Tuesday, 17 May 2016

An Encounter With the Faulty Philosophies of the Modern World

In my work as a Catholic volunteer, I come across all kinds of people, and attitudes, and perspectives. The other day I got into an animated discussion with four young British teenagers or 20-somethings who were visiting India as tourists. As we talked I realized that I was coming face to face with a lot of the faulty and not very well thought out philosophies of the modern world, not just reading about them on blogs. Here are some snippets of our conversation.


"What do you believe? Do you believe God is a person? I don't believe god is a person, but that god is in each of us, and each of is god, but we just don't know it yet. Have you read the Alchemist?"

"Ah.. Paulo Coelho."(thinking, 'I knew that philosophy sounded familiar')"Sounds like we believe two very different things. But one of us has to be wrong."

"Or both of us."

"Or both of us. The question is- are you willing to consider the possibility that you may be wrong? That God really is a person?"

"No. I can't believe that."

"Then you're not really open minded, are you? The only way to know if something is true, is to test it. All you would have to do is say 'God, if you are really a person, if I'm not just talking to myself, can you reveal yourself to me? Can you show me that this is true?' What would you have to lose?

"My time!"

"Um.. okay" (We had an hour-long discussion, so maybe time wasn't the issue.)


"Why do you need church and all those rules? I don't believe that love has rules!"

"Well, to explain rules.. imagine that you were married."

"I don't believe in marriage."

"Okaay. Expand your imagination, and imagine that you did. Would you cheat on your wife? No, if you really loved her, you would follow the rule 'Do not commit adultery.' So... rules are just what you will and won't do out of love."

"That doesn't make sense- you're saying rules are not rules?"

My challenger's two friends tried to explain to him what I was trying to say.


"Do you believe you should follow the head or the heart?"

(Tongue in cheek) "You know it's not really the head and the heart but it's all the brain, right?"

"No! It's the heart! That's where your feelings come from."

"Um, not really. That's the brain."

His three friends go "She's right," and try to convince him it's biology, while he tries to convince them that if you had a heart transplant, you would have another person's feelings. Hmm.

Me, laughing, "It's okay, it's okay. I was just kidding. I know what you mean."

One of the friends "Anyway, what DO you believe- head or the heart?"

"Both. Follow your heart, and take your brain along with you."


"Do you believe you can choose the person you love?"

"Ooh, tough one. I think you can't always choose who you fall in love with, but you can choose to stay in love, and continue loving a person, despite your feelings."

"Wait, so you'd stay married to a person even if you weren't in love with them anymore?"

"Feelings change, but I believe real love means choosing what is best for the other person no matter what my feelings are. Some people go through times in their marriage that are hard, but the ones who stick it out and persevere and choose to love in spite of how they feel in that moment, are often the ones whose marriages are stronger on the other side."

"No, that's just wrong! How could you stay with a person you didn't love? You'd be resentful!"

"You can choose whether you'd be resentful. That's up to you. Life doesn't just happen to you, you choose how you respond to it."

"But you should feel what you're feeling! That's not healthy! People can't do that."

His friend: "Actually studies prove that it's healthier to let go of resentment"

"But you should be true to yourself, and do what your heart tells you at any moment."

"You might call that being true to yourself, I would call it being selfish. Very often the emotions of the moment may not be the kindest choice to make.' (another tongue in cheek moment) 'I might at this moment feel like punching you, but I won't do it, because I know that would hurt you."


One girl told me she grew up in a Christian family, but didn't consider herself a Christian. 

"What has Jesus done for you? Do you ever doubt your faith? Why do you believe? Why did Jesus say 'turn the other cheek'? How does God speak to you?"

I answered those and many others, and she looked thoughtful. 

"Do you think it is good to ask questions?" 

"Of course I do! If you don't ask questions, how do you find answers?" 

"My parents didn't encourage us to ask questions."


"Do you really think people have questions and find answers in Christianity? Do you think everyone is searching for something?"

"You tell me. Are you searching for something? Do you have questions you need answers to?"

"I don't know."

"Well, that's a good thing to think about, wouldn't you agree? Search your own heart. Do you have questions about why you exist, what the point of this life is, if this is all there is to this life?"

The guy who asked the question looked thoughtful. It seemed like he had never considered those questions before. It looked like maybe he would now.


Towards the end I told them, "Maybe you walking into this church and having this conversation wasn't a coincidence, but an invitation from God. But it's your choice now whether to keep searching, or to close the door on this encounter. "

"Maybe," said the girl.


There was a LOT more. I asked them if I could have their names so I could pray for them, and they gave them to me. But I was left thinking, 'Why don't they teach Chesterton and C.S. Lewis in schools? Or at least logic and rational thinking?'

I recommended Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis to them. I wish I had recommended Jennifer Fulwiler. Here are some of her articles I really enjoyed-

Explore your doubts but do so in peace

The ignorable God

Doubt after atheism

Finding God in 5 Steps

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