Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD
Wow. Tough call. I think my answer would depend on what fact was revealed that rendered the Catholic Faith incredible and fraudulent with no degree of error.Under one scenario, I could see myself embracing a basic amoral hedonism, without even bothering with the faux-sacramental trappings of neo-paganism.Under another scenario, I could see myself embracing that faux-sacramentality.Under a third scenario, I could see myself embracing Zen Buddihsm, but only as a complement to a decision to live by Bushido in the absence of any other convincing moral law.And under a fourth scenario, I'd probably elect to emulate a certain 5th century Athenian stonemason or one of his intellectual successors.But it really would depend on how Christianity was rendered unbelievable.
Whitehead said "Christianity has always been a religion seeking a metaphysic, in contrast to Buddhism which is a metaphysic generating a religion. The ethical codes of Christianity and Buddhism are very similar, so Christianity could not be considered a wrong path from the Buddhist point of view. However the philosophical basis of Buddhism is stronger than that of Christianity
The question says, "... you have become convinced that Christianity is false." Your convictions, such as they may become, have no bearing on whether or not the Gospel is true. It is we who have to model ourselves after the truth, not the other way around.So I chose "other," to mean, I'm staying.
Is it some sort of cowardice to say that I don't even want to go there? That I don't even want to consider the choice?Sorry, Fr. Powell, but I think this question is similar to asking a couple in pre-Cana not "have you two thought seriously what you will do if you got divorced?" but "what will you two do if you got divorced?"The first question might open up a point of catechesis, so that the the couple might be taught what marriage really is. But the second question tugs the other direction, asking "please think about divorce as a serious option."I'm sure that you've asked this question, not out of bad intentions, but perhaps to understand the "average" Catholic better. But I am hoping that you see my point that this is not good question to ask.
You know, I've got the gift of faith. I can't help but believe that God exists, and that He is a personal God, and that he cares. The steps beyond that are more complicated, but I can't but be a monotheist who belives in a pretty personal god - and I think that excludes Islam and most flavors of Judaism. So it's that or nothing.
Bob, the question is designed to provoke some basic thinking about what's intellectually attractive about the faith. Beyond familial allegiance or affective motivation, why are we Christian rather than Buddhist, etc.? Baptism washes away original sin not our rational faculties! :-)
Fr. Powell, I can answer the positive question, but not the negative question.I was a lapsed Catholic, and my return to the faith is by no means as simple as what I present here.While outside of the Church, I came to the realization that the moral decay in modern sexual mores (the 1960's free love) could be traced back to the question of contraception. That is, if contraception is allowable, anything else is allowable. If the purpose of sex is merely about pleasure, then same sex marriage is acceptable. But once procreation becomes part of the purpose of sex, then everything snaps into place. The Catholic Church clearly got this. Humanae Vitae blew my mind.Secondly, the Magisterium/Pope is attractive. It's a perfect one, two combination. I could clearly know and come to the truth. Finally, with respect to the Resurrection the Church is a credible witness. Unlike other faiths, the Church is painfully honest.I don't know any other faith/philosophy that is as attractive as the Church. After coming into the Church, I've been attracted to Aristotle, and I suppose that would be the only fall back possible. But the funny thing is, if it weren't for the Church, Aristotle would be some obscure dead philosopher.
Fr. Powell OP,Thanks for doing this. I ended up really enjoying the exercise. It gave me a chance to pull together some thoughts real quick, and express them using too many words.I found that if I lost my faith, I'd be "other", namely a faithless Christian. Why?My mom's a gentile.In addition, if I had a problem with Christianity, it would be because I had a problem with revelation, period. What would ruin my Christian faith would be the belief that revelation had not ever actually happened. If not, then there would be no Mosaic or Abrahamic covenants to get in on. And if so, then I would feel absolutely no obligation to "become" Jewish (were that even possible and it seems to depend on which group of Jews you ask) or to be recognized by Jews as a Noahide-compliant gentile. And the Prophet would be out of the picture too, though Sufi inebriation texts of hot monotheistic love might find a place in my devotional life.I would become a theist/agnostic about revelation/"as if" type of High Church Anglican. I bet there aren't any of those in real life! Yes, I would find peace in recollecting myself in the kind of knowledge, such as it is, that philosophy and natural theology tell us about God. That would still be pretty mysterious. The communication about God by means of analogous terms occurs just as, stretching no more, the words break--all that kind of talk the Happy Thomists go on about. It's awesome.And I would let participation--keen participation, including playing dress-up, and I mean big time!--in Christian cultural forms and practices mean a whole bunch. This participation would be a way of letting my life say some kind of hopeful word [oh my goodness!] in the face of the weird, mysterious, and at times overwhelming experience of being human and facing death, but not knowing for sure whether death is "the end" or but a passage to the Mystery behind everything.Doesn't that just sound sick? It means I'd be liberal in religion but with a high view of reason, and so still a virtue-ethics dude.I really do see it all as more honorable than being a sad-sack Samuel Beckett type. Listen, the proofs for what all men call "God" work, so atheism is not on the menu. Sexy angst aside, it's just not more honorable to be an atheist than to be a liberal protestant with a prudent man's love of tradition (i) as an action-guiding norm in the service of aiding practical reason and (ii) a source of beauty and continuity with those who came before us. Though the ancestors would be dead, I would still be "with" them by living through their traditions. I guess that makes me a little bit pagan then, too.In closing, I would also grow out my eyebrows real long, just like the ABC, even through he's not as much of a liberal as I'd be. Oh, and I'd try to have his voice too. There, I'm putting my pen down.
Flambeaux makes a good point, but it seems to me that, were I no longer a Christian, I'd be heading to Chabad. Monotheism, much of Scripture and most of the natural law are present without as many dopey human accretions as are in the other listed choices. I'd have a terrible time keeping kosher, though.