On Saturday, August 20, Catholic writer and teacher Peter Kreeft will be on a whirlwind speaking tour of Northern California.

Dr. Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, has authored 75 books on subjects as diverse as theology, philosophy, the Culture War, the works of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Pascal, and surfing. At 9:30 am, Dr. Kreeft will speak at St. Apollinaris Church in Napa, as part of their “Faith and Culture” series. Dr. Kreeft will then attend the Santa Rosa Religious Education Congress, the theme of which will be “Jesus is the Face of the Father’s Mercy.” Kreeft’s subject will be “Two kinds of Mercy: With and Without Truth.” Other congress speakers include radio host Jesse Romero; Mark Brumley, President of Ignatius Press; and Dr. Margaret Turek, Director of Faith Formation and Evangelization for the Diocese of Oakland. The keynote speaker will be Bishop Robert Vasa, of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Kreeft will close a busy day with a 7:00 pm talk at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea parish, where his subject will be “Answering Atheism.”

CalCatholic had a chance to ask Dr. Kreeft a few questions.

CalCatholic:  We hear the phrase “I’m spiritual, not religious” a lot. What do you see as being the roots of that attitude? And do you think spiritual experience is an inherent reality of human existence?

PK:  I do not know what ‘spiritual experience’ means. In one quite proper sense all human experience is spiritual because humans have spiritual souls. Only acts of the autonomic nervous system are non-spiritual. Choosing to swat a fly is an act of our spirit (of which the will is one power). In a second sense spiritual experience is very rare, if ‘spiritual’ means ‘not material.”  It means out-of-body-experiences, which is not, I think, what most people who use the term mean. A third sense might be mystical experiences, foretastes of Heaven. If that is meant, I think most claimants to that are deluded and rather proud.  Even most of the saints were not mystics. So what does it mean, especially when used by those who say they are ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religions’?  Theological, it is a heresy: Gnosticism. Psychologically, it is egotistic and narcissistic. For ‘religion’ means ‘relationship,’ i.e., with God.  Spirituality turns inward, religion turns outward.

CalCatholic:  Atheism is a large subject—or perhaps a large non-subject. What aspects will you be exploring?

PK:  What I shall do with atheism is to refute it.

CalCatholic:  On July 14 the Washington Post reported “More American voters than ever say they are not religious, making the religiously unaffiliated the nation’s biggest voting bloc by faith for the first time in a presidential election year.” What do you make of that, and what do you think it portends for the country?

PK:  If the Bible is not a liar on every page, the decline of religion in a nation as in an individual is the greatest of disasters.  If God exists, and deserves the name, He is to every human good what electricity is to an appliance, and religion is the plug. The decline in happiness, in morality, and in longevity is inevitable: religious death, or supernatural death, or spiritual death always leads to some kind of natural or cultural death. No nonreligious, anti-religious society has ever existed. One reason is that religion has always been the strongest ground for morality and no society can survive without morality, in fact without some kind of natural law morality, since the prevailing morality or our experts is not morality at all, only psychology. If this seems too apocalyptic, read the most prophetic book of modern times, Brave New World. It was written almost 100 years ago and is as up to date as tomorrow. We are nearly there.

For more information about Dr. Kreeft’s appearances:

St. Apollinaris Church is located at 3700 Lassen St, Napa. Telephone: 707-257-2555.

The Santa Rosa Religious Education Congress will be at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa. Contact Carmen Perez Aananson at dre@srdiocese.orgor (707) 566-3366. Registration is $20 if purchased before August 16, and $30 after.

Star of the Sea Parish is located at 4420 Geary Blvd, in San Francisco. For more information, click here. Tickets are $15 (children free) and may be purchased at the linked page.