For years, the Catholic Television Network (EWTN) has had a show called The Journey Home. My parents used to watch this show when I was a child, for the few years that we had a dish before we tore the roof off the house. To the best of my recollection, the purpose of the show is to display how Catholicism is an awesome religion because so many people convert to it. When I found out that all the episodes are available online, I decided to watch them and review them. It’s undeniable that people convert to Catholicism; my question is, do they have good reasons? How many of them started as some form of Christian in the first place? How many came from other religions? How many were atheists or skeptics? Why did they convert, and would the answer to that question be a convincing reason for a skeptic?
If you decide to watch these episodes with me, you may notice that I ignore a lot of things I could respond to. The target audience is Catholics, and this is clear from the very first minute that Marcus Grodi begins speaking. These stories aren’t necessarily meant to convince a skeptic, but to strengthen the faith of a Catholic, or possibly convince a non-Catholic Christian to convert, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. Nonetheless, I’d like to see if this collection of conversion stories contains any compelling reasons for a skeptic to convert.
The twelfth episode is titled “David Palm: A Baptist Who Became A Catholic – The Journey Home Program” and aired November 21, 1997. It can be viewed online here.
David, like most of the guests so far, was raised in a very faithful Christian home. When he studied the early Church Fathers, he found Catholicism to be the oldest Christian denomination, and therefore concluded that it must be the Church Christ founded. This is a fallacious way of thinking, but understandable in the context of Christianity. As I’ve expressed before, if I accepted Christianity at all, I’m sure I would be Catholic, so an argument for Catholicism over another denomination doesn’t really phase me.
What I found amusing in this episode is that it focused on – or tried to focus on – how to know what is true. Sadly, no real answer was given; for the most part, they just said, “Follow the authority of the Catholic Church.” For a Catholic, this might be satisfactory, but to me it really isn’t. This is especially the case when I contrast it with how most atheists would probably answer that question. Most atheists are likely to say, when asked how to know what is true, that a good method for knowing truth is to start by making an observation, then perform experiments to see whether that observation is true every time, then form an idea about why that happens, then test that and try to falsify it (the scientific method). They may also start talking about Bayesian methodology. Regardless, no atheist I know would say to follow an authority, although they might recommend a book by someone they respect.
So far, our breakdown of the guests’ religious state before conversion to Catholicism looks like this.
- Serious Christian: 8
- Always Catholic: 2
- Lax Christian: 0
- Non-Christian, but religious: 2
- Non-believer, but not very skeptical: 0
- Skeptic: 0