Recently, the team at FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) interviewed me on their excellent blog. Read below as we discuss heroes, atheism, Pope Francis, evangelization, and more:
1. I thought about giving a brief description of you before the interview. I have plenty of flattering things to say, but I also wanted to let folks hear who you are from the horse’s mouth himself. Who is Brandon Vogt? Where did you come from? What do you do? What is your passion?
I suppose I can hardly do better than echo Pope Francis: Brandon Vogt is a sinner, saved by grace. But in addition, I’m a 27-year old husband and father of four, and I’m a convert to Catholicism (five years ago!). I work as the Content Director for Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, and our family lives in Orlando where I blog, write, and speak on evangelization and new media.
My passion is to spread the beauty and brilliance of Catholicism and to help people encounter Jesus Christ in a real and personal way.
2. Who do you look to for inspiration and best practices?
Oh boy, that’s a tough one. My heroes span the living and the dead:
- Pope Francis – He embodies the New Evangelization and has taught me to “lead with mercy” and to “heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”
- Ven. Fulton Sheen – Decades before the internet, he showed how to harness the power of the new media. I still drink deeply from his writings and talks.
- Pope Benedict XVI – He showed the world that Christianity is reasonable and helped me love the Lord not just with my heart, soul, and strength, but also my mind.
- Dr. Peter Kreeft – The wisest, wittiest, and most imaginative Catholic thinker today. He’s our generation’s C.S. Lewis.
- J.R.R. Tolkien – Perhaps the greatest evangelist of the twentieth century. Through The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, he subtly spread the Catholic worldview to millions of people, preempting the “new methods” and “new expressions” the New Evangelization calls for.
- C.S. Lewis – Hands down my favorite author. Whenever I research a particular topic, one of my first questions is, “What did Lewis say about that?” His non-fiction is remarkably clear and cogent, and his Narnian chronicles baptized my imagination.
3. I love your new website, StrangeNotions.com and highly recommend it to those in FOCUS. What caused you to create the site?
The fastest growing religious group in our country is the “nones”–those who don’t identify with any religious tradition. A large number of those “nones” still believe in God, and pray regularly, but many identify as atheist.
Also, in the last ten years self-identified atheism has increased 500% in America. Now, we’re talking about relatively small numbers–roughly 1% to 5%–but that’s still an incredible shift. Much of it can be attributed to the so-called “New Atheism”, a militant movement spearheaded by Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), neuroscientist Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation), philosopher Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), and the late essayist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great). These men and their evangelical atheism have swept up many people–especially young people.
It’s time we Catholics respond. So I created StrangeNotions.com. Strange Notions is now the central place of dialogue between Catholic and atheists.
The site’s name comes from a colorful story in the book of Acts. In chapter seventeen, we read about St. Paul landing at Athens, Greece. He stands among the pagan philosophers and announces Jesus, risen from the dead, which annoys most of the Athenian elite. But a few respond positively, saying “you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean” (Acts 17:20).
I designed StrangeNotions.com to mimic that first meeting of Christians and atheists, allowing both groups to discover intriguing “strange notions” on either side.
I’ve gathered the best-of-the-best Catholic intellects to contribute content including Dr. Peter Kreeft, Dr. Edward Feser, Fr. Robert Barron, Fr. Robert Spitzer, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, Dr. Janet Smith, Dr. Kevin Vost, Christopher West, Jimmy Akin, Jennifer Fulwiler, Marc Barnes, Leah Libresco, Stacy Trascanos, Mark Shea, Tim Staples, Carl Olson, and many more.
The hope is that this website becomes the definitive Catholic response to atheism, unveiling the best of our brilliant tradition.