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Shannon wrote:

Hi, guys —

My husband and I were born Catholic. We decided to raise our children Catholic. I did very well until two years ago. Our priest was arrested for possession of child pornography. I was devastated. I stopped taking my children (who are 15, 12, and 10) to church. My faith was at an all time low. Then my husband was diagnosed with Leukemia this summer and I turned to God. My husband should be okay; it was caught early.

My faith is slowly returning but now I have another problem. My 15-year-old daughter is highly intelligent. She is very science-oriented and we have always nurtured her ambitions. She hopes one day go to MIT or Cal. Tech to study Aerospace Engineering.

With this very scientific mind she recently told me she was atheist. I was crushed. I blame myself for leaving the Church and not holding the Church in a high priority during a crucial period in her life. I do not know enough about science with God to argue her ideas. I choose not to argue with her about it. I feel naive in my thinking because I cannot just say it just is to a scientist. I tell her how I have felt the presence of God. I know some prayers are answered and some are not. I know that without God I would not be able to get through my husband's Leukemia and her atheist ideas.

  • How do I show her God and science can exist together . . . or can they?

Shannon

  { How do I show my smart daughter that God and science can exist together . . . or can they? }

Paul replied:

Dear Shannon,

There are countless ways to argue that good religion and good science are two compatible avenues to the truth; as are faith and reason complimentary and compatible.

Perhaps the best place to begin a dialogue with your daughter is to compare secondary causes of things vs. the primary Cause. The scientific method enables us to understand the nature of things as secondary causes, that is, if you ask what caused something to exist you can continue that chain of causality all the way back to the big bang but science can not answer the most important questions:

  • Where did the original material from the big bang come from that exploded?
  • What caused the big bang, and
  • Why did it happen?

If there's a big bang there must be a big banger. Similarly, if there's a creation there must be a Creator, which is the first uncaused Cause and which gives being and meaning to everything. Without God absolutely nothing makes sense, nor does life have any meaning. If this peaks her interest, and she is able to follow some philosophical language, feel free to direct her to Aquinas' five proofs from the existence of God, seen in question 3, article 2:

Summa Theologica > First Part > Question 2 > The existence of God

Another important point to make is that from the beginning of mankind's existence there have been two universal commonalities that have distinguished us from all the other animals:

  1. language and
  2. religion.

Both symbolic language and man's religious sense point to the fact that there is some non-physical dimension to the human person that seeks and grasps immaterial realities — like concepts, ideas, and ultimately God.

This non-physical, or spiritual, dimension that includes intellect and free will that is able to rise above the physical world as well as the physiological self, to know the truth and choose the good, is the spiritual soul. In this respect, we are made in the image of God, and hence are able to know and have a relationship with Him in a way that no other known creature can possibly have.

Peace,

Paul

Mike replied:

Hi Shannon,

I just wanted to add to what my colleague Paul has said.

You said:
I feel naive in my thinking because I cannot just say it just is to a scientist.

Nor should you say it just is. It shows a total disrespect for our intellect.

You may want to check out John Paul II's encyclical on Faith and Reason.

Nothing against what Paul has recommended but reading this will probably be easier than reading Aquinas, though I strongly recommend going through his five proofs and whatever else you can understand.

Aquinas' five proofs are a must know when talking with an atheist because they make so much basic sense.

From the Catholic Community Forum at catholicforum.com

  • What real evidence can be supplied for God's existence?

St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologica, sets forth five separate proofs for the existence of God, Unlike St. Anselm's proof, which deals with pure concepts, St. Thomas' proofs rely on the world of our experience-what we can see around us. In these proofs we can easily see the influence of Aristotle and his doctrine of the Four Causes.

  1. The Proof from Motion. We observe motion all around us. Whatever is in motion now was at rest until moved by something else, and that by something else, and so on. But if there were an infinite series of movers, all waiting to be moved by something else, then actual motion could never have got started, and there would be no motion now. But there is motion now. So there must be a First Mover which is itself unmoved. This First Mover we call God.

  2. The Proof from Efficient Cause. Everything in the world has its efficient cause — its maker — and that maker has its maker, and so on. The coffee table was made by the carpenter, the carpenter by his or her parents, and on and on. But if there were just an infinite series of such makers, the series could never have got started, and therefore be nothing now. But there is something everything there is! So there must have been a First Maker, that was not itself made, and that First Maker we call God.

  3. The Proof from Necessary vs. Possible Being. Possible, or contingent, beings are those, such as cars and trees and you and I, whose existence is not necessary. For all such beings there is a time before they come to be when they are not yet, and a time after they cease to be when they are no more. If everything were merely possible, there would have been a time, long ago, when nothing had yet come to be. Nothing comes from nothing, so in that case there would be nothing now! But there is something now — the world and everything in it — so there must be at least one necessary being. This Necessary Being we call God.

  4. The Proof from Degrees of Perfection. We all evaluate things and people in terms of their being more or less perfectly true, good, noble and so on. We have certain standards of how things and people should be. But we would have no such standards unless there were some being that is perfect in every way, something that is the truest, noblest, and best. That Most Perfect Being we call God.

  5. The Proof from Design. As we look at the world around us, and ourselves, we see ample evidence of design — the bird's wing, designed for the purpose of flight; the human ear, designed for the purpose of hearing; the natural environment, designed to support life; and on and on. If there is design, there must be a designer. That Designer we call God.

I'm sorry for what you had to endure at your parish. Our free will can be such a great gift for others but we can also use it for ungodly purposes.

I always remind people in similar situations, that the Lord will never allow something to happen that a greater good won't be pulled out of. We may not see it now, but it will come with time.

I would encourage you and your husband to pray the Rosary daily and strive to live a sacramental life, daily if possible.

Know that you are in my prayers.

Mike

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