Tag Archives: catholic

Guiding ‘Midnight Mass’ Mike Flanagan back to the Catholic Church

Mike Flanagan, creator of Netflix’s ‘Midnight Mass’ and former altar boy, is in a process of discovery that, with God’s grace, will lead him back to the Church that he feels he’s outgrown.

I’ve seen five of the seven episodes, and might watch the rest just for the sake of finishing it. While watching, I realized I was more concerned with answering Flanagan’s implied opinions than the story.

Flanagan may think he’s treading controversial ground here, but anti-Christian and specifically anti-Catholic rhetoric in Hollywood is the boring norm.

These are my summary of Flanagan’s take on Catholicism/Christianity/organized religion:
1. When conflict ensues between religion and the common sense of nature, the former brushes this off as “The Lord works in mysterious ways” mainly to quash dissent;
2. The devoutly religious remain so only out of ignorance of the world at large, with its many beliefs and philosophical systems, the diversity of which shows us that people have always tried to make sense of the world but no one grasps the whole picture perfectly; to ignore this leads to fanaticism, as personified by Bev Keane in the show; and
3. We in the modern age, heir to ideas of the past, are in a better position to understand and evolve from former ways of thinking, by which a brighter future as citizens of the world beckons us, if only we have the courage to break the shackles of yesterday… or something.

Jesus as real

These points could only take shape, if the subject of one’s faith is not taken seriously in the first place. By the time one is enamored of non-Christian ideas, one will have to have rejected the idea of Jesus having actually lived, and died, and resurrected, as stated in the Book which He left us, through the sending of His Holy Spirit. For proud ex-Catholics, one will also have to have rejected the notion that all those years lining up and receiving those wafers in Communion, one was actually consuming Jesus’ body and blood.

If one does believe in all this, recognizing Jesus as God, then all the off-putting uncharitable hypocrisies of His followers, all the shadows of truth found in pagans’ aspirations, and all the hip new ways of speaking of the material world, will do nothing to shake one’s faith.

I guess it’s typical of adolescence to take pride in ideas one is newly subject to, to the point of rendering all religions equally worthy of distant evaluation; how else to know something but from a distance? But Kierkegaard rightly spoke against such ‘objectivity.’

Flanagan the Sam Harris fan is even ready to dismiss his being himself as a mere egoistic concept. I suppose that comes easier after dismissing a creator of us creatures.

Blind as the Pharisees of John 9

It is in such detachment from anything that offers itself as exclusive truth that one welcomes the idea of keeping the state away from these ideas. Separation of church and state: as if declarations of policy could ever be severed from their moral, that is, religious, basis.*
* To be sure, one could formulate their own moral code strictly on naturalistic bases, as Erin in the show does, but even these bases would ultimately have to do with man and his relationship with God, not just the world as such.

And if one such belief system turns out to be the sought-after truth, one will have overlooked it. Just read the last paragraph of Flanagan’s article. Born into true religion, Catholicism, he is so blind as to say he expects to never know “what happens when we die.”

Is ‘The Lord works in mysterious ways’ a copout?

To Flanagan, talk of ‘trust in God’ and acknowledging mystery in suffering is used to depict the irrationality of Christianity. What is deemphasized by those who venerate science and supposed reason, is the aspect of humility when trusting God. It is not willful ignorance to believe evil could not overcome good, when one has reason to suppose so.

Humility in recognizing the limits of our worldly wisdom: the limits being precisely why we turn to public revelation (Scripture) and ask for mercy!

I admit to having crises of faith in the past two years I’ve been practicing, but Jesus’ divinity remains the best explanation to me for things that have happened in my life, and in the world at large.

Material reductionism, the real copout

For all Flanagan’s talk of rationality and science, he is ignoring the cognitive dissonance of complacency in material explanations, e.g. Riley in the show reducing near-death experiences to psychedelic reactions moments before biological expiration, when in fact the very ability to experience the world is immaterial.

My realization of consciousness as being outside of scientific methodology altogether is what eventually led me back to considering a spiritual world, not just in the sense of a figurative or aesthetic way of speaking of the unknown. Perhaps Flanagan will come to a similar insight.


I now know that it is only through the grace of the Holy Spirit that such realizations happen. That the best we can hope for is not naturalistic, finite moments of joy; these are in fact echoes of a larger reality, in which we don’t only speak of love but know its source to be God Himself, Who loved us so much He told us all about it in plain sight: the Bible, so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted by the hard-hearted as just another ancient document, this Book whose influence on the world could not be quite explained away as merely brilliant PR and mass psychology. No.

As much as the world likes us to focus on controversy and falls from grace, we see the beauty and triumph of God’s Word most clearly through the saints. So if someone were to ask me for book recommendations, I probably wouldn’t go with the doctrinal expositions, as important as these are. It is best to know of the Christian life as truly lived.
I wrote about my journey back to the Catholic Church, ‘How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ in which I’m actually harder on myself than I am on Flanagan above.


Recent reads I’d recommend to Flanagan and other erstwhile Catholics, and they’re written by non-Catholics. I usually treat religious books as tedious assignments with deadlines, but these were a breeze to read:
Craig Keener’s ‘Miracles today: The supernatural work of God in the modern world
Dionysios Farasiotis’ ‘The gurus, the young man, and Elder Paisios

Christ in my life, before I was Christian

Prior to ‘How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ in 2019, I published a book which I have since removed from Amazon upon realizing that I could no longer uphold most of its pagan content. As much as I disavow it, there are flashes of what I would recognize as the faith I was to return to, and I thought it’d be interesting to review them.

The essay was called ‘Making a philosophical problem out of depression,’ in which I relate the prevalence of depression to an increasingly materialistic view of the world, and thus suggest the solution to be a change in life philosophy. Neat.

Christ, the handy analogy

There are some condescending references to Christ in which I basically treat him as an illustration of a psychological principle. Kinda Jordan Petersonian. I segregate a chapter of such pedantry here for curiosity’s sake, but could say that such an approach actually kept me away from Christ, rendering Him a mere instructive archetype. I have since found that what counts is seeing Jesus not as a great man, but as God and truth.

Grace through others

Looking back, it seems like my journey to Christ was a mere intellectual exercise. But my discoveries as they came only resonated to the degree that I grew in love of real people, experiencing how the meaning of life wasn’t in me. Initially, I interpreted glimpses of eternal and necessary truth from my limited perspective of Kantianism, where I boldly proclaimed Christ to be the a priori, not realizing how this demeaned His revelation. Thankfully, I would later shed off such contrary paradigms.

Stoicism all the rage

I now realize it to be a grace that during a time about five years ago that I was immersed in a lot of stoicism talk from podcasts and books by Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday, among others, I saw Christianity as a superior philosophy (I still only understood it to be a philosophy or system, rather than the recognition of a historical truth being key to our happiness). I had read Alastair Hannay’s collected papers and journals of Søren Kierkegaard years prior, and Kierkegaard’s conviction of embracing suffering rather than stoically numbing oneself to it stuck with me, even when Jesus as flesh and blood meant nothing. Self-proclaimed antichrist Friedrich Nietzsche was an influence as well. His ‘amor fati’ is pseudo-Christian, in that fate is construed as self-assertion, rather than known to be a merciful God’s will.

Of stoic Seneca’s technique of visualizing a worst-case scenario so as to deal better with an actual outcome, I had this to say, with Christianity in mind:
“This still falls short of an ideal of loving each moment, of appreciating simple existence for its sake. Anticipating the uncommon seeks an escape from life’s torments by a fatiguing from circumstance, and should be considered a stage yet to be overcome.”

Contra Nietzsche

“Pity isn’t just the avenue of the weak to feel strong. In this imperfect world, where we all experience weakness in some way, pity is also that by which we bond, and grow in love.”

Suffering of love

“I wonder what I would be willing to suffer for someone or something I love. Say, eternal, constant suffering.
“This is all hypothetical. For one thing, none of us live specifically to suffer for the benefit of another. Also, eternity isn’t something we could conceive in any scientific sense.
“The question of ‘how much’ seems to miss the point, when suffering itself is what one is willing to pay. It’s either one loves, in which suffering and the giving up of the prospect of comfort is precisely what is chosen and embraced, or one doesn’t love. Suffering as a gift wouldn’t be what it is if one remains open to lessening of it in any way.”


“… I’m finding that of all the major Western philosophers, Kierkegaard was with it the most.”

Summing up religion

Here’s an understanding of a divine sorting out of things, but with the baggage of Zen:
“The main attribute of religion is its faith in an ultimate reckoning. A long run, not necessarily temporal, though scientific principles, such as systems’ tendency to equilibrium, serve as illustrations. The religious as ultimate reckoning involves a lifetime of discovering this nontemporal truth, of this.
“Such a reckoning could not preclude bad things happening to good people, or vice versa. At least, in the conventional way we take ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to mean. The medium term that is the world we live in has things happening in a way beyond our ability to categorize as ‘ideal’ or completely bad either.
“To believe that whatever happens, happens randomly, is no less a matter of faith, in the negative materialistic sense meant, than welcoming a wider perspective where a ‘reason’ exists for every element, every aspect in existence.
“This ultimate reckoning, where even the most petty conflicts are settled, requires no effort from any of the parties concerned. It is the forgiveness of sins as found in the Creed. I get, or rather I’m more accepting, of the New Testament with its impossible demands to love. As long as we’re on Earth, our original sin manifests, whatever lusts we cater to. Yet perfection remains something to strive for, and one has faith in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead.
“Proof of God’s existence or attempts rooted in scientific discovery miss the whole concept of faith. If it isn’t a part of your immediate experience, it’s not faith. Faith is all or nothing, regardless of what could be imparted through history or experiment.”

I almost had it then, but was still dismissive of a God who showed up in Earth history. And when I later did accept that Jesus did rise from the dead, and was God, I was still under the impression that this was a human ‘achievement unlocked,’ a Buddhistic attaining of the divine state of mind.

I don’t feel like adding anything more, but have to wrap up

So it’s been quite the process, to adjust to the knowledge of a personal God and His grace none of us deserve. More is demanded of me, and the stakes are higher, but offsetting all that is the utter meaningfulness Jesus brings.

If this is the end times, why is the evil Catholic Church shrinking?

My favorite thing is to watch or read conversion stories. One resource on YouTube is the Precious Testimonies channel. A recent video they posted, however, attacked the Catholic Church in particular, as if its members weren’t Christian at all, which didn’t sit well with me for some reason. And the sentiment of the video was echoed by commenters who spoke of the evils of ‘idolatry’ towards Mary and the saints, and how Jesus wants a relationship, not a religion.

Where I live

I think the gulf between Protestants and Catholics in the Philippines is not as wide, compared to elsewhere. I gave copies of my latest book on my conversion to Protestant friends, and I don’t think they took that badly. The Philippine situation comes partly out of a genuine respect for others and their views, but also, unfortunately, due to miseducation in Catholicism to the point where it’s considered as just one of many denominations, each one’s errors negligible enough for Jesus to set aside when His judgment comes.

Is saying ‘Lord, Lord’ enough?

So I wonder about the need to write this article to correct the anti-Catholic attitude of a good number of Christians in other parts of the world. What’s the point? I’m wondering. After all, accepting Jesus at all is already half the journey, an improvement over much of the beliefs out there. But I don’t think that the Holy Spirit wants us to trust in an automatic process by which to arrive at the right beliefs. If the thousands of denominations with conflicting beliefs is an indication, we’ve left too much to seeing how things play out without a duly-appointed authority that establishes what is true.

For example, some think making any graven images at all is forbidden, even though the Lord himself instructed this for the Ark in Exodus 25:18. The Church clarifies that the problem isn’t the use of materials as aids for worship, but rather idolatry, the assumption that such statues or the creatures they depict are divine.

There is always the danger of autonomous interpretation disguised as devotion to Jesus. And we know that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21) will be welcomed into His Kingdom. He wants submission to Him, and on Earth, this is fully achieved by communion with the Church He built upon Peter.

Are saints too dead to hear us?

But the Church’s critics would belie such authority on account of questionable doctrines she allegedly espouses. For one thing, saints are considered as dead, for which our prayers are pointless, or worse yet, directed to demons. But Jesus Himself says He is the God of the living, in reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). Hebrews 12:1 speaks of a cloud of witnesses that surrounds us who are yet here on Earth. We also know that the prayers of saints are valued (Revelation 5:8).

When Saint Paul speaks of those who no longer live on Earth as “asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15), that has more to do with their earthly situation prior to Jesus’ second coming, rather than their state of awareness in the afterlife.

Whatever reservations you may have about talking to holy men and women who no longer live on Earth, just remember that Jesus hears every word, and that He loves these people whom you ask intercession from. He could tell the difference between your requests for their powerful prayers (James 5:16), and channeling their spirits via mediums (Leviticus 19:31; 1 Samuel 28).

Humility and history

‘Relationship not religion’ ultimately doesn’t make sense. If we do want a fruitful relationship with Jesus, we need to work on our relationships with everybody else, by which we make a community of His followers. That is the Church. He wants us to be one (John 17:11), not in the sense of Him being a leader of troops making their independent analyses of His written word or who go along with what ‘feels right’ for them, but in the sense of Him being the center of each and every relationship we have, whether here on Earth, or in Heaven. We have been left with the objective data on who has received the interpretation of Scripture and tradition (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15) directly from the Apostles through an unbroken line of succession, though some falsehoods have to be dismantled in the process, such as thinking Catholic practices began with Constantine in the fourth century.

When Jesus calls the Kingdom of God a Kingdom, it’s not surprising that His Church, by which His will is to be done, would take on similar features to earthly kingdoms, including a hierarchical structure, and unfortunately, fallen, broken people even high up. Also of note is that in spite of her worldly dominance and ubiquity, the number of faithful Catholics is dwindling, hardly a sign that Church doctrine is responsible for today’s societal decay.

Almost too lazy to ‘work’ on the following topic

We need faith in Jesus to be saved, but such faith is reflected precisely in works, which on their own have no merit apart from our being graced by the Lord.

Only Jesus’ sacrifice, the perfect act of love, justifies us. But clearly, He values what we do. It’s all over the Old and New Testaments. Look through the Book of James. John 14:15. John 15:17. Romans 3:31. There’s no excuse to misunderstand Paul’s words on the primacy of Christ’s grace in relation to works (Galatians 2 and 3). Very few take ‘faith alone’ to mean a license to commit wanton sin, but we can’t deny that it is possible to lose Christ’s grace after receiving it (Hebrews 10:26-29).

Food indeed

In all this, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, which is pretty much the main reason He left us a visible Church, is neglected. In my years being educated in Catholic schools, the real presence was a side issue at best. I just remember during rehearsals for First Communion my being taught to say “Amen” after the priest said “Body of Christ,” but I didn’t know what that meant. It took me 30 years to find out! And if I had heard about it earlier, I might have made the dismissive remarks His disciples made in John 6, shortly before parting ways with Him.

What I now know is that if only more people open their hearts to His Blessed Sacrament, there would be less ex-Catholics grumbling about how the Church is out of touch, and how much more fulfilling it is in other churches, or outside of Christianity altogether.

John 6:53 says unless we eat His flesh, we have no life in us. I’m inclined to believe, or hope, that the Lord provides for the dispensation of grace outside of the ‘ordinary’ sacramental means, and this makes salvation possible for non-Catholics and even pagans. But who’s to say when we’ve received such a privilege? I suppose Mother Mary managed, being “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) even before the birth of Christ, and Saint Faustina once received the Sacred Host directly from an angel, but do we dare assume our being saved by merely professing we believe? It’s worth taking an extra look at the Church’s sacraments at least.

Christ’s Church’s Bible

In the current state of Christianity, the Catholic Church is the target of many of Christ’s followers. But only have them be more vigilant in critiquing each other’s interpretations of the Bible to find glaring differences in each other’s interpretations, and perhaps the pope and the institution he oversees will no longer be the main object of interdenominational ire.

How best to resolve such differences? For a start, maybe recognizing that there is no unity, no wholeness, in followers left to their own devices, left to decide what is good and pleasing (Genesis 3:6), with only ‘Bible only’ as their guide. ‘Bible only’ is in fact not found in the Bible, but a mere human tradition begun long after Jesus’ earthly ministry. No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

Bye now

If you’ve gotten this far into this article, you’re in rare company. In fact, consider your finding of this blog of mine an act of providence; barely anyone reads it.

Might I also suggest for you to watch one or two episodes of EWTN’s ‘The journey home,’ or other Catholic conversion testimonies, and perhaps you’ll find several if not all your objections to the Church addressed. Check out Austin Suggs’ awesome Gospel Simplicity channel on YouTube. He’s a Protestant exploring the worlds of Catholicism and Orthodoxy up close, while remaining an outsider (as of this writing). I learn a lot from him.

Even if you’ve found a couple of holes in my argument above (I’m new to the art of Bible thumping), I pray it’s enough for you to at least know, the Catholic Church is not your enemy. The real enemy has been telling you that. After some investigation, you might even want to move here.

Did I mention I had left the Catholic Church as a teenager upon the ‘widening’ of my spiritual horizons? I tell about my recent return in ‘How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ available on Amazon. If you’d rather not support a Catholic book by paying for it, write me and I’ll see if I can give you a copy.

Neil Gaiman’s relationship with Christianity

Neil Gaiman is one of my biggest heroes, shaping my teens and early 20s in a way no other author has quite done so. I also picked up a good deal of his sensible pagan understanding of things, which I had use of until I found Christ (that is, He found me) less than 20 months ago.

Literal gives way to literary

Reading ‘The Sandman’ at 14 opened me to the fascinating world of archetypes in which every thing including or particularly religion could be classified as mere points of view. It was fiction, sure, but I didn’t even realize how it influenced me, a Christian with poor foundation for my faith, into treating God as a fiction, the particular characteristics of which depended on one’s culture. And Gaiman himself has said in interviews that God is real, that is, real in the DC universe alongside Superman and friends. God is assumed as the antagonist of his Lucifer character, who is based on the Bible/Dante/Milton/Göethe, and on whom the Netflix series is based. Whatever religious sense Gaiman had growing up, has long been discarded by him. Or rather, it’s taken a different form, in his work.

I love Gaiman’s ‘Books of magic’ mini-series.’ There are few books I’ve treasured the experience of in such a way. In its second issue, Gaiman has skeptic Doctor Terry Thirteen give a modern view that claims of magic are all logically explainable by physical laws and coincidence, to which John Constantine explains another view, of relativism, that the existence of magic has to be chosen for it to be real to someone.

Magic is real, and not good

Something also stressed in the series, and in other Gaiman stories, is that names have power. I’m sure Gaiman used much of world literature in his discussion of the power of names — which he differentiates yet from that which someone is called by — but I find it so significant to my Christian faith, in which Jesus’ name stands above all else and is used to drive out demons both in the Bible and in true stories of exorcism. To think that I found out only very lately that demons are a real thing and not just something explainable by psychology.

Another important point that Gaiman himself probably treats only symbolically is that magic has its price, usually great suffering in the long term. As a Christian, I now see such gravity in getting into things such as Ouija boards, tarot cards, even positive affirmations, anything where we shift our attention away from God to other things, including ourselves, wherein we stop trusting Him and in effect make idols of creations rather than Him our Creator.

Faith in disguise

It is notable though that one of Gaiman’s literary heroes is also one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century, G.K. Chesterton. Long before I read Chesterton — and in hindsight, doing so probably gave me the extra shove I needed to accept Christ within a year’s time — I encountered his likeness in the character of Fiddler’s Green, a dream figure in the realm of the Sandman. Fiddler’s Green was a sweet chap, and I probably will resemble him a good deal when I’m older, if not in bulk then in attitude to life, generally humorous and hopeful amid great evil in the world.

The ‘Sandman’ original run ended with Gaiman doing his second story centered on William Shakespeare, ‘The tempest,’ wherein Will does as Prospero in the play does, breaking his staff so to speak and renouncing the magic that had sustained him. Might this be a portent of Gaiman eventually ceasing to treat his stories as magical worlds divorced from reality, their own escape for escapism’s sake?* Might a life of faith yet await him?
* Gaiman has used this wonderful Chesterton quote though.

Final remark

For me, being Christian has meant hoping and praying for everyone to accept Christ, knowing all the while that the evil one is still setting up traps for me, waiting for a weak moment to strike. If Gaiman ever does turn to Jesus our Lord and Savior (JoLaS), I will know that the signs were all there in his books, long before he recognized them as pertaining to himself.
My new book, ‘How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ is available on Amazon Kindle, and FREE until the end of Monday, April 26, PST.

How does an atheist experience experience?

Maybe God had me encounter this dude Matt Dillahunty on YouTube today as a fearful reminder of what I could become if I succumb to a crisis of faith. From what little I gather, Matt’s position is to be doubtful of anything by default, and to only accept what could be demonstrated as true, though he’s enough of a truth seeker to acknowledge a variety of ways by which we determine things as true. He doesn’t seem to equate knowledge with quantitative knowledge, or visible knowledge, for instance.

Still, his bias towards the scientific method as the primary if not sole determinant of truth is present, which would actually invalidate much of what he implicitly accepts as true, such as:
1. His being here at all, not just existing but being aware of it as from the inside, which isn’t so much proven as it is self-evident, and that
2. There is a way to discover reality, which assumes that consistency with reality is affirmative of one’s position.

Our modern ‘evolved’ way of thinking makes it the easiest thing to look at the world as a science laboratory, in which the only meaningful answers are those deduced through experiment. One is unaware of how one’s assertion of things often hinges on mere familiarity, e.g. cars as opposed to mystical experiences. The latter’s noetic quality, though sworn by by mystics as providing knowledge as clear as what is observed in the everyday, is brushed off by the outsider skeptic as ‘warm and fuzzy feelings.’

By being a default skeptic to everything, all arguments that aren’t presentable to the mind in a sensible manner are void. The divine, of things unseen (Colossians 1:16), escapes one’s scope of attainable or relevant knowledge, and it doesn’t help that much of what was once unseen is visible with current technology, giving the impression that everything is knowable, provided sufficient advancement of technology.

Faith remains elusive but for grace, of which apparently Dillahunty has not accepted yet, though I pray he does. No better witness than a former inner-circle unbeliever, except he frequently comes across as an uncaring jerk. But the Holy Spirit does wonders.

My parting shot is, if you’re a fan of Dillahunty, and were to find out that Christ is the truth, that there’s an explanation to the absurdity surrounding Him — including those terrible Bible verses you detest — and for whatever reason it’s only made clear to you now, would you ask Him into your heart? Maybe you should try asking then. I dare you.

[UPDATE: Maybe it’s Providence, maybe it could be explained away by algorithmic wizardry, but Matt Fradd hosted a Resurrection debate between Dillahunty and Trent Horn the day after I wrote this article. To think I’d never heard of or paid attention to this guy before. It’s clear that the D Man is completely closed to the idea of God, let alone God as a man rising from the dead, and wouldn’t consider it even reasonable to suppose a person could be brought back to life even if everybody else gave witness to it. To Dillahunty, he’s maintaining an intellectual standard, but this also means a rigidity in adjusting his presumed rational worldview. This reminds me of the final chapter in Michael Crichton’s ‘Travels’ in which he tries to get the reader to consider widening their possibilities frontier, so as to include mental spoon bending for one. Dillahunty claims to live by reason, but an ad hominem of the scientist Crichton’s open-mindedness might be what D-Bone needs.
Trent and Dillahunty are way more experienced in debate than I am, but a couple of questions I would have posed to D Dude would go something like:
“Is it possible for others to have a truer scientific and philosophical worldview than you, one which would reject some of what you now hold to be undeniable?”
“Could it be that Christians hold such a worldview?”]
My new book, How to be Catholic during your rebellious years, is on Amazon.

Alan Watts, patron of know-it-alls

I first heard about Alan Watts from Van Morrison’s song ‘Alan Watts blues.’ Great chorus. I didn’t know anything else, he just seemed like some cult figure admired by artsy types, but I had no opinion of him. Eventually, I got to listen to an audiobook of his, where he was explaining all about life like he knew what he was talking about. Towards the end of my listen, I did a little googling about his life, and found out he died a miserable alcoholic. That to me demonstrated how little a person’s words could reflect their internal life. He sure didn’t live out his sagacity. And sure enough, in the audiobook I heard of his, he spoke of alcoholics who kept going back to alcohol even when they didn’t like the taste of it. I thought he spoke out of a surmounting of the human condition, but he was just describing his brokenness as it was.

He looks cool at least

With his bad-guy British accent and white streak of hair, he had charisma. People ate his stuff up, in particular those who thought they knew what traditional Christianity was all about and who found it detestable. You know the type. You may be such a type. I sure was. “What hypocrisy of those priests.” “Jesus didn’t mean that literally.” “His followers got Christ’s message all wrong.” “Don’t be a sheep, think for yourself.” “Society has evolved since then.” And the list of ‘edgy’ clichés goes on.

I guess I could be a little more charitable. Watts meant well. He appreciated truth-seeking, and thought he was providing truth to a truth-starved audience. Watts has been dead for nearly 50 years now, and there’s no use tarnishing his person further. But it’s left to us to do better, starting by not falling for his impressive-sounding but unsubstantial crap.

On this pebble

I am here critiquing some main points in this video ‘Jesus, his religion’ where Watts claims to tell the audience who Jesus really was.

Watts maintained that the Bible couldn’t be what Christians said it was, namely, infallible, because his God would have wanted people to think for themselves. Implying that being assured of the truth of something makes for unthinking acceptance. Making up your mind about something, discovering your truth, is what’s liberating. If you’re not inclined to do so, then you can’t rise above what a powerful elite tells you to think, say, and do.

(For the sake of simplicity we’re leaving out the fact that the Bible does involve proper, even scholarly interpretation and reasoning)

Watts didn’t outright express a disdain for wide-eyed, trusting children, the poorly educated, and the mentally challenged, but that’s what his attitude, of valuing smarts over faith, points to. Enlightenment was only available to those who saw truth as clever and evasive mystery. To claim truth as true was to be slave to one viewpoint.

Why would he take the Gospel as undiluted truth? How much more reasonable, it seemed to him, to doubt that the Holy Spirit, God Himself, could transmit truth to evangelists dozens of years after Christ’s death. Or rather, he never took such an idea seriously. It reeks too much of a Creator’s personal plans for each one of us.

What arrogance or carelessness one must have to assume one’s modern, Hinduized view is more instructive a lens to understand Jesus than the Jewish tradition in which He was raised!


Being the brilliant sage he was, Watts boasted of how Eastern thought put little stock in miracles. Similar to what I heard from Osho back when I read that stuff. To be sure, the Church doesn’t treat miracles as evidence, but rather as signs to those with eyes to see, that God does reveal Himself to us personally. Faith remains the basis of faith.

But actually, in spite of Watts’ lip service about miracles being possible, his spirituality was so scientized that any miraculous phenomenon was to be explained away by scientific principles merely undiscovered in our time. Hence his claimed indifference. If he took such claims at face value, then he would admit to not believing in miracles.

Into the mystery

Watts’ denial of reality and embracing of Eastern unrealities (that is, doctrines that don’t have the fullness of truth in the person Jesus) led him to think that he had seen through the mirage of Christianity, with its sin and salvation and Heaven.

It really does boil down to faith. Is Jesus Who He says He is, and capable of spreading His truth in as seemingly trivial a way as a book? Or do you have to be special, charismatic, eloquent, etc. as Watts was, to know God?
How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ my story of conversion from the faithlessness of Eastern and Western philosophies, is on Amazon.

Did Nietzsche go to Hell?


But let me explain why I don’t think so.

Friedrich Nietzsche is probably most known for saying “God is dead,” although Fyodor Dostoevsky said the same thing decades earlier. He wasn’t saying that God doesn’t exist — although he did think that — nor was he saying that God is a figment of our imagination — though he also thought that — but rather that the meaning of God in our lives has been lost, as compared to religious people in ancient times. His solution is a return to the Greeks, who aspired to live well and die well, in their not knowing anything better.

This ‘anything better’ is Christ. Even the Greek language, informed as it is by Plato and Aristotle, was enslaved by Christ to be the language of the Gospel, just one display of how Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Jesus-less truth

Nietzsche has many ideas that when freed of their materialistic bars, allow for openness to real spiritual experience. A big problem though is that being spiritual is not good enough. As Peter Kreeft likes to point out, even the devil is a fully spiritual being. What we want is spiritual development or spiritual goodness. Because there is spiritual badness and it’s associated with much that is wrong in this world.

Let’s look at Nietzsche’s pronouncement of loving fate. ‘Amor fati’ is really just a distorted version of trusting in the will of God, where instead one places trust in whatever it is that dictates our destiny, even if this isn’t acknowledged as God.

Nietzsche is like a toddler who refuses to try new food, judging it to be yucky based on appearances. And when they finally try it and find out how delicious it is, they admit that it’s yummy, but only “a little.”

That’s how Nietzsche rejects the unseen Christ’s message of salvation. Nietzsche may have referred to himself as the antichrist, but as a child of God he couldn’t help but aspire for His truth in some way; just not the way.


When it comes to the study of knowing, Nietzsche takes on after Immanuel Kant a good deal, of being skeptical of knowing anything at all, but Nietzsche has the advantage of writing after Kant, and so gets to be skeptical of Kant as well. He criticized Kantian categorizing in favor of a more outward-inward experience of spirit.

In spite of such skepticism over science’s knowledge claims, Nietzsche couldn’t accept Jesus or even a more generalized concept of God, since Nietzsche himself is stuck in the materialism he rails against. When he reduces Saint Teresa of Avila’s interior castle to be a matter of sexual ecstasy, you know Nietzsche himself is trapped in his dungeon of categories.

Nietzsche doesn’t have all the answers

Nietzsche prefers Buddhism to Christianity, and sure enough for the reasons why Buddhism is regarded as more a psychology than a faith, a science more than the provider of a supernaturally true experience for its adherents.

If we regard Nietzsche’s work solely for their psychological explorations and thought experiments, we have a lot to learn about our being human. But we’re not just the animals he portrays himself and us to be.

I wanna know why he didn’t go to Hell, not an exposition of his philosophy! We have Wikipedia you know

So why didn’t Nietzsche go to Hell even after spending his last two lucid decades at war, mostly in his head, with Christianity? We could think of the millions of people whom he turned away from the faith by the sheer force of his writings, which if you’re not protected by the truth that is Jesus, convinces you, “You’re stupid and weak for believing in that crap.” How could he escape God’s divine justice?

My answer would be, simply, grace. People who loved Nietzsche prayed for him, and this began before he was even conceived. Born from a line of pastors, I’m sure his ancestors prayed for the salvation of their children’s children’s children, if not of the whole world.

There is much folly brought on by Nietzsche’s ideas, however ill-represented these were by his fans. But I also believe God’s goodness could very well have triumphed over his lack of trust. I believe Nietzsche’s insanity for the last 11 years of his life could be considered purgative, God’s way of saying, “Enough already, this is what your lifelong suffering actually means.”

Insanity as compassion

In his autobiography ‘Ecce homo,’ Nietzsche claimed gratitude for his ill health, in that it helped him develop his ideas and style so as to tell things as they were, or rather, as he saw them to be. He opposed comfort as a goal or desired endpoint in life, echoing Christ’s call for us to take up our crosses. Rather than following our Lord, however, Nietzsche felt it better to say, “Thus I willed it!” and other things that puffed up his self-importance.

Rendered helpless by the disease that ate at his brain, Nietzsche had no will of his own, but this may have been what was needed to elicit the pity, and the prayers, of those whom he encountered. In this sense, the insanity was God’s mercy. Nietzsche, critic of pity, would have otherwise driven away his well-wishers.

Jesus’ second coming should be interesting. We will get to see who did get to Heaven, among whom would be the most unlikely characters such as this miserable man, who fashioned himself God’s ecstatic archenemy.

If you liked this rambling, you might appreciate ‘How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ where I discuss my recent conversion after a long time away from the Church.