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The Egotism of Atheism


Jim Schroeder - published on 09/25/14 - updated on 06/07/17

And lastly, when it comes to the understandable difficulty of reconciling a beneficent God with emotional distress, hardship and horror, psychology again offers a unique viewpoint. In the world of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on reducing irrational beliefs (cognitive distortions), there is one belief with which we all struggle from time to time. It’s called Emotional Reasoning. It’s the idea that what I feel must be true. If I feel stupid, I must be stupid. If I feel alone, I must be alone. If I feel that God does not exist, then he must not exist. It’s interesting that many of our greatest saints suffered from this sense of doubt and desolation at a certain point in their lives.

But moving beyond psychological theory, a few additional points are worth noting. If one, just one, Eucharistic miracle is authentic, then atheism fails. If just one saint lies uncorrupted, then atheism fails. And a common, but no less valid and unanswerable, proof for God’s existence is this: Throughout history, stunning objects of beauty have been created by many thousands of individuals — paintings, symphonies, sculptures, cathedrals, monuments, and inventions, to name only a few categories. No one has ever questioned that each of these creations, were in fact created, by a creator or creators. We all can agree that the Great Wall of China and Nôtre Dame de Paris didn’t occur through an accident of nature.

So, as we look at our world, and admire the genius of the human body and the many stunning landscapes that dot our earth, it seems very hard to deny that a creator is responsible, no matter what theory one chooses, whether evolution, theory of  mind or something else. It is also important to note that while science and logic can attempt to explain the mechanisms of any human creator, both repeatedly fall short of being able to recreate the genius responsible for the mechanisms. Try explaining how a human can run 100 miles in half a day. Science and logic have tried, and failed. Try to explain how the universe exists and operates. Science and logic have tried, and failed. Try explaining how a one-celled human being in the womb is one day able to speak, and run, and learn, and lead, and love, and live on in the hearts and souls of millions. And yet we have the beloved Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, Padre Pio, Thérèse of Lisieux, Patrick, John of God, Ignatius, Dominic, Francis, Clare, Catherine of Siena, Joseph, Peter, Paul and thousands more. Science and logic fall woefully short. 

In essence, even our brilliant worldly realities defy the law of logic, science, and emotion in many ways. This being so, it seems rather strange that we wouldn’t assume that a divine Creator was responsible. In the end, it isn’t about having doubts. We all have doubts, and in my weakest moments, I sometimes struggle to believe the epic story of Christianity. It appears so much more remarkable than any fictional story could be. But maybe the greatest Ego Trick is the one that an ego plays in believing it knows what is true. 

Jim Schroeder is a pediatric psychologist at St. Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana. He resides there with his wife, Amy, and their six children. He received a BS from Ball State University and graduated with a PhD in clinical psychology from Saint Louis University in 2005. He completed an internship the University of Louisville School of Medicine / Kosair Children’s Hospital and did his postdoctoral fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital through the Washington University School of Medicine. He also writes a monthly column entitled Just Thinking ( designed to inform, educate, and motivate parents and providers in applying pertinent research in meaningful, practical ways.

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