Wednesday, February 8, 2012


“I am very fond of humor and laughter … Materialists, humanists and atheists all take this world too seriously because it is the only world they are ever going to have.
But he who possesses faith knows that this world is not the only one,
and therefore can be regarded rather lightly.”
-- Fulton J. Sheen

I’ve had this bit of wisdom hanging on my wall for years.  It’s on a little plaque given to me years ago and I can’t remember by whom.  Possibly this person appreciated my attempts at humor in my teaching; and beneath my apparent lightness he or she saw a genuine depth in my faith.  I’ve always taken it as a compliment.

And as I have encountered materialists, humanists and atheists, I’ve come to realize that this quote tells me as much about them as it does about the person of faith.

Now I recognize that Bishop Sheen was speaking in generalities, and not all in these categories fit his descriptions.  At least not on the surface.  And in the past I would have questioned his conclusions, or recognized that there are many exceptions to the rule.

Though I have personally met few, if any atheists, I have read some of them, and to tell the truth, have often been impressed with their logic and clear thinking.  People like the brilliant philosopher Thomas Nagel, or the writers Susan Jacoby (See:  DEALING WITH DUMBING DOWN.) and Chris Mooney.  (See:  DON’T CONFUSE ME WITH THE FACTS.)  These and others are a delight to read and often add immensely to my store of knowledge as well as forcing me to clarify my thinking.

However, atheists (like Christian thinkers) who simply write learned tomes expounding their views apparently don’t sell many popular books.  It seems that the books that really sell are “attack” books.  I recognize that there have been many in the past who attacked religion, especially Christianity, but I don’t remember as many attacks till recently.  (See:  THE ATHEISTS ATTACK.)  These guys seem to be at war with the God whose existence they deny.

Please excuse me for implying that they do this merely to sell books.  I’ll concede that their motives are genuinely sincere.  They speak from a belief system that colors all their thinking and it is this belief system which causes them to (as Bishop Sheen said) “take this world too seriously.”  I suppose that I would too, were I in their position.

Perhaps the words of Thomas Nagel are true of many atheists.  “I am talking about something much deeper – namely, the fear of religion itself.  I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself:  I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.  It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief.  It’s that I hope there is no God!  I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”  (The Last Word, page 130.)

Are professing atheists perhaps not really atheists but theophobes?

A few words to my atheist friend:  Please don’t be like your mentors Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest, unable to lighten up.  Don’t be incapable of looking with an open mind at views which cast doubt on your beliefs.  Don’t simply resort to ridicule toward those matters with which you disagree or simply do not understand.

And yes, I’m still praying for your conversion!  :^)

(P.S.  I’m still not able to get any of my comments published on your blog.


XLT said...

That Sheen quote is excellent.

Canadian Atheist said...

Great post, Bill. Do you mind if I respond to it on my blog? I'll link to your blog of course. :)

I wonder why you can't leave comments. Does it ask you to sign in? Hmmm that's annoying. Feel free to email me any responses you have if it won't let you leave a comment and I'll post them in your name. I'll have to get my wickedly computer geeky step son to check out the settings. LOL

Canadian Atheist said...

I checked the settings and changed it to 'anyone' can leave a message. Maybe that fixed it. Hopefully you can leave a comment now.

Bill Ball said...

OK with me

Bill Ball said...

CA: I still can't get my comments published on your blog, so I'll put my commetns to your reply here.
So religion (including I assume, religious people) is "a plague on humanity" while accusing atheists of being too serious is "demonizing." I rest my case. You have just proven my point!

gary said...

i like this comment also except i would add that there are a lot of deist who have faith and will be totally surprised when they meet the lord jesus christ on not so friendly terms. I think why God cannot be taken lightly is because unless he is an idol,he has to be delt with as a powerful creator and initially this instills fear about which there are two responses flee or fight.he is so gracious in letting us first see a small non-threatening baby born just as predicted by several authors over centuries of time.

Canadian Atheist said...

LOL. I didn't say religion or religious people were a plague on humanity. I said that's what some atheists might think. Just as some Christians hate atheists and think we're devil spawn.

All that work and you picked out that one sentence which I didn't even attribute to myself?

BTW: I had someone else leave a comment so I'm not sure why you can't. Its very strange. Maybe it's the browser you're using or something.

Johny Appalachia said...

You're a good man, Bill. It's OK to believe in God, if you want to. If your faith was really firm, you would realize that God does not live in a little building you visit on sunday to pack into a box during the week.
For whatever you are, think of our universe as a church. Our prayer is the mass of life, to be etched into the eye of time. Now, lighten up, Bill. :-)

Bill Ball said...

JA: I'm not clear on what you're trying to tell me. It looks like you are giving me permission to believe in God as long as I do it your way. And what's all this about a little building and a box?