I've given thousands of lectures around the country and have always made it a practice to allow for as many questions as possible. Here are the most interesting ones I've been asked, and the answers I gave. Here is Peter Kreeft's Introduction to his book "Ask Peter Kreeft" along with three sample questions and his answers.
I didn't choose that arrogant-sounding title; the publisher did. So blame the publisher.
But Sophia Institute Press is a great publisher because they are devoted to Sophia, which means "wisdom." The ancient Greek Sophists claimed to have wisdom; Socrates claimed only to be in love with it, so he called himself not a sophist but a philo-sophist, or philosopher, literally, a lover of wisdo
I say four cheers for Socrates!
Hardly ever have I heard a lecture (i.e., a monolog) that did not bore me. Hardly ever have I heard a Q & A (i.e., a dialog) that did. That is why Plato, the first and greatest writer of philosophy, wrote in dialogs. No one ever wrote philosophy better than Plato. Wouldn't you think that after 2,400 years, philosophers would learn at least to try to imitate him?
Christians claim to know the ultimate reason for the superiority of dialog over monolog: it is because dialog is one step closer to trialog, which is the nature of ultimate reality, i.e., the Trinity. Monolog is boring. That's why God must be more than one lonely, egotistic, boring divine Person. My favorite argument for the central and most distinctive tenet of Christianity, that Jesus is God in the flesh, is this: Jesus was the only person in history who never bored anyone who met Him. I think that is an even more impressive sign of His divinity than His miracles are.
I give a lot of lectures around the country, in universities and churches, usually to very engaged, thoughtful, curious audiences; and I always make as much time as possible for Q & A afterward.
Here are some of the most interesting questions I have been asked, and my answers. They are essentially the questions I got and the answers I gave in real Q & A sessions, though some of the answers are longer and more leisurely. Speaking is always more time conscious and "under the gun" than writing is. Sometimes I expanded my answers a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes not at all.
They are a mixed bag, as real questions from real people always are. All of them except one or two were asked in Q & A, but not usually word for word: I condensed most of the questions and expanded some of my answers. Some are profound, some silly; some tragic, some funny; some easy, some hard; some simple, some complex.
Enough. The best introductions are the shortest. (My favorite was "Heeeere's Johnny!")
What do you think is the
origin of religion? (pg. 61-63)
It's got to be a universal instinct, because religion is universal. Even atheists usually begin by being religious.
Some say it's fear.
I say it's gratitude.
Maybe fear is the origin of bad religion, unhappy religion, but gratitude is the origin of good religion, joyful religion. People become atheists as a reaction against unhappy religion, not joyful religion.
Gratitude is a primal instinct because we know that we are recipients. We are given millions of good things as gifts throughout life — things we did not plan or work for — but first of all, we are given life itself as a gift that we did not plan or work for or deserve. How could we deserve to be given it if we did not even exist before we had it?
You can say it was your parents, not God, who gave you that gift; but "piety," pietas, in ancient languages always means gratitude and honor to both God (or gods) and parents (and ancestors, extended parents). That's why atheists almost always lose respect and honor for their parents and ancestors at the same time they lose it for God. And that's why religion and family always flourish or decline together, both in history and in personal lifestyle. Religion leads you to have more children, and having children makes you more religious. Statistics prove that these two truths are not mere social, changeable stereotypes.
People believe many religions and many alternatives to religion. But atheists, agnostics, humanists, trans-humanists, Marxists, Buddhists, Taoists, Confucians, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Republicans, and even Democrats all have human nature, and therefore all have the capacity for (and not just the capacity for but the natural tendency toward) a cosmic, universal gratitude, a gratitude for everything good.
And good is everywhere. Everything has to have some good; evil cannot exist except as a parasite on a good, the perversion of a good. What do belly button lint, Jersey mosquitoes, lawyers, politicians, White Castle hamburgers, hemorrhoids, Studebakers, insurance agents, baby burps, and mimes have in common? They all contain hidden beauty.
The worst moment in the life of an atheist is not deep sorrow but deep joy and gratitude — gratitude for life, for existence, for everything — but for an atheist, there is no one to thank for that. It just happens.
The atheist has then only three choices:
- To suppress the gratitude, to call it a fake and an illusion (and that will turn him into a bitter cynic)
- To say that this gratitude is wise and good, even though there is no God to be grateful to — and that will turn him into a Camus, who, like his protagonist Dr. Rieux in The Plague, believed three logically incompatible things: that there is no God, that you can't be a saint without God, and that the meaning of life is to be a saint (full of love and gratitude)
- To reason that since part of being a saint is to feel that gratitude, therefore, to follow that pointing finger of gratitude is to move out of yourself to something like God
Why are there more women
than men in church? (pg. 65-66)
Because women are wiser than men.
Also because women have more free time than men do. All they have to do is to be their children's nurses, doctors, lawyers, pastors, psychologists, scientists, artists, authors, and a mere million other things, twenty-four hours a day, while men are busy doing one really, really important thing, such as doing the math for an insurance company or designing a new meaningless word for a new car, for seven hours a day.
Because, although women are oversensitive, hysterical, and crazy, men are stupid, selfish, stubborn, arrogant jerks.
Seriously, women are more intuitive and receptive to the supernatural than men are. Prepubescent children are also more receptive to the supernatural than teenagers are. For instance, women and children much more frequently encounter angels than men do.
Women are different from men (1) biologically, in obvious ways, (2) psychologically, because the body and the psyche always leave strong ripples in each other, and (3) mentally, because their brains are different in at least fifty-one ways.
I dare to utter this heretical truth because I am not the president of Harvard University and will not be fired for saying that we perhaps ought to at least discuss the possibility that women freely choose, rather than are compelled, to enter the hard sciences less often than men because women are by nature different in some way from men in mind as well as in body. (Google "Larry Summers" for the unbelievable story.)
The obvious biological difference is that a woman receives a man into her body, not vice versa. To anyone whose mind goes beyond mathematics, there is an obvious analogy between receiving God and receiving a man. God is (metaphorically, and rightly, though not literally) "He" not because the image of God is not male and female but because to God all souls are feminine.
Women's psychology is geared to and good at relationships, at welcoming, and at communities ― at enclosing, like a womb. These are essential dimensions of religion. Men's psychology is geared toward hunting, fighting, and creating ― at penetrating, like a sword. These are natural dimensions of individualism and nonconformity. These are not culturally variable and created stereotypes but universal and natural cross-cultural archetypes. Our culture is the only one in history that denies them. But even in denying them, we admit them, in calling their demolition "transgressive."
Women's brains are more geared to mystical and religious experience than men's. They are more holistic and intuitive, rather than calculating and analytic.
Atheists argue against God more often than theists argue for Him. All religions entail faith.
Faith goes beyond reason and calculation. Faith that goes beyond reason and proof is deadly to hunting and fighting (and the scientific method) but essential to family stability, trust, and love.
You write about fighting the "culture wars."
Why are you countercultural? (pg. 241-242)
Because of the lies our popular culture tells us. Here are some of them:
- You are the most important person in the whole wide world.
- You have a right to happiness.
- The old idea that men and women are different in nature is "sexism."
- Whom you vote for is more important than who your friends are.
- Love is a feeling.
- The worst sin in the world is not being politically correct.
- The reason to go to college is to get a good job. Silence is boring.
- Nature is boring.
- Church is boring.
- Babies are boring.
- Motherhood is boring.
- Prayer is boring.
- Economics is not boring.
- Getting drunk is not boring.
- Humility is for suckers.
- You need a lot of "friends."
- Sex is for fun.
- Sons and daughters are "accidents."
- You can’t live without it.
- America is the hope for the rest of the world.
- America is hopelessly corrupt.
- Primitives are primitive.
- It’s a woman's right to kill her son or daughter in the womb. But not outside it.
- You can be whatever you want to be.
- Death is morbid.
- Technology makes us powerful.
- Be your own best friend.
- Truth is relative.
- Religion confines you; "spirituality" expands you.
Kreeft, Peter. "Ask Peter Kreeft: The 100 Most Interesting Questions He's Ever Been Asked." (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2019) 61-69.
Reprinted with permission of Sophia Institute Press.
Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He is the author of many books (over forty and counting) including: Ask Peter Kreeft: The 100 Most Interesting Questions He's Ever Been Asked, Ancient Philosophers, Medieval Philosophers, Modern Philosophers, Contemporary Philosophers, Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic, Doors in the Walls of the World: Signs of Transcendence in the Human Story, Forty Reasons I Am a Catholic, You Can Understand the Bible, Fundamentals of the Faith, The Journey: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims, Prayer: The Great Conversation: Straight Answers to Tough Questions About Prayer, Love Is Stronger Than Death, Philosophy 101 by Socrates: An Introduction to Philosophy Via Plato's Apology, A Pocket Guide to the Meaning of Life, Prayer for Beginners, and Before I Go: Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters. Peter Kreeft in on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.Copyright © 2019 Sophia Institute Press
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