Dear Atheist Readers,

It’s so kind of you to offer me your pity. But really, I’d so much rather have God and celibacy than sex and the howling void.

Sincerely,
Steve Gershom



44 Comments on “Dear Atheist Readers,”

  1. Eileen says:

    Hi Steve,

    I was following your blog for quite a few months now, but I never posted a comment until now. I just want to say how deeply I admire you for your strength and courage, especially in your difficult situation.
    This particular post really stood out for me as it reminded me of something I was thinking about about a year ago. I was depressed and doubtful of my faith. I read a story on the internet about a Japanese case where a 14 year old girl was tortured to death for 40 days. The article provided details about the torture which made me feel nauseous. The first tought I had was “God cannot exist, because if he did, he would not let an innocent child suffer so horribly”, but then I thought, “but if God doesn’t exist, then what the torturers did is permitted.”
    This is what always confused me about atheism. Atheists go around calling things wrong, but according to who? And even if there was some cosmic force in atheism that determined right and wrong actions, if let’s say, a serial killer lived his whole life killing and loved every minute of it dies happily, what’s the point of saying he lived wrongly? He dies happier then some of those who lived more righteously, and meets the same end as everyone else. A disturbing thought really. That’s why, like you, I cannot accept a “howling void”. Even if by chance there is no God, I’m much better off living as there is one (and I strongly believe there is).

  2. Matt says:

    May your soul be armored against the good intentions of those who offer you hell in a hand basket.

    Continue to fight the good fight my brother, and may God keep you and yours close.

  3. Daniel M says:

    Haha, that’s quite a dichotomy you propose.

    How about we add a third option.

    3. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

    If you choose to be celibate that’s great for you. But are you doing it for the right reasons? Obedience to a deity for which there is no evidence it exists would not be good enough for me. Worse yet is obedience to “Catholic moral teachings” from an institution that has clearly shown to be morally bankrupt.

    I do have nothing but sympathy for you because you are clearly a sensitive intelligent loving person who has been severely duped by the Catholic delusion. When I heard your nuanced and well-balanced replies to Patrick Coffin’s prejudiced and bigoted lies — my heart broke for you.

    The theologian Paul Tillich wrote that “If one has to choose between different authorities, not they but oneself is ultimate authority for oneself, and this means: there is no authority for him.”

    Or as Jesus put it (if he existed): “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” Luke 12:57.

    1. Amateur Scripture Scholar says:

      Cute quoting of Luke, but you do realize that Jesus (who is the most well-attested historical figure of all time) was talking about people being overly litigious, don’t you?

      Don’t believe me?

      Check it:

      ‘And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.’

      Ah, context — such a great leveler of sophists.

    2. Daniel M (if you exist): Care you provide examples of my prejudice and bigoted lies, which so broke your heart? Kind of a scurrilous charge that I take seriously.

      Patrick Coffin, host
      Catholic Answers Live

      1. Daniel M says:

        Hi Patrick Coffin, what an honour to be addressed by you in person! I’ve been wanting to call into your show for quite some time, problem is I’m usually at work when it’s on…

        I’m assuming you’re not asking about your prejudices and bigoted lies in general, but more specifically viz a viz homosexuality? I had commented about those on the OP about the interview with Steve: http://www.stevegershom.com/2011/11/interview-airing-today/

        1. Hi Daniel:

          Thought so. No concrete examples from you of prejudice and bigoted lies. None. I had already read your posts in that link, fyi, but there you vent a lot, assert some, and substantiate nothing. Maybe you’ll not be working when Melinda Selmys is on the show and you’ll be able to call. You’ll be treated with civility and respect.

          Out of the most ineffable, terrible love for you and me, Jesus suffered and died to forgive our sins. It’s literally unimaginable, except that it’s true. The grace to see this truth is my prayer for you. I have no wish to keep this thread going; I think we’ve reached the terminus. But be assured of my prayers.

          Early Happy Thanksgiving to y’all.

          1. Daniel says:

            Patrick, it’s the 4th comment here ->http://www.stevegershom.com/2011/11/interview-airing-today/
            not that hard to find!

          2. Daniel says:

            @Patrick

            You wrote:
            “Out of the most ineffable, terrible love for you and me, Jesus suffered and died to forgive our sins. It’s literally unimaginable, except that it’s true.”

            Patrick, how do you know this is true? This is a perfect example of one of your arrogant and aggressive prejudices. You admit yourself its unimaginable, so there must be some pretty powerful evidence that it’s true. Oh, and tell me Patrick, what happens to me if I reject your this “truth”?

  4. LifeAccordingToLuke says:

    Whether you have sex or not is your choice, but to suggest that the alternative to God (sic Atheisim) is a howling void is ignorant and arrogent – oh, it’s also just plain incorrect.

    1. Observer of Voids Howling says:

      I believe Steve was speaking in the metaphysical sense with respect to his comment on the howling void. In other words, for an atheist, only this life can matter, because after this life is annihilation: i.e., the void.

      Howling, of course, is artistic license by the author.

  5. Ron says:

    It’s difficult to explain even to people who are believers how a celibate life is not an empty void. But it isn’t! It’s a life lived for and with God, and for and with other people.

  6. B says:

    First, you are adorable- and I mean it seriously.
    Second, Daniel, can you give me a reason you would deem acceptable as a case for gay abstinence/chastity? I ask because you seem like a person who seeks tolerance, but want to limit it when people make choices for reasons of a faith YOU don’t understand…

    1. Daniel says:

      B, why would I need to give a reason for abstinence/chastity? Whether you are gay or straight it is a personal decision. I don’t care whether or not Steve has sex with men; what bothers me is the irrational faith-based condemnation of homosexuality. What impressed me about Steve is he didn’t seem to share the common ignorant views such as it being a disorder / caused by your father / etc. It does not seem to me that Steve is making a free and evidence-based moral decision; but a decision based on faith and fear and authority.

  7. Peter M says:

    @Daniel: I’m going to regret this, but what for you would constitute sufficient evidence for the existence of a deity?

    1. Daniel says:

      @Peter M. It’s a great question. Honestly, I have no idea. But it’s really not my problem. Presumably, you think your deity is a powerful and knowledgeable being. If it wanted to make itself known to me it would be easy for it to do so.

      This is why Christianity is a self-defeating proposition. If it really is the Christian god’s desire for us to believe in it, then it should have realized what constitutes evidence. The Christian god is amazingly stupid if its goal is to have people believe in it. Presumably, an all-knowing god would understand the nature of evidence and what is required for people to believe in it. Instead it provides us with copies of copies of translated copies of ancient texts whose originals no longer exist. And what do those texts contain? Anecdotal reports that could never justify beliefs such as resurrections and virgin births and papal authority. Anything even remotely like a god would know that this is insufficient evidence to believe in the propositions of Christianity. Relying on ancient texts/languages/anecdotal testimony is not a pathway to truth. Any god should known this. Otherwise it either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care enough about those people who understand the nature of evidence to actually present it. Peter, which of those possibilities is accurate?

      We use reason and evidence as a path to truth for every endeavour in our lives but when it comes to most important questions a religionist says you need faith.

      What kind of god requires faith instead of evidence?

  8. JoAnna says:

    Daniel – why do you assume that #1 isn’t a result of #3?

    1. Daniel says:

      @JoAnna. If it is, I’d love to know how… what possible evidence do you have that a god exists and that you (arrogantly) know its mind enough to know that it condemns homosexuality?

  9. JoAnna says:

    What kind of god requires faith instead of evidence?

    Not the Christian God, thankfully. He encourages us to have both!

    1. Daniel says:

      @JoAnna, I’m sorry but I can’t get past the first sentence of this nonsense:

      “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth;”

      No, JP2. They’re not. Faith is gullibility. Or as the bible puts it, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, wishful thinking.

      1. Christine says:

        Daniel,

        I mean this as an honest question, not an accusation.

        What makes you think that your definition of faith is the only valid one, and that people who have faith have no right to propose that faith is something other than what you think it is? So little right, in fact, that the mere act of defining faith otherwise than you define it is enough to make you reject a work based on its opening lines?

        If I were studying a phenomenon that was outside of my personal experience, I would want to know what people who have that experience think about that experience, even if I disagreed with them about what the experience really is. So if I wanted to know what faith was, I would want to know what people who have faith think about faith rather than sticking to my own definition to the point that I’m not even willing to give them a fair hearing. As a Catholic, when I want to know what unbelief is, I talk to the atheists I know and ask them how they experience not having faith and why they don’t have faith. I still think they come to the wrong conclusion, and perhaps if you talked openly and honestly with people of faith you would still think that we come to the wrong conclusion. But honest conversation about these issues requires that we are willing to give the other side a fair hearing.

  10. Peter M says:

    Daniel, thank you for your reply; I hate how in these kinds of debates both sides can easily assume they know what the other side believes, and then we get a long string of talking past each other, so thanks for clarifying.

    “Presumably, you think your deity is a powerful and knowledgeable being.” I’m happy to say that I don’t. I do not think that God is “a being” at all. God, to me (and for Catholic Christians, my own affiliation), is outside of any genus or category, including the category of being. To use the old latin phrase, God is “ipsum esse subsistens”; that which subsists of itself; that which is not dependent on anything else for its existence. God is not some supreme being among other beings, or some being in the world, but rather the consistent act of “to Be”, itself. By that token, anything that exists, exists in God and by God, but God is not any thing; God simply is.

    As you can see, God, so defined, is impossible for us to fully comprehend and understand, seeing as we ourselves are not God, but rather beings in the world. This is why many things about God must be directly revealed to us by God (i.e. divine revelation), and as that revelation can only come to us in a way or manner that is suited to our understanding (i.e., through the material world), then it is necessarily imperfect or incomplete, and thus open to doubt; thus, the need for faith.

    However, that is secondary to our current discussion. Our human reason is, I believe, at least able to conclude the existence of God without divine revelation, by the evidence of the world and ourselves. I think that by reason we can also conclude certain general things about God (for example, oneness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence).

    I hope that I’m making sense; please let me know if there’s anything that needs clarification. I’m only an amateur philosopher, after all. 🙂

  11. JoAnna says:

    @Daniel, in response to both of your replies, I direct you to this post from former atheist John C. Wright, who explains the harmony of faith and reason better than I possibly can.

    I also encourage you to read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” or G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy,” if you’re sincerely interested in reading about the logical, reasoned case for not only the existence of a god, but specifically the Christian god.

  12. Kathryn Rose says:

    Dear Steve,

    You have a gift for being pithy that I can only dream about. Please continue.

    Regards,

    a fellow celibate

  13. Lori says:

    Quote from Steve: “It’s so kind of you to offer me your pity. But really, I’d so much rather have God and celibacy than sex and the howling void.”

    Steve, like Mary, “has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away” (Luke 10)

    Thinking of you and praying for you today Steve.

  14. Mary says:

    Dear Steve,

    I really take pity on the Church, to be honest. I hope that in the second Pentecost that everyone’s praying for, that the Holy Spirit has a more inclusive guiding force for us all and reveals something hopeful to the Church: that homosexuality is a part of God’s plan to teach us love and acceptance of all people, regardless of how different they are.

    That’s my hope. I’m not so arrogant to deem what God’s plan is, but I really hope that in the future, He lets the world know that he loves gays/lesbians/queers and same sex marriage. That would be nice for everyone. And it’s something I honestly, truly pray for.

    Mary

    1. Dear Mary,

      I hardly know what to say. What would it look like for God to “let the world know that he loves gays/lesbians/queers”? Do good parents show their love by letting their children do whatever they want?

      Peace,
      Steve

  15. jason taylor says:

    “We use reason and evidence as a path to truth for every endeavour in our lives but when it comes to most important questions a religionist says you need faith.”

    No. Most endeavours of I lives we use no reason or evidence for. We use our reflexes to tell us the path to the truth of where the ball will pass us when it goes over the plate for instance. We use intuition to tell us that we exist and that are senses are reliable.

    And if you demanded reason and evidence instead of faith of every possible lover you would be as celibate as Steve and far more deserving.

  16. Erin says:

    As to Daniel’s point about God not providing sufficient evidence for His existence, I would say that His respect for our free will allows us to make the choice to love Him rather than demand it through irrefutable proof (though even the irrefutable proof of the resurrection was explained away by those at the time who wanted to follow their own wills instead of God’s). If God proved His existence beyond doubt, we are no longer left with our free will to choose Him and love Him and keep His commandments freely. We must choose first, and be affirmed at the end of the race.
    Keep running the good race, Steve. Thanks for your witness.

  17. Caitykins says:

    Steve, you are an inspiration for Catholics everywhere! You are so strong, and I pray that God continues shower you with His blessings! 🙂

    Mary: This is what the Church says about homosexuality.
    Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2357
    “…They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complimentarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
    #2358
    “…This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided…”
    #2359
    “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

    Basically, God loves them all and we should love them, too. Homosexual relations are an insult to the dignity of the human person. The Church does not think they’re evil, no more than they think someone with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is. The thing that gets us Catholics so fired up about it is that we want to see these people happy. It isn’t fair to them to have to live like this.

  18. Tara S says:

    Jason Taylor: All hail logical thought processes!

    I take it as a matter of faith that I’m not a brain in a jar, or a cloud in a nebula having some bizarre hallucinatory experience of sentience. In short, I take it on faith that I can put some measure of trust in my senses and in my interpretation of the data I retrieve from those senses. I would be sad and dismayed were I to find out that this faith is misplaced, but I recognize it as what it is. “I think, therefore I think.”

    Because the only thing I *really* know is that I think and feel, I do my thinking and feeling as rigorously and completely as I can. And that has led me (initially in great chagrin, thanks to general prejudice) right back to the Catholic church I was born into. It’s rather frustrating when people assume I’m there because I’m intellectually or emotionally defective (and/or duped). At least examine my proofs! If I’m wrong, maybe I only forgot to carry the 2 somewhere!

  19. Ben says:

    Daniel,

    Respectfully, is it possible your posts are driven by emotion rather than reason? For example, you don’t read the encyclical by JPII because you can’t get past the first sentence. Approaching the article rationally, one should realize that the first part of an essay or letter usually begins with the point he or she is trying to get across (e.g. thesis statement). A person can’t say he or she disagrees with the essay until reading the arguments that attempt to support that initial statement. Your response is akin to me saying I won’t accept evolution because I don’t like the phrase “natural selection.”

    Second, how can the physical incompatibility of same-sex sexual intercourse (the particular act that “unites” the two) be ignored as the most blatant example of rational argument against homosexual activity? What of opposite-sex sexual intercourse; is there not a natural compatibility and purpose that same-sex intercourse lacks? What is the function of the anus; the vagina?

    (Please note that I am not referring to the people who identify themselves as gay or feel an attraction towards the same sex in the last paragraph. I am simply speaking of sexual activity.)

    1. Daniel says:

      I’ve read many papal encyclicals, and did peruse the one I was sent:

      http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

      Perhaps some night when I’m having trouble falling asleep I’ll take another stab at it. Based on what I could get through I think the first line is a very good summary of JP2’s case. And he is dead wrong.

        1. Daniel says:

          Haha, pretty much!

  20. Mary says:

    Hi Steve,

    Obviously he loves you. That was poorly phrased. God would ideally let us know the same way that he let the writers of the Bible know, the same way that he let the early Church fathers know how to form the Church: through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    Caitykins – I am quite familiar as to what the Catechism says on homosexuality. One thing that I talked to my priest about, which I thought was interesting, was the nature vs. nurture debate. He argued that if the Church decides that homosexuality is something born out of nature, then since we are all made in God’s image, it would have been an intentional decision. But that’s an aside. I really think that Psalm 139 has some interesting thoughts on this: For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

    The Holy Spirit guided the church fathers through St. Paul’s new (and distinct) understanding of Christ’s original teachings, through the Arian Trinity crisis, through the Reformation, through Vatican II, and through the selection of every new pope, yes? I’m just hoping for the same thing, I guess.

    Anyway, much love, either way. I mean that sincerely and without pity. You are clearly a strong, passionate human being, and a good role model for anyone trying to live true to their faith.

    1. Hello Mary,

      Thanks for your reply.

      “The same way that he let the early Church fathers know how to form the Church: through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
      Right — the Holy Spirit guides the Church “to all truth”, as we were promised that he would. This truth is expressed in the doctrine of the Church. That doctrine develops, but it doesn’t change. And Catholic doctrine very clearly states the immorality of homosexual acts.

      “One thing that I talked to my priest about, which I thought was interesting, was the nature vs. nurture debate. He argued that if the Church decides that homosexuality is something born out of nature, then since we are all made in God’s image, it would have been an intentional decision. But that’s an aside.”

      It may be an aside, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s a flawed argument. Reduced to essentials, the argument is essentially claiming this: “If a person was born in a particular way, it must be good for them to be that way.” If that were true, then being born blind, or with Down Syndrome, or without limbs, would be good. But those things are all flaws. Certainly not morally culpable flaws! But still flaws.

      Your priest friend is correct that we are made in God’s image. He does not seem to be accounting for the fact that that image is tarnished by original sin, which has far-reaching effect on every aspect of the world, even from the moment of our birth (and before!).

      Peace,
      SG

  21. Mary says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Steve. I’ll continue to pray for strength for you, and for insight into and for the Church. I think I’m extra sensitive because in my area – Toronto – Gay-Straight Alliances or Rainbow Clubs (designed to reduce bullying and tormenting of gay students, or students who, unlike you, did not learn/choose to tone down their more effeminate characteristics – as you described in a previous post) have been banned from the publicly funded Catholic High Schools.

    As someone who fell away from the Church during my teenage years and has only recently, tentatively returned, I struggle to reconcile my understanding of the Church with my desire to see my gay friends in fulfilling relationships with those they love – apart from God, of course. Anyway, thank you for posting on your blog to help me figure it all out.

  22. Diffal says:

    Nicely put Steve.

    With Prayers and Best wishes

  23. Sonja says:

    Mary, I am going to go out on a limb here, but I would say “that homosexuality is a part of God’s plan to teach us love and acceptance of all people, regardless of how different they are.” I believe that is His intention in allowing free will and every conflict that exists and ever will exist in history between human beings through free will, regardless of who is “right” and who is “wrong.” Even when sin is present (and it always is), it is the tension inherent in conflict that challenges us to really SEE something different, and to choose whether or not to learn, to be charitable and virtuous and thus heal ourselves and others. Both parties in any conflict have things to learn about the other, about themselves, and about God. If it were not so, if conflict were not somehow ultimately useful to an evolving humanity, then it would not exist. That is not to say that how we conflict cannot be harmful and even wrong. But there is always something to learn through it.

    In the broadest terms, I see homosexuality as a challenge to homosexuals to accept and love Christians (and ultimately the holy God they “represent” in faulty ways) – to see beyond Christians to the truth of a holy God and holiness in Him. I see homosexuals as a challenge to Christians to truly reconcile their faith in a holy God with charity toward sinful people (like themselves) that God loves very dearly. It is their challenge to reach beyond homosexuals’ faults and RELATE to the God in homosexuals.

  24. Mary says:

    Sonja – how I wish everyone had that attitude! The world would be a better place! I get angry when people who use birth control (me) and have pre-marital sex (me) talk about how disordered homosexual acts are and how much of a sin it is! They are so blind to the sin within themselves and so eager to disparage others!

  25. Tara S says:

    Oh my gosh, Mary, YES!! Why on earth would homosexual activity be wrong if any of those other activities are okey-dokey?

    I came late to the Catholic party – I’ve done various things on the “disordered” list, and I regret each and every one of them, but I can’t say I regret the sense of perspective I got along the way.

    To me the thing that is most unfair is how “on display” it seems, to have a same-sex sexual orientation. It’s so easy to scapegoat a thing that is easy to see, “Oh look, those are two girls being romantic together.” But if a person has contraceptives in his medicine cabinet, or has sex before marriage, or any number of other things, it would take a lot of intrusive digging to find that out. So…because these things are not readily apparent, they are somehow less disordered? Talk about Pharisees and their nice pretty cups full of garbage! Either sex should always fully respect its creative power and therefore chastity is a really really big deal for everybody, or there is nothing wrong with same-sex sex. Any other point-of-view has always sounded like nonsense to me, based more upon people’s own personal or aesthetic issues with sex, rather than upon reason or justice or actual human truth.

  26. Celeste Villa-Rangel says:

    Can I just say that you are an amazing human being and an amazing Catholic, I think you might just be my hero. 😀

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