Hacking Catholicism: Part 1 – Introduction
by Marcus Guevara
Before I first experienced my conversion and encountered the person of Christ I had a few questions about God and the Catholic faith.
I think those are questions many people have from time to time. I wasn’t a very religious person growing up but every once in a blue moon I would become curious about these sort of things.
After I had a personal encounter with God and really “felt” his presence for the first time I began seeking answers. Instead of all my questions being definitively resolved I began to grow more questions and became more interested in understanding the Catholic faith. My questions also became more intense and more intelligent. I started wondering things like:
If “something” cannot come from “nothing” and everything has a beginning then where did God come from?
If he created time along with the universe then what was he doing “before” he created time?
If there is a God… How do I know that the Catholic faith has the correct understanding of God? How do I know it is the true Church?
Thirsting for Truth
As I began researching and finding the answers to my questions more, and more, questions began compiling in my head. The truth’s about the Catholic faith were so amazing and exciting that I developed this great Thirst for Truth. I couldn’t get enough. I devoured book after book. I listened only to debates, talks, or Catholic radio while driving in my car. I attended any and every conference in town and I had long and exciting conversations with others about matters of faith and reason and the Catholic Church. After my conversion I still had an intellectual journey to the faith. I came to believe but then I wanted to understand. I wanted to really understand. I wanted to “hack” Catholicism.
As a computer scientist and an ethical hacker, or penetration tester, by profession I have a great desire to take things apart and see how it all works. To explain what I mean it’s important to define the term “hacker”. Thanks to Hollywood movies and news reports on television the term “hacker” has unfortunately become synonymous with “computer criminal”. However, we already had a perfectly good term to describe a computer criminal and that is a cracker (criminal hacker). Due to the continuous misuse of the word hacker most people outside the hacker community have accepted the incorrect definition and so all hackers are thought to be bad guys. This is unfortunate because the original meaning of the word hacker is something anyone would be proud to be associated with.
Hackers vs Crackers
A hacker is simply someone who has a deep understanding of something (usually technology) as well as a passion for learning more. Hacker’s take things apart and put them back together. They don’t stop at the basic understanding of how things work. They go deeper and ask more questions and try new things. They use their knowledge to manipulate technologies and tools to build and improve upon things. Criminal hackers, or crackers, can be hackers who have a very solid understanding of some technology but use their abilities for evil purposes like stealing money, stealing identities and taking revenge. They don’t build or improve. They destroy. I may have the same knowledge of vulnerabilities and hacking methods as a criminal hacker but I use that sort of knowledge to help people improve their security against criminals. I have found that my understanding of technology and computer security has actually supplemented my understanding of the Catholic faith. In the same way, the more I study about the Catholic faith the better I am able to understand the world around me – including technology.
Binary and Catholicism
The Catholic faith is simple yet complex. The greatest truths of the faith, the very core of Catholic teaching, is simple. Very simple, in fact. However, there are extremely complex teachings based off of those simple truths. Computers are also simple and complex at the same time. The foundation of computers is comprised of two numbers: one and zero. It’s a difficult concept but it’s true. Even though at it’s lowest level a computer only understands ones and zeros it can build extremely complex and amazing things off of just ones and zeros. Colors and images displayed on your monitor, movies and games, programs, and websites can all be reduced to a sequence of ones and zeros. Now, I don’t expect to write a short article that answers every question about computers and how they work. I also don’t expect to answer every question about God and the Catholic faith. My intention is to show from a very high level how one can approach a greater understanding of the Catholic faith using science and technology. In the process, however, I think it will be shown that faith and theology will give greater context and meaning to science and technology.
I’m not trying to make the case for God’s existence. I am going to write with the presumption that God exists and show how, from my perspective, science and technology make more sense in light of theology. However, my opinion is that this will unintentionally serve as more than just a “proof” for God’s existence. I can’t prove that God exists. However, I can demonstrate that learning more about science and technology does not have to lead to atheism. In fact, with a truly open mind, science and technology can lead a person to greater intimacy with God.
The Catholic Church teaches that God created the world and mankind. He is a designer. His design is artistic and intelligent. It is artistic because it is beautiful. Looking at the beauty of mountains, clouds, the ocean, land and outer space can be breathtaking. However, God is not just a painter. Paintings are not intelligent. They look nice and they can inspire emotion and possibly even action in the viewer but they are inanimate. God is like a programmer, or an engineer, and the world he created is extremely intelligent.
Oops! Did I Just Create A Universe?
Many claim that the world and humanity came about through a series of coincidental accidents. This is an illogical concept when we compare it to computers. We know that computers were designed and built by humans because history tells us so but we also can see the evidence of design. Everyone knows that computers were designed by intelligent humans because they are made up of many different complex parts that all work together as if there were designed with a purpose. It would be illogical to believe that a computer happened to come together over time through a series of coincidences or accidents. Their design becomes evident through simple observation and interaction. In the same way, the human person with all his or her complex parts can evidence a design and a designer. I didn’t major in biology in college so I’m not looking to make this a discussion about biology.
What I would rather do is show how human logic and computer logic are very similar. In fact, I think that computers and technology can be shown to be a direct reflection of the same sort of logic that is taught in the Catholic faith. Jesus very often used analogies of the physical world to help people understand the spiritual world because the physical world was designed in such a way as to teach us the truth’s of the spiritual world. It’s kind of like flight simulation for a pilot. The laws of flying and the control instruments are built into the flight simulator. This way when the pilot gets into an actual plane they already have a foundation of knowledge of how to fly a real plane. Our life on earth is like simulation for Heaven. As we better understand the material world we come to understand more about the mysteries of the spiritual world which can help us improve our relationship with God.
So, understanding computer science and cyber security can give us a better understanding of the physical world and understanding more about the physical world then provides us with a framework for which we can understand the Catholic faith.
Thus, Hacking Catholicism.
It would take many, many, articles to explain this concept in depth. In fact, this started off as a short article that is now growing so lengthy that I have decided to break it up into parts and continue adding to as I flesh out certain concepts. You will see that each of the below articles will become a link once they are completed. You can subscribe to ThirstingforTruth.com if you would like to be notified once a new article is released. On the top right hand side of the site you should see a place to enter your e-mail for subscriptions. You will be notified by e-mail once new articles are released.
For those who would like to dig deeper into this concept see the following articles:
Hacking Catholicism Part 1: Introduction [You Are Here]
Hacking Catholicism Part 2: God Is A Programmer And A Lover
Hacking Catholicism Part 3: The Catholic Church As A Code Library
Hacking Catholicism Part 4: Demon Crackers And Their Exploits
Hacking Catholicism Part 5: Saints and Priests – Certified Ethical Hackers
Hacking Catholicism Part 6: Gaining Root Access To The Faith
Hacking Catholicism Part 7: Where To Go From Root
(If the article is not a link yet it is not yet completed. Check back for updates)