Erstwhile atheist blogger Leah Lebresco is a profound and engaging thinker whose writing I had been following for a short while. She and my daughter were college classmates, graduating last May, and I used to enjoy her opinion pieces in the Yale Daily News. In recent months she has been holding forth in "Unequally Yoked," her blog devoted mostly to discussions of atheism and morality--until this past Monday, that is, when she announced she had converted to Catholicism. Of all things.
In reaction to this inexplicable turn, a humanist blogger at "Temple of the Future" has written, " . . . religions offer a vast range of resources to assist people who are grappling with just the sort of ethical, philosophical and existential questions which Libresco is struggling with. It is surely significant that at the moment of her conversion she immediately began to pray, using the liturgical resources of the Catholic Church to support her transition in belief.
"To an extent, then, I think Humanists need to consider whether we are in part responsible for losing people like Leah Libresco. If we want to keep intellectually honest, morally engaged people committed to Humanist principles, we need to engage more energetically and more publicly with moral and ethical questions. and provide resources for those who are profoundly committed to seeking moral truth. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing more to the Catholics."
I don't know about that. Leah has been searching for a logic of morality. She can't accept, it seems, that there may not be one. On Facebook, when I wrote her in January to say, " . . . with respect to your attachment to the notion of objective morality, you'll be interested in checking in now and then with Jerry Coyne, whose Web site has a considerable--and articulate--following. (Russell Blackford and Ophelia Benson are strong in this area as well), she replied, "I'm always confused by the idea that morality is the result of an evolutionary process. Evolution tends to preserve stable local optima, but it doesn't have an orientation toward ethics. To wit: the courtship-by-infanticide model is stable for gorillas, even though it is horrific. But by evolutionary metrics, that's all that's required." Over at Blag Hag, Jen has written, addressing Leah, "I’m seriously disappointed. Of all religions to join, you choose Catholicism? One of the most despicable, nonsensical, homophobic, misogynistic religions on the planet? Because of its system of morality? I could understand saying you’re converting to deism or unitarianism or maybe even buddhism, but Catholicism?" That's my feeling, too, but this one comes as a shock, and as you can imagine the Catholics are delighted, applauding her for "coming home," even though her New York cultural tradition is secular (Jewish). Ah well. This is altogether bewildering to me. And the reaction to this perverse turn among other like-minded bloggers has been strong. Even MSNBC has felt moved to weigh in with a news piece, "Atheist blogger Leah Libresco converts to Christianity," where this quote appears: "I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth."
Over at Big Think, Adam Lee has posted some excellent "Questions for Leah Libresco." I have the same questions.
Goal of human life
In Thomas's thought, the goal of human existence is union and eternal fellowship with God. Specifically, this goal is achieved through the beatific vision, an event in which a person experiences perfect, unending happiness by seeing the very essence of God. This vision, which occurs after death, is a gift from God given to those who have experienced salvation and redemption through Christ while living on earth.
This ultimate goal carries implications for one's present life on earth. Thomas stated that an individual's will must be ordered toward right things, such as charity, peace, and holiness. He sees this as the way to happiness. Thomas orders his treatment of the moral life around the idea of happiness. The relationship between will and goal is antecedent in nature "because rectitude of the will consists in being duly ordered to the last end [that is, the beatific vision]." Those who truly seek to understand and see God will necessarily love what God loves. Such love requires morality and bears fruit in everyday human choices
Here is a another idea, instead of making your life revolve around a vision of God after your are dead, why not try to be the best person you can be while you are alive. Living a good life without God is much better than a fantasy of God after you are dead.
Yeah, too smart by half for her own damn good.
From Godless's blog: You can make me feel guilty at a drop of a hat - I was brought up Catholic.
You made me CRACK UP, man. So, so true! LOLZ! I have news for you: that conditioning may never go away :-)You made me CRACK UP!
Oh yeah... and she's so young and obviously she's not afraid to change her mind publicly. I wouldn't be surprised if she switches out of Catholicism into something else later on.
Ha! Thanks Adriana! Right, I don't think I will ever lose the guilt thing.
I can remember in my mid to late twenties I had similar theories of the world. I just find it interesting that she is moving towards them and not away from them. I guess since she was raised in a secular household it's possible she was never "inoculated" against the "awe" factor of religion. Matter tends to rush in to fill a vacuum... perhaps it's just the allure of the unknown.
I hope she does snap out of it though. I read she is bisexual and Catholicism is self-denying enough without this additional thing to feel bad about. I think the price is too high to sacrifice one's self in the hopes of finding a satisfying philosophical basis for morality.
Well. She's young.
It's a good thing you can laugh, GP, in your wry way, but it really is an awful, deplorable thing, how readily most adults who were raised as Catholics will assume guilt (or blame) over the smallest matter--sometimes with sorrow, sometimes with resentment. My wife, who grew up in Brooklyn, the oldest daughter of Irish immigrants, went dutifully to Catholic school, and even though, now, at 60, she has left all that madness far behind for the most part, the reflexive impulse to take on some shameful or blameful responsibility for things, no matter what they are, seems ineradicable.
Hi Don. Very good point! Well yeah, it's all actually a sort of defence mechanism. I often still feel guilty and apologize for things that are simply not my fault or I feel guilty for my feelings of all things.
From what I've read of her rationale, she doesn't seem to have a sound footing in logical thought. She builds some shoddy logic for her decision based on presuppositions that are completely unsubstantiated and a little fantastical. It is no more a surprise that she decided to become a Catholic than it would be if she decided to follow astrology.
Astrology would have been a better pick, could always write horoscopes. =)
Just keep it general!
Hey! I'm on vacation, but i had to say hi to Reggie! :-)
Vacation lurker. =)