Politics and religion—the two taboo topics you’re never supposed to bring up on a first date.
Podcasting is similar.
Unless your show is explicitly on either of these subjects, as soon as you even comment on them, the “stay in your lane” comments and emails start flying.
Well, I’ve never been one for orthodoxy, so here we are, with yet another deviation from the usual fitness content—a discussion with my friend and fellow podcaster and author Pat Flynn on religion, and specifically why us moderns should care about it more, not less.
In case you’re not familiar with Pat, he’s a fitness expert known for his kettlebell prowess, a podcaster, and author with several books to his name, including his most recent How to Think About God, which is an illuminating, philosophical look at faith.
Pat’s also a philosopher by training who has made the spiritual trek from atheism to catholicism, so he has not only read widely and thought deeply about this stuff, he also understands what it’s like to be all over the spectrum on the many issues that religion touches.
In this episode, Pat and I discuss . . .
- Whether having religious beliefs is inherently good
- The personal and societal benefits of religion and why you should care
- Child molestation and cover-ups in the Catholic church
- Why God permits evil to exist and whether we have an obligation to fight it
- The principle of illumination and Pascal’s wager
- And more . . .
So, whether you’re religious or not, if you’re committed to flourishing to the best of your ability, and certainly if you’ve enjoyed other episodes I’ve done with Pat Flynn, I think you’ll like this one. Press play and let me know your thoughts!
12:37 – Do you think religion in general is good? Do you think having some kind of religion is better than having none?
17:39 – Do you think religion has benefits on a societal and personal level?
38:26 – What if islam becomes the number one religion in the world? What does that mean?
40:40 – What does indefectibility mean?
52:25 – What are your thoughts on what’s happening with child molestation inside the catholic religion?
1:03:38 – Do you think we have an imperative to fight evil?
1:11:29 – Have you ever thought that maybe one day the religion you believe in might be wrong? Would you give up that religion if you knew it was wrong?
1:17:26 – How can you determine for yourself what religion is true to you without becoming a professional philosopher?
1:21:17 – What if you’re wrong?
1:32:57 – Where are some good resources for people who want to know more about catholicism?
Mentioned on the show:
Articles and Docs Pat Mentioned:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: And then God just permits it to happen in a sense. So we do have God’s permission of sin, but of course all that would be by design. Like if God were deciding the rules of this game He is about to create, of course that would have to be consciously decided upon. Cause it could have been set up many other ways.
Well, that’s thinking of God in the wrong way. So God’s eternal, right? It’s not like God thinks 3, 2, 1 before the big bang, here’s how everything’s gonna gonna work out. Right? So God’s eternality is such that every, this is Mike gonna take us too far afield. But it is important to understand that everything is just sort of present to God and his eternal reference frame as it occurs to us in our temporal reference frame.
So think of it like this. You know, imagine if a, if an author could think an entire book all at once and is present to every page of that book simultaneously, but he is the author of the book though, is the key. It’s not just a book that appeared it. What people think I should or shouldn’t talk about. So here we are with yet another deviation from the usual fitness content.
This is a discussion with my friend and fellow podcaster and author Pat Flynn on. Religion and specifically why US moderns should care about religion more in this horrific year of 2020 and not less. Elise, that is Pat’s position, and I don’t disagree. I am not a very religious person, as you will hear me explain in this episode.
That said, I certainly have religious beliefs and I do think that religion matters. Both personally and socially, and I think it’s a very interesting subject because it is so uniquely human and it is so deeply ingrained in our nature and the implications are. Great. If one religion or another is more or less correct about their basic suppositions, then what could be more important than discovering the answers to some of life’s biggest questions?
Right now, in case you are not familiar with today’s guest, pat, he is a fitness expert known for his kettlebell prowess. That’s how he pays the bills. He’s also a podcaster and he is an author. Several books to his name, including his most recent, how to Think About God, which I read and enjoyed. I found it an illuminating and philosophical look at religion and faith.
And the reason Pat wrote that book is he is also a philosopher by training. That’s what he studied in school. And he’s somebody who has made the spiritual track from atheism to Catholicism. So he has not only read widely and thought deeply about this stuff, he also understands what it’s like to be all over the spectrum on the many issues that religion touches.
And in this episode, pat and I go all over the place. We talk about whether having religious beliefs is good, we’re not. We talk about the personal and social benefits of religion and why you should care, or again, that’s Pat’s position in particular. We even talk about child molestation and the coverups that have occurred in the Catholic church.
Yes, we do go there. We talk about evil, and I ask an obvious question, which is, if God is all knowing and all loving and good, why does so much evil exist and should we do anything about it? Or is that just God’s? Will we get into the principle of illumination and pascal’s wager? And more so whether you are religious or not, if you are committed to flourishing to the best of your ability in your life.
And certainly if you have also enjoyed some of the other episodes I’ve done with Pat, I think you’re gonna like this one. Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world.
And we’re on top because every ingredient and. Dose in every product is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research. Every formulation is 100% transparent. There are no proprietary blends, for example, and everything is naturally sweetened and flavored. So that means no artificial sweeteners, no artificial food dyes, which may not be as dangerous as some people would have you believe.
But there is good evidence to suggest that having many servings of artificial sweeteners, in particular every day for long periods of time may not be the best for your health. So while you don’t need pills, powders, and potions to get into great shape, and frankly, most of them are virtually useless, there are natural ingredients that can help you lose fat, build muscle, and get healthy faster.
And you will find the best of them in legions products to check out everything we have to offer, including protein powders and protein bars, pre-workout, post-workout supplements, fat burners, multivitamins, joint support, and more. Head over to www.buy leg. Dot com, B U Y legion.com. And just to show how much I appreciate my podcast peeps, use the coupon code M F L at checkout and you will save 20% on your entire first order.
So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you also want all natural evidence-based supplements that work, please do consider supporting Legion so I can keep doing what I love, like producing more podcasts like this. Mr. Flynn is back, back
Pat: for another conversation with the legendary Mike Matthews.
Thanks for having me on again, man. At least
Mike: I’m a legend in my own mind. You know, that’s what my mom says. At least so counts, right?
Pat: The self advertised legend. works for me too, right?
Mike: Self-styled . So here we are to talk about. Certainly one of your favorite subjects and something that I haven’t spoken much about actually outside of our first of this ongoing series of non fitness things, and the reason being is I’m not a particularly religious person.
It’s not a big part of my identity. I’m certainly not anti-religion. I’m actually very pro religion, but in my day-to-day life, so much of my time is consumed. The things that everybody knows that I’m doing, like recording podcasts, you know, work and some time for working out and some time for reading. And pretty much all of my reading, I read a on a genre rotation and most of it has to do with work or I, I guess you could say self-development, but I don’t read self-help books because there was a point where they.
It became unproductive. I was just running into a lot of the same ideas. Rehashed with 80% filler, like new filler, basically. New stories, new anecdotes, same principles. Just a different, yeah, just a different flavor of mental lollipop. I get it. . Exactly. It’s a good analogy for it. And so I have a list that I call just be smarter, uh, of books.
So, hey, there’s a lot of stuff in there that is, and it sounds pretentious, but maybe it’s a little bit more intellectual or a little bit, um, it takes more time to get through. It’s denser, but I find. Ultimately more rewarding because of uh, how many lollipops I’ve already eaten in the past. And religion is, is actually not in the rotation.
So again, it’s something that I have. When I was younger I did spend quite a bit of time reading about religion in general and specifics of different religions and came to some conclusions at that time. And since then, have mostly just focused on the worldly affairs of my life sets and reps. I get it.
Mm-hmm. . Yeah, exactly. That’s all it really matters is how big are your biceps, you know, whatever comes in the afterlife, I just wanna be jacked for it. Okay. Right. You wanna look good going in.
Pat: Right , regardless of where you end up,
Mike: as long as you look the part, right? Yeah. Yep. Yep. So this should be an interesting discussion for me and, uh, you have spoken about in our previous discussions, religion has come up here and there.
I’m sure most people know that you were once. An atheist and now you are a Catholic and you went through quite a, I guess a journey, a spiritual journey, because those are pretty polar opposites.
Pat: Certainly. Yeah. No, I was just going to say, well first I wanna make a remark. I think if you aren’t interested in in religion properly understood or the religious questions, there’s probably something wrong, right?
I mean, like, I would agree with that. You know, I have some evidence of this in the sense that if you sit down, you have good conversations with people, they always veer, if not to the religious, at least the broadly philosophical, the deeper questions of life, right? So, you know, I am a philosopher by training.
So in one sense I was always interested in the biggest philosophical questions, which we can get into. And, but by initially considering them, I became an atheist. And we can kind of outline the journey there if, if we feel that it’s relevant, which it probably. and then by consistently, and I would say more thoroughly trying to answer those questions, I gradually began to change to the point where I eventually became Catholic.
But I have always, always, always been interested in the biggest questions of life. You know, why is there something rather than nothing? Why am I here? Is there any purpose? Is there any meaning? I seem to perceive a realm of kind of moral values and duties. Is there any real binding force to that? Is that just some type of massive delusion?
Is there life after death? Am I just the purely material being? Is there any immaterial aspects about me? What does it even mean to be material? Like all these big questions I’ve always been immensely interested in, and I think most people in some sense are, and I don’t know if this is, you know, the case for you, Mike, but when I started doing.
You know, philosophically and, you know, themed or religiously themed episodes of my podcast regardless of where people were coming from. Cause I have people who follow me who are, you know, sort of hardcore atheists to hardcore Catholics, right? Or, or Christians or even other religions. I’ve had people email me from all over the world.
It is the religious and philosophy based episodes to get the most attention, like consistently. So whatever other interests people have in sets and reps, and I think that’s great. You know, I, I love getting a. The next dude is great, right? There’s some, like, if you aren’t interested in this stuff, I like, there’s gotta be something wrong, right?
Like where you’ve undergone some like severe repression or indoctrination because to human mind, I would argue, has a natural bent towards just wanting to know why the sets and reps. Yeah, like, like everything about everything, if you will, is one of my favorite philosophers. Bernard Lurgan puts it like, we wanna know everything about everything we do.
And of course this is most obvious in children who just constantly ask why, why, why, why, why? To the point where the parents get annoyed and they try to quiet their children, right? Finally, you just go,
Mike: I don’t know. I don’t know, man. Yeah, throw
Pat: your hands up. Right? So really what a philosopher is, and to Logic Sano theologian as well was somebody who just like goes back to those otherwise very childish questions.
The simplest but the most profound questions and just tries to take them very seriously again, and really tries to answer them. I think that’s one of the best ways to think about philosophy. Right. Going back to all those questions that you were told to stop asking when you were a kid and realizing that those were the right questions to ask and now it’s time to pursue those.
Mike: Yeah, that’s well put. And I agree and I’m similar to you in that regard. I’m not as educated as you are in philosophy or religion, but I probably know more than the average person because I have spent a lot more time reading philosophical works than religious works. Again, not so much over the last five years or so, um, five to six, maybe even seven years, a lot of my reading has been dictated by.
My work goals and you know, cuz whenever I’d come up against what would be a perceived ceiling of competence or something in my work, some problem situation I wanted to solve or some opportunity I wanted to make the most of, I would turn to books and people who were credible sources and ideally people who have done what I wanted to do multiple times.
And so I’d just go read about, okay, well I don’t wanna reinvent wheels if I don’t have to. Let me just go find best practices. And as you know, when it comes to building a business, there’s an infinite amount of work to do and an infinite amount of problems to solve and opportunities to try to take advantage of.
And so that has dictated a lot of. My study time. It’s all, I do enjoy it as well. I mean, I like reading about business and leadership and work and success and marketing when I was younger and didn’t have a business is when I indulged in non-commercial reading the most I guess. But I do very much care about these things and I do think they are very important and I also think they’re very practical, which is what we’re gonna get into in that they’re meaningful in in a very immediate way.
It’s not just mental masturbation if it is done correctly. I think where I thought it would be a good place to start this discussion is do you think that religion in general is. Good. Or is your position more that your religion is good? And by religion in general being quote unquote good. I mean at a societal level, which of course is just a reflection, a reflex of the individual, right?
So is having religious beliefs of some kind, even if you think they are wrong, is that better than.
Pat: None. Yeah. This is a really good, I think, place to start because it’s something of our culture’s kind of turning towards this, right? So we’re kind of just getting over this weird new atheism phase where there was this kind of hostile assault on religion, a very crude assault.
The new atheist never impressed me even when I was an atheist. They’re just not very sophisticated when it comes to matters of metaphysics and religion in general. We can talk about some of those. I mean, people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Mm-hmm. And Daniel Dennis.
Mm-hmm. , Daniel Dennis’s kind of an exception cuz he actually is legitimate philosophy. He has some, you know, significant things to say and philosophy of mind. A little wacky. He’s known as an eliminativists, but not getting too far off track here. There seems to be a cultural turn back towards religion, especially at least a young, among young men.
And you know, there’s certain figures here that are associated with this. Jordan Peterson might be one of them where he seems to have been robbing a lot of the new atheist enthusiasm and kind of turning people back towards a sort of general but somewhat ambiguous view of religion in the sense that there’s something more to this.
Than I’ve previously admitted. You know, maybe I don’t think it’s true or any particular religion is true, but it seems to be useful to some extent. Right. And it’s just a very interesting kind of cultural dynamic that I’ve noticed, I think is a good starting point. Now, to answer that question, I’m a philosopher.
I’m after truth. So at the end of the day, the only reason I think you should be religious or part of any particular religion is because you think that it is true. I mean, I would not become Catholic unless I thought that the core claims of the Catholic faith were true, which we can get into now, insofar as it is true and you’re corresponding yourself to reality, I think it’s probably gonna be largely useful.
right, to a great degree. And I think to the extent that people deviate from reality, whether they pick wrong religions, and I know it, it’s, you know, politically incorrect to suggest that a religion can be wrong. But of course people can be wrong. People can be wrong about tons of things, math problems, philosophical conclusions, religious commitments.
I think there’s going to be detriment to that. So in a very general sense, I think yes, it’s useful, but the more important question, the the primary question to ask versus is it true and is there any case we can make for it being true? Now, in a broad sense, I think there is a sort of naivete that some of the new atheists.
Have when it comes to religion in the sense that they see themselves as pretty good people. In a lot of ways they are right. You know, they, they’re not going around murdering, stealing, raping, but they think that just because that is okay for them individually, that society at large would be, you know, that would work.
You know, like large scale atheism would work for society at large. And I think that’s just e extremely naive to assume something like that. Now, at the same time, I wanna resist reducing religion to just some type of useful device for trying to keep people from. Obscenely immoral practices because I want to come back and really focus on, well, is it true?
But it is, I think, just very naive to assume what might work on an individual or small basis is something we can extrapolate to the whole. That just doesn’t seem like good reasoning to me at all. Now the other thing is just how do we , this is a very tricky thing. How do we define religion? This itself is an extremely difficult philosophical question, and it’s something that philosophers of religion debate on quite immensely.
It’s very, it’s very difficult to really say, well, what religion actually is. You have definitions that range from the idea that it’s just somebody’s ultimate commitment in life. It’s whatever somebody ascribes, you know, supreme importance to, if you will. And in that, You know, everybody is religious.
Somebody’s got some ultimate commitment. Atheism would be a religion by that definition. Right. Or, or maybe if you’re an atheist, as some atheists are, like atheism is legit. Like they evangelize it. They try to make other people atheist. It’s very ironic at some points I was never like that. As, as, as an atheist.
And it does make
Mike: claims about the supernatural or paranormal. It says that there is no such thing. Right. It’s still a claim about it. Right.
Pat: Let’s hang an answer on that. I’d like to circle back to that. But you know, football might be somebody’s religion under the definition, or politics or, or government, social justice, right?
Mike: equality, like
Pat: our last discussion. Yeah. So if you’re thinking in terms of ultimate commitment, then you’re not gonna escape being religious. Now some people say that’s an inadequate definition of religion. You know, at least incorporate some elements of faith or worship or commitment to the supernatural.
So the way I like to think about, it’s just like, just put the word religion aside because that could get us a little too tangled up, or at least. Swap religion with the idea of worldview, you know, what is reality really fundamentally soup to nuts and thinking in terms of worldview. And then we can kind of go through a list of the ways different people perceive the world of what their worldview is or attitude towards religion.
Do you want
Mike: to start with, I think this, these are all great avenues for us to explore, but do you want to start with, I’d just be curious as to hear your thoughts on the, the benefits again, on a personal and societal level of religion. Because you had mentioned that it has been trendy over the last couple of decades to denounce religion and renounce religion, especially quote unquote organized religion.
Whatever that’s supposed to mean Exactly that maybe some types of religious beliefs are okay, or spirituality is okay, but if. Organized religion, it must be bad. And we were texting before we started this podcast, the about nietzche and, and some of his prophecies about what would happen when quote unquote God dies.
And so to your point of wide, like wholesale atheism not working, I, I think we are seeing that firsthand. And one of my working theories about that is that I do think that the materialists have it fundamentally wrong. I think that it is much more likely that there is a spiritual aspect to our existence and that we are probably not our bodies, and that the death of our body is probably not the end of us.
What exactly comes next would be maybe a whole nother discussion. So I think that people, by affirming that fundamental truth, what I think is likely a fundamental truth, I may be wrong. I’m okay with being wrong. I don’t take it personally, but these are just my beliefs based on my studies and experiences.
By affirming that fundamental truth. I think there is, it is empowering individually, and I could imagine what it would be like to not only not have, because that does fundamentally change your experience really, if you think that something comes next, whether you’re Christian and you think you’re gonna be judged based on how you lived, maybe your beliefs are more eastern in nature, maybe you believe in reincarnation and that you’re gonna be stuck with yourself for eternity and you are going to inherit the world you leave behind.
So sure, go shit on everything. Shit on everyone. Consequently, you’re gonna shit on yourself and then you’re gonna come back to a shitier world. That’s fine. If you want to do that, you come
Pat: back as a socket ranch or a garden snake or
Mike: something, right? Yeah. Or maybe wind up in another body and maybe the cosmic justice comes from you individually and you’re just gonna, you’re just gonna have a shittier time around next because you feel you should be punished for it.
You know what I mean?
Pat: Yeah. There are actually called like when some of the kind of reductio for karma are called like karmic, regress problems, right? That if you’re committed to this idea of, of karmic justice, you’re gonna have an issue of ever getting the ball started. But we can kind of circle back to that, but there’s some interesting philosophical objections to that worldview.
I think I get your general thrust at this point. I’m sorry. Finish your thought and then I’ll chime in.
Mike: Yeah, no problem. I was just thinking that maybe we start with an argument for religion, again at an individual level for people who maybe are not very religious and in the sense of they don’t think about it much.
They don’t practice any religion. Maybe they were raised one way or another, and who would ask why should I. Care individually and socially. Why should we have, why should religion be an important part of our lives?
Pat: Yeah, why should you care? Well, I think the most obvious is that if God exists and he’s a personal God and there is some ultimate meaning to life, like it seems like the greatest tragedy, the greatest tragedy that could happen is for you to somehow miss that because you just were indifferent.
You just didn’t care. You know what I mean? So I don’t know if that really needs any argument. I mean, that just seems self-evident to me, , right? Like if there is some great objective meaning to life, some purpose that I’m meant to fulfill, and it’s at least even remotely plausible, then I think that’s worth at least reading like five to 10 good books about
You know, like at the bare minimum, it would just seem an incredible tragedy. To miss that. And of course that is the claim of at least the world’s largest religion, which is Christianity and the single largest organized religion, if you wanna use that term, Catholicism. Right? That’s absolutely the claim.
Is Christianity larger than Islam? Collectively? It is, yes. So Catholicism would be the single largest unified, I think it’s somewhere around like 1.2 or 1.3 billion. Islam as a whole outnumber Catholicism, but Christianity as a whole outnumber Islam. So I mean like, you know, and that itself is an interesting thing, right?
It’s like if religion has no truth to it at all, and we’re kind of in this. Kind of depressing position of saying, wow, the vast majority of people are just massively diluted. Right. Well,
Mike: and that goes all the way back to the beginning
Pat: of history then, right? Yeah. Which new atheists have no problem saying, right?
Like of course they are. Of course. They’re just massively diluted, you know? And like, hey, that’s not saying that religion is true. Maybe that’s the case, but it is kind of depressing to think about it like that. You brought up materialism, right? , it’s so hard to get these conversations started cuz like Christianity, you brought Christianity.
Obviously Catholicism is way different than Southern Baptist , right? So even within Christianity you have massive differences in how we think about the nature of God, God’s relationship to the world, who Jesus is, the nature of salvation, eschatology, all these hugely different, right? Even within Christianity.
So that itself complicates the conversation. But let’s think about like this, like. To get to, you know, Catholicism being true. I think there’s kind of three things you have to affirm, right? You have to affirm that God exists, that he, that he really did break into human history and reveal himself through this intriguing figure of Jesus Christ.
And here’s the point about organized religion, that he left us with a church. He didn’t give us a book, right? That book didn’t come till later. He gave us a church that was hierarchical, unified, and really had authority. An authority that is in some. Guided by God himself, right? And now that’s a very particular claim.
And we have to draw certain conceptual boundaries on what that means and what it doesn’t. But if you want good answers, and this is a good philosophical and scientific question, you need to ask good questions, right? So sometimes people get distracted by, I think, you know, secondary issues without keeping the main things.
The main thing I would say, if you wanna look into Catholicism, those are the three things you gotta look into. You gotta try and argue for God’s existence. You gotta argue for the historicity of Christ, specifically the resurrection, right? And you gotta look at what he left us. And was it a book that people were supposed to just kind of take?
And that’s it. That this book is the sole kind of authority that’s kind of the Protestant paradigm. Or is it a church? Or is it really an organized, hierarchical, unified, visible institution? We can circle back to all of that, but I think it’s just important to ask the right questions. Now let’s come back to, I think just attitudes of religion in general.
Cuz I think this can help us maybe focus in on, on some other points. And I kind of span the spectrum here. So as you noted before, you know, I spent a lot of my kind of from early high school through college until, you know, Not too long ago as an atheist. And an atheist is somebody who would say, they obviously don’t, would say they don’t hold to a religion, but they would say that there is no God, right?
So they make a positive claim about something being absent from reality. So there is no God and there’s not anything like God. Now, some atheist will play these weird games and say, nah, that’s not atheist. You know, atheism is just the lack of belief. Don’t tell me what atheism means. And that’s just a very weak thing to say, you know?
To me, atheism was interesting in the sense that it was trying to establish a worldview like materialism or physicalism or what have you. And there’s many different schools of atheism as well, just named two there. But there’s more like platonic forms of atheism and stuff like that. I think at some point atheism really just becomes theism light.
But the atheism that was attractive to me would’ve been, yeah, physicalism, materialism, and what brought me out of. Is that I, it’s just explanatorily inadequate. It just cannot explain the data and experiences that we encounter in this world. It really is, I think, a waning worldview, a collapsing worldview.
But generally atheists do, you know, they do have a burden of proof is what I’m saying. And that’s a burden of proof. When I was an atheist, I would have tried to meet, I don’t think I would’ve successfully done it. Whereas kind of moving across a scale, then we have agnostics, right? And this would be somebody who’s who you know, isn’t religion remains open to the possibility, but you know, there’s just not convinced either way, they don’t know.
The agnostic is somebody who really kind of lacks the belief. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. I’m unsure. And of course you don’t have a burden of proof as an agnostic, cuz you’re not really trying to push anything forward. So I went through a period of agnosticism as sort of my atheism collapsed. I just kind of naturally became an agnostic, right?
And then I became interested in a position which is known as religious pluralism. And I think this is kind of the cultural attitude that we were talking about before, Mike, where people, and there’s kind of two branches of this, right? There’s the, the kind of naive form of religious pluralism. And this is something you hear among the younger generation which says, Hey, look dudes, all religion is the same thing.
It’s all essentially saying the same thing. So just pick whatever does it for you and go with that. And the reason that’s really naive is just a five minute Google search will show you all the problems with that position. Religions make mutually conflicting claims, right? Even within Christianity, obviously some position is gonna have to be wrong or it’s all going to have to be wrong.
in some case, right? It’s gonna be a or not a Or compare different religions, you know, some branches of Buddhism that I spend a lot of time looking into and studying, or borderline nihilistic. They don’t affirm really a transcendent or personal God. They don’t really affirm, you know, in immortal soul that persists after death.
Whereas other religions obviously do claim those things. So it’s either gotta be one or the other, or they’re both false. Right? . So the mutually conflicting claims in religion, they can’t equally be sustained. Right. It’s just you get contradictions.
Mike: Isn’t religious pluralism though more just about tolerance of other religious beliefs and acknowledging that there’s overlap?
Pat: so that’s where I’m gonna go with the second one. So like, if you realize the problems with, and that’s why I call this the, and I, I’m not the only one who calls it this. This is the general. I guess recognized way of looking at it, of a naive religious pluralism of people who really do think that that religion is kind of just, it’s all the same, and it just kind of betrays a deep ignorance of them just never doing any homework on the matter.
Whereas there’s a more sophisticated view of religious pluralism. , and this was the one that I was interested in. So, you know, and there’s certain thinkers that I was reading at the time, like Aldos Huxley, right? People are probably familiar with him. He has a book called The Perennial Philosophy. This is one of the first books I read on religious pluralism.
John Hick would be another. He’s the author of Evil and the God of Love, who’d be another sophisticated religious pluralist. And what they wanna say is that all religions are false in one sense, but true in another. They’re false in like whatever particular details that or the particular claims they make, especially if they’re claiming to really kind of possess the fullness of the truth that’s wrong.
But they all true in another sense that they’re all hinting at a really transcendent aspect of reality. Whatever it is. You know, we can’t really fully grasp it, but these religions, even though they’re wrong in, in their particular details, they can be helpful guides. They could be useful, as you put it, Mike, right?
I think this is kind of tying into your position to help us become, say, less egotistical, more moral, and sued us for whatever this life to come might be. Right? So they’re all wrong in one sense, but they’re all also kind of right in another sense. Couldn’t they be
Mike: right in some ways and wrong in other ways?
Like, oh, okay, it gets this. Correct, but this is incorrect very specifically. Like for example, okay, let’s say there is a supreme creator of everything that’s correct. However he is, or she, or whatever the gender might be, isn’t directly involved in
Pat: human affairs, for example. Yeah. A deist versus a, a more theist position.
Mike: there’s still though, you know, that would be a detail of let’s say Catholicism. Okay, well it gets it right that there is a supreme creator here, but gets it wrong and that this person is not involved in our life in any meaningful
Pat: way, right? Yeah. So that’s what a deist might say, right? And I think you’re right there, Mike.
And this is the problem with religious pluralism of even the more sophisticated sort. At the end of the day, you’re gonna have to just roll up your sleeves and look at the claims and parse ’em out. And that’s what I did , right? I’m like, I kind of wanna know, right? Like, where are they? Right, where are they wrong?
And you know, I wound up where I did in the sense that. Okay. Yeah. The Catholic church makes very specific claims. It makes claims about God, about God’s nature, God’s relationship to the world. For me, I found that those claims corresponded very strongly to what I, I believe we can know about God through philosophical argument alone.
So that was like a very interesting point of convergence for me. It’s like, okay, the Catholic church says this about God, and natural theology or philosophical reasoning also says that about, so there’s like a very interesting harmony or compatibility there. Whereas other religions say things about, . I’ll give you an example, right?
So under the kind of umbrella of theism, you have kind of monotheism, which is the great Abrahamic traditions, or monotheistic certain branches of Hinduism or monotheistic. But you also have pantheism, which you also find in Hinduism, in other religions and pantheism is the idea that God just sort of is the universe, right?
Whereas monotheism would say no, the universe, whatever else that is, it’s a created thing. It’s a contingent thing. It’s a changing thing. It’s a cause thing. God transcends the universe. So in monotheism, the universe is a creature. It’s not to be worshiped, right? You’d be just as well off worshiping a toaster as a universe if monotheism is right, whereas pantheism would say that the universe is God, and maybe we’re all God in a sense.
Now, I think pantheism is false, and I think it’s false through philosophical reasoning alone. I have that little ebook. I know that you read Mike on that, attempts to demonstrate how to think about God for.
Mike: Listening. Who wants to, I would say anybody who likes this discussion would almost certainly like the book.
It’s a pretty quick read. It’s maybe 50 or 60 pages. You do have to take your time with it because there’s no filler. It just cuts straight to the point, and it is a logical. A long log logical argument for the existence of God. So I did find myself having to go back sometimes, because you might be at conclusion number 22 and you’re referring back to number five.
I’m like, shit, what was that again? Okay, let me look. Oh, that’s right. Okay. And follow back through. But again, it’s a pretty quick read and I found it interesting. I think you did a good job. And again, I’m speaking from, I would say more of a place of ignorance as far as metaphysics goes, but I generally am pretty good at finding holes in things and asking good questions.
I think, and it has served me well, at least in the areas that I have. Put the time into teaching myself. And so I thought you did a good job. Well, thank you. Good,
Pat: sir. I really appreciate that. And I did subject, so a little background on that. It was a lot of, uh, sort of the work that, different pieces of work that I produced in my master’s program.
I decided to kind of compile it, synthesize it, and try to make it more accessible for people who might not be trained philosophers. And so I, you know, I wanted to make it and keep it rigorous, but also, you know, as accessible as possible. So I try to do as much handholding as I can without diluting it. So your feedback is appreciated that it’s very helpful.
So back to the original claim, right? So like, just grant me it, right? Maybe you don’t think that you can reason deductively to God’s existence. I, I think you can, but just let’s say if you could, right? And it gives you a certain conception of God, right? A God that is radically transcendent, eternal immutable, a sort of omni attributed in terms of omnipotence, omniscience, omni benevolence, so forth.
Pure actuality, non composite, absolutely simple, right? Well, what philosophy can do is it can kind of just. Hack away religious options. So in a sense you can say, okay, if this is true and I can know this through reason, then any religion that doesn’t correspond with this, it’s kind of off the table as an option in a sense.
And any religion that does correspond with this is a risk compatible, maybe I can further consider that. So what I found myself doing is being interested in the world religions and coming from a philosophical background, I just wanted to see, you know, what religions can match up to what reason can give us.
And I started finding that I was, I was consistently checking boxes off on Christianity more and more and found myself departing from the other, you know, traditions that are pantheistic or you don’t really find many live polytheists out there anymore. And, and a lot of versions of polytheism when you really unpack ’em, are.
pantheistic or or monotheistic. Anyways, and at the end of the day, what I found the problems with religious pluralism to be was that you could just make a very strong case. And as the evidence was compounding for what’s called religious particularism , right? And that is that one religion, whatever you think that is, Christianity or Islam, might actually be true, might actually get it right.
That’s religious particularism. And I wanna be careful how I say this. So like, you know, when I say that I believe that Catholicism is true, which I do, it doesn’t mean that other religions are wrong all the way through. The Catholic church would obviously acknowledge that many religions get many things right, especially as they’re perfectly compatible or converge on the Catholic church.
But the Catholic church would say that the fullness. Of the truth, if you will, that the really and truly correct worldview is this one That this is right. These particular claims, right. That not just that God exists, but he really did reveal himself that he broke into history and he left us a church. And it’s a church that is still here 2000 years later.
Right. Which itself is a, I think a pretty remarkable piece of evidence that just some, any one institution could last so long is at least intriguing. And that was something that struck me as a skeptic. You know, whatever else you wanna think about the Catholic church, the fact that it has been around as long as it has it, it has outlasted any other quote unquote, merely human institution is.
Whatever else you wanna think about it. It’s definitely interesting, right? , like there’s something very odd about that. That’s not something that we would normally expect given the way that we see institutions, nations just lies and fall. But this one, for whatever reason seems to be extremely sticky.
Mike: though in Islam, could make the same claim. Right. Well,
Pat: here’s the interesting thing. We have to be very. Careful here cuz Catholicism is really one single unified body Judaism in its current form. Rabbinical Judaism is something that, that emerged sort of after Christianity. So you had the collapse of the temple, right?
Second temple Judaism really did kind of die away. And same thing with Islam. We know it’s kind of very fractured in, in some ways more like Protestantism. But Catholicism also predicts, you know, in its worldview that there will be, you know, to the end of time, uh, the Jewish people. So that’s not something that counts against Catholicism.
That’s actually something that we would expect if Catholicism were true. However, it doesn’t work the other way around if Judaism were true. You have a very big mystery of why the Catholic church is still here.
Mike: And why is that? I mean, I don’t want to get off on a long tangent. I’m just curious. I, I don’t know too much.
Familiar with some of the taal modic, um, teachings, and I’m just not too well versed and yeah,
Pat: I mean, it’s, it’s pretty simple. At the end of the day, if you’re Jewish, you just don’t accept the revelation or the messiahship, if you will, of Jesus. So that’s like, if that’s not true, then it’s just a really weird thing.
That the Catholic Church would’ve persisted this long. Right. It’s just, you would think that he would have died out like any other, and this is something people need to realize, like any other people who claim to be the Messiah and were executed and older followers just dispersed, they’re like, oh, guess that’s not our dude.
Right. . And they just went back to doing their thing. Right. But there was something very particular and very strange about Christianity in the sense that it, it totally transformed the world and it’s still here. The other way to think about it right, is when you’re kind of comparing Catholicism, Judaism, the Catholic church would accept, you know, again, there’s obviously different branches of Judaism.
You have conservative, you have Orthodox, you have more liberal, right? But you know, the Catholic church accepts the Old Testament. It accepts Judas Revelation. It just has the New Testament and the new revelation. So it’s not like gonna have issues with the Jewish Miracle accounts or, or stuff like that, right?
But if you’re Jewish, you do have to have issues with Catholic Revelation. Now, of course, the Catholic Church reject. Muhammad, I think there’s good reasons to do that. I think that the historical credibility of Islam is abysmally bad. I, I think it is in no way comparable to the origin of Christianity. And this is one of those things where you have to really just roll up your sleeves and look at the historical details and, and evaluate the claims.
Mike: Nevertheless, though, the ideas have. Survived for a long time now, and him as a figure, as a Jesus like figure that has also continued. And Islam is growing. I mean, it’s projected that I believe by 2100 Islam will be the, might be 2070 or 2100. Islam is going to be the biggest religion in the world, just given current demographic trends.
I understand in terms of being fractured into different sex. But they all do have things they agree on , there are just things they disagree on and I guess they fight over them. But fundamentally they agree on what they would say are the most important, or at least the most, uh, essential things, which would be aah.
And how our relationship should be to their conception of
Pat: God and so forth. Right. Yeah. So a few things with regard to Islam. One is I think that their philosophical conceptions of God, or, or not just wrong, but immoral, right? So they hold to, you know, what would be known as a volunteer. Conception of God.
And that’s the idea that God’s, without getting too technical in-house debates, that God’s will is somehow above his intellect, right? That God is essentially incoherent or irrational, that he could change his mind at any time. Catholicism holds that God is perfectly, he’s perfect, he’s immutable, he’s perfectly rational.
If God will something, he owes it in order, uh, to himself and injustice that he’s going to finish what he wills right. And I think that there are decisive philosophical arguments for the Catholic position over the Islamic position. So I think there’s philosophical defeat. Of Islam as well as historical defeaters as well.
But if Islam is
Mike: on the rise and if it does become the dominant religion in the world, what does that mean?
Pat: I don’t, you know, so think about it like this. If you’re thinking in terms of hypothesis testing or worldview testing, I think this is a good way to think of it in terms of a general abductive argument, right?
So say like, if Catholicism is true, or if Christianity in general is true, or Islam is true, you know, what would I expect and would I not expect? And we’ll kind of go through the list here because some things you might. A fair amount of explanatory power in some sense. And you might be able to predict some things and you might be able to accommodate some data, but what best accommodates all the data if we’re gonna talk about like inference to the best explanation.
So let’s just kind of go through a general list here. I think this is a really helpful way to kind of back out of the weeds and, and just think about it from say 10,000 feet up, right? So first off, we have to include other worldviews aside from these three. So like even, you know, even atheism. And the first thing I would say is just, you know, kind of broadly between atheistic and theistic.
I think theism is plainly and obviously superior. I think God is the best explan and simplest explanation of an enormous range of our data and experiences. You know, God is the best explanation of why any contingent thing exists. Instead of nothing got us the best explanation of why the universe began to exist some 13.8 billion years ago, according to, to, you know, the best.
Modern cosmology. God is the best explanation of why the universe is fine tuned for the emergence of intelligent, interactive life, all of which is even needed for evolution to occur. God is the best explanation for a perception of a really objective realm of moral values and obligations. God is the best explanation of why consciousness is not reducible to mirror physical processes alone.
That’s a really difficult problem for materialists. It’s known as the hard problem of consciousness and philosophy of mind. God is the best explanation for just the general order, stability and intelligibility of the universe, the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world. God is the best explanation for near-death experiences, mystical experiences, religious experiences.
I think God is the best explanation for the historical data and evidence that we can use to support the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I think God is the best explanation for the just sheer endurance, not only of the Catholic church, but this is an important point to contrast it with. , but the Inec ability of the Catholic church on her essential teachings of faith, morals, sacraments, and unity, right?
Which you don’t have in other religions. What does that mean? Ineffect ability like? Yeah, so the Catholic church teaches Ineffect ability. And Ineffect ability means, you know, and this comes kind of from the biblical promise, that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church that Christ founded.
And that’s something that Catholicism predicts that the church will never defect on her essential teachings of faith, right? The core deposits of faith, things like the Trinity, the hypostatic Union, things that we believe are Definingly revealed. It won’t teach these things in error. It won’t change these teachings, the moral life and the sacramental life.
Now, this is something that’s empirically testable, and this is something that I found. Very, at first disturbing about the Catholic church cause I couldn’t explain it. But then it actually ultimately led me to becoming Catholic, is that not only do you have the endurance of the Catholic church over 2000 years, but you have consistency of Catholic teaching on these huge issues that have never changed, never changed, even when all the opportunity was ripe for them to change.
Even when there were very corrupt people in the church, which has certainly happened. Very corrupt popes. Every incentive for change on these teachings was there, but somehow they didn’t change. Now that’s something I would expect if Catholicism were true. That’s something I would never expect if Catholicism.
Mike: not true. Why? Because many teachings have changed in a, you don’t have to read much about the history of Christianity in the Catholic church to find examples of major changes that have occurred throughout the history. But if you were to change the fundamental beliefs of the organization, you of course are going to unravel it.
Which, I mean, we could look at that if we were cynical and say, yeah, it’s not in anyone who has power in that organization and wants to maintain power and maybe who wants to acquire more power. It, it would be a mistake to undermine the foundations. You know, like, why
Pat: would you wanna do that? See, I would expect the opposite.
So let, lemme make a few differentiations here that are critically important for Catholicism, at least. One is that the church teaches that. . Yeah. Ineffect and faith, morals and sacraments. Right? So you can look at any of those historically in your, and you’ll see nothing but consistency. There are changes in what might be called disciplines or prudential judgments or things like that.
So like, you know, here’s how the church says that we should fast, for example. That will change. And that has changed as culture has evolved. But the church has never changed for teachings on, say, the real presence of, of the Eucharist or the Trinity or things like that. And some of these things are really hard to accept.
For example, like there’d be cultural times. I’ll give you a great example. This was something that. Really struck me at first, and it’s gonna be un, I’m almost hesitant to present this because it’s so unpopular of a Catholic teaching birth control, right? The church is always taught that there is moral content to the sexual act, right?
That we should always be open to life because the sexual act is naturally ordered towards both unity and procreation. So deliberately frustrating. The sexual act is something akin to like bulimia, right? This is a really bad thing to do. This is something the church has always taught, just as the church has always taught against abortion on the moral realm.
Now, you know, the first Christian denomination to change on the birth control issue as all the cultural pressures were pushing in was the Anglican Church. And as soon as the Anglican Church collapsed, virtually all the rest of Christianity collapsed on this. They all changed, right? They all changed and everybody was expecting the Catholic church to change.
Now, if you wanna maintain power and you wanna maintain popularity and you wanna keep people in the pews, as all the culture is moving towards birth control, it seems like you would have every incentive to just quote unquote, keep up with the times. Well, what happens? You get this people and cyclical, everybody’s thinking kind of at the time, great, the Catholic church is gonna change and she doesn’t , she upholds that the teaching that she always has, and you find this again and again and again throughout history now, before I, you know, became a natural law theorist in moral philosophy and before I was convinced of the Catholic church, this was something that I looked at the Catholic church and said, wow, it’s really outdated.
Like, my gosh, get up with the times. But then as I went deeper, I realized. Actually this is right what the Catholic Church teaches us on this is actually correct. Once we understand what the sexual act is ordered towards, what sexual flourishing is, all of this, right? But this speaks to, in at least some evidential weight, the truth to the Catholic church and what we’re talking about.
I think that would be a good example of what Ineffect ability is. Whereas, yeah, the Catholic churchs can change prudential teachings like tan or fasting or certain disciplines, but it, it cannot and has not ever changed the essential teachings like that on faith, morals or sacraments. And that’s also kind of a cool thing cuz in that sense, Catholicism is falsifiable.
If the Pope got up and declared X catheter, for example, in, in the Pope’s full, uh, defined authority, that the church no longer believes in the Trinity, for example, I would have a serious issue. I would have a serious issue still thinking that Catholicism were true. Right? That would be something that would, that I think would just outright refute.
Refute the Catholic hypothesis, but that’s never happened. And that’s something that I think is considerable evidential weight in its favor. And an ironic way was initially off-put to me, but then as I considered a deeper, actually led me in the direction of the Catholic church, if that makes sense. Yeah, yeah.
Mike: understand what you’re saying. What about the Pope Francis, his talk, and, and this isn’t a gotcha question, I’m actually curious cause I don’t know how this fits in. I’m just curious with, there’s talk, what was it? It was allowing women to become deacons, I think, or allowing women to join the clergy.
Where does that rank
Pat: in this? No, no, it has not changed.
Mike: No, no. If it were to
Pat: change, yeah. So if women ever became pre, and here we are on like all the like culturally unpopular things. I’m trying to make Catholicism attractive, right? . But it is, but that’s another, I think that speaks to its truth. Like if, if something weren’t countercultural in today’s messed up culture, I would immediately have a problem with it.
But yeah, no, I mean, women. Cannot be priests poked on Paul The second affirmed this. So if that change, which it has not, then that would be a serious issue, right? Because that’s something that’s always, now deacons are different, right? So they wanted to do a kind of historical investigation to see if there’s ever been like an order of female deacons, and that that seems to be undecided.
But the priesthood is very clearly defined that that cannot change. Now it’s also important, just we should probably back up to the more general conversation before like diving into the Catholic weeds, right? People, infallibility is a very restricted claim, right? It doesn’t mean that the pope’s gonna be able to predict the baseball game or the weather or something like that.
That’s not the way way to view the Pope. Papa Infallibility is just understanding that the church is naturally hierarchical, that it does have a, an earthly representative, a prime minister, if you will, and that God just protects the church from going into era error formally on these essential matters, right?
The guy just won’t let the Pope teach formally and with full authority on something. Wrong against the core deposit of faith. If the Pope makes like some offhanded comments on like an airplane interview that’s not within the realm of, of people infallibility or if, if, if he just kind of like ventures his opinions on economics, none of that or social
I mean, a lot of what I see coming from France as I just disagree with, Fundamentally, if he is commenting basically on anything related
Pat: to world affairs. And here’s the other thing I’ll say about that, right, is to remember that the Pope is not in the American political sphere, but he’s always filtered through American political media.
So the best way to read the Pope is to go to the primary sources always. And this is true for left wing or right wing.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. I’m talking about direct quotes. I mean, unless you’re saying they’re in, they’re actually making, yeah,
Pat: but they’re often, as media does, as you know, Mike often pulls things like drastically out of context, right?
To spin and, and both sides of the political spectrum love to try and, and pull the Pope into their political argument whenever they can. Sure. But some
Mike: things don’t need context. Some things they just mean what they mean. You know what I mean? You don’t need to have any other context to understand, I guess attach too much importance to these things.
But if I were to do a Google search, I could give you some examples where there are things you would certainly disagree with. You’d be like, Nope. Nope, nope, nope. just note to
Pat: that, look, popes are not infallible in that sense. Right. They can be wrong on everyday matters, right? Yeah, right.
Mike: History tells us that.
I mean, look at the Medici popes and how much of a joke some of them were. It was laughable,
Pat: right? And you had some truly morally depraved popes like bad and, but that’s kind of the funny thing in the sense that they had every incentive or reason to change church teaching, especially on like sexual stuff, but they never did.
And you have to, you have to at least wonder, well, why is that the case now to Pope Francis? I’ll just say this, right? So let’s take his remarks. You know, conservatives sometimes get upset and I don’t think I have to defend myself too much. You know, if you listen to our previous conversations, I’m about as conservative as it gets, right?
But conservatives sometimes get upset. You know, that he’ll like critique capitalism. But you have to understand these critiquing capitalism in a way that is definitely not a way a Marxist would critique capitalism. Right? And the church has always taught and affirmed that we want. A capitalism that is, if you will, founded upon a very sound, moral fabric, right?
And that there are legitimate critiques to make of capitalism if the culture is stuck in vice, right? It’s not a virtuous culture in many ways, but the church has always given an aor. The church has spoken out strongly against socialism in many people in cyclicals. It was doing it before it was , quote unquote, popular to do so, right?
The church was very early to condemn socialism. This was another thing that was attractive to me as being, as denying fundamental human rights, right? So there’s some really great people and sickles on this, making strong not just economic or prudential arguments against socialism, but moral. Moral arguments, which need to be focused on.
So it’s just, I think it’s just important that even though I might, yeah, sometimes disagree on certain offhand statements that the Pope would make, even when he’s making critiques of capitalism or this or that, they sometimes are stretched or presented by the media in a way that’s just not the right perspective on it.
But all that is probably far way far into the weeds. It might not be relevant to our overall conversation.
Mike: That could be an interesting follow up episode on capitalism in particular, because as much as I like capitalism for everything it. Done in the way of lifting people out of poverty and giving people freedom to find meaning in their work and to provide for their family and so forth.
I do think that it’s just the best economic system that we’ve got, and I do think it is to use a social justicey term problematic in many ways. I do agree. I just don’t think communism is the solution
Pat: and neither does the church, it condemns communism, right? So yeah, of course, of
Mike: course. No, I don’t mean that as a kind of backhanded comment on the church.
Not at all. I was just commenting that I would agree with some of the critiques from leftists about capitalism, but I certainly do not agree about their proposed
Pat: solutions. Yeah, and and I think that that’s so honest, you know, because as you know, as we’ve talked about before, I had a li bit of a libertarian phase, and the one thing that always struck me as odd about libertarians is like the idea that the market could never do anything wrong.
Like that’s just so preposterously false. Of course it could , right? Markets are generally efficient. They’ll, you know, they’ll give the culture what it wants. But if the culture wants really bad things, right, the market’s gonna the market to accelerate that , just look at the pornography industry, right? It is.
Great example. Absolutely vicious and disgusting. So I think an honest person will find the, the Catholic church’s position on this. And even most of Pope Francis’ remarks very appropriate, very nuanced, very careful. But the, the thing is, is just like in our American political climate, we always interpret things kind of through our political lens.
That’s kind of what I’m getting at. So in the sense that like, if we see anybody critiquing capitalism America, we automatically assume that they must just be like a far left socialist, you know what I mean? True. And we, and, and you know, like, yeah. And like in our country, that’s you. , that’s kind of, that’s kind of what goes on, right?
Because we’re so politically divided and we do tend to kind of like fall into pretty predictable camps. Um, but that’s not how people put the Pope aside. That’s just not how people, you know, all around the world necessarily see things. Right? I agree.
Mike: If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world.
So if we’re talking about issues of morality, we should talk about the child molestation issues. How does that factor into everything you’re talking about and what are your personal thoughts on that? Because of course, just somebody, it’s not hard for you to understand somebody saying like, I’m not gonna have anything to do with a group that has that kind of problem.
And especially, The cover ups that are just as bad as the actions themselves. And I believe I, I saw, I believe it was somebody very high up in the church. I think they were being represented as like the right hand man of the Pope, uh, who was implicated in helping cover this
Pat: stuff up. Well the big one was the recent bus was that he was a creep, was McCarrick.
Yeah. So lemme say a few things about this, right? Because this is for many people, the big elephant in the room and it obviously deserves to be addressed. And I’ll say a few things. One is we’re just kind of going through a very odd cultural moment of pedophilia and institutions and the Catholic churches is in no way unique to this, right?
Anyone who’s familiar with the statistics will realize that this is something that has plagued virtually all religious institutions. Certainly, uh, Hollywood, it does seem
Mike: to be unique. Catholic though right now for talking about religion, at least in terms of what we know
Pat: about. Well, so here’s what I’ll say, and let me be very clear before we get into the weeds of this, and I might be wrong.
Mike: Again, don’t take these things as personal attacks. This is really just me shooting
Pat: from the hip, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So let me be very clear, right, that if I’m gonna talk about this, I wanna be careful, nuanced, but I’m in no way defending it, right? So the first thing to say is that Catholics are deeply embarrassed and horrified by what all this is going on.
And it, it’s especially frustrating for two reasons. One, it’s just, it’s just so, uh, grotesque, right? If there’s anything that makes me wanna support a death penalty, it’s a sexual abuse of children, right? But it’s also something that just makes it really difficult to have a conversation about what I think is the truth of relation.
So in one sense, because it’s just always that kind of barrier to entry. And I just, I wanna say I appreciate that because it was something that me and my wi, so my wife, let me give a little background here. As I was kind of moving in on the Catholic church, and I was talking with my wife about this, my wife was never religious, she was never baptized.
She grew up in a completely atheist, agnostic home. And just kind of put this in more of a personal context. You know, I kind of made her an atheist too, you know, she was kind of agnostic or spiritual, but not religious for a while. But then, you know, I was moving, you know, I think progressing on some of these issues and I said, Hey, you know, I think there might be more than the Christianity than I originally considered.
And her first thing was to say, okay, you know, I’ll hear what you had to say, but no way in hell am I ever becoming Catholic. Right? And this would be like, I’m never bringing our kids to a Catholic church. So this is something like that we dealt with too, right? So I just, I don’t want to make it seem like this.
Peculiar thing for people, we had this. Yeah. I mean I
Mike: think it’s a reasonable knee jerk reaction, right?
Pat: Yeah, totally reasonable. Especially when you have
Mike: kids, you’re like, . Yeah. It’s just, that’s the worst thing that you could
Pat: imagine. So lemme just say how much I relate to this and and sympathize with it.
Right. So the first thing I say, if you’re concerned about that, the Catholic Church put in safeguards in nearly two thousands that have proved enormously effective. Statistically the Catholic church is like the safest institution that your kids could be in at this point. And many other institutions have mimicked these safeguards known as the Dallas Charter, and people can fact check me and look at the statistics on that for themselves.
So if that’s just like an initial concern, then I think that that can be dealt with just. You know from by looking at the data. When you say that though,
Mike: I mean there have been high profile, what was it in Pennsylvania? Hundreds. A ring of
Pat: hundreds. Yeah. And let me bring that up. The grand jury report. I was just gonna mention that.
But what people don’t realize about the grand jury report are a couple things. I’m gonna be off a little bit on some of the stats cause it’s just been a while since I looked at it. But it’s something like this, right? It’s something that reports that the vast majority of these cases, the vast, vast majority of these cases, right?
And again, all disgusting, all deserving a condemnation. I’m not making excuses for it, I’m just explaining what it is and I can’t emphasize that enough. Right? Happens between the sixties and eighties, they’re not new, right? That’s the mistake that people make. They’re not novel cases, they’re older. The vast majority between somewhere between the sixties and eighties, you know, scooched, the years, wherever.
I might just not be remembering correctly. And the majority of cases were not actually pedophilia. You know, this is such like an annoying thing to talk about cause it’s so gross. But the majority of cases of abuse were really just older men with younger men. , like older predatory people preying on seminarians, which are what?
Like teenagers? Yeah, well, like 18, 19 and above. Right. And it’s still totally think that that’s abusive and wrong in every level, but it’s just important to realize that there’s just, there’s like popular level misconceptions versus what the data and stats actually are. Right? So the misconceptions is that it’s like just a pedophile thing, but that’s not the case.
And that the grand jury report is like all these new cases when they’re actually very old. They’re just like coming to public awareness right now. Right. . It doesn’t excuse any of it. It’s just trying to get some clarity on this. No, these are relevant
Mike: details. I mean, I don’t think you have to apologize for just giving the specifics I to, I understand why it’s awkward, but I think they’re
Pat: relevant details.
Yeah, and, and the thing I, I want to emphasize about it is that it’s kind of one of those things that Catholicism predicts in a way, in a kind of a sick way. And here’s what I mean by that, right? So we’re committed to the supernatural, and Catholicism is committed to the idea that we’re not the only rational beings apart from God.
There are other supernatural entities, and some of them are good, and some of them are exceedingly evil. And that these evil beings, right, demons as they’re called, they want not only our destruction, but they want the destruction of the church. And the Catholic church has always affirmed spiritual warfare.
Now, what could be a better move if we’re just speaking frankly, of the. , then this pedophilia scandal of the Catholic church. Like what could be more destructive, more undermining of what the devil would want than
Mike: this? My guess depends what kind of powers he has. There could be much more direct ways of, I mean, this is very circuitous, but
Pat: if you read into the gory details of some of these cases, which I have Mike, if I’m being honest, there’s an evil.
That I don’t think can be explained just by human depravity. I think there is an evil there, like in the context of
Mike: history, really. That sounds like a stretch, right?
Pat: And no, in the context of some of these abuse cases, there is an evil there that is so depraved, so gory. I don’t even want to go into the details that I don’t think can be explained apart from the demonic.
I just, I really don’t. I mean, you have abuse cases and here I am supposed to be talking about what I think is the right worldview. But this is, I just wanna have an honest conversation. Cause I don’t like when Catholic leaders beat around this question that annoys me. I think it’s something that needs to be talked about and discussed openly and honestly and addressed.
And I and I, and in one sense, I kind of almost wanna go deeper into it. I mean, there are cases where the abuse is just mixed with demonic Satanic. Sacri. And again, I don’t even wanna get into details because they’re so grotesque. But if you read the grand jury report, you’ll find some of these right now.
Initially you might think, yeah, that seems like that If this is supposed to be the true religion, we wouldn’t expect something like this. But I wanna kind of back up for a minute because that’s kind of one of the arguments against God in general. You know, it’s the problem of evil, right? You know, if, if God exists and he’s all good, like you say, is.
Why is there so much nastiness in the world? Like why was there the holocaust? Why is there pedophilia? All of this, all this terrible stuff. I don’t have the list that people, people know. And also why,
Mike: if this is his church, why there, why not keep that the, the beacon of light? Right? So
Pat: let’s start general and then we’ll get specific and I’ll, I’ll tell you why.
The problem of evil never really even struck me as an atheist. When I was an atheist, I would have certain arguments against God. I would say, you know, maybe God isn’t, he’s just not necessary. Or we can explain everything we need to explain without God. And I ultimately moved away from that, but I was never even really very impressed with the problem, evil.
And which I agree.
Mike: I I think it’s pretty facile. It’s not very sophisticated. It’s a very soft, moic way of looking,
Pat: right? But for a lot of people, it’s very, it’s very powerful. It does make an impact. So I wanna spend some time on this and, and tie it in if, if you don’t mind, if that’s okay. So evil means, you know, something really bad has happened.
Like this is the way that things shouldn’t. . Right? And that’s a very interesting claim. So to even make sense of evil, to still have it be meaningful, at least meaningful in the sense that we might wanna argue against God, we’re committed to some kind of moral standard, right? We really are. Right? If we drop a moral standard, then evil becomes a meaningless term.
Like maybe it’s preference, but who cares? We have preferences about blueberry, yogurt and stuff like that. When we say it’s something as bad, we mean something objective. Like, this is the way that said something. Shouldn’t be.
Mike: Yeah. It’s different than saying, uh,
Pat: I don’t like that. Right? Like, yeah, there’s a big difference.
And people get this intuitively between saying, no, I, I really don’t like blueberry yogurt versus. Really hate rape, right? , right? There’s a big difference there. So let’s think about it this way, cuz I think while the problem of evil is superficially intentioned with God, I think when you think about it deeper, it only makes sense if God exists because what worldview gives you a moral standard or guarantees you a moral standard or we can’t ask it like this.
What worldview would we more probably expect? Moral standard now on classical theism, we hold that God just is subsistence goodness itself, right? That God is the form of the good, if you will, on Plato’s view. Just more concrete than Play-Doh would would’ve thought about it somewhat. So a moral standard is, is guaranteed on classical theism, right?
Do we have that same type of probability on atheism? Well, no, not, not hardly. In fact many atheists or nihilists, cuz they realized, well, look, if at the bottom of reality it’s just this kind of fundamental physical stuff, this amoral physical stuff, particles or physical symbol. How are you ever gonna get a moral standard out of that?
And, and not just a moral standard, right? Like, how would you ever get this qualitative inversion of the a moral into this perfect moral standard? Like you can’t even really forget about being practically achievable. It doesn’t even seem theoretically possible. But then we also need moral communities, beings that are capable of reasoning that can reflect on the way things ought to be and conform their lives to it.
Now, what worldview better predicts that? Well, on theism we have God who is subsistence goodness itself, who would, I think for very plausible reasons, see the value in creating moral communities and could easily bring them about, right? So fits very well on that worldview. Now, why God would allow or permit evil, that’s another question.
But evil requires a moral standard in moral communities, and I’m, what I’m arguing is that, Exceedingly more probable on atheistic worldview rather than an atheistic worldview. So while the problem of evil may initially want to kind of pull you away from God, I think when you think about it deeper, it actually points to God’s existence, if that makes sense.
And then really what, uh, the, the, the, the issues of bad popes or pedophilia, these are just specific instances of the problem of evil in the Catholic church. It’s the same general problem, but it’s a specific problem. So yeah, the first
Mike: thing you have to accept is that God or the existence of God and, and the existence of evil are not mutually exclusive.
Pat: Right? There’s no contradiction there, right? There’s nothing contradictory because we can say that the idea of there being mysteries is not surprising with God, right? So just because I don’t see a reason for a particular evil doesn’t mean that I see there is no reason for a particular. , and I’ll be honest, I look around all the time.
I don’t see what the reason is from any bad things happening, but I think we can all look back on our lives and realize that there have been times when, you know, even if somewhat small, where something bad happened to us, that that really did deliver some greater good. It’s like the very general Augustinian to mystic response.
It’s like God will allow evil to the extent that he can bring some greater good. and then there’s, you know, a lot of deep questions there between, cuz there’s different types of evils and suffering, right? You have kind of natural evils, but we’re specifically talking about moral evil, right? Like the evil that humans rational beings commit.
And there’s different ways of thinking about that. But in the most general sense, do you think that we have
Mike: an imperative to fight evil? That we’re supposed to do something about it because, well, yes,
Pat: right? Yeah, absolutely. And the Catholic church would say we do because
Mike: I could see someone thinking, well if it’s all God’s plan and we just don’t understand the bigger picture and what looks like evil to us is really just, it’s a little bit of destruction that’s gonna result in a lot of construction.
It’s breaking a few eggs to make an omelet. Why should we try to stop it? Wouldn’t that be interfering with,
Pat: so first off, there’s a couple ways of thinking about this. One is that God tells us that we have to fight evil, right? We have divine commands. We also understand in our basic flourishing, if we just think philosophically that in order to really flourish and be virtuous people, part of that, Will require that we fight evil because it’s in the order of justice.
The virtue of justice, right? So to flourish individually is gonna require a fighting against injustices and evils. And it’s also just very clearly that God hates sin. So he doesn’t want us, and this is very Catholic, right? This is very important. He doesn’t want sin. To happen. He doesn’t want evil to happen, but in the order of created liberty, he allows it because he respects the freedom of his creatures, right?
He respects the freedom of his creatures. I’ve just done a whole series of podcasts on this cuz there’s a lot of difficult philosophical questions here cuz, but he, he could have left that
Mike: outta the operating system if you wanted to.
Pat: I guess , surely he could have, right? And that’s something we don’t wanna deny, but it’s something that he decided to create in this order of providence where we could independently fail.
That’s the way to think about it, right? Because in a sense, you know, all goodness comes from God because all being comes from God. But we as fallible free creatures can independently fail. We can not consider things that we could have considered. The moral rule, for example, and we can fail independently of what we could have done.
And that’s when sin and evil is introduced into the world. That’s a very rough sketch of what’s known as the privation account of evil, right? God doesn’t want that. He doesn’t prefer that. So that’s the first thing. To be clear, lu, we’re talking Catholic theology and there’s not something that’s introduced into the world, right?
There’s not something that’s creative. It’s a failure to consider something. We could have the moral rule in any particular situation, and we make a judgment. We act, and there’s a privation. There’s something missing that should have been there, a non consideration of the rule, if you will. So we’re actually kind of introducing nonsense into the world as free creatures in this sense.
So that’s important, right? So God isn’t the cause of evil, he permits it. , but he isn’t the cause of it cuz there’s nothing that is made right now. There’s positive actions to evil. So for example, when I, let me make a concrete example here. So say that I want money, right? Nothing bad about wanting money in and of itself, right?
Catholic church certainly doesn’t have anything against making money. But say that I, you know, I make money. My focus, I know it’s bad, I do know it’s bad to kill people, right? I do. That’s something I know habitually. But you know, Mike, I, I see that you got some money on you, and I really want that money. I decide that I’m gonna take it from you.
And I don’t consider the moral rule of not killing somebody to acquire wealth, right? And I think we would all agree that that’s a real moral rule. The acts of my acquiring money has failed to consider something that should have applied to it, which is the respect for your personhood, for example, the respect for your person.
Now, here’s the tricky part, right? I don’t want people to think about this now. Everything positive in that act, my existence, you know, God giving me being to pull the trigger, the bullet. The bullet, you, oh, that is caused by God, right? God maintains all that in existence, right? And that’s something we can’t deny, but the act itself, the privation, the thing missing that should have been there, that was on me.
It’s that privation, that original, you know, natio of not considering the thing that I could have considered. Then making the judgment and acting with the consideration of the rule, not applying to the act where it should have been considered is something that’s missing from reality that should have been there.
I introduced that. And then God just permits it to happen in a sense. So we do have God’s permission of sin, but of course all that
Mike: would be by design. Like if God were deciding the rules of this game He is about to create, of course that would have to be consciously decided upon. Cause it could have been set up many other
Well, that’s thinking of God in the wrong way. So God’s eternal, right? It’s not like God thinks 3, 2, 1 before the big bang, here’s how everything’s gonna gonna work out. Right? So God’s eternality is such that every, this is Mike gonna take us too far afield. But it is important to understand that everything is just sort of present to God and his eternal reference frame as it occurs to us in our temporal reference frame.
So think of it like this. You know, imagine if a, if an author could think an entire book all at once and is present to every page of that book simultaneously, but he is the author of the book
Mike: though, is the key. It’s not just a book that appeared it. Came about via an act of creation. Unless you’re saying that the act of creation was chaotic and kind of random and it just came out the
Pat: way it came out.
No, but he does allow us to be real actors in it, if you will, and we’ll permit certain things. Now we do maintain a robust providence, cuz you might worry, well, what does that mean? That you know God has no control to keep Mike Matthews in Ence. Well, of course not. Right, because God can cause a tremor in my hand.
He can cause the bullet to miss your heart by a couple inches like he did. Pope John Paul II at his assassination attempt. Right? So there’s a million, there’s an infinite number of ways that God can maintain control, even if he gives us created liberty to introduce certain elements of nonsense. But to your original point, we have a strong moral obligation.
To fight evil personally by reflection on the natural law of what causes us to flourish, by what the Catholic church teaches, by what God has divinely revealed. And because God permits sin, and even though I, we don’t see all the reasons of, or all the greater goods that God will draw out of, that doesn’t mean that he wants sin, but he is powerful enough that he can turn that evil to goodness, right?
And that’s, that’s kind of the story of the atonement and the resurrection, right? Like he turns our sin. All this depravity takes it onto himself on the cross. And so, like the most horrendous evil assumes it like literal dias side, right? Where, you know, all the followers at the time felt like this is the worst thing that could ever happen, right?
Like, this is terrible. And then what does it do? It somehow turns into, in a very paradoxical way, a very mysterious way, but also a very beautiful way, the source of, of our salvation. That’s the kind of wonderful but beautiful paradox of God. Providence, right? Doesn’t want it, doesn’t want that to happen, but can work with it if you will.
And it certainly doesn’t to hedge your concern, which is a real concern. It does not alleviate us from committing evil. If we commit evil, we incur moral guilt and we’ll have to deal with that. So if somebody’s got that attitude, yeah, you wanna drop that attitude right now, . Cause that’s the wrong way to go about life.
Uh, and if
Mike: nothing else it, it simply will not work. You’re gonna live a very miserable ex existence and then you’re gonna find out what happens next, I guess.
Pat: Right. And Eleanor Stump, she’s got a wonderful book on this called The Atonement. She, she deals with that direction. You know, objection directly is even if God allows suffering, we have an obligation to try and alleviate suffering.
So in God’s providence, you never know how much suffering God is is going to allow. That’s God’s prerogative. All we know is that from our limited perspective, this is our prerogative. We need to go about alleviating suffering, fighting against evil, fighting against injustice. So it’s a legitimate concern.
I’m actually glad you brought that one up cuz it’s, it’s one I haven’t heard in a while, but I could see how that might be off putting to somebody and it should be right. That’s wrong, . It’s completely wrong. So if that was the worldview, I would reject it too. That’s a legitimate thing, but it’s not. So yeah, we’ve kind of gone off in the weeds here a little
Yeah, I think we did touch on it in the first discussion we had along these lines, but that was some time ago. Chances are at least a fair number of people listening now. Didn’t hear that. I, I have another question for you. This is something that, it may not be generally true, it just, it has, it happened often enough where I just kind of filed it in the Seems to be true folder.
And that is, can you say that you. Worked hard to come to the position that you are in now and that you have educated yourself and you’ve thought about these things and you have observed reality as it is now and as it was, but. Ultimately you might be wrong and you will find out one way or another when you die.
Maybe there’s nothing else, maybe and may and, and, and I would say in that sense I would be wrong. Maybe it’s just blackness and that’s the end of Pat and the end of Mike and everything that we ever were or is just poof, oblivion or you know, maybe something else happens. And the reason I ask that is in my discussions that I’ve had with Christians who I would say rigorous Christians, not zealous, but rigorous people like you, that seems to be, is that like not acceptable in Catholicism or other forms of Christianity to say, look, I really do believe in this, but I
Pat: may be wrong.
Yeah, yeah. You know what? I wanna address this. Right? So we all have doubts. I think it’s very insincere. If you hear somebody says they don’t have doubts on any end of the spectrum, like when people who are atheists, they don’t have any doubts, say, like, that just strikes me as just either being massively deluded or not honest with yourself.
I mean, I have doubts all the time and you know, I return to the reasons I, I return to prayer and I kind of shore myself up and say, yeah, I really do. I really do think I’m not deluded. I think this is true. But yeah, doubt is a real, it’s a real thing. And it’s, and it’s something again that, that the church teaches.
I mean, Israel means wrestling with God. I mean, look, as much as I don’t think that the problem of evil is a good philosophical argument against God. I mean, it hits me in the gut all the time, man. I mean, when these evil things go in the world, inside or outside of the church, like it causes me to doubt it does.
And you know, we are, we’re rational animals, but we’re deeply emotional as well. So, one way that I think might be helpful to think about this, so I just wanna affirm that like yeah, we all have doubts.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. No, it was a genuine question because the last time I had this conversation, with someone. They wouldn’t say that it was that.
There are absolutely no doubts ever and it is absolutely true. There is no chance. I’m like, that must be
Pat: nice. I’ve never been there. I don’t
Mike: think he was telling the truth. He’s a bit of a strange guy, . I don’t think he was being honest, but that’s why I’m asking. I remember asking, I didn’t even get an answer like, am I asking you to like offend some fundamental.
Proposition of what it means to be, and
Pat: No, I mean like look at so many of the Saints man. I mean they’ve been great inspiration to me. This, they have went through men’s periods of struggle and doubt and like that’s kind of like the cool part of their story. I think this is just utterly human in a sense.
So I just wanna firm that be totally honest. Yeah, we all struggle. And I will say that the problem of evil is the one that hits me the hardest. Like we all suffer tremendously. So if you wanna know like, what really gets me in the gut, it’s that one, right? Because we live with it and it’s just unavoidable.
And you know,
Mike: that resonates with me to some degree in that. There’s also the bigger picture that I’ve. Thought about of why are we reduced to this level of existence? Why is this the game that we humans are stuck in? Which ultimately comes down to cheating and crushing and killing each other over resources, , or just ideas.
Why are we not united in conquering the stars? Like, and I don’t mean this to be blasphemous, but like, does God not have, has he not seen Star Wars? Like that would be so much more fun.
Pat: Come on. Yeah, no, I know what you’re saying. Let me come at this from a couple angles, and this is really good stuff. One is like the idea like.
Shoot. If I were, God, I wouldn’t have done it like this. Right. , I would’ve done things completely differently. Right? Yeah. Star, I would’ve done things completely. How about trying, I would be massively dishonest if I didn’t say that, that I often feel that way. Like if I were, God, here’s how I would’ve done it.
But I have to constantly remind myself, I’m definitely not God. Right. . Right. I’m definitely not. There’s two things I wanna talk about. One is I wanna talk about a principle of illumination, for lack of a better word. Also Pascal’s wager famous kind of fun thing we could, we could talk about a little bit here.
The principle of illumination is this, there’s a lot of mystery in the world, A lot of, you know, why didn’t God do it? Like Star Wars, why did this bad thing happen, blah, blah, blah. Right. Just there’s a lot of things we just don’t have the answer to. Right. And you know, and at least in this life we may never have the answer to.
But here’s what I would say. There are some things we do know, or at least can know, I think very confidently, and we should always take what we do know. To bring illumination to what we don’t know. So I would argue, and if you want Mike, maybe we could do a whole episode on this or people can go look at my ebook or any other books or things that I would point to on this that we can, through philosophical reasoning alone, demonstrate not just God’s existence but God’s goodness.
And we can know that with, with great clarity, right? It does surprise us that there are nasty things that happen in the world. But just because I don’t see the reasons for them or why God didn’t make Lake Star Wars, I can take what I know to shine light on what I don’t know, and at least it can make me feel a little bit better and gimme a little bit more confidence, right?
So I can know that because God is all powerful and all good, and all wises, that even if I don’t see reasons for things, there must be reasons and they must be good reasons. And that might be as far as I can go. And you know what? That’s fine. That’s enough for me in a lot of cases. It doesn’t mean that things don’t bother me.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have doubt, but I return to that principle frequently, take what is clear and use it to shine light on what is ambiguous or opaque. because like as you said, like, I don’t know why God didn’t make things like Star Wars that seem certainly he could have or at least
Mike: delete the pedophiles.
Pat: Come on and start there. , right? Yeah. Like why or why God didn’t insert, set in certain boundaries to evil. Like why does he let it go above a certain threshold? I don’t know. Right. I don’t, I just don’t know. All I know is, is the things that I’ve worked through and I think that those principles of illumination can at least give us enough assurance to have a, a good hope.
Right. A, a good hope. And that we don’t need to be constantly rattled by those things or by any mysteries that we don’t completely understand. They don’t need to, you know, eclipse the illumination we do have, if you will. And then the other thing I would say is this about, you know, uncertainty. Cuz there might be people who are listening to this and.
And are in a, in a position where they think, okay, you know, I just can’t make up my mind. Right? Like I read the arguments for Christianity or Catholicism or God and I read the arguments against it and can feel like
Mike: dueling experts, which I understand that can be difficult. I can give many examples of that, but there are many discussions can get to a point where you just no longer can follow because of even how technical it becomes, you know?
Pat: Yeah. And I’m just not qualified enough. Right. And let’s be honest, most people aren’t professional philosophers of religion. They’re just, they’re probably not gonna be able to dive into the deep technical weeds of a lot of this stuff. So what do you do? What do you do? What do you do if you’re just like in that position of 50 50, right?
Like, maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. Well, this is where Pascal’s. Kicks in and, and we gotta articulate this kind of carefully cause it’s often misunderstood, right? But Pascal’s wager is something that only applies in a, in a certain circumstance, right? So the crude version is like, you should just be a Christian because you’ll just, you know, have so much to gain and nothing to lose.
Yeah. It doesn’t cost anything, so why not? Right? It doesn’t cost anything, but that’s wrong. That’s wrong. Pascal’s wager doesn’t alleviate argumentation thinking, reason an investigation. It just doesn’t do that. Right? It’s something that kicks in after. , I’ve done the arguments. And you say, okay, and you find yourself in a particular situation and something like, um, split between atheism and Christianity, for example.
Like, I’ve looked into Islam. That doesn’t seem right to me, but you know, if I had to say it’s one of two things, it’s Christianity or, or atheism. As John Henry Newman once said, who himself was a Catholic convert, he says, there’s two roads in life. One to Rome and one to atheism. Right? And that’s kinda the position I was in, right?
that was, that really was right. I want you to kind of really, I think, work through it, but say you’re not sure, well then Pascal’s wager will say something like this. It’ll say, it then becomes prudent to begin a life of religious seeking. Not belief. Not belief, right? That’s another mistake, right? Because you can’t just get yourself to belief something you’re not convinced of.
Like how would you even do that? Right? Like, I can’t just believe that I have a pile of macaroni self-suggestion. You just say it every day. I wouldn’t know how to believe that I have macaroni and cheese in my hands right now. I just can’t believe that. Cause I just, I have no evidence. Right? I have no reason to believe that.
So you can’t just like, plus it would be insincere. , right? So that’s not Pascal’s wager. What Pascal’s Wager says in its best contemporary formulations is that it would be prudent to begin a life of religious seeking. And because in that sense, you have a potential infinite amount to gain with virtually nothing to lose.
And let me unpack that and we can, we can talk about it. What does that mean? Well, it means that if you start a life of religious living, and this will tie back into your point, we actually have great sociological research now, the show that people who live a generally religious and spiritual life are just across the board, healthier, happier, et cetera, right?
Less anxiety, less depression, more sense of meaning in life, less chance of suicide, less chance of disease. There’s been great systematic studies on this. So just on the natural end, and I think this speaks to your original question, then there’s the familial
Mike: impact as well that that goes beyond the individual now and then that goes into the society.
Cause I would say the sinew of society and really of civilization at least is western civilization is
Pat: the family, right? Yeah. So this is funny cuz it actually ties back to your original question, like, and this wasn’t some, like we didn’t have all the sociological data back in Pascal’s day, so he didn’t have this, right?
So when the wager was originally formulated, he might say, well, okay, you might miss out on some things. This side of the world, right? You know, vicious behavior and you know, sins that might be fun. But actually the best data we have now on this is completely opposite. No, you actually will be happier overall if you’re a spiritual and religious person.
And it’s, it’s very good. It’s very good data and research there. I’ll send a study, Mike, so you can link it in the show notes so people wanna see this. So on a purely natural level, we have a case to begin a life of religious seeking. And you can do it totally authentically. You don’t have to say you believe, but you know, maybe you start going to church and maybe you pray.
Agnostic prayers, right? And this is what I did at one point. I said like the agnostic prayer is this, God, if there is a God, save my soul. If I have a soul, , right? Sounds kind of funny, but you can be totally authentic. You don’t have to dup yourself, right? The waiting pool, right? You start hanging out with more religious people hanging around religious communities.
You just begin a life of seeking. And then of course, if it turns out that it is true, ultimately, well then you’ve done something supremely good, right? You saw at the highest meaning of life tried to have a real friendship and intimacy with God, which of Catholic’s claim is the purpose of life, and you’ve avoided missing.
the greatest meaning of life. So on both the natural and and the supernatural end. You have pretty much everything to gain in virtually nothing to lose the risk. However,
Mike: and you might be already be getting to this, so I’m sorry if I’m cutting in too early here, but I guess a counter-argument could be, well, it carries a risk then of what if you’re wrong?
Because major religions prescribe major penalties for not believing the
Pat: right thing, right? Like Islam. And that’s why I said it doesn’t. Do away with argumentation. So I would say you wanna have like good reasons to reject Islam first, right? Because yeah. If you know right, if you’re wrong and I’m Catholic and Islam is true, it might be pretty bad news for me.
Right. But I’m, I’m quite confident that Islam is false, right? . So, yeah. I just wanna emphasize it doesn’t do away with the rational investigation. And that’s why I said it, it’s only going to apply if you find yourself in a position of saying,
Mike: striving toward the truth like you had said
Pat: earlier in the podcast.
Right, right, right. And if you’re unsure, then yeah, go check that. , right? But then say, you are wrong. Well, what have you really lost? Well, you led a life that the research shows probably made you happier overall in the, in the natural life. Strove for, for virtue. And then in the end, it’s nothing worse
Mike: would be if l let’s say Islam we’re right, or, you know, actually I should know this, but again, it’s been a long time since I spent much time reading up on religion, but I don’t remember the Jewish conception of afterlife and what happens to non-Jews, let alone good and and bad non-Jews.
But, and, and you, you could probably comment on that quickly, but my point being, if one of these other faiths that. Explicitly and Christianity does as well, right? Explicitly prescribes punishment to people who do not believe the right idea. Well, you might live a, a good life, uh, following the quote unquote wrong ideas, but you’re gonna suffer eternally for it.
That’s the basic
Pat: idea, right? Right. Yeah. Yeah. So I’ll just give you an example, right. There’s certain denominations of Protestantism that think as a Catholic I’m going to hell, really?
Mike: Isn’t it the other way around too though, where you
Pat: believe that of No, no, no, no. That is not, that’s, that’s a misunderstanding.
Mike: doesn’t really, oh, I was under the impression that Catholics generally despise Protestants even more than atheists and think that, well,
Pat: certainly I, no, I certainly don’t despise anybody really try to fulfill my Christian obligation of loving everybody. Honestly, I think the Protestantism is wrong.
I think that at the end of the day, if you investigate all. relevant data for Christianity. For me it’s Catholicism or bust. Honestly, it, it really kind of came down to that cause Protestantism is committed to things like solo scriptura, you know, by scripture alone. And I think there’s a million problems with that.
I mean, first off is no book is self interpreting. Uh, you know, and that’s why we have so many different denominations of Protestantism cuz they all claim to have the right interpretation of, of a text that obviously doesn’t interpret itself. So it seems like we need some type of living authority to help us with that, which the church does.
You’re speaking there ultimately to the Pope. Yeah. The magisterium of the Catholic church. Right? The hierarchy, right. Yeah. So it’s, it just seems like almost an a priority Dedo that like, if God were to like reveal himself, he would give us something like Catholicism to make, like, you know, if he’s gonna go through.
I don’t wanna say all this trouble cuz it’s not trouble for God, but like why would he reveal himself and then leave people so desperately confused with a book that, you know, it didn’t even exist at first. So like, what do you do with, for people who didn’t even have the Bible until the church formalized the cannon?
Well that, I mean,
Mike: that begs the question though. Why then have all these different sexts and I mean that confuses
Pat: people. Well I don’t think you should, I think he should be Catholic. Why have it set up that way? I think that’s a problem of evil, right? One of those questions. Yeah, it’s it’s one of the problem of evil, right?
For sure. Yeah. It just seems like, yeah, that’s something that shouldn’t be, but, but unfortunately is God has his reasons. I, I’ll, I’ll ask him hopefully someday. , when I, I have a list, Mike. I have a big list, right? . But yeah, so I mean, I, I wanna be charitable to my Protestant friends. I think the core commitments of Protestantism, like solo scriptura are just, are just complete non-starter and exercise a viciously circular reasoning.
I don’t think you can even get it off the ground, but they would, some Protestants not. Some, not all Protestant. There’s very many different branches of Protestant that would think that I’m going to hell as a Catholic. Catholic church teaches that although, you know, Christ binds himself to the sacraments and the sacrament of the church, he’s not bound by the sacraments that God’s grace can be obviously operative outside the church.
So the Catholic Church holds that. You know, if somebody is sincerely following their, their conscience and the, the, the conscience being the aboriginal voice of God, they’re sincerely seeking God and through no fault of their own right that they didn’t become Catholic, we can totally hope that at the end of the day, theire.
Mike: Oh, that’s interesting. That was gonna be one of my questions. And this is something I’ve posed to this previous person. I actually had mentioned who I discussed some of the things about. So although I’m, I’m not Christian, I’m not, I’m not close to any of the things that you’re talking about, and I, I’ve already kind of explained my position.
I’m not a religious, it’s just not a major part of my identity or my life right now. However, if you look at my actions, and I, and I posed this to this other guy who was attacking me for my position, right? I was saying, well, and I don’t take it personally, I don’t care. But I was like, you know, if you look at my actions though, I’m a better Christian than.
In terms of how I live. Now I understand. Let’s put the beliefs aside for a second. And I just showed ’em a little list. I mean, I’ve given about 10% of my income to charity for years now. I can honestly say I have no vices. I don’t, I don’t even look at porn, right? I don’t drink alcohol.
Pat: You could man it.
It’s time for men to men up. Oh, I’ve to stop. I’ve spoken about this. Honestly, be a man and stop looking at porn. It’s such a childish thing. And look, I used to look at it too, , right? So I’m not speaking for a high horse, but like, it’s just, it’s something that I, I came around to, I’m like, wow, this really is a completely vicious thing, and it fuels an obscenely vicious industry, right?
So, sorry, Mike, I just wanted to, oh no, it’s
Mike: terrible. It’s terrible. Anybody listening if you want to hear my thoughts on porn and why I stopped, and I might have talked a little bit about how I stopped, although there isn’t. Story there. It’s more just, I came to the point where it was so at odds with my principles.
I, I felt guilty and, and it wasn’t guilty to anyone. Even though my wife at the time was my girlfriend. I mean, she didn’t like it, obviously, and she wasn’t gonna break up with me over it. She a guilt figure. . Yeah. But she wasn’t gonna break up with me over it, but it did hurt her feelings and so I did feel bad about that, but it got to a point where I felt bad more.
What it was doing. I mean, there are the individual effects, but they’re the social, like it really should just be banned, especially in
Pat: kids, right? So serious psychological effects as well. So yeah, I, so I, so I get your point and I acknowledge it and I concede it as you, you might
Mike: have understood where I was going with what my proposition to this other guy was.
If you look at my actions, I’m not a saint. I’m not perfect. I do mess up. But I really do try to live a moral, ethical life. And I try to not only flourish myself, but help anyone who’s in contact with me flourish. And I don’t always get it right. And sometimes I do things that I shouldn’t do, but in the scheme of things, I’m a pretty upright person and this person I was speaking to is not a bad person, but in that way, really not comparable.
And so my question to him was, does it really make sense that simply because I don’t affirm this belief, if I live this way my entire life and really bring a lot of good into the world, that I should go to hell forever
Pat: for it. Right, right. Yeah. And I would say if that’s somebody’s conception of of God and religion and they’re an atheist for that reason, well shoot.
I reject that too. Right? We’re on the same page. Right. There’s just certain, I think morally repugnant things that, and this is again why, one reason why I’m Catholic, right? Because I couldn’t accept certain Protestant views. It just seemed that deeply repugnant. So that would be
Mike: more of a Protestant idea,
Pat: not a Catholic idea, right.
So, yeah. But let me try and articulate it carefully, because like, don’t get me wrong, right? Like Catholics believe that everybody should become Catholic because we believe that the Catholic church has all the gifts that Christ wants to share with all of us, right? All that, all the help, the liturgy, the sacraments, the intimacy of the relationship with God, the gifts that Christ gave, he gave to his church.
So it’s really something that we do have the great commission, right, to evangelize now, but to your. . I think there’s probably a lot of atheists and a lot of Protestants and probably a lot of Muslims and a lot of Buddhists who are in many ways a better person than I am. I mean, I’m still, I think, a pretty depraved person.
I, I used to be far worse, so I think in this question you just have to compare apples to apples. I would be hesitant to compare myself to anybody else of any religious background, but I can tell you for certainly I am a million times better now. being Catholic than I was before. I mean, my list of perversions and vices before I became religious was enormous.
And you know, I was, you know, 26, I was, had kids. I was a pretty crap father, if I’m being honest. You know, I was mostly just trying to get away from my family a lot. I saw ’em as, as distractions. I had a little yellow Porsche that I drove around, you know, trying to impress people and looked at porn and like all this, all this stuff that I look back on with honestly, a great amount of shame and embarrassment if I’m being frank,
Mike: I can relate to that.
I had a similar. I had a Porsche as well at one time. It wasn’t yellow, it was white. I had the GT four dog. Would you have ? I had the gts. Mine was even cooler. Right, but
Pat: how? Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was. But how sad my existence was. No. I mean,
Mike: I look back on that and it is cringe. I cringe at myself.
Pat: Yeah. And so, and the Catholic church is also very clear.
There’s a heresy of pianism. Like I didn’t make myself better at the end of the day, I just stopped resisting God. Right. It’s letting God into your life. So in, in one sense, you can very easily imagine somebody who might be quote unquote, well I just wanna say any religion, right? But they’re living a life of vice.
They really are resisting God in some sense. So they’re not in a state of grace where you might have somebody who, they’re no fault of their own, never came into contact with the gospel or the Catholic church, but acted in accordance with their conscience as best as they heard the, the call of God in their life.
Didn’t resist the spirit’s call, so to speak, and, and try to live a virtuous life. Really try to sincerely seek truth. The Catholic church is absolutely, we can hope. that that person is saved. Cuz even though you know God, God, you know, binds himself or to the sacraments or Catholics of sacraments, he isn’t bound by them.
Now, what the Catholic Church does say exclusively is that if you are saved, you are saved through the Catholic church at the end of the day. Right, because it’s, it’s just true. But just because you are outside of the Catholic church doesn’t mean that you can’t be saved through it necessarily.
Interesting. That’s in Vatican two, that’s a teaching. Now, at the same time, if you think it might be true and you’re sincerely seeking and looking into it, you should look into it. You should become Catholic. Right? ? No, that’s
Mike: understandable. Then it becomes a point of what is it cowardice? Is it disingenuous?
Pat: Yeah. Because at the end of the day, are you really just kind of rejecting God and the idea of hell, the Catholic Catechisms, you know, definition of hell is it’s a definitive self-exclusion from God. So there’s a kind of absurd. To it, right? It’s not this caricatured, cartoonish idea that God just kind of sends you to someplace because, um, you didn’t like verbally profess some statement of belief and boils your legs in molten sulfur for a hundred billion calendar years.
Again, if you reject Christianity, because of that, I reject that view of Christianity too. We’re on the same page. , right? That is what I believe the Catholic Church says that whatever else hell is, you know, there’s positions in Catholic theology that are very wide on this, right? The church doesn’t formally teach like on, on some of these things.
There’s areas of great debate within Catholicism, but you have people who are called like hopeful Universalists. And at the end of the day, God does manage to bring everyone freely to himself. Now, we shouldn’t confidently assume that, but we could hope for it. Now, some of my more traditionally minded Catholic friends, and look, I’m very traditionally minded.
Believe me, I am. I go to Latin mass. It’s very beautiful. I affirm all the teachings of the church, you know, might push back on me on that, but that’s something I find quite attractive. It seems right to me on a proper metaphysical theological understanding, at least the possibility of it. Now, at the same time, I wanna say, I think there’s good reason.
To become Catholic. And I think that this is true. And if you really are seeking, take a look, and at the very least it’s worth a serious investigation or even reinvestigation because like you said, Mike, sometimes people take an initial look earlier in life as I certainly did, rejected it. And then later on come back and this is what happened to me, realized, oh, I sort of rejected a caricature in a way, or I rejected a very superficial understanding, but then, you know, maybe I should have another look and see if there’s more to it.
Mike: people who want to do. Where would you point them? What are good resources?
Pat: Yeah, so those three questions, right? Does God exist? Is Jesus God, right? And what Mark sat off? Well the resurrection, that’s the claim of Christianity, right? St. Paul says like, look, if Christ wasn’t raised, if this miracle didn’t happen, then it’s a joke.
Our faith is in vain, right? So that’s the kind of interesting thing about Christianity is it makes a very strong historical claim, which you can see if there’s any evidence to bear that out or not. And then you kind of look at, well, did Christ give us the church or did he give us a book or what? So I would break it into those three categories.
And depending on where you’re stuck, cuz people will be at different positions. Maybe you believe in God, but you don’t think that the second one is, is right. Maybe you think the second one is right, but you don’t think the third one is right. So it really depends. I actually have a Google doc that I put together cuz so many people have reached out to me over the years.
I just call it a link of books that might make you Catholic. And I have books in every one of those categories. So I have the philosophical books for classical theism. I have the books from the historians that really try to show that there’s a very credible, plausible case to be made historically for the resurrection, which kind of fits nicely.
Like once you already have the prior worldview of theism, the resurrection, it, it almost kind of makes sense, right? It’s almost like you okay, maybe I wouldn’t predict it, it would happen exactly like that. But this accords well with a god of love, right? And then books on early church history, what it looked like and arguments for Catholicism in particular.
So I would say if people wanna have a look, we can link that Google Doc. Be happy to share it. Yeah,
Mike: send it over to me. I’ll put it in the show notes. This
Pat: has been fun, man. I appreciate the pushback. I mean it’s, it’s, I hope I’ve been, yeah, I think you.
Mike: Very well, and like I told you before we started recording, I hadn’t put too much thought into what I wanted to ask you, because I figured it’d also be better if it was more based specifically on where you wanted to go.
Uh, of course, my intention being just to make for good discussion and try to anticipate maybe some of the thoughts that people listening who aren’t coming into it, you know, at your position would think of. And, you know, I, I found it enjoyable and hopefully I came up with some good questions and didn’t ask anything too offensive.
I know maybe not to you, but you know, nothing’s off
Pat: limits, you know, at least not for me, and I appreciate this. I mean, I have these conversations frequently on my podcast, and I always get a, a flood of emails and also on Instagram, which has been very interesting. Every time after our conversation, Mike, specifically, after our conversations on your podcast, my Instagram inbox starts to receive a lot of messages again from often young men.
Mike: surprised that, I think Nietzche predicted that, right? We had made a comment of that earlier. We didn’t get to talking about that. But the state of masculinity in particular is, is in a very. Precarious place right now. And I think it, it ties back into some of the points you were making regarding purpose and how religion can really give, uh, a mantle of purpose, that that covers every aspect of life.
And if you take that away, I mean, I can imagine myself again, even though I’m not, like I’ve said, I’m not a very religious person. It’s not a strong part of my identity. I do. Ideas of things that I think are probably correct. If I had to put a lot of money on it, I would actually be willing to make the bet.
So I guess that says something right. That’s how
Pat: Pascal was. Yeah. Living in the real betting in time. Right. She was like, oh, you Betten falls out there . Yeah. Here’s a bet you
Mike: should be making. Yeah. It’s referred to as Pascal’s Gambit
Pat: as well. Right. You know, when you read the Pons Pascal stuff, he’s, it’s really a collection of notes.
We might recommend one more good book. Actually, I don’t have this in the Google Doc. I’ll have to put it in there. It’s called Taking Pascal’s Wager by Dr. Michael Rup, a professional philosopher. That’s a really good one. I feel like I’ve
Mike: come across that book. It sounds very, I
Pat: would grab it because he’s a philosopher of religion, so he is somebody who like is very.
Aware of the contemporary debate and the and of literature. It’s a cool book cuz he gives like a summary of the arguments and evidence, obviously in favor of, of Christianity, but then gives a very robust contemporary formulation of how Pascal’s wager applies. So if, if that intrigues somebody, I would definitely recommend his book.
It’s called Taking Pascal’s Wager. Great. Well
Mike: anyways, with young men, I’m not surprised that they gravitate toward these discussions. I mean, I get a lot of great feedback as well, and I’m thinking back over our discussions. It’s often from men for whatever reason. I do get some women reaching out as well.
But it’s more often men. Well, you’re
Pat: right, we are in a masculinity crisis. I mean, where are the men? Where are the men? Right? And even in religion, like religion is. When understood it is and should be a manly thing. Like honestly, what do you mean by that? Right? Because you’re called to a life of virtue.
Mike: This needs to be our next podcast, actually. Let’s do it on
Pat: masculinity. Yeah, absolutely. Right. You’re gonna stop looking at porn like a teenager. I,
Mike: I know you’re probably not a fan of Jordan Peterson, and I’m not particularly a fan of his anymore. I, I liked a lot of what he was doing in the beginning.
However, I do agree with some of his, I wouldn’t even say his ideas or ideas He curated and he collected and one of them being one of. Most fundamental, maybe imperatives of, of living, and this certainly applies to men, probably applies to women as well, but certainly applies to men. And we see men running from it as Peter Pan syndrome is to take on as much burden and as as much responsibility as you can to have as big of a sphere of influence as you can.
Right? Yeah, yeah.
Pat: No. So, you know, I actually think, you know, on a very general level, a lot of what Peterson says, I think is very important and needed, and. And it’s funny because I’ve had so many people come to my podcast and actually say that they’ve reconsidered religion or have become religious because of Peterson, who isn’t explicitly religious, but he seems to be like serving as a bridge for people.
Mike: That’s the criticism that I’ve heard though from, again, I, I have a Catholic friend who despises him, Vox day, despises him, partially because they don’t like that in his biblical lecture series. He took the Bible and re Right.
Pat: Well, he’s a young Ian, right, so he is looking at it from a very psychological standpoint.
Mike: He’s saying let’s put aside the religion of it and, and let’s look at it more through the lens of psychology and what’s true about it in that regard. And a couple of, again, people I’ve spoken to, Christians, Catholics didn’t like
Pat: that. Well, actually, you know, to shed some light on that, check out the conversation.
Anybody listening between him and. Robert Barron, Catholic Bishop, and I think they’ll find that very interesting because they have a very fruitful exchange. And you know, Catholics are certainly not, they shouldn’t be opposed to, you know, there’re being deep psychological significance in the Bible. It’s just not an either or.
Mike: Yeah. I tried to make that argument to, again, this guy I was talking with also, like, shouldn’t, I mean, he’s bringing a lot of people to religion. Shouldn’t you be happy, I mean, your church is benefiting from his work, even if he’s not saying the exact things that you think
Pat: he should say. Again, I will probably disagree with him on a number of particular philosophical metaphysical points.
Sure. But, uh, generally I, I see him as an important cultural. Warrior right now. I really do.
Mike: Well, that’s gonna be our next one, masculinity. I think that’ll be a fun discussion.
Pat: Beautiful. Man. These are always a blast. Mike. I really appreciate you having me on, and I, I hope people get something out of it and you can certainly let me know.
Uh, reach out. Reach out on Instagram, reach out. Yeah. On Instagram, chronicles of strength.com. [email protected] is my email. I can always promise a charitable exchange. Um, you know, I’m, I’m always. Immediate or responsive on, on social media. But I do try to get back to as many people as as I can.
And my podcast anyone’s in interested is the Pat Flynn Show every Friday we do called Philosophy Friday. So if you like the philosophical stuff, you’ll probably dig that. And then every Sunday I do Sunday school, and that’s more on theology. And then throughout the week I talk to people like the legendary Mike Matthews here on fitness stuff and
So it’s a pretty eclectic podcast, but there’s something there probably for just about everyone.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. And how to think about God would be uh, I think a, a book that anybody’s still listening and especially if they’re at the edge of their seat, then go grab Pat’s book, how to Think About God. I think that’s a great place to start.
They should be probably top, it probably is top on the list of your Google Doc. It’s not a publish . Wasn’t
Pat: that self-aggrandizing? Of course
Mike: I put it in there. I I know, I know. But it’s short and I, I think it does some great stage setting my opinion.
Pat: But yeah, good stuff man. I appreciate the recommendation.
I really do. Yeah, man. I look forward to our
Mike: next one. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from? Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibil.
And help more people find their way to me and to the podcast and learn how to build their best body ever as well. And of course, if you wanna be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and whatever app you’re using to listen and you will not miss out on any of the new stuff that I have coming.
And last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.