Emotion vs. Reason

RomeJim Manney shared with me an article by Matthew Warner in the National Catholic Register, “A Deeper Look at the Many Evangelicals Turning Catholic.” Warner makes the point that,

In my own experience, I’ve seen that more people who convert to Catholicism do so on account of their reason. Whereas those that leave the Church do so based on some emotion or negative experience associated with the Church.

When I ask an evangelical why they left the Church, the answer is almost always an emotion. Something made them feel a certain way. Or they just didn’t like the way something was done in Catholicism. Or it didn’t suit their lifestyle. Or some other experience made them feel nice.

Hmm.  Worth pondering.


  1. Eric says

    A lot of very bright people have left the Catholic Church based on thought. Such people are unlikely to become Evangelicals.

  2. Marg says

    I took my “break” from the Church because I felt that the rug had been pulled out from under me. I felt everything I knew to be true was a sham. I feel it was both reason and emotion. I found my way back because I knew that I did not choose, but had been chosen. I had to be Catholic. I felt so false otherwise. I knew I would do more within the Church than without.

    I know that I question a lot more than I ever did, but am here for the duration.


  3. Cathy says

    Marg, everything you say could also apply to me!! I can particularly identify with what you say about not “choosing” to be Catholic, but rather being “chosen”. This is something that people don’t understand when they wonder why we don’t leave the Church if we disagree with some Church teachings or practices.

  4. Me says

    I don’t think it serves anyone to trivialize people’s reasons for leaving the Church. There are people who have left because they’ve been horribly abused by people who represent the Church in their lives. Emotionally based reason for leaving, maybe, but a source of genuine suffering all the same.

    It’s easy to snark at people who aren’t around anymore.

    It’s also kinda childish and stupid and says more about you than them.

  5. says

    As someone who is grossly over-educated, I have to say I’m not all that convinced that “reason” is a reasonable reason to either stay or leave the Roman Catholic church. Seems to me that “emotion” is often a more reasonable approach, especially when there are ginormous disconnects between gospel teachings and those of the institutionalized church. Indeed, in those all-too-frequent situations, I tend to mumble something about “mystery” — with great feeling and emotion, of course.

  6. Angela says

    I truthfully can’t see how anyone can pit reason against emotion. Someone converts to Catholicism on account of reason? What made them think about looking outside their faith in the first place – their emotions! Their hunger for something missing. They latched onto Catholicism because their reason told them “This is it!” Well that’s because in thinking about it, they felt satisfied in their souls, their hunger was met. You could make the same argument for people going the other way.

    In recollections and retreats given by Jesuits, we are told to pay attention to how we feel, what we, because it is key to discovering things about ourselves. In fact, this ties in somehow with Fr. Paul’s latest offering of the “bowl.” If we pay attention to our emotions and apply true discernment under the guidance of a good spiritual director, we would never again undermine our true worth.

    Reason and emotion? They work hand in hand.

  7. says

    I am a Catholic convert who participated in many retreats led by the Jesuits for years before my conversion. I was very faithful in the practice of the Protestant expression of the Christian faith and then there was an event in my life that led me to attend Catholic Mass one Sunday. I listened so closely to the liturgy, recognized the scriptural basis of every phrase and was totally intrigued. I kept attending. Then one Sunday I attended a Protestant service with some friends; for me the worship was now almost lifeless and I longed to go to Mass. The next Sunday I returned to Mass and I knew that I belonged in the Catholic Church with the symbolism that now means so much to me but most of all with the Body & Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe with my whole heart that it was the leading of the Holy Spirit and I am incredibly grateful to our Lord. The Catholic Church is not perfect but it is where God has called me to worship and to serve.

  8. Paul says


    Like Eric, you are correct. Reason and emotion do mingle in the decision of many to leave or, as in your case, to take a sabbatical from the Church. It is my experience, however, that many former Catholics report bad experiences and their reactions to them as reasons for having left the Church.


  9. Paul says


    It always does surprise me when I meet people who have strong disagreements with the hierarchy’s teaching but still remain staunchly Catholic. If you have the sense of having been chosen, however, it goes a long way towards explaining why people stay even as they dissent strongly.


  10. Paul says


    I was pointing to an article that posited a theory about emotion vs. reason. I was making no judgment about the relative merits of emotion vs. reason. It certainly wasn’t my intention to “snark” anyone. Calling me (and/or the author of the article) “kinda childish and stupid” seems pretty snarky to me.


  11. Paul says


    It is indeed a “mystery” of the faith that you are talking about. Perhaps the emotion vs. reason thing is a false dichotomy, but I found the article thought-provoking and that’s why I pointed to it.


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