Then I discovered St. Irenaeus of Lyons,
Irenaeus did what every good Catholic should do (although it’s not what every Catholicdoes do), he learned everything about what these heresies taught, and then showed how they were incongruent, flawed, or completely non-sensical. He took down these heresies not by violence or force, but by intellectual excellence and faithful adherence to the Trinity… faith and reason.
The two most important things I have learned from St. Irenaeus (which help me articulate almost every disagreement I have with the New Atheists) are as follows: God has no need, and the glory of God is man fully alive.
The New Atheist conception of God tends to see Him as a fussy, manipulative, one being among many others in the universe, who competes with other things for our attention and demands that we bow down and worship Him, otherwise His overinflated ego will go down and He’ll get mad and smite us.
This isn’t how Catholics know God at all though. Using St. Iraneaus, we know that God has no need, this is because He is perfect in every way. It does not hurt God if we do not praise Him. Likewise it does not hurt God if we insult Him. When we blaspheme God, it ends up hurting us. So you will see Christians push back when the disrespect gets tasteless but it’s not because God has been wounded by it, we have.
It is because of God’s objectivity in this sense that I can believe and put my trust in Him, worship Him, pray to Him, because He isn’t like the Greek or Roman gods who are petty, fussy, egotistical, all-too-human beings who need the humans to worship them, otherwise they get angry and start messing with the annoying loud humans. Because God has no need, His love is true love and my praise and worship is a free response to that love.
(Another misconception about prayer gets thrown around and it goes something like this.)
Being God, He created me. The One who is Love itself gave fully and freely of Himself the gift of life to me. Inscribed into the inmost depths of my heart, then, is the desire to participate in that perfect love, to be wrapped up in it, conformed to it, fullfilled by it, perfected by it. This is true freedom, this is what humans long for on the deepest level of our being, this is the glory of God, that we be fully alive. We are fully alive only if we are perfectly united to the one who began us in love. On earth we get glimpses and tastes of this perfect love as seen only through the eyes of our faith, but know that what is to come will surpass all that we can imagine it to be.
I believe I owe a debt of gratitude to the New Atheists for helping me discover one of the great treasures of the Catholic Church and Her 2,000 year Tradition…
St. Irenaeus, pray for us.
Written by: Marty Arlinghaus