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Dear Father Angelo,

I am writing to you because I feel the need to talk to someone like you about doubts and thoughts that I’ve been having throughout the years.

I am a man who grew up in a family of Catholic tradition. Although my family wasn’t composed of very practicing Catholics, I was baptized, I received the first Confession, Communion and Confirmation but over the years I then began to doubt the existence of God and I no longer believed in Him for some time but now I am gripped by the question of whether God and the soul exist or not.

I have started asking myself these questions during my high school years. I told myself that if the soul does not exist and men are made up only of cells formed by interconnected atoms, then what moves us humans is only the desire for material well-being and all our aspirations come from them (see Marx and others).

I could not bear a similar vision of myself and of mankind because it seems to me to be limiting, as well as depressing and animalistic, a similar vision of mankind, even if I cannot explain exactly the reason for my repulsion for such theories.

Furthermore, Ihave realized that without God man is in fact without any reliable hope.

Who can save the world from pain?

How could a man do that when he is barely able to live with his fellow men?

I believe that those who say the opposite do so to accuse their more realistic opponents of being “inhuman” as Carl Schmidt (author I studied at university) said.

But I have not found valid reasons to believe in God and in the soul without reservations. For this reason I thought of turning to those who believe in God so that perhaps they can make me aware of the reasons which I might not yet have considered.

I would be grateful to you Father Angelo Bellon if you could find the time and the way to answer me.

Best regards.

Answer from the priest

Dear friend,

1. Although with a little delay I have read your email which brings my attention to subjects that I have already touched, but it is definitely useful to present them again for new visitors or for those who have not noticed that there is a search engine on the home page of our site. 

You asked me two fundamental questions concerning two realities (God and the spirituality of the soul) which constitute the rational presuppositions of our faith. 

They are also called “the preambles of faith”.

I agree with your conclusion when you say: if man were linked only to matter, his desires should only be material. While in fact he also has spiritual desires and aspirations, such as that of knowing spiritual realities, as you are doing right now.

2. For the existence of the soul and for the demonstration of its spirituality and immortality, I’d like to share the central part of the answer published on our website on January 2, 2007.

Here it is:

“A double issue must be distinguished: the existence of the soul and the spirituality of the human soul.

1. We say that there is a spirit (a soul) wherever there is life. The difference between a living human body and a dead human body is just this: the living human body is animated, the dead one is not. 

The same thing must also be said for animals and plants. Wherever there is life, there is a soul. In fact, by soul we mean the vital principle. I could say that so far things are so simple, to the point that you don’t even have to prove them, but just look at them.

2. The biggest problem, however, consists in saying that the human soul is not only vegetative and sensitive as for plants and animals, but that it is spiritual. We start from this principle: every reality manifests itself through its work. Well, since plants show only vegetative activity (assimilation, growth, etc…) we can understand that their soul, their vital principle, is only vegetative. 

Instead, we see that animals, in addition to expressing a vegetative life, also manifest a sensitive life: they experience emotions, such as pain and pleasure, they feel, they see … This is why we say that the soul of animals is a sensitive soul. But human life is not only expressed in vegetating or experiencing emotions, but also in the spiritual life, such as in his culture, in thinking, in developing concepts, in inventing.

Man, in his activities, manifests a superiority and a transcendence over matter: he elaborates it, re-expresses it, recombines it.

To give a very trivial example: you have never seen an animal light a fire and cook. Man, on the other hand, does it. And this activity manifests a transcendence on matter, so that it takes possession of it, re-elaborates it, recombines it as he wishes.

You have never seen animals communicate through newspapers, which are ultimately ink-stained paper. But that ink is placed in such a way that that black becomes a combination of signs that allows men to communicate with each other.

Even the possibility of speaking manifests a transcendence on matter: animals limit themselves to emitting sounds and always in the same way. 

The human person calls things with different names: in Italian, in Latin, in Greek, in French, in German, in Chinese… Isn’t this also transcendence over matter? 

Men tell each other what they have done, their plans, their desires are revealed, they remember the works of their ancestors (just take a history book). 

This is an unthinkable activity among animals, which are only material and act based on instinct.

Unfortunately, men also tell lies. But have you ever seen animals telling lies? The possibility of thinking one thing and saying another also manifests superiority or transcendence over matter. 

And even just the possibility of thinking about spiritual realities (God, angels, demons, the immortal soul), regardless of their existence, doesn’t it show that there is something spiritual in man? 

In fact he could not perceive or even think about spiritual realities, if he himself were not in some part of himself spiritual. These are the reasons that led the ancient philosophers, such as Plato, to rationally recognize that the human soul is not only vegetative and sensitive, but is also spiritual.

He manifests it by his action, by his work. St. Augustine at the age of 18 (he was not yet baptized and much less converted) reading the works of Plato and Cicero’s Hortensius (two philosophers who lived before Christ) was rationally convinced of the spirituality and immortality of the human soul.

Then the intuition that leads from spirituality to immortality is very short: only what is organic dies, what is made up of parts. When the parts of an organism no longer cooperate for the good of the whole, it all falls apart, dies, and it is corrupted.

But what is spiritual is not material and therefore it is not even composed of parts that can decompose. The result is that what is spiritual is also immortal.

This truth, of a rational order, is then confirmed by faith.

3. Regarding the existence of God, there are several answers published on our site.

I’d like to share once again the one published on 12 September 2008:

“People of all times have questioned the existence of God. And even where there have been atheist regimes that have operated to eliminate any trace of religion, religion has come back more alive than before.

What does this mean? That the religious question is typical of human nature. Animals don’t ask themselves this question. Men do.

And they ask themselves: what is the meaning of life, towards what it is directed, where does it come from?

Diderot, the man of the French encyclopedia, said that it is enough to look at the eye and the flap of a butterfly’s wing to knock out any atheist.

The famous entomologist Fabre, taking an insect in his hand, said that there was no longer any need for someone to come to him to bring proof of the existence of God. It was all clear.

1. The first great proof of God’s existence is the perfection of nature, which manifests infinite wisdom. Think of the laws that govern the eye or wing of a butterfly, with those colors, with that powder that covers it, with the perfect framework that moves it without cramps or pain.

There is a wisdom contained in the wing of a butterfly that men never cease to discover. And what is said about a butterfly’s wing can be extended to any other reality. Think of the genesis and development of the human organism: first of the formation of the two gametes, and then of the emergence of the zygote (the first vital cell) and then of everything that derives from it according to a marvelous plan, which men can at most discover or reassemble (in the case of injuries or fractures), but cannot invent. Think of the various organs perfectly positioned and in continuous interdependence. Think for example of bones. In our body there are about two hundred and each one is indispensable!

Think about the possibility of talking: when a person talks, an infinity of tiny and perfect muscles are employed. 

Does not such perfect wisdom suppose a legislator at least as wise? Can matter by itself give itself such perfect laws? Take a piece of paper: ask that paper to give itself some laws … If you did that, you’ll be taken for a fool! And it wouldn’t be completely wrong!

2. Let us now pass from the organism of the living to the celestial cap: we contemplate a myriad of stars. At school they tell you that those stars are all in motion and that they are millions and millions of light years away from us (inconceivable figures) and each rotates according to an orbit that the stars did not decide themselves.

You will tell me there is the law of gravity, the balance between centrifugal and centripetal forces … All true.

But so much so that all this has been going on for millions and millions of light years (not just millions and millions of years, but light years). There has never been a generalized chaos. Everything continues according to the most perfect laws, like a clock that never goes off by a second. 

Animals don’t think about the stars in the sky. Men do and they have also discovered and developed an immense knowledge: astronomy.

It is not men who determine the paths of the stars: they can only discover them. Nor are the stars to determine their own paths. The mind sees in all this the hand of an artificer who certainly must have all the infinite wisdom contained in the things He has done. 

And to this Maker we give the name of God. Tell me: if you enter the classroom and you see a wonderful picture, can you say that it was done by itself? The colors were not made by themselves, nor by themselves were made the figures and the frame.

3. If we then turn to thinkers or philosophers you will see that they too have reflected a lot on this problem. And they came to understandable and acceptable conclusions. One of the conclusions is the following: man is a being capable of thinking and reflection. With it he becomes aware of his own contingency. By contingency we mean that he exists, 

but he may also not exist. And this is an obvious fact, which no one can question. But if we exist, knowing that we may not even exist, it means that we do not possess within ourselves the source of being (the reason for being), otherwise we would have given ourselves existence forever and we would keep it forever.

Therefore, if we exist, even though we do not have the reason for being in ourselves, it means that the source of our existence lies in another, who is different from us, in a being that is not contingent, but which possesses in itself the source of to be, has always and forever existed. 

And this being we call God. If this being did not exist, we would have to come to an absurd conclusion: there are many realities that have come to existence out of nothing. 

They have received and are receiving existence out of nothing.

4. So far, this is only human reasoning. They can conclude with certainty that God exists, that he is infinitely wise, that he is the most perfect Being, Lord and Creator of heaven and earth. Saint Augustine writes: “question the beauty of the earth, the sea, the rarefied and everywhere expanded air; question the beauty of the sky … question all these realities. All will answer you: look at us and see how beautiful we are.

Their beauty is like their hymn of praise. Now, who made these so beautiful but yet changing creatures but the one who is beautiful in an immutable way? ” (Sermones, 241,2). 

Sacred Scripture also reminds us of these conclusions that can be reached with the sole use of reason, without involving faith.

And it expresses it so vigorously that he concludes that whoever does not come to the knowledge of God is “without excuse”.

Saint Paul affirms that “For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them (to men); Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made”(Rom 1: 19-20).

And he says that those who do not come to the conclusion of God’s existence and declare themselves atheists “As a result, they have no excuse” (Rom 1:21).

Speaking to the inhabitants of Lystra Saint Paul says:

“We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, ‘who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.’ In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.”(Acts 14,15.17).

Even in the Old Testament we read:

“For all men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;

But either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.

Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them.

Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them realize how much more powerful is He who made them.

For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. (…). But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its LORD?” (Wis 13: 1-9).

Concluding that God exists is not primarily a fact of faith, but a fact of reason. Many came to this conclusion regardless of the Christian revelation.

Instead, help from God himself is needed to welcome his divine revelation, that is, to believe that he manifested himself in Christ. But I’ll tell you about this on the next occasion.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to remember rational truths that are so important to the life of every man and why it is not said that faith is a leap in the dark.

With the hope that you will be able to know Jesus Christ more and more and fill yourself with his grace, I assure you my prayers and I bless you.

Father Angelo