Monday, March 31, 2014

Holy Cow

I just recently noticed that my 'reversion story' on the wonderful site Why I'm Catholic has clocked over thirty-five thousand views.

Other accounts on the same site are far more popular, but I'm pretty happy with thirty-five thousand! (And it's an excuse to link to it again.)

The article drew ridicule on various atheist internet sites for my criticism of unrhymed poetry, my support for 'traditional gender roles' and my admitted nostalgia for Ireland's agrarian past. But I was really just trying to add some biographical colour, and to describe the rather unfocused traditionalism of my youth. (There was even an element of self-mockery there.) I say towards the end of the article that all of that stuff is beside the point, so I don't know why they highlighted it.

(One female atheist wondered whether, with my admiration for 'traditional gender roles', I was out hunting and picking blackberries every morning. Touché. I can't claim to be the living embodiment of all the traditionally masculine virtues. But all I really meant that there are deep-seated differences between men and women and that this, in my view, is something to celebrate. It had nothing to do with wanting anyone to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.)

It was also translated into Spanish on a few Spanish websites!


  1. Well, it is a very compelling account, after all! And not what one might think of as a typical conversion in our age (although I suppose there is no such thing). You are very generous to write about it so candidly. It deserves to be read in such numbers.

    By the way, I am intrigued by these debates with your lecturers (about the legalisation of cannabis, and about censorship in particular). If you are ever short of an idea for a post, I would read that tale eagerly...

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Dominic. I tried to be candid because I think that is ultimately more persuasive.

    The debates were not much, really-- I don't even remember the first now (though I must have at time of writing), and the second was during a French class in college. We had this exercise where we had to give a short presentation about anything at all. I chose, for some reason, Hammer horror films. We would then have a discussion arising from the presentation and the lecturer chose to discuss film censorship. (To be fair, I didn't leave her much room to manouevre with my choice of topic.) And, as I say, I ended up arguing with everybody. The usual argument was trotted out-- the slippery slope argument that, if you censor anything, you are on the high road to Stalinism. I don't buy that at all. To be honest, I tend to think that a little bit of censorship is not only a necessary evil but a positive good.

    For the record, and in case anybody cares, I have an extreme belief in freedom of speech when it is a matter of serious debate, but I don't think the same protection should be extended to works of art or entertainment.

    But the debate was in French, which I didn't speak very well even back then, so I can't have been very articulate. And it was very brief.

  3. Thank you !

    I agree with you about censorship. I think there are different kinds: surely there can be censorship of tone without censorship of content or fact?

    What I find interesting (if that is the right word) about your reversion is that your social and cultural points of view grew up beforehand. So the objections everyone expects, about authority and restraint, and so on, you never had. That serves as a reminder that not all atheists and agnostics are 'New Atheists' or indifferent consumers. And therefore that the Church's apologetics cannot face in their direction only...

  4. I actually think the 'New Atheists' are extremely unrepresentative, and I don't even think they have a future-- though I might be wrong about that.

    Totally agree with you about 'censorhip of tone without censorship of content or fact'. I think here can also be censorship of medium where there is no censorship of content. For instance, a movie being denied a theatrical release and limited to cinema clubs. Chesterton opposed such selective censorship (it was theatre censorship, in his day-- for instance, there was a ban on Biblical characters appearing on stage) as being illogical but the illogicality is part of what appeals to me. I see nothing ridiculous in society putting a filter upon certain forms of expression, rather than stamping them out entirely.

    I think, in a way, social conservatism might be a philosophy that defends society's right to be illogical, where liberalism and libertarianism wants to apply a deadening and unvarying standard. Obviously there are limits to how much illogicality could be indulged (I'm guarding against the inevitable reduction ab absurdum argument there).

  5. Ha ha ha Maolsheachlann, you talk about atheists who bothered to take your story to their websites and yet you are surprised that they lacked a sense of maturity? The fact they apparently feel the need select you at all is a warning sign right there. How did you find out about these atheists anyway?

  6. Through vanity Googling, that's how! I do like to check whether anyone is picking up on anything I write. Now and again, somebody does. (That's how I found out about the Irish Catholic Forum, actually.)

  7. I think everyone has at least searched for their name once to see what comes up. It makes sense that a writer would do the same to see if anyone is talking about their work.