“How do you feel about Zeus? That is how I feel about your God.” This is one of the rhetorical questions that I presented in one of my apologetics talks to a group of homeschool students recently. The topic of the class was on contemporary forms of popular atheism and the goal was to expose these students to the arguments and claims of these atheists so that we could then proceed to examine what was lacking in these arguments. In the world that these students have grown up in religion is typically seen as a remnant of a bygone age of darkness and superstition. It is seen as a social phenomenon that sadly needs to be tolerated, lest we cause a greater evil by removing it; something that ultimately needs to be overcome if humanity is really going to achieve lasting progress. Members of the millennial generation, which consists of people born after the late 1980s, are exposed to this kind of thinking and tend to judge Catholic Christianity as some outdated relic of the past. Millennials are moved, in part due to the presence of religious fanaticism abroad and ignorance at home, into forms of atheism that stress the scientific method as the sole or most privileged path to truth. As a result they are led into skepticism regarding anything that could be considered supernatural or any kind of a God. It is timely then to talk to young people about atheism.
Today Holy Mother Church asks her children to perform a seemingly impossible task. She doesn’t just ask her children to hold the line against this flood of criticism, amidst genuine difficulties for faith and theology from current events. Rather she calls us to embark on the path of the New Evangelization which is to bring the Gospel again to a world which, at least in the West, has drifted away from this Gospel or even explicitly denounced it. Part of the effort of the New Evangelization needs to involve a critique of the surrounding culture through reason enlightened by faith and especially to give an explanation as to why Catholic Christianity is in harmony with reason.
An initial prelude to this cultural critique involves presenting Christianity to the world anew in explaining again what Catholic Christians mean by God and belief in God. It may seem remarkable but in the Christian West and even in Christian theology there has been an obscuring of the idea of God. Catholic Christians have always professed faith in the true God, but in many places the true God has been replaced with an idol – the creator has been replaced with a creature. Reminding the world again what God is according to the faith of the Church is a very urgent task. When during Mass on Sunday we sing “Credo in unum Deum” – “I believe in one God” – Catholics today should ask themselves “what do we mean by this?”. This was a central theme in my talk on atheism to the homeschool students. As every one of the atheists today like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, do not correctly understand what we mean by God. The followers of contemporary atheism, apart perhaps from some atheists in academia, who do actually know their material to some extent, think that Catholics say that God is just a super-powerful being in the world. He is the highest being, the supreme being, who created all things, observes all things, and controls all things. So these atheists, believing they are very clever, ask rhetorically “How do you feel about Zeus?” to which they respond “This is how I feel about your God.” The implication is that they just go one god further. These atheists say that Christians reject all the Greek gods, the Norse gods, the gods of Hinduism but accept the Jewish God. Why not just reject the final God? What reason do we have to believe in the Jewish God any more than we have to believe in Zeus, other than perhaps the fluke that you happen to be in a family that taught you about the Jewish God and not Zeus? If you were living in India you would feel much different and worship the gods of Hinduism.
The criticism of these atheists may apply to some forms of Christianity, but all their criticisms reflect a profound misunderstanding of what it means when Catholics say “I believe in one God” every Sunday. Catholics do not believe that God is the highest being nor for that matter a supreme being, nor do they believe that a highest being created all things, observes all things and controls all things. To the average person this would seem to be a shocking statement – how could you say that God is not a supreme being, not the highest being, and not a being? Is this not saying that God is weak, lowly, and not existent? Is this not blasphemy and a profession of atheism? Yet this is exactly a symptom of our having an obscured idea of God. A God which is a being, the supreme instance of being, that is, some supreme entity, would simply not be a god but rather an idol. Following Saint Thomas Aquinas, we don’t believe that God is a being or an entity, rather believe that God is subsistent Being itself, not some being in the world, not some highest entity. As we can look around us and say of a particular object “this has being, this exists”. I am typing on my laptop for example and I can say “the laptop exists, it is be-ing”. This “being” that we find in created things we can say is not found in God. Neither does God fall under a genus like humans fall under the genus “animal” or a hammer falls under the genus “tool” or my car falls under the genus “vehicle”. God cannot be put in a category. Rather God is the Source of all categories; God is the cause of being in the world. The result is that, in the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (13th century): “between creator and creature there can be noted no similarity so great that a greater dissimilarity cannot be seen between them.” God transcends the world so profoundly that he can only be seen to be similar to the world in a certain respect, that is, as cause is seen in the effect. For example, if I saw an ancient cave painting I would instantly know that the painter was not just any animal but a rational animal. As I would see the effect of his intelligence in the fact that the structure and shapes are meant to convey certain abstract knowledge that non-rational animals are not capable of. In this case I can see the likeness of the cause in the effect – in the effect I see the presence of a painter who is rational – a painter that has a mind and wishes to express his mind. Analogously, we can see the likeness of God in created realities and we can be lead through creation to a contemplation of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) Yet in all of these likenesses we can always find greater ways that God is unlike the created world. The result is that despite the fact that we can know God through creation, He is not a being in the world, but rather the Source of the world.
Due to this profound misunderstanding, most atheists that are popular today commit a category error when they try to criticize faith in God as it is found among Catholics. This means in this case that these atheists treat God like a creature rather than the Lord and creator of creatures. God is not like any of the pagan gods but rather is the reason why anything exists at all. The reason we believe in God is not because we have empirical evidence for His existence; empirical evidence in this case is impossible in principle because God cannot be subject to empirical observation as He is not a being in the world that could be an object for our senses. Rather we believe in God because nothing in the world taken individually or in totality contains in itself the reason for its existence and so this existence, here and now, moment to moment, needs to come from something that does exist in virtue of what it is. If this were not true then nothing would currently exist. A boat for example floating on the water is prevented from crashing into the sea floor due to the water holding it up. Yet the fact that water allows objects to float on it is a result of its molecular composition. Yet this molecular composition is dependent on its atomic composition. Yet again this atomic composition is dependent on its subatomic composition. Even if we eventually recede back to some ultimate fundamental particle, this won’t exist in virtue of what it is, even if it is the basic building block of all of matter. Yet take one of the items out of the chain that are present in the here and now, the result will be that boat will fly down and hit the sea floor. There needs to be something sustaining the floating of the boat in existence here and now. This is the case for all things in the universe, and since more perfect does not come from less perfect, God is going to possess all of these perfections of created things in a higher way. That is, God needs to contain in some respect the perfections that we find in the world because you cannot provide what you don’t have. If I stomped my foot on the ground, I wouldn’t cause an earthquake. The reason obviously is that as a mere man I do not have the necessary perfection of strength to be able to move tectonic plates. Only the powerful forces of the earth can do that. Likewise, all of the perfections of the universe can only be caused by something that has the necessary perfection to provide them. We are forced to conclude therefore that God possesses all goodness, intelligence, love, beauty more than the entities in this world do.
The task of explaining the Church’s teaching about the nature of God is difficult because it is not a simple and naive notion but rather one of exceptional philosophical depth. It is important however that we continue to grapple with the question of what it means to believe in God as there are grave misunderstandings of the Church’s faith in our society today and it results in Catholic Christianity being ridiculed and dismissed over our supposed superstition and backwardness for maintaining a belief in a “childish fancy”. Yet when we come to terms with what the Church professes to believe, we come to see the richness and splendor of the Catholic understanding of God that is far from a fancy but rather the locus of the highest wisdom.
 I am thinking specifically of forms of Christianity that hold a view of God that is incompatible with divine simplicity and the transcendence classically ascribed to God. These trends have also made a mark on Catholic theology to a more or less degree.
 See especially: R. Dawkins, The God Delusion (pp. 31, 50, 113-114)
 An atheist would rightly object at this point and say that even if we established the existence of a God, it would not follow that this God is the God of Christianity or any deity that belongs to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Establishing the “Christian God” or “Jewish God” as existing, as presented in Divine Revelation, is the proper task of the science of apologetics which has the task of establishing the credibility of divine revelation and by consequence the understanding of God as presented in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Adequately treating this topic would take us outside of the scope of this article. However, lest it be thought that the conclusions in this article do not follow, we can say that we treat in this article God insofar as He is a preamble to faith. (De veritate, q. 10, a. 12, ad s. c. 5) That is, we treat God as can be known by our own rational powers through philosophical speculation. What makes up the “Christian God”, that is, God understood by Christianity, is this God that we can know through our own rational powers plus God as revealed to us – the revelation of God as he exceeds our natural powers such as the revelation of God as triune or having a plan of salvation. So this article of ours does establish the existence of the “Christian God” insofar as public revelation does not substitute some different reality for this God we have come to as the terminus of our speculation, but it does not establish the Christian God as reveled.
To summarize our point we can say that in response to the atheist who says that we have established the existence of a divine being but not the divine being of the Christian religion: we distinguish between 1). the “Christian God” insofar as He is known by reason and is a preamble of faith and 2). the “Christian God” insofar as this God is revealed in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Thus we concede to the atheist that we have not established 2). in this article but we have established 1). and this is sufficient for our purposes. It is the position of the atheist that we do not know if thesis 1). is true or, perhaps more strongly, we know that thesis 1). is probably false. (Dawkins). So in this article, in a rudimentary form, we have attempted to show the truth of thesis 1) and consequently the falsity of the atheist position.
 Sent. 18.104.22.168.ad 4
 Although we remove from God being as it is found in creatures, Saint Thomas teaches, in ST Ia.13.11, that “HE WHO IS” is the most proper name of God. Yet even this name is predicated of God analogically and not univocally or equivocally as Saint Thomas instructs us in ST Ia.13.5.
 ST Ia.3.5
 It is not here merely assumed that a fundamental particle cannot exist in virtue of itself. Rather what exists in virtue of itself has no potentiality in it and therefore would not be able to come into composition with anything as part of some greater whole as a fundamental particle certainly would. The falsity of a fundamental particle existing in virtue of itself can be established by indirect proof. See: ST Ia.3.8