Monday, August 11, 2003

We are all atheists

Yes, we are. Why? Because we do not take the Lord's command to heart. Jesus says over and over that we are not to be afraid:

Mark 4:40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"
Luke 5:10 And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men."
John 6:20 but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Mark 5:36 But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."

Get the picture yet? I could have added many more quotes to this list. Jesus warns us not to fear. Why not? First we should consider what fear is. Aquinas says that "fear regards a future evil which surpasses the power of him that fears." (I-II 41.4c) We fear some evil that will come to us that is stronger than we are. But what do we fear? We fear the loss of some good (that, after all, is what evil is: the privation of some good). Thus what we fear will be determined by what we love. If you love your job, you will fear losing it. If you don't love your job, losing it would be pleasure.

Fear can be a mortal sin: "fear is a sin through being inordinate, that is to say, through shunning what ought not to be shunned according to reason." (II-II.125.3) If we fear things we shouldn't fear, and do bad things because of it, we sin. Aquinas continues thus: "For if a man through fear of the danger of death or of any other temporal evil is so disposed as to do what is forbidden, or to omit what is commanded by the Divine law, such fear is a mortal sin: otherwise it is a venial sin." For example, if through fear of being outcast from my friends I were to seek to "score" with the ladies (who weren't my wife), such fear would be mortally sinful, since I fear something silly (loss of approval from my friends) to the extent that I do something gravely evil.

So, how does fear make us all atheists? Because it shows a lack of faith in God. Now that we have been baptized and claimed as heirs of the kingdom of God, is there anything that we should fear? Should we fear loss of money or job? Mat 10:31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Should we fear loss of pleasure? 1Co 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him," Should we fear the coming persecutions? (They are surely coming. In Canada, preaching the gospel is a hate crime.)

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Fear motivates all sorts of wrong actions: fear of loss of security motivates theft, lying, cheating, as well as taking part in the culture of death. Certainly we must contracept, one says, since we won't be able to afford a child (and our big house and cars and vacations). Fear of solitude can motivate all sorts of self-destructive behaviors, from drinking to pornography to drug use. Fear of the disapproval of others is quite insidious, causing us to go along with all sorts of things to keep up with the culture: when is the last time you did something as simple as make the sign of the cross and say grace before a meal in a public restaurant? God forbid! Finally, fear of being found out is the worst, because it keeps us from the medicinal sacrament of confession, where we can be reconciled to God.

The only thing worth fearing is the loss of God. Everything else is small potatoes, and to fear the loss of such things shows a lack of faith. If God exists, we have nothing to fear but loss of Him. Therefore, fear of anything else is sublimated atheism.

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