non-believers to defend his faith in Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) (Ave Maria Press, Oct. 6).
How and why did you become a Catholic?
I became Catholic for the reason anyone should embrace any religion or worldview: because it’s true. I researched it extensively and became convinced that the Catholic Church was started by Jesus Christ, that Jesus is God, and that God exists. If all three of those things are true, then, what the Catholic Church says is right.
Why do you think people should consider the Catholic Church a moral authority, despite the child sex abuse scandals surrounding it?
If you look at any of the statistics or have read any of the stories of children who have been abused, it’s just horrific; there is no way to whitewash that or get around that fact. What has made it even worse is the number of Church leaders who have covered up these cases. I totally get that. With that said though, I would like to add a couple of important points. The large majority of these cases took place in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The Catholic Church has gone through extreme measures to reform its safe environment policies and many secular institutions now look to the Church for guidance on how to make institutions safe for children. A second thing is that the moral authority of the Church doesn’t hinge on the moral authority of its faithful. Just because some Catholics fail to live up to the Church’s moral teachings, that doesn’t undermine the Church’s authority, because Catholics don’t believe that the Church gets its moral authority from its own perfection—it believes it has moral authority because it was given that by Jesus Christ.
Can you give an example from your book that addresses some of the critiques from atheists on arguments for the existence of God?
I give a few arguments for God in the first chapter. I do cover some of the more popular criticisms for those arguments. For example, in the moral argument for God, many atheists will claim that morality can be derived from biology. As I explain in the book, science only tells us what is; it doesn’t tell us what ought to be. Science can tell us that certain violent actions will cause people to die. But it can’t tell us that we ought not to do those things. That’s a philosophical judgement or a moral judgement that you have to [find] in something else.
How did your website impact the writing of this book?
In many ways, this book was formed out of my [online] interactions with hundreds of atheists over the years. In fact, I wrote the book specifically with atheists and non-religious people in mind. I didn’t want to presume that readers were already religious and try to make the case for Catholicism. I wanted to start from ground zero. Most atheists I have met are sincere, smart, open minded people, and who are just interested in the truth. I am totally with them there, and we can move forward together. That’s the approach I take in my book. I’m presenting a rational case that any sincere person of good will [can] embrace.