A Theist among the Atheists
Last week, another friar and I participated in a panel-discussion on religion and secularism at George Mason University. The event was sponsored and organized by the local chapter of the Secular Student Alliance. The panel consisted of three Christians—two Dominicans and a Protestant—two representatives of the Bahá’í tradition, and two atheist-secularists.
During his presentation, one of the atheists was bold enough (and sincere enough) to put up his contact information, in case anyone should like to present him with evidence for the existence of God. Of course, I took his info down. The discussion itself was only so long, and we Christians only so competent witnesses. And I myself am the beneficiary of so many wise and inspiring teachers and authors—real conduits of God—whose work I am always excited to pass on to anyone interested.
The question then arises, what to recommend? This particular fellow, judging by his argumentation, is a devotee of the “New Atheists”: Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al. The obvious choice, therefore, is the number of books recently written in response: e.g., Ed Feser’s The Last Superstition, David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions, and Thomas Crean’s God is No Delusion. Perhaps, too, he might benefit from more generic polemicists, like Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis, or G. K. Chesterton. He might also enjoy an engaging hour-long interview with a member of the clergy on a wide variety of topics. In which case, the recent interview with Bishop Robert Barron (part 2) on Dave Rubin’s popular internet program, the Rubin Report, would do nicely.
Barron is well known for his excellent documentary series Catholicism and also his short video-commentaries on theology, current events, and (pop-)culture. The interview with Rubin conveys a lively Catholic mind, devoted to God, zealous for the Church and for souls, and interested in everything. Surely, Barron is one of the most accessible, knowledgeable, and engaging spokesmen for the Catholic Church today. And he interests the atheists. Brandon Vogt, Barron’s colleague at Word on Fire ministry, has written a short piece giving the backstory to the interview and also collecting a large number of positive responses to the bishop’s words from non-religious people. For example, “Slasher Chick” said, “I’m an atheist but I could listen to this guy for hours. He has great energy and you can see that his heart is filled with love.” “Obo299” said, “Dave Rubin got me to listen to a priest for the first time in years.” And Nick Nash commented, “I believe. This episode was incredible.”
Whatever my atheist interlocutor’s particular concerns, it’s likely that he’d benefit from an encounter with Bishop Barron. His is a rare combination of warmth, intelligence, and devotion. May God continue to prosper his work.
Image by Dominican Foundation.
Br. Alan Piper, OP, was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is the oldest of four children. He earned a BA in philosophy and theology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and a PhL from the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. Before entering the order in 2011, he taught at Holy Family Academy in Manchester, New Hampshire. On DominicanFriars.org