Mark Shea: A Non-denominational Evangelical Who Became A Catholic Apologist

For more information about this series of posts and this TV series, see this page.

The fifteenth episode of The Journey Home is titled “Mark Shea: A Non-denominational Evangelical Who Became A Catholic Apologist” and aired December 19, 1997. It can be viewed online here.

Mark’s story, in the short, is that he was raised more or less without religion, priding himself on not being a fan of organized religion when he was in high school. Although the description under the episode describes his upbringing as “agnostic pagan”, it sounds from his own words that the existence of god was never in doubt for him. In college, he became a non-denomination evangelical Christian after a conversion experience. The details of the conversion experience are not explored, and he cites a college prayer group and C.S. Lewis as major factors.

I haven’t read much C.S. Lewis outside of the Narnia series, but I was thoroughly unimpressed with The Problem of Pain. From my current position, I just can’t imagine finding his arguments convincing.

I am, naturally, more interested in conversions to Christianity from outside than in the conversions within Christian denominations, and even when guests have undergone such a conversion, their reasons are often fairly unexplored. Instead, this program tends to focus on reasons for converting from some other denomination to Catholicism, which I find pretty uninteresting. After all, as I’ve said several times before, within Christianity, I do think Catholicism is the only denomination that might make sense. In other words, I agree with the reasons cited for being Catholic over Protestant, but they have yet to give any reasons for being Christian in the first place.

“C.S. Lewis says that, you know, a good atheist can never be too careful of his reading,” Mark states when he is explaining how he moved from evangelical to Catholic. If they are right in that, it is indeed odd that it is always Christians who avoid books on evolution or atheism, and that atheists are so often willing to read Christian books. Indeed, atheists often encourage others, both Christian and atheist, to read the Bible. Penn Jillette calls reading the Bible the fastest way to become an atheist (I don’t necessarily agree). I became atheist from reading books by Christians – even when I tried to read Hitchens, I found it too harsh and could not finish the book. Until I decided I was at least 99% sure Catholicism is false, I never finished a book specifically about atheism. My reading on the subject was almost entirely Christian apologetics or Christian miracle claims. I was fighting a losing battle to stay Catholic, and reading all the right books didn’t help. I still read religious books, and find nothing in them that is compelling.

I really have nothing more to say about this episode.

So far, our breakdown of the guests’ religious state before conversion to Catholicism looks like this.

  • Serious Christian: 10
  • Always Catholic: 2
  • Lax Christian: 1
  • Non-Christian, but religious: 2
  • Non-believer, but not very skeptical: 0
  • Skeptic: 0

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