Catholic parents are likely to:
- have their babies baptised and promise to bring up their children to believe in God and be good catholics
- teach their children to believe in God
- teach their children to pray to God
- take their children to Mass where they learn to worship God
- send their children to a Catholic school.
This may lead to a belief in God because:
- Their Catholic parents will have told them about God, they will believe their parents
- Catholics pray to God, so they will believe that God exists because their parents would not waste their time praying to nothing
- seeing so many people worshipping God when they go to Mass will make them believe that God exists
- They will be taught that God exists when they go to school, and will believe it because their teachers tell them it is true.
Religious believers who have this experience will find themselves feeling closer to God, they believe that they have had direct contact with God.
- Numinous - they may be filled with the awareness that there is something greater than them, which they feel to be God. Such a feeling is likely to lead them to believe in God.
- Conversion - an experience of God which makes people experiencing it want to change their lives or religion and commit themselves to God in a special way. Conversion experiences make people believe in God because they feel that God is calling them to do something for him.
- Miracle - if you experience something that seems to break all the laws of science, you will look for an explanation, and if the only explanation you can think of is a miracle, you will start believing in God.
- Prayer- If the person praying feels that God is listening to the prayer, then they are likely to believe that God exists. An answered prayer will lead to belief in God.
The Argument from Design
Many religious believers think that the world looks as if it has been designed. Some scientists also see evidence of design in the process of evolution where complex life-forms develop from simple ones. From this they have the argument from design:
- Anything that has been designed needs a designer.
- There is plenty of evidence that the world has been designed ( laws of science such as gravity and magnetism; DNA being a blueprint for life, etc.).
- If the world has been designed, the world must have a designer.
- The only possible designer of something as wonderfull as the universe would be God.
- Therefore the appearance of design in the world proves that God exists.
The Argument from Causation
Causation is the process of one thing causing another.
- Cause and effect seem to be the basic feauture of the world. Whatever we do has an effect. Modern science has developed through looking at causes and effects, and scientific investigations seem to show that any effect has a cause and any cause has an effect
- This means that the universe, the world and humans must have had a cause
- God is the only logical cause of the universe
- Therefore God must exist.
Scientific Explanations of the World
Science explains how the world came into being in this way:
- Matter is eternal, big band theory, red shift.
- As the matter of the universe flew away from the explosion, it formed stars and then our solar system.
- The gases on the Earth's surface produced primitive life.
- The genetic structure of these primivitive life forms led to evolution of new ones.( 50% of human DNA is the same as that of a cabbage ).
How this leads to agnosticism and atheism:
- If science can explain the universe and humans without God, it can lead some people to be agnostic, as they no longer need God to explain why we are here
- If God existed, he must have made the world and be the only explanation for it. So the way that science can explain the world and humans without God is proof to such people that God does not exist.
Catholics Response to Scientific Explanations
1. Many Catholics accept that the scientific explanations are true, but they believe that these are proof that God created the universe because they believe:
- Only God could have made the Big Bang at exactly the right microsecond to form the universe.
- Only God could have made laws such as gravity which the matter of the Big Bang needed to form solar systems.
2. Some Catholics believe that both the scientific explanations and the Bible are correct. They claim that the main points of the Bible's story of creation fit with science, but one of God's days could be millions or billions of years.
- If people say their prayers often, but never feel the prescence of God when they pray, they may feel there is no God listening to them. This feeling may lead to agnosticism or even atheism.
- Unanswered prayers are even more likely to lead people to believe God does not exist. Religious people believe that God answers people's prayers, and they often hear about people's prayers being answered. If their prayers to God are not answered, they may feel that God does not like them, or that God does not exist.
- If someone has been a good Catholic ( going to Mass on SUndays and holy days and living a good life following the teachings of the Church), but when they pray for God to cure their sick child, their child dies, that person may lose their faith in God.
- If someone's prayers are not answered, particularly if they are praying for something like the end of human suffering in wars, droughts, etc., then they might stop believing in God. This is because they may think God could not exist if he lets such things continue to happen. In this way, unanswered prayers can lead a person to become an agnostic or an atheist.
Catholics Response to Unanswered Prayers
Most Catholics believe that God answers all prayers and that what seems to be unanswered can be explained:
- If you pray for selfish things, like God allowing you to pass an exam without any work, God will let you fail so that you work hard next time.
- Your prayer may not be answered in the way you expect because God has different plans, for example he may want an ill person to enter heaven.
- Just like a human parent, God may answer our prayers by giving us what we need rather than what we have asked for.
- Catholics believe that God loves people and so they believe God's love will answer their prayers in the best possible way, even though it may not look like a direct answer.
- Catholics have faith that God will answer all prayers in the best way for the person praying, or the people prayed for, even if it is different from what they expected.
Evil and Suffering
Evil can take two forms in natural and moral evil.
- If God is omnipotent (all-powerful), he must be able to remove evil and suffering from the world.
- If God is omni-benevolent (all-good), he must want to remove evil and suffering from the world.
- It follows that, if God exists, there should be no evil or suffering in the world.
- As there is evil and suffering in the world, either God is not all-good and powerful or he does not exist.
- If God knows everything (omniscient), he must have known the evil and suffering that would come from creating the universe. So he should have created the universe in a way that avoided evil and suffering.
- Most religious believers believe that God is omnipotent, omni-benevolent and omniscient. So the existence of evil and suffering challenges thier beliefs about God.
- For many religious believers, evil and suffering become a problem if they experience it, it can change them into an atheist or an agnostic.
Catholics Response to Evil and Suffering
1. Many Catholics believe from the Bible that God must have a reason for allowing evil and suffering, but humans cannot understand it, so the correct response of Catholics is to follow the example of Jesus and fight against evil and suffering as Jesus did by praying for those who suffer and by helping those who suffer. Many Catholicsa become doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. to help reduce the amount of suffering in the world.
2. Many Catholics claim that, by giving humans free will, God created a world in which evil and suffering will come about through humans misusing their free will. So evil and suffering is a problem caused by humans, not God.
3. Many Catholics believe that the evil and suffering involved in this life are not a problem, because this life is a preparation for paradise. If people are to improve their souls, they need to face evil and suffering in order to become good, kind and loving. God cannot remove evil and suffering if he is going to give people the chance to become good people. But, in the end, he will show his omni-benevolence and omnipotence by rewarding the good in heaven.
4. Some Catholics claim that God has a reason for not using his power to remove evil and suffering, but humans cannot understand it. God is divine and there is no way humans can understand his thoughts.