Hello Gentle Readers.
Unfortunately, this is our goodbye post. Due to life circumstances beyond my control, I am unable to continue with An Atheist and A Catholic. It’s been an interesting journey, hasn’t it? What have we learned from this experience? Hopefully we are all walking away with a glimpse at our common humanity. We will never agree on the issue of God, but we are all human beings with feelings, lives, thoughts and emotions.
While we don’t have to respect the beliefs of the other side, it is good to be courteous and it helps to be compassionate. It also helps to just listen. We have opened our horizons to see how the other half thinks. This is wonderful!
Also, I hope we’ve learned that defining our words is crucial. If I use one definition of faith and you use something completely different, we can’t communicate clearly. And communication is so vital. Even if we disagree, we have to share this world, so we might as well get along as best we can.
It has definitely been eye-opening. Thank you all so much for sharing our journey, especially those of you who commented. You really added to the discussion and let us get to know you. I will still be keeping up my personal blog, Heaving Dead Cats, which is about skepticism, atheism, science and other things that make us think.
Thanks again. Take good care of yourselves and try to at least listen to understand when you disagree.
If my record-keeping is correct, this is the 16th post of An Atheist and a Catholic. It is also the last.
Our blog, inspired by four months of private discussion through email, has been an honest effort to explore our respective viewpoints as an Atheist (Neece) and Catholic (Me). Though my hope was that we could make it a year, real life must take precedence. Just before our previous post on morality went live, Neece requested we end our efforts in order to focus on other obligations, so I want to honor that. I obviously can’t continue such an effort without my co-founder, whose perspective is imperative for the continuation of this blog.
One interesting outcome of our project is that I’ve come to realize how vital words and their definitions are when entering into this type of discussion. Often, when our views collided and common ground proved hard to find, it seemed due to disagreement over the words we were using to describe our position, and the visuals and ideas we have attached to those words, more than anything. We were speaking different languages in a sense.
But there’s good news, too. Through the process, we also discovered our common humanity bringing us to similar conclusions. Perhaps in the end we must concede that even while a full coming-together is impossible, all is not lost. I hope that our search for the humanity in one another will continue, and that though we may in the end agree to disagree, perhaps we will do so with a renewed understanding of our shared humanity, and in a general sense, shared goals.
I’m satisfied knowing we achieved moments of understanding that would have been impossible prior to the conversation. And on a personal level, I have truly enjoyed the process of starting a blog with someone halfway across the country; someone who, despite having a starkly opposed worldview from mine, is a lot like me in many ways. Coming up with a vision, troubleshooting ways to resolve difficulties, and staying in touch weekly to think up our next post has been a joy. And I thank you, dear reader, for coming along for the ride and contributing to the discussion.
I recently read an essay on empathy by Sister Frances Horner, a Carmelite nun from Baltimore, who, borrowing from the writings of St. Edith Stein, brilliantly articulated the concept of empathy. In order for empathy to happen, she said, we must “set aside ourselves and try to encounter the world of the other person as she/he does; not how I would feel in your place, but how you yourself feel in the face of the situation, given your unique life experience, psychology, physical makeup, talents and shortcomings.” The empathic experience is not one of judging or agreeing/disagreeing, she added, but an experience of comprehension. “After I allow myself to encounter the other’s experience in this way, I can ‘explain’ it and return to an object of my own consciousness.” Empathy, she concluded, involves both a going-out of self and a remaining in self. (The Sword, Vol. 71, p. 107)
I believe true empathy, as Sister Frances describes it, did transpire here, even if only for fleeting moments. I know it has happened in my private exchanges with Neece. And brief as our run has been, I believe that an honest discussion is always worthy of having taken place.
I’m also gratified in having “met” you, readers, and hearing both from the atheist community and from my fellow community of Christians. Thank you for taking time to stop by and share your perspective on our topics. I invite you to visit my personal blogs, Peace Garden Writer and Peace Garden Mama, particularly on Fridays when I talk about faith.
God bless and peace be with you!