I have some extremely exciting news that I've been keeping under wraps for some time, and this morning it finally came out. At 9:00am ET, I launched StrangeNotions.com, a major evangelistic project which was two years in the making.
Strange Notions is designed to be the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. One implicit goal is to bring non-Catholics to faith, especially followers of the so-called New Atheism. As a 'digital Areopagus', the site includes intelligent articles, compelling video, and rich discussion throughout its comment boxes.
(If you can't see the video above, click here.)
Strange Notions gets its name from St. Paul's speech at the Areopagus in Acts 17:16-34. There he proclaimed the Resurrection to the intellectual elite of the ancient world, who responded by saying, "you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean." StrangeNotions.com helps those asking the same thing today. Open-minded atheists will encounter reasonable arguments for God and his Church, maybe for the first time in their lives, and like St. Paul's listeners they’ll leave intrigued by these strange notions.
I've gathered several top Catholic minds to contribute to the site. Right now we have over 30 on board, including Dr. Peter Kreeft, Dr. Edward Feser, Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. Robert Spitzer, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, Dr. Kevin Vost, Christopher West, Jimmy Akin, Jennifer Fulwiler, Marc Barnes, Leah Libresco, Stacy Trascanos, Mark Shea, Carl Olson, and many more. The project has also received several great endorsements including these:
"Brandon Vogt is at the cutting edge of using the Internet and social media as a tool for evangelization...I believe that his latest endeavor, StrangeNotions.com, is an excellent example.”
— Bishop Christopher Coyne, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
"Brandon Vogt brings his energy, enthusiasm, and prodigious intellectual gifts to the Catholic conversation and demonstrates how social media can be used effectively to advance the mission of the Gospel."
— Fr. Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries
This site is timely for several reasons:
- On May 12 the Catholic Church around the world will celebrate World Communications Day. Pope Benedict XVI, shortly before he stepped down, composed this year's official message which he titled, "Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith: New Spaces for Evangelization." This project embodies that theme as it uses social networks as "new spaces" to evangelize.
- Over the last ten years, the number of self-identified atheists in America has increased 500%. They're one of the country's fastest growing religious groups yet almost no Catholics engage them. Strange Notions is a frontier project in this needed effort.
- In the midst of the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization, this is a creative example of using "new ardor, new methods, and new expressions" to evangelize.
Any way that you could cover the site, either with a blog post, an interview, or by sharing the video trailer would be a huge help.
If you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please tell me what you think in the comment boxes!
Perhaps no issue is more nerve-wracking today than "same-sex marriage." It’s a magnet for controversy and evokes strong reactions from those on either side of the debate. But underneath the fiery passion and rhetoric, we must evaluate the real arguments.
Thus, Our Sunday Visitor invited me to write a special section for their newsweekly examining the ten most common arguments for "same-sex marriage." You've likely heard many of these from friends, family members, co-workers, and commenters around the Internet. The arguments I cover include:
- Marriage has evolved throughout history, so it can change again.
- "Same-sex marriage" is primarily about equality.
- Everyone has the right to marry whomever he or she loves.
- "Same-sex marriage" won’t affect you, so what’s the big deal?
- "Same-sex marriage" will not lead to other redefinitions.
- If same-sex couples can’t marry because they can’t reproduce, why can infertile couples marry?
- Children will not be affected since there is no difference between same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents.
- Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on bigotry, homophobia, and religious hatred.
- The struggle for "same-sex marriage" is just like the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
- "Same-sex marriage is inevitable," so we should "stand on the right side of history."
It's important to note that the article concerns civil marriage—marriage as defined and promoted by the state. It doesn’t deal with the Church’s sacramental understanding, although the two often overlap. Second, the responses to the arguments are emphatically nonreligious. They don’t depend on any sacred text or divine revelation. They’re based on reason, philosophy, biology and history. Third, the article only refutes arguments in favor of "same-sex marriage." It doesn’t touch upon the many positive arguments supporting traditional marriage.
Also, the article is not an attack on people with same-sex attractions. All people, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Instead, the article is a rational look at whether we should redefine civil marriage, an institution that touches all people and cultures.
In addition to the piece above, I also contributed an introductory article for the newsweekly and an interview with Princeton professor Robert George. Check them out below:
In this I explain how Chick-Fil-A and Facebook led me to write about such a volatile subject:
If you simply accept marriage today as between one man and one woman, or disagree with the idea of "same-sex marriage" even for legitimate reasons, you’re unequivocally branded a hateful bigot. This emotionally charged atmosphere makes rational discussion nearly impossible. Political slogans, sound-bites, tribal divisions, and name-calling drown out real arguments and leave little room for charity and clear-thinking....
More than ever Catholics need simple, rational, non-religious reasons to reinforce their arguments against "same-sex marriage."
Robert George is one of my great intellectual heroes so I was excited to talk with him about marriage. George is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University.
He's also an expert on marital law and a strong advocate of traditional marriage. Along with Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson, George co-authored a new book titled, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, paperback, ). It’s based on their renowned academic paper on the same topic that appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Professor George and I spoke about the book, his work, and the main arguments surrounding same-sex marriage.
In a sidebar for the main article I also recommend three helpful books on the topic of "same-sex marriage":
- Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue by William May (Emmaus Road, 2012)
- One Man, One Woman: A Catholic’s Guide to Defending Marriage by Dale O’Leary (Sophia Institute Press, 2012)
- What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Robert George, Ryan T. Anderson, Sherif Girgis (Encounter, 2007)
What are the most common arguments you've heard for "same-sex marriage"?
With his usual poignancy and depth, Fr. Barron reflects on the tragic Newtown shootings in light of the Cross:
"For Christians, [the problem of suffering] has a particular texture because we don't offer an abstract solution. We don't focus on a philosophical account of how to reconcile God and evil. We don't do that so much.
We hold up the Cross. We hold up evil in all of its intensity and power. But we do so with a peace beyond all understanding because we know the love of God is more powerful than anything that is in the world.
That's the Christian response to Newtown and all the other tragedies down through history. We're in touch with a God who doesn't eliminate evil from the world—that will come at the end of time—but one who is greater than and more powerful than anything that's in the world."
Our three-year old son, Isaiah, shows off his catechesis.
And if you missed it before, here's him saying Mass in the most viral piece of content ever to emerge from the Vogt household. I wrote a book on new media and publish blog posts every day, yet his two-minute video gets more hits than anything I've ever produced. Go figure!