, ,

PantocratorThe clown-prince of modern atheists, Richard Dawkins, has given it as his opinion that ‘being raised Catholic is worse than child abuse’.  His conclusions, where not based on his own prejudices, are backed by anecdotes such as this:

He said he had been told by a woman that while being abused by a priest was a ‘yucky’ experience, being told as a child that a Protestant friend who died would ‘roast in Hell’ was more distressing

Goodness me, well that is terribly conclusive – to those whose minds are already closed.

No doubt there are those who tell their children that they will ‘roast in hell’ if they do wrong, although I can’t find anyone I know who knows anyone who has been told this. Still, swapping anecdotes with someone in his anecdotage is hardly a profitable enterprise. Dawkins undermines whatever credibility he may have by talking about abuse on an Arab TV station and not once mentioning the position of women; still, Dawkins is a chap, so perhaps he doesn’t care that many Arab women live their lives as second class citizens.  To have raised that subject would, of course, have taken courage, so Dawkins takes another line.

There is a serious topic there though, and one often touched on here – and that is the subject of catechesis. If there are people who tell their children they will definitely burn in hell, then they have not been properly taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith.  Christ came that all who believe in Him should have eternal life. Does that mean that everyone else will burn in hell? Well, it is a point of view, but not one which most churches would support.

Modern teaching often forgets about hell. Yet Christ talks about it more than He does about Heaven, so we’d be unwise to ignore it. We would be equally unwise not to mention it in teaching our children; but it would be unwise to dwell on it in the manner Dawkins reports. The fact is that the final judgement will be made by God. God alone is omniscient. He, and He alone, can judge the devices and desires of our own hearts. He alone has perfect knowledge and is the only Just Judge.

We have none of the attributes necessary to make the judgements God will make, and we are wise if we admit the truth of the matter – which is that God alone knows who will be saved. Through His teaching, Christ has tried to guide us in how we should be in this life; we know in our hearts that few, if any of us, can live up to all His precepts. I know I don’t. Were I to do a simple balance sheet, I know where I should be bound.

But, unlike Dawkins, my mind is not closed, and unlike him, I have spent some time studying what theologians have said about this issue, and so I know that anyone who teaches as Dawkins does is ignorant.  God is love, and the world is as it is – that is not God’s fault, it is ours.