CNA: In college at that time, wasn’t there supposed to be even a hint of transcendence?
Messori: Agnosticism was taught, I mean, not atheism: atheism was considered vulgar, it was considered a religion, although turned upside down. The atheist is one who wastes time and energy arguing with believers, when what he should do is ignore them. Those teachers taught us that the true perspective of the cultured man should be that the problem of religion cannot be solved with reason. And because man has no other instrument superior to his mind, he must abandon any concern about the Hereafter and concentrate only on what can be seen and touched: in history, in the world, in politics. We cannot know whether God exists or not. So why bother? In short, a radical, impenetrable agnosticism. Only a hit from a non-human striker could shatter it.
CNA: And did that striker show up?
Messori: Yes, it came unannounced, without me sensing it or desiring it all. On the contrary, when I realized that if I accepted the faith I would also have to accept certain moral duties, I began to cry, knowing that I would have to destroy my precious address book full of female contacts!
CNA: What happened to you that was so powerful that caused you to totally change your life?
Messori: In the book I try to explain it, though obviously I do not think I've completely succeeded. All I know is that suddenly, and without having looked for it, between July and August of a now distant 1964, I entered into a kind of new dimension in which the truth of the Gospel, that until then was unknown to me, became very clear and tangible. Even though I had never attended church, even though I had never studied religion, I found that my perspective as a secularist and agnostic had become suddenly Christian. What's more, Catholic. And I realized I had to go deeper into the truth that I had been given and communicate it to others. So mine was not a "search for faith" but rather from that moment it has been a search for "reasons that make the faith reasonable and believable." Faith not as an ending point, but as a starting point which I state to be certain (so it seemed in that long-ago summer), and about which I must reflect and inquire, in order to understand why it is "true."
CNA: Mr. Messori, you say you had a mystical experience, even though you were so rational...
Messori: I was, and I am still, a very rational and practical person, and I have nothing in common with visionaries, with those who believe they have divine revelations and inspirations and who consider themselves to be inspired or to be gurus. What happened to me during those two months has been something unique in my life, and this makes me believe in its truth. There was nothing in me that made me predisposed to it. In college, my teachers were very surprised and disappointed when I had to confess that I had been "forced" by a mysterious encounter, to become Catholic, and that therefore I could not continue my cultural collaboration with them. They thought it was a psychiatric crisis, a depression, a mistake, but since I insisted on my new journey, they abandoned me and finally disowned me.
CNA: The book says that you appreciate and value the rational teaching that your teachers gave you…
Messori: Yes, reason is a gift from God that we should use and for which we must be grateful. The mistake is when we enclose reason and turn it into an ideology, rationalism, which asserts that there is nothing beyond or outside it. I'm bored with all of the discussions that are constantly recycled about the incompatibility between science and faith, reason and religion. I draw on my experience, which has confirmed the truth of the words of Blaise Pascal who, as you know, was not what you would call a dreamer, but one of the greatest scientists in history. I have found in my own life that Pascal was right when he wrote: "The final step of reason employed to its utmost is to recognize that there are many things that surpass it.” Faith, therefore, is not against, but goes beyond reason, without any contrast, but rather complementarity. This is what I have tried to show in my books, including "Why I Believe." I tried to reason with the reader to show that accepting the Gospel mystery is something reasonable.
CNA: You have devoted your life to reconciling faith and reason, right?
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Messori: That's why I felt it a duty to try with my writings to strengthen believers in their belief, and to make non-believers see that they can accept the faith without every denying the demands of reason.”