Al responded to my answer with this:
Honestly. I don't really know.I can see the logic of a church acting as a kind of keeper of standards like a professional association. (Just like homeopaths really do need an authoritative body to tell their members that they must not tell people not to take anti-malaria vaccines.) I get all that. (Leah’s blog).
But how on earth does one get from a position of deep scepticism to one of regarding a church as ‘a truth-telling thing’? That is the area I am interested in.
That's like telling someone how to fall in love. I'm not sure how to break this down. I don't think I can.
I'm sure this is where faith is a gift of God's grace, a work of the Holy Spririt enlightening the mind and quickening the heart.
Here's how I answered him. I don't think it's aa very satisfactory answer, and I don't expect it will satisfy him. Again, any thoughts out there, please chime in!
I think there are maybe two simultaneous routes.
Firstly, the Catholic church itself.
If there is such a thing as Truth, then we ought to recognise it. It has a power that we should feel when we come across it.
When I read the writings of the Church they have the ring of truth. I find them stirring some inchoate sense of truthfulness that leaps inwardly at the sound of it.
Perhaps you have read pieces of wonderful writing that evoke a similar response in you. A sort of gratitude that the writer has articulated something that you feel to be 'true'.
There is some reading here but it is very heavy.
And the Catechism is here.
I don't think it is necessary to be a catholic, or even a believer of any sort, to appreciate the weight of the words, which, at the very least demand our attention. There really is little point reading it in a cynical frame of mind though.
The other route, which could be undertaken simultaneously, is to discern whether the God of the bible is true. And therefore also, whether the Jesus of the bible was who he claimed to be. That's a big one, and obviously a huge stumbling block for someone who is an avowed atheist.
I will say that there are innumerable very sane and level headed atheists and agnostics who came to believe through being persuaded by the biblical account of the resurrection.
Once that falls into place, you can accept the idea of a God who entered space and time and remains with us in some way.
All Christians accept the concept of a church, but they have different concepts of what that means. Some Christians see the church as being a purely spiritual thing. An invisible body of believers, rather than an actual institution.
Catholics see it as both.
The catholic concept of church however, is much more congruent with the scriptural accounts and also with the historical church, about which we know a great deal.
I'm wrapping up quickly here because it's so late and I need to get off the computer .
There is a great deal to say about this and I can't put it all in one comment.
More anon, but feel free to add any other objections etc.
(Edited to add this video by Fr Robert Barron.)
I just came across it this evening.
He makes some very interesting points contrasting the weighty and serious existentialism of Satre and Camus with the new atheism which he sees as more frivolous and shallow.
He also presents an argument from desire.
He says that our restlessness and seeking after happiness, even when we get all the material satisfaction that we want, proves that we are wired to seek God.:
" That we desire something which transcends the limitation of this world means that we have within us a sort of participation in the eternal..
Hunger is not a sign that food is a projection, in fact hunger proves the existence of food.
Your hunger proves the reality of food.
It doesn't mean that food is some sort of subjective projection, or an illusion.
So our desires are not misleading us, our desires order us to reality."