I have spent some time this afternoon reading the combox for Leah Libresco’s last post for the atheist portal.

The comments from the atheists are very interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it is amazing how many of the commenters speak rather aggressively about religion being “irrational”. We must believe that this is their honest and sincere perception of religion. They must have got this impression from their experience of religion, and therefore we must blame the Christians who have preached and followed a religion that is indeed irrational, ignorant and stupid. While I admit that there are plenty of poorly educated Catholics, the Protestant fundamentalists have a lot to answer for here.

Not only are too many of them uneducated and irrational in their approach, but they intentionally adopt a certain anti-rationalism and anti intellectualism. When I was at Bob Jones University I can remember how the “preacher boys” the guys who were training to be Baptist preachers would often assume a Southern country accent when they got into the pulpit. There was a certain country preacher style they would put on. They deliberately adopted this country style and an aggressively anti intellectual posture to go with it.

The second impression from reading the atheist comments is how much of their understanding of Christianity and the Christian God is determined by Sunday school and revivalist fundamentalism. They think it is real smart to ask how kangaroos got on Noah’s ark or to throw stones at a “loving God who would torture somebody forever in hell.” Sadly, they never seem to have experienced any form of Christianity which actually proposes intelligent answers to such Sunday School questions.

The third thing I notice about this sort of atheist is that they are very angry and aggressive. I suspect they have been wounded by their fundamentalist upbringing or the fundamentalist culture in America. They have seen through Christianity if that is what Christianity is, and they can’t help lashing out. I understand.

The saddest problem with atheists of this sort is that along with the stupid fundamentalism they were given, and the ignorant version of Christianity they were taught, they were also taught that Catholics were, among all other religions, the very worst. Their ignorance of intelligent and articulate Catholicism is complete. What they do know about Catholicism is made up of the lies, half truths, scandals and foolishness they have picked up first from their fundamentalist background and second from the anti Catholic propaganda in the academy and thirdly in the prevailing anti Catholic propaganda in contemporary media, and fourthly from bad Catholics.

For them to actually stop and discover the true Catholicism–an ancient religion that is compassionate, humane, intelligent, beautiful, strong and true–a religion that scales the heights of human achievement and deals with the depths of human depravity–a religion that is at once poetic and prosaic, magnificent and humble, glorious and simple, hilarious and tragic, a religion that is both noble and poor, majestic and plain, wise and innocent–a religion that offers the complexity of the worlds great philosophers and the simplicity of the unlettered–all bundled up in a faith that encompasses all cultures, races and nations–the old and the young, the poor and the rich, the outcasts and the elite…

For them to stop and see such a Catholicism–such a Christianity.

It seems impossible–except for the miracle of grace.