Father Brown Stories

by | February 8, 2014


Last night, the the Office of Catholic Youth and the Archdiocese of Toronto hosted the first debate in the Chesterton Debate Series. The topic, “Is there a God?” was debated by Fr. Philip  Cleevely, C.O., Catholic priest and philosophy professor, and Justin Trottier, founder of the Centre for Inquiry Canada.

The series is named on honour of the English writer and “lay theologian,” G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936), who is familiar to secular audiences through the British television drama, Father Brown. Chesterton is of particular interest to the Catholics because he converted to Roman Catholicism, ” was invested by Pope Pius XI as Knight Commander with Star of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great,” and the Chesterton Society is working to have Chesterton beatified.

This is important to the question “Is there a God?” because Cleevely quoted Chesterton at the end of his opening remarks:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the Cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken by God…[Let] the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God [Himself] seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

Quoting Chesterton was one of Cleevely’s appeals to authority, but despite Wikipedia’s assertion that Chesterton was a “lay theologian,” Chesterton is not an authority.; he was and remains mainly a writer of fiction, best known for his Father Brown stories.

However, Chesterton’s quote was, for Cleevly, a clever way to undermine atheists and attack Justin Trottier’s argument for science as the answer to the question “Is there a God?”

The best moment in the debate was when Cleevely exclaimed,

“Let’s leave God out of [this debate]!”

What a good idea! Let’s do that! Let’s forget the distinction between “how the world is and that it is.”  Let’s leave God out of the debate about the origin of the world and get to real investigation of the world through science and skeptical inquiry.

6 thoughts on “Father Brown Stories

  1. Bubba Kincaid

    I agree.

    However there is the small problem of the investigation of the world through science and skeptical inquiry being extraordinarily slow, tedious, and insanely boring.

    One might even say it’s atheists who will have the biggest trouble leaving these debates which provide them with one of the only breaks from the monotony.

    Need I remind everyone of L. Ron Hubbard?

    1. Theo Bromine

      Bubba: It’s sad to see your antipathy to science and skeptical inquiry. On the contrary, I (and countless others) think that science is beautiful and fascinating. (Not to mention the fact that the pace of advancement of knowledge is exponentially increasing.)

  2. Diana MacPherson

    Let’s leave god out of everything. I like where this guy is heading. 🙂

  3. Richard

    Bubba: There’s nothing boring about discovering that we humans have a common ancestor with every living being on earth. There’s nothing boring about seeing Hubble’s images of distant nebulae. There’s nothing boring about putting a human on the moon to zip around in a car.

    If learning about the world through science bores you, well, that’s a real pity. I just hope you have enough sense to be grateful that there have been plenty of people for whom science wasn’t boring — people who have cured diseases, people who have improved agricultural yields, and people who, generally speaking, allow someone who earns a minimum wage today to live a far better, richer life than any medieval king.

    I know, it’s all so boring, right? Maybe you’re better off just leaving your TV on the cartoon channel.

  4. Bubba Kincaid

    Richard & Theo: Unfortunately you both might be providing me with perfect cases in point. Nowhere did I say that I didn’t find science and skeptical inquiry extraordinarily beautiful, magnificently fascinating, wonderous, enlightening etc etc… Your error seems to be in attributing to me some sort of personal bias you harbour towards a required exclusivity amongst terms. What I do say is that the practice of science and honest rational deliberation, is by no means a quick and easy task, and beyond the flash pop and bang that the pop culture loves to infuse, no scientifically minded person worth their weight in paper will disagree that the truth of it necessarilly lies in an extremely slow, tedious, laborious, meticulous, mostly thankless, all-consuming, and yes quite boring process, with no guarantee for most of producing or even understanding anything worth anything.

    Take just your rather brash assertion that the pace of advancement of knowledge is exponentially increasing, for example. This simple statement itself, despite what you might think and possibly to your surprise, is in no way anywhere close to being scientifically or empirically established fact or even that widely held a proper scientific belief. In fact one could argue that if it were advancing at that rate, we should have already been where we are today 2,000 or even many thousands of years ago. In reality, there is nothing yet really to say that “knowledge” doesn’t advance in fits and sinusoidal up and down spurts. While it is for sure an interesting scientific question, rich soil for debate, that can easily elicit grandiose claims, other than for an erroneously dubbed Moore’s “law”, which is already coming up fast on provably hard scientific boundaries, there is really nothing yet to say that if certain limited areas of human advancement do proceed exponentially for rather limited lengths of time, that they don’t inevitably and very quickly crash headlong into immutable walls, and just as quickly yield to the possibly far from immediate potential of a new iteration of an exponential growth in a not necessarily related, far flung location.

    Of course I love nothing more than science, but hopefully that little rant demonstrates how careful one must truly be with the
    the term, scientific enquiry.

  5. Rob Murphy

    “In fact one could argue that if it were advancing at that rate, we should have already been where we are today 2,000 or even many thousands of years ago.”

    Yep, we could’ve been…but then along came the dark ages of the “Saviour on a Stick Cult” known as Christianity.


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