AN atheist in principle is one who denies the existence of God and

consequently of all revealed truth. How, in practice, a man endowed

with reason and a conscience can do this, is one of the unexplained

mysteries of life. Christian philosophers refuse to admit that an

atheist can exist in the flesh. They claim that his denial is fathered

by his desire and wish, that at most he only doubts, and while

professing atheism,
he is simply an agnostic.

An agnostic does not know whether God exists or not--and cares less. He

does not affirm, neither does he deny. All arguments for and against

are either insufficient or equally plausible, and they fail to lodge

conviction in his mind of minds. Elevated upon this pedestal of wisdom,

he pretends to dismiss all further consideration of the First Cause.

But he does no such thing, for he lives as though God did not exist.

Why not live as though He did exist! From a rational point of view, he

is a bigger fool than his atheistic brother, for if certainty is

impossible, prudence suggests that the surer course be taken. On one

hand, there is all to gain; on the other, all to lose. The choice he

makes smacks of convenience rather than of logic or common sense.

No one may be accused of genuine, or as we call it--formal--heresy,

unless he persistently refuses to believe all the truths by God

revealed. Heresy supposes error, culpable error, stubborn and

pertinacious error. A person may hold error in good faith, and be

disposed as to relinquish it on being convinced of the truth. To all

exterior appearances, he may differ in nothing from a formal heretic,

and he passes for a heretic. In fact, and before God, he belongs to the

Church, to the soul of the Church; he will be saved if in spite of his

unconscious error he lives well. He is known as a material heretic.

An infidel is an unbaptized person, whose faith, even if he does

believe in God, is not supernatural, but purely natural. He is an

infidel whether he is found in darkest Africa or in the midst of this

Christian commonwealth, and in this latter place there are more

infidels than most people imagine. A decadent Protestantism rejects the

necessity of baptism, thereby ceasing to be Christian, and in its trail

infidelity thrives and spreads, disguised, 'tis true, but nevertheless

genuine infidelity. It is baptism that makes faith possible, for faith

is a gift of God.

An apostate is one who, having once believed, ceases to believe. All

heretics and infidels are not apostates, although they may be in

themselves or in their ancestors. One may apostatize to heresy by

rejecting the Church, or to infidelity by rejecting all revelation; a

Protestant may thus become an apostate from faith as well as a

Catholic. This going back on the Almighty--for that is what apostasy

is,--is, of all misfortunes the worst that can befall man. There may be

excuses, mitigating circumstances, for our greatest sins, but here it

is useless to seek for any. God gives faith. It is lost only through

our own fault. God abandons them that abandon Him. Apostasy is the most

patent case of spiritual suicide, and the apostate carries branded on

his forehead the mark of reprobation. A miracle may save him, but

nothing short of a miracle can do it, and who has a right to expect it?

God is good, but God is also just.

It is not necessary to pose as an apostate before the public. One may

be a renegade at heart without betraying himself, by refusing his inner

assent to a dogma of faith, by wilfully doubting and allowing such

doubts to grow upon him and form convictions.

People sometimes say things that would brand them as apostates if they

meant what they said. This or that one, in the midst of an orgy of sin,

or after long practical irreligion, in order to strangle remorse that

arises at an inopportune moment, may seem to form a judgment of

apostasy. This is treading on exceedingly thin glass. But it is not

always properly defection from faith. Apostasy kills faith as surely as

a knife plunged into the heart kills life.

A schismatic does not directly err in matters of faith, but rejects the

discipline of the Church and refuses to submit to her authority. He

believes all that is taught, but puts himself without the pale of the

Church by his insubordination. Schism is a grievous sin, but does not

necessarily destroy faith.

The source of all this unbelief is, of course, in the proud mind and

sensual heart of man. It takes form exteriorly in an interminable

series of "isms" that have the merit of appealing to the weaknesses of

man. They all mean the same thing in the end, and are only forms of

paganism. Rationalism and Materialism are the most frequently used

terms. One stands on reason alone, the other, on matter, and both have

declared war to the knife on the Supernatural. They tell us that these

are new brooms destined to sweep clean the universe, new lamps intended

to dissipate the clouds of ignorance and superstition and to purify

with their light the atmosphere of the world. But, truth to tell, these

brooms have been stirring up dust from the gutters of passion and sin,

and these lamps have been offending men's nostrils by their smoky

stench ever since man knew himself. And they shall continue to do

service in the same cause as long as human nature remains what it is.

But Christ did not bring His faith on earth to be destroyed by the

lilliputian efforts of man.