The Dispatch: More from CWR...

The Triumph of Truth: Restoring Reality

Under naturalism, love and reason and everything else we know and value become neural events of no significance or meaning. But, real reality—the reality we know from science, reason and our consciousness and commonsense—is a symphony of truths.


What is reality? Is it just the physical world, the world of biology, chemistry, and physics? Is reality only matter and energy and space and time? Is everything in human experience just effects of the physical universe, illusions generated by our neural activity? Naturalism says, yes, that is it—the default explanation for everything we refer to as real, actual, and factual.

But is this really the total truth about reality? No, it isn’t. Not even close.

First, naturalism is self-refuting. If the only reality is the physical one, then there is no way to explain our consciousness or our rational thinking, except to see those as illusions of logic and thinking generated by our brain’s neural activity. And this means that reason, so elemental to the conduct and application of science, is nothing more than a mere neural sensation. And that inherent and unavoidable contradiction is absolutely fatal to the assertion that the physical reality is the only real reality.

When we understand the fatal contradiction of naturalism, reality no longer is mere mechanics, the grinding reduction to physicality of our many human powers and principles. Once we shed naturalism’s narrow and false assumptions, reality is liberated from the error of its mechanistic materialism.

The true magnificence and sophistication of reality beyond the error of naturalism illumines reality the more we think properly. And, as this core conviction of something beyond the physical plane awakens, the full range of reality reveals some of its immediate truths while intimating the horizons of wisdom, sophistication and complexity that are now open to us.

With the demise of naturalism, our rational capacities also take on their appropriate authority and certainty, without diminishing the nature and role of the scientific method and the truths of the various sciences. Now reason’s abilities and applications present enticing and intriguing opportunities to discover truths of many types—and not just more physical truths.

Once the single truth of naturalism is dismissed and reason begins to assume its rightful role in reality, a whole spectrum of truth presents itself for our inquiry and discovery. Because reason is freed from naturalism’s singular and limited focus, logic, reason and commonsense can once again uncover timeless truths and find new nuances of understanding and application for these many truths.

In addition, this discovery will inevitably foster rational discourse and logical argumentation. Many areas of our personal and public contention now will compel an appeal to reason and sound argumentation without resorting to defensive pleas of insensitivity about personal perceptions and aggressive cries of bias, bigotry, and belligerence.

For example, a tacit tenet of contemporary culture is its implicit relativism—the belief that beyond the sciences all other statements of meaning and value are matters of personal perception, not matters of fact. This point of view implicitly rejects reason’s rightful role in formulating ideas, developing arguments, and elaborating opinions to sound conclusions.

With this new rational grounding, differences of opinion now must be argued and proved—not merely asserted and accepted. All opinion must be subject to the laws of logic and sound evidence. No longer is the individual opinion above evaluation or outside critique. The power of truth moves from the sovereignty of each person to the laws of logic, reason, and commonsense. Reason’s power is once again the arbiter of truth, not the individual’s preference, perception or politics.

Other aspects of human nature and experience move toward a more objective designation and a more certain actuality. Just think about morality or beauty. Like objective truth, both of these dimensions have been remanded to the realm of personal perception and preference in the wake of relativism’s dominance arising from the hegemony of science and the foundational belief in naturalism.

But, with reason’s resurrection in the wake of naturalism’s falsity, the whole approach to morality and beauty changes. Individuals may have opinions about morality and beauty. But reason now plays a significant role in ascertaining the truth in these broad areas and to the many specific questions comprising them.

Think, for example, about abortion. Under law, the killing of a child is allowed and happens at the whim of any woman without argument, without legal review, without rational and moral justification. A woman’s right to decide whether to birth a child already in her womb is a modern given. It is because killing this unborn child is merely the removal of an unwanted or inconvenient biochemical object, an organic thing of no real consequence.

For within naturalism’s worldview, all human beings are merely biochemical things, despite our consciousness, our consciences and our rational capabilities. All beings are merely things, biochemical things. Nothing more.

But, within a worldview where reason is the primary path to knowing, abortion is a heinous act of deadly violence despite the felt emotions and motivations of the woman choosing this and the professionals guiding and assisting her. For human beings are no longer just biochemical entities. They are biological beings, a combination of mind and body, the embodiment of the breadth and complexity of the human mind, the many magnificent facets and features of human nature and human beings.

Within a naturalistic philosophy, morality is nothing more than custom, a product of historical consensus, which may be amended to suit contemporary tastes and preferences as is necessary and expeditious. Also, in the absence of fixed moral truths, each person is deemed to be the primary definer of morality for any and every area of living in the private domain and in many areas of public life.

Sexual promiscuity and homosexuality are examples of morality defined by each and every person. According to a naturalistic lens, sexuality is generally a private matter morally defined by two (or even more) consenting adults, outside the realm of public judgement or any standards of moral objectivity.

But when reason is brought to bear, such sexual acts and attitudes must pass an objective moral review, which includes a reasoned analysis in light of deductive moral truths and innate moral principles supported by psychological and socio-cultural studies.

For once reason is released and restored to its epistemological prominence, our path to truth becomes clear. Not only are our deductive powers acknowledged, but our commonsense and our intuitive senses become viable paths to moral truth too. Our many characterological virtues and relational truths such as love and fidelity, sacrifice and generosity, honesty and understanding, honor and commitment provide real standards and sophisticated judgement and application.

Under a naturalistic philosophy, however, all these virtuous traits inherent to our deepest relationships and even our superficial ones are mere social conventions or products of some form of negotiated arrangement between the individuals engaged in such relationships. That is because there truly are no real virtues, no real moral truths, no real reality beyond the physical plane for naturalism’s solitary plane of matter and energy within the space and time of the cosmos.

Under naturalism, love isn’t love. It’s just biochemical activity, an illusory sensation generated by the matter and energy in our brains. Love and reason and everything else we know and value become neural events of no significance, devoid of content, importance, reality. Naturalism means everything is either matter or energy. That’s it.

But, real reality—the reality we know from science, reason and our consciousness and commonsense—is a symphony of truths. It is a harmony of truth, physical and metaphysical truth, moral and relational truth, theological and teleological truth. Life has an abundance of truth of a depth and breadth that is intriguing, intelligible and inspiring.

For the nature of reason and its subordinate science open up reality’s true clarity and its deep sophistication to the eager seeker and the sound thinker, to the true lover and the fearless learner. For true reality is a cosmic and contemporary adventure of exploration and application, a temporal and timeless divine gift, an opportunity to live life fully with a joy and a passion that arises not from personality, but from the very nature of reality’s truth, its promise and its purpose.

The truths of the tangible and intangible aspects of reality show us the necessity for God just as the moral truths show us reflections of His character and His hope and concern for us. For all these truths we find through reason are not merely information, insights, and inspiration. They are that and so much more.

For these truths are also a direct experience of His nature, of His very person. If we remember that knowing truth is an epiphany of sorts, a routine opportunity to the avid seeker to encounter God in a mystical manner in the course of thinking, learning, and living. This is why He told us, “Those who seek, will find.” Find His truth. Find His proximity and intimacy. Find Him in His fullness.

• This is the final essay of a three-part series on The Triumph of Truth. The first, “The Triumph of Truth: Overlooking the Obvious”, was published on July 27, 2020 and the second, “The Triumph of Truth: Reasoning to Truth”, was published on August 20, 2020.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About F.X. Cronin 3 Articles
F. X. Cronin has studied on a graduate level in education at Harvard University and at the University of Connecticut, in leadership at Columbia University and in theology at Regent University and Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also writes regularly for The National Catholic Register and appeared on EWTN’s "The Journey Home" with Marcus Grodi following his 2007 reversion to the Catholic faith from atheism and evangelical Protestantism. His book The World According to God: The Whole Truth About Life and Living (2020) is now available from Sophia Institute Press.


  1. What is reality? An interesting question that reminds me of Bill Clinton’s response under interrogation for misdeeds, Depends on what is is. Although we know Cronin references our personal vision of what reality is. That as he rightly argues is where many distance themselves from truth adopting a naturalistic, or personalistic view. I prefer as a Thomist the opening lines of Aquinas in De Veritate, where he quotes Muslim thinker Ibn Sina. What the intellect first conceives as most evident is being. Knowledge of truth begins with ordinary sensible perception. God in his wisdom made perception of things, as first principle our universal starting point for acquiring knowledge and truth. Whatever knowledge we may infer through reason it must correspond with its basis in the perceivable world. That is especially true for ethics. Insofar as encountering God in a mystical manner, and knowledge of truth which author Cronin touches in conclusion I would rather hold off comment on that complex question with its multiple variables. That is because mystical knowledge of God escapes human translation. Here I reference Saint John of the Cross, the Apostle Paul. But it’s not to say that mystical knowledge doesn’t confer the gift of Wisdom and enhanced perspicacity in acquiring truth [through reason].

    • To follow up on Bill Clinton’s Depends of what is is, we can identify a form of self induced schizophrenia by which the person brackets behavior and events as detached from ‘real’ reality. As a priest I’ve encountered individuals even cultures in which presumed ‘bad’behavior like stealing, sexual impropriety occurs in that mental twilight zone, and in which they don’t bear responsibility. Chris in Maryland touches on the issue below in respect to politics, quite evident today in the virtually [or better real] irrational distancing from reality in politics and media. The phenomenon is also present in New Age Neognosticism regarding the resurrection and appearance of Christ to the disciples as a form of idiosyncratic vision, a quasi reality distinct from reality. Post Vat II some theologians bought into this understanding of the Resurrection including Avery Dulles SJ, who later recanted and became a stalwart defender of the real resurrection in the flesh and blood, as a true historical event.

  2. The real reality is, the United States is most uneducated, ignorant people on Earth. Uneducated people to what is important, the great dumbing up, a people brain washed to look not to God to save them, but to a government, to people to save them, a military. With Children borrowing Trillion(S) of dollar(s) for information, education (brain washing). When in an true educated society, educated is to never borrow money, and absolutely never should a government borrow money, especially for, wars, murder of others… (Far more “educated” to Forgive others, as Jesus said). Than to borrow money to murder others, as the USA does today…Morally, financially, ethically, broke. For as they say, war is a disease, war is murder, bigotry is a disease, a disease of the USA.. The USA is definitely not a Christian nation, UNEDUCATED, ignorance rules, the stupid control, in their greed.
    The children of today, in the reality of student loans, are mere debt slaves, enslaved to a grave dumbing up, brain washed.
    The United States spent an insane, total defiance to logic Trillion dollars on arms to murder, exterminate humans last year, and the “assumed” educated don’t stand against that, yet claim they are educated. An insanity, rules. When World and United States hunger is greater than ever. Yet the USA spends the least on education of an “assumed” rich nation.. Yet people claim they are knowledgeable and educated to education? They know and bring the people to God? When the educated, know God, and God alone is the source of all power.

    • It always fascinates me how many ‘assumed educated’ are so fearful of their death. Of course, we know why, but they never seem to move beyond obtaining on earth, money, fame, personal elation, power, etc. etc.

  3. The identifying mark of the man or woman of the progressive political cult is pretending that reality is not happening, and demanding that others pretend with them, or else.

    Having abandoned acknowledging reality, they cannot be truthful to themselves, and therefore, conversely from the axiom of the Bard, via Polonius, they cannot be true to any other man.

  4. What is reality? Simple. It is what it is. It just goes along being what it is regardless what some humans would like to think about it. Reality is self-interpretive. Many human theories misplace this interpretive function by imaging that it is a function of a human mind. Inevitably reality steps in and disposes these theories one by one as the occasion calls for it. Accordingly, reality now tells us that asking “What is reality?” is a pseudo question precisely because humans cannot usurp reality of its self-interpretive function. Humans can only sit humbly by waiting for reality to let us grasp something of it.

  5. In God’s providence the discoveries of modern science in our times has rendered atheism utterly irrational. It seems that Catholic academia has been among the last to notice this.

    We now know that the natural Universe — time, space and matter/energy — had a beginning. Theories for which there isn’t and cannot be any scientific evidentiary basis whatsoever (such as multiverse) notwithstanding, what this means is that a reality that transcends nature, a supernatural reality, must have brought the natural Universe into being. Natural nothingness, the absence of time, space and matter/energy, can bring nothing natural (or anything else) into being. The natural Universe must have had a supernatural cause.

    We now know that the physical dimension of life at the cellular level consists of self-replicating nanotechnology the construction and maintenance of which is driven by massive quantities of extremely precise digital information stored in the DNA molecule. The functional complexity of this cellular system is light years beyond anything modern science knows how to build from scratch, a fully automated factory with the ability to construct the machinery it requires from available resources and the ability to manufacture a copy of the factory itself; it does this using chemical reactions and mechanical activity guided and driven by digital information. We know of no instances whatsoever of significant functional complexity driven by precise digital information coming about mindlessly and accidentally. None. Zero. Every such instance is known to have had intelligent agency as a causal factor in its emergence. There is simply no evidentiary basis whatsoever for the assertion that the digital information-driven, massive functional complexity of cellular life emerged on planet Earth mindlessly and accidentally. That assertion is made based only on the desire of those making it that it be true. That’s it. That’s all they have: the wish that it be so.

    The Universe and the life within it were brought about by a supernatural intelligent agent. The evidence is overwhelming now. This means that several centuries of thought in areas ranging from the natural sciences to Scripture scholarship based on the assumption that there are only natural realities and natural events need to be tossed. Sorry. That’s the way it is.

    • Yes, science proves God, the creator of the Heavens, and Earth. The only explanation. Now to interject some commonsense, and listen to his Son Jesus.. To live in the Spirit of the Gospel, the Beatitudes… to attain a harmony in life, living, for All..

  6. Lets face the real “reality” of a nation that has self destructed. Conservativism in Combination to wages explains the reality of self destruct course the USA is on.. Prior the 70’s a single conservative family could live well in the USA.. In the 70’s came the acceptance to the wife and the husband both leaving the home “children” devoid of guidance.. The dual income times brought a fictional elevation of prosperity, at the expense of the children, left to flounder, unguided, unrestricted. The destruction of the foundation of a strong civilization, the destruction of the family…. A reality of todays USA….
    Currently, wages have not kept pace with skyrocketing food, health care, and demand for evils of today.. Making the United States a nation of debt and wage slaves, and, dependent on the poor of the World to now feed the USA itself. A minute few control the wealth, and the number will now get smaller and few, who own, the people , as, debt and wage slaves. Where is the Church to this subject, oblivious. As the reality this issue explains the abortion issue, no respect, discipline, or chivilary exists today in regard to a mans respect to, Women. They, are only an item.

    Reality is best explained by the phrase, “If you don’t believe in Hell, you will when you get there. For their is a special place in Hell, for those that ignore the plight of the poor… That is why the actions of the USA on Yemen, Mexico, Iraq, Iran, all of the Americas, are the path to Hell, for an entire nation.. Its thought provoking, at least, or maybe a reality.

    Its definitely not a reality, to those that “claim” authentic U.S. Catholic leadership.. so maybe that is not a reality. They are only, pretending, in the USA..
    For God hates, Hate. A reality, that asks, why they not stand against Hate?

  7. But what is reason? That is the crux of the matter. The naturalistic worldview appears entirely ‘reasonable’ to its adherents, and no appeal to a “power of truth” outside “the sovereignty of each person” will persuade. The situation is the inevitable upshot of the Cartesian revolution. Unless we can better show what reason actually, truly, really is – in all its beautiful manifestations of Being – then our argument will fall on minds predisposed to reject it.

      • Yes, of course, but the power to be able to determine the truth of things is derived from the highest source of all reason – God Himself. Doesn’t the right application of reason therefore depend upon whether the human will or God is sovereign? John Donne wrote “Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
        but is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.” A brutally pragmatic view. To a later commenter I say it is not enough to claim that “reality, like truth will always out.” I’m not anti-realist (I am a Thomist)’ I’m just saying that faced with unprecedented levels of un-reason in society and culture, our argument (like truth) must be persuasive.

  8. What a marvelous essay and thought project for me as I read. Real”stuff” (get it?) we already know.😉
    I encourage all the readers to read again as willing to think along with the author, sans mental interjections as you read.
    Knowledge and thought patterns we have already adopted and cherished are great but may be sideways.
    I just say this because I come to com boxes and classrooms to learn, share, progress.
    Sometimes we get great articles like this that are very worth reading again and thinking it over.

    • Thanks so much for your comment and compliment. Hope you have a chance to check out the first two essays in this 3 part series. God bless.
      ps: If you like this series, I have a book published by Sophia Institute Press entitled “The World According to God”

  9. Ironic, isn’t it, the a radical metaphysical question – the critical or epistemological question – has asserted itself in a materialistic and pragmatic age that has done its utmost to deny philosophy’s relevance and admission to academic discourse in our schools and universities. Reality, like the truth, will always out. Why? – Because it’s what we humans are equipped for, the way we’re made and what we’re physically, intellectually and spiritually oriented towards. Holistically. At the root of the childish subjectivism and relativism of our increasingly self-obsessed society is the refusal to accept our creaturehood, and the delusion that we are autonomously our own creators. There’s still a word for this: pride. And it has an antidote, as Martin Pagnan recognises: humility, the precondition of all human greatness and fulfilment.

    • Who can avoid the snares of the Devil, the humble person.
      What is our mission in life, to get our soul to Heaven, and to take as many along was we can..
      The Triumph to Truth. anything else anybody wants to know?

  10. “In addition, this discovery will inevitably foster rational discourse and logical argumentation. Many areas of our personal and public contention now will compel an appeal to reason and sound argumentation without resorting to defensive pleas of insensitivity about personal perceptions and aggressive cries of bias, bigotry, and belligerence.”

    One particularly good example of rational argumentation concerning the world is in the evaluation of de facto laws to determine whether they are unjust or not.

    “For example, a tacit tenet of contemporary culture is its implicit relativism—the belief that beyond the sciences all other statements of meaning and value are matters of personal perception, not matters of fact.”

    There is a website which made the mistake of relativism, and it used the exact phrase “matter of fact.” I would like to inform the author (who may or may not have seen it) and others who may have come across it or been pointed out to it that the mistake has been corrected. I request that anyone who has seen it and referred others to it would alert them to this fact.

    The exact URL is

    There is no such thing as subjective truth. One may believe something to be true, but provided that it is declaratory (i.e. not a question or exclamation) it is always connected to reality.

    Relativism is truly a masterfully diabolical and successful error. It looks at the fact that humans are different in external things (e.g. clothes, manners, dress, dwellings, possessions, etc.), the fact that laws are not uniform everywhere, and concludes that because every human being or culture is different and believes different things and acts differently, that there is no truth concerning morality and religion.

    A problem is that anyone who enjoys doing bad things will typically be opposed to laws that punish his bad behavior. The fact that he disagrees doesn’t mean that he is intellectually correct, but that he doesn’t want any check on his depravity. Another, of course, is that ignorance is a big factor. It is such a big factor that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and Jesus Christ, the Son of God came to teach us. That is why one cannot morally allow one’s children to be educated by anyone who could corrupt them. I believe that public education is unjust.

    “With this new rational grounding, differences of opinion now must be argued and proved—not merely asserted and accepted. All opinion must be subject to the laws of logic and sound evidence. No longer is the individual opinion above evaluation or outside critique. The power of truth moves from the sovereignty of each person to the laws of logic, reason, and commonsense. Reason’s power is once again the arbiter of truth, not the individual’s preference, perception or politics.”

    The problem is when opinion turns into unjust “laws.” Then everyone except for a few Winston Smiths (the main character in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984) turns against the supposed law-breaker. I like the original title of the book better “The Last Man in Europe.”

    Anyone who believes and consistently acts as this article proposes will currently be considered to be breaking a number of unjust “laws.” There are many of these, and it thus appears that the topic is somewhat “taboo.”

    In connection with this, I believe – according to a book on moral theology which I own – that not only need one not comply with certain unjust laws, but one has the moral ability to resist authorities who attempt to enforce it. Jesus Christ said that if his kingdom were of this world, that his subjects would have defended him. I would say that one is not REQUIRED to resist (Jesus didn’t.), but that it is possible (even in the face of unjust “laws” against resisting arrest). I have come across at least one law article, which considers the possibility that one can resist state authorities. This adds further weight to the contention. Of course, it requires courage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.