Sunday 28 December 2014

Our Christmas...and an atheist's rejection of it

Our Christmas...

We had the expected good turnout for our Christmas Masses, where I spoke about Christmas having a romantic feel with carols, a story of angels and shepherds, and the sharing of gifts between family and friends, but noted too that Christmas has a more significant message than romance or even family: it is about Redemption. The babe in the manger is God-made-man, come to die with us and for us that we might be saved from our sins. We sing about the babe in the manger being ‘wrapped in swaddling bands’ not realising we are singing about nappies (diapers!); of a God who has humbled Himself to the wearing of nappies so as to die on a cross for you, and for me.

Our Church and our Christmas Crib

I noted that we should of course value the family as the bedrock of society, and enjoy the time spent with our own family. After love of God, we should love our families most of all, because it is there we learn to share; to give and take, to be just and compassionate. If there are divisions, we should try to heal them, and so enjoy the love and peace that Christmas promises.

That said, one of my regular parishioners told me yesterday that her wayward child said “I’ve come to Mass and Christmas dinner because Christmas is about family, but I don’t believe in God because I can’t see Him. Anyway, science knows so much about how the world works that we don’t need to believe in God”. I wondered how many of those sitting in our congregation would say the same thing, and pointed out that her daughter was speaking as a materialist: someone who believes in only what she can see and touch and measure, and who places her faith in the limited endeavour we call science.

Let’s take ‘not seeing God’ first. What we mean by ‘seeing’ is ‘something we can measure with a ruler; weigh in scales, touch with the hand, describe according to shape, colour and texture’. The person who believes only in such material things is destined to live a sad and cynical life because they will never be able to believe in love, love being something we cannot see, touch, or measure; it has no size, shape, colour, weight, length, height or width. If this girl only believes in what she sees, she can never believe in love, or peace, or justice; in joy, in happiness or even sadness, because these are emotions, and emotions have no shape, size, colour or weight: like God, they cannot be seen or touched. We can experience emotions, but not see them; we can observe their effects, but not touch them. The same is true of God: we can experience God in prayer if we are truly open to Him; and we can see the effects of God in the lives of the saints. This girl’s refusal to follow God is more honestly the refusal to submit to God; she wants to live life following her own desires without any boundaries of behaviour except those she chooses for herself. It is a completely selfish way to live, and often results in one being an unlikeable person.

As for saying “Science knows so much about how the world works that we don’t need to believe in God”, there is as much sense in that as in saying “we know so much about how a car works that we don’t need to believe in car manufacturers”. None of what we know about how a car works proves the car was not manufactured (made) and designed, nor does knowing about physics, biology or chemistry mean we don’t need to believe in God who manufactured (created) the world. The girl is using the false idea that science and religion are opposing forces when in fact they are complementary forces: science tells us how the world works and how it was created, religion tells us why it was created. How and Why are completely different questions, they focus on different aspects of the one reality; only if science and religion were asking the same question and giving different answers could they be seen as contradictory. But they actually ask different questions, and as such can never truly be in conflict.

It is true that religion has conflict with individuals who have a kind of religious scientism; an attitude of “whatever we can do, we should do”. Thus they say “we can create animal-human hybrids, so we should; we can clone, so we should; we can contracept, so we should; we can abort, so we should; we can euthanize, so we should”. But just because we can do something does not mean we should. Whether we should or should not do something is a moral question; and morals are non-physical truths, so they are outside the boundaries of science which can deal only with the physical things of the world (its physics, chemistry and biology). 

That this girl has come through Catholic schooling and gained an A grade in Religious Studies  yet knows nothing about the complimentarity of faith and reason, or have any idea about the limits of materialism, is an indictment not of the girl but of Catholic education and the syllabus we have given our teachers to teach. If Christmas means nothing to this girl in its reality of God-made-man for her salvation, who is to blame? Is it her, for following her own selfish desire to live without religious moral boundaries, or is it the negotiating-indulging parenting style of today and the schooling she received which taught her to “do what is right for you”? Both are to blame, I think. Yet the greatest responsibility lies with the Bishops for not ensuring that what is taught in our schools and preached from our pulpits is good, solid catechesis rather than subjective, relativist intellectualism, simply for the sake of looking intelligent to the secularised masses. Taught to our children, solid, faithful Catechesis could have truly evangelised the parents. How many lost souls the Bishops and priests of the last fifty years may have to account for when they face God.


  1. Dear Father Dickson

    Well and bravely said. You are an inspiration, and I so wish that we had more priests like you - it's much too soon to hope that we could have a bishop with half your faith and courage, but you are doing your best in very difficult circumstances. God bless you for keeping the Faith alive and feeding the starving sheep.


    1. Patricia, I agree with your comment. I hope and pray Fr Dickson is not silenced by the Church in the UK. I touched on the betrayal of parents and a whole generation by our bishops in Catholic education in Australia in the latest issue of Into the Deep at Blessings of the season to you and your family Patricia. Keep up the good work Fr Dickson and blessings to you and to Mr Tie. You truly are salt to the earth.

    2. Sorry I forgot to mention the title and issue number of the article I wrote. It is issue 145 of Into the Deep and my article is titled "Declining Mass Attendance - The Real Reason".

  2. Thank you Patricia. blessings of the Season to you and yours.
    I do hope my words inspire, but until I can be more patient, prayerful and industrious, I cannot claim to be an inspiration of myself... thank you, all the same.
    Its very sad the for the mother in question whose daughter has in fact, turned her hostility to the Faith of her childhood into hostility towards her family, whom she expects to do her bidding and to accept her without any changes in her wayward behaviour.
    God Bless.

  3. Fr Dickson, I don't know what it is like in the UK, but here in Australia, because of the sums of money involved in Catholic education, it is treated by the Bishops Conference like a crystal cabinet. Anyone who disturbs it is pounced on and ostracized big time. I mean seriously dealt with. Take it from me, I'm talking from first hand experience. I naively rattled the crystal cabinet in 1992 and have been an ex- religious education teacher ever since. Banned for life, but since then I have received grace upon grace.

  4. Well said Fr. You once again say all the right things. I also have a wayward daughter and know first hand what you describe. It's the devil at work and we must pray n pray and write to our bishops. I never got a reply to my last one touching on Catholic education among other things. He never replied. Very sad . . . .


Please comment using a pseudonym, not as 'anonymous'.
If you challenge the Magisterium, please do so respectfully.
We reserve the right to delete from comments any inflammatory remarks.
If we do not reply to your comment it is through lack of time rather than interest.