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Dear Cardinal Pell Last update: April 2012

Introduction   The Psychology of Religion and the Psychology of Evolution
George Pell makes a cardinal error   My letter to Cardinal George Pell


Related articles:Deception: Why does God allow it? || Which comes first: Repent or Believe? || False warnings about False teachers || Born of the Spirit: Exploring the differences between spirit, soul, heart and mind


On April 10th, 2012, Cardinal George Pell, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, debated Dr Richard Dawkins, an vocal atheist activist. Some of what was said alarmed me. It was not so much what Dawkins said but what the Cardinal said that gravely concerned me. The video below, the article hereunder and my email to Cardinal Pell aims to address what I perceive to be grave errors in the Cardinal's teachings. His views, like Dawkins’, are not consistent with that of true Christian faith.

I regret that this article may offend well-meaning friends, colleagues and others loyal to the Catholic Church. But I need to serve what I believe to be what the Christian faith stands for above serving the sentiments and feelings of those around me (Romans 1:15-17). The video below reflects on some of the things that concerns me and aims to bring perspective, albeit limited, in these same areas. (Top)

Dear Cardinal Pell

The Psychology of Religion and the Psychology of Evolution

Of Sigmund Freud, a prominent 20th century neurologist / psycho-analyst, it is said that he “regarded the monotheistic God as an illusion based upon the infantile emotional need for a powerful, supernatural pater familias. He maintained that religion – once necessary to restrain man’s violent nature in the early stages of civilization – in modern times, can be set aside in favor of reason and science. “Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices” (1907) notes the likeness between faith (religious belief) and neurotic obsession.””

There are indeed interesting studies that link personality (dis)orders and religion but these fall outside the scope of this article. Nevertheless, it is perhaps Henri Bergson, a prominent French philosopher of the 20th century, whose observations are most accurate in describing the way people come to a decision about the existence of God: The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend, or as a popular musician states it: man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest. The key word in Bergson’s statement is “prepared”, which denotes willingness or unwillingness on the part of the individual.

This, of course, is consistent with the Bible which states that all people know that there is a God but not all will (choose to) believe. People see in the Bible and in Science what they are prepared to see. That said, I do not believe the Bible and Science are neccessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. I understand that the public debate pitches them at opposite ends, but that is not neccessarily my view. Whilst a belief in evolution does not automatically constitute unbelief in God it most often does. When a person relies more heavily on the word of Darwin or another academic than on the word of God, then it can safely be said that such a person is a non-theist or unbeliever. Remember, the word "faith" signals a reliance on, trust in an adherence to whatever is believed in. What it is not is a mere acknowledgment of something to be "true" or "somewhat true".

I do not like to get involved in Creation vs. Evolution debates because both parties seem to work on partial, disputable ‘facts’ prepared by scientists whose judgments are often (not always) colored by things such as idiology, funding for research, academic acclaim, idealism and recognition amongst peers. Scientists from other fields of study may come across ‘facts’ presented by their peers and accept them merely on face value simply on the basis of their own belief system (it validates the same) or the idea that the said 'facts' are "facts of Science, not myth of fairytales" (as if everything about faith is 'fuzzy, illogical or mystical). Such 'facts' may even be accepted merely on the good reputation which the scientist enjoys ("s/he is just a brilliant woman/man. I don't believe that they can be wrong").

And so is born a who’s-side-are-you-on scenario between believers and unbelievers. The unbelieving academics, like believers, "see only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”, to quote Bergson.

There can be no reasonable end to this debate unless God is either proved to exist or proved not to exist. Providing evidence is not the same as offering proof. Evidence tells a part of the story. Proof offers a complete explanation. All of what we interpret at present in terms of the existence of God is circumstantial evidence.

George Pell makes a cardinal error

But when a friend – essentially a non-believer – inquired from me about my thoughts around a recent debate between the world famous Dr. Richard Dawkins, an atheist activist Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and Cardinal George Pell, Head of the Catholic Church in Australia, I opted to view the debate and consider it for what it is worth.

I was alarmed at the doctrine the Cardinal propagated. Perhaps less of an issue for most people, in my view, his teachings are gravely erroneous and deeply disturbing, particularly in the light of him being regarded as "an authority" and having communicated 'truths' to a lesser informed audience about the irrelevance of having true faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the mediator of our broken relationship with the Father. You can watch the parts of the debate on YouTube.

Following the debate I wrote to the Cardinal to express my concerns and to ask him to help me understand how his views can be reconciled with what is written in the Bible - the core of he Christian faith. Being regarded as a prominent ‘representative of Christianity’ in Australia I thought his views misrepresented the Faith and likely created a false sense of comfort amongst many unsuspecting viewers who watched the debate on Resurrection Sunday 2012.

I have not had a response from the Cardinal or his office since my email, hence this article and hence the video above.

As such, I have decided to publish my email to him and to point to flaws in his teachings. No doubt, most Catholics will view my actions as ‘arrogant’ and out of line because 'who dares to challenge the ‘office of God’s representative on earth?' Let me suggest, however, that it is not me who is challenging the Cardinal but the Cardinal who is challenging God's Word instead. Bear in mind also that I did give the Cardinal an opportunity to respond and I did notify him of my intended actions.

Decide for yourself - Jesus said, ‘don’t judge a man on who he says he is – judge him on what he does’: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 17:14-20):


My letter to Cardinal George Pell

Dear Cardinal Pell,

I am not a Catholic. Though I once considered Catholicism as a system of faith I no longer do. I am a Christian, however.

I have written this email to congratulate you on some of your remarks during the Dawkins debate on the 9th of April ‘12. I enjoyed the fact that you, to a greater degree than Dawkins apparently, had read and seemingly understood Krauss’s book and the assertions about the Big Bang made therein. Moreover, you seemed to know more about Darwin’s theism than Dawkins does himself. I particularly liked your comment that Dawkins “dumbs down God and soups up nothing”. That, certainly, is true. Thank you for noting that publicly and unashamedly.

But sir, your debate with Richard Dawkins was also disturbing to me. I believe you missed valuable opportunities to educate an expectant audience. Of course you are free to read into the Bible what you would like to, but you, perhaps more than others, have an obligation to read all of what is written in the Bible when you convey the truth contained therein. Not having done that I believe you misrepresented what message the Bible conveys. Though you likely consider yourself far better educated in this area and though you represent an age-old institutional doctrine I believe it will be remiss of me not to point out some errors in your judgment:  

You claim that all will go to heaven, including atheists. The Apostle John contradicts this idea. Though he – John - says, God is love, he also says in the same epistle, “he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  Moreover, have you not read John 3:16? The precondition to not “perishing” is the act of faith. Further, have you not read John 3:18: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. It is clear that God is equally Love and Justice. It is our faith, or lack thereof, in His Son that communicates our choice concerning God’s sovereign judgment

We cannot dumb down God’s justice and soup up His love to suit our human preferences about whom we would like Him to be. God is Love and Justice at the same time. The Bible tells us that. Our human inability to understand these two characteristics of God co-existing in His dealings with human kind does not make Him any less Judge than the sovereign God He is.

As followers of Christ our obligation is to present all of who He is to the world, not just a part of who He is so as to avoid offense. The Apostle Paul helps us to understand in clear terms that God is expectant of all of mankind to repent and turn to Him. That includes atheists. It is not about our judgment of people but His judgment instead. Refer Acts 17:29-31, “since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead”. Shall we deny this message as true by claiming that “even atheists can go to heaven” and that there is no need to repent and turn to God? No. But sir, that is exactly what you have done.

On the question of suffering you noted that you do not know why we have suffering in this world. But sir, the Bible gives us the answer. We have suffering because of disobedience. And, we are having increasing levels of suffering because of increasing levels of disobedience: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).

Interestingly the Bible also tells us that God Himself sends calamity: “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.’” (Isaiah 45:7).That part of Scripture is no metaphor or story. It is Truth and it is written so that even the most simple minded can understand it. The reality is this: God is sovereign and we simply do not understand His ways: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Some things we do not understand about God. But that does not make Him less loving or less God. That just makes Him the Sovereign God that He is and it makes us the feeble human beings that we are. Importantly, suffering is the very reason Jesus came. By preaching repentance and faith towards God, He introduced the Kingdom of God (refer Mark 1:14-15), which we may enter despite our human circumstances. The Apostle Paul says that the Kingdom of God is not any human grouping or institution or movement but a condition of the heart, being “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:7). And it is the Kingdom of God that eases the plight of the poor (Matthew 6:19-34) because it is through “many tribulations” the we “enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22), which is unseen (Luke 17:21).

Dawkins talks about matter and anti-matter ‘canceling’ each other out to get ‘nothing’. You rightly addressed the issue of ‘defining nothing’. Whilst the discipline of physics may casually call the merger of matter and anti-matter “nothing”, in reality it is not nothing. Both matter and anti-matter comprise particles: “antimatter is composed of antiparticles in the same way that normal matter is composed of particles” (refer Wikipedia). Thus, what Dawkins needs to answer is where did the particles come from? And why?

I do not claim to know God better than anyone else. But, I do try to act on my obligation to encourage others towards truth, because, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ”. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). I consider your arguments noted above as not representing what is written in the Bible. Thus, not representative of the Christian faith. I believe they are false arguments.

If you can help me reconcile the points noted above with the Bible then I will be most appreciative. But, in the interest of unsuspecting would-be believers in Christ, without such enlightenment I will have no choice but to publicly voice my complaint against your assertions.  

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,



{I have since cleaned up the above email somewhat from spelling errors}


In hindsight I could have used better Biblical references. Cardinal Pell missed several important points in his national television appearance:

1) The reason why we have suffering today (as has been the case throughout all the ages) is because we live in a fallen world. Refer to where God said to Adam that he will surely die the very day he is disobedient. Yet he lived on to have children. The explanation is that Adam's spirit - that part of him that was intimately connected to God - died. It remained in existence but it was 'disconnected' from God, which meant that mankind became inherrently corrupt, and, in fact, wicked. Incidently, that why people need a renewed or "born again" spirit.

You see, when God created everything we know about, as is the case with the law of gravity and other laws, He also created the law of action and consequence. As such, there was a consequence to Adam's disobedience and turning from God. It was a law that God himself had instituted and which He was going to keep. Otherwise, He would not be a 'God of integrity'. Thus, the consequence of Adam's disobedience was that he was cut off in spirit from God and, in so doing, corruption entered the world from which we see selfishness, disease, hatred, etc. These are the things, in addition to living in a world where nature has a part to play in death and destruction (non-exitent before Adam's sin) that cause humans much suffering.

Whereas previously Man was only able to work in unison with God, now he was capable of disobedience on a grand scale. What we see in terms of inequality, suffering, disease, pain, onliness, mental disease and the like is the result of corruption - a corrosion of physical, mental, social, moral and ethical good - having entered into the world. And that is why Jesus Christ - the Son of God - needed to come to pay a great enough price so that mankind can be renewed again in spirit.

Read a related article on spiritual rebirth. Also, read a related article on repentance before faith.

2) On the question of the likelihood of an atheist or anti-theist receiving God's "eternal life" or "going to heaven" Cardinal Pell is quoted as saying 'there is no need to believe in God or in Jesus as long as a person is morally good [through works]'.

Moderator: "Can an atheist go to heaven?" Cardinal Pell: "Certainly!"

That is grave error an in sharp contradiction with Biblical truth, which says that unless a person repents (turns away from the world) and believes he is destined to damnation (John 3:18).

Denying that repentance and faith towards God is necessary to be reconciled with God is to deny that Jesus came for the propitiation of mankind's sins.

"The Gospel" is short for "the Gospel of the Kingdom of God" (refer Mark 1:14-15). Paul says that if any man preaches another gospel "let him be accursed". I pray that the Cardinal comes to repentance regarding this matter and corrects the wrongs perpetrated against unsuspecting men, women and children.

“Jesus said, peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).


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