The Smartest People at Yale Were Catholic: A Reversion Story

Wonder is the desire for knowledge. – St. Thomas Aquinas            

Michael Knowles fell away from the Catholic Church by age thirteen. As a Cradle Catholic, he acknowledges that the decision to leave the faith was on him, and he takes full responsibility for that choice. But in a conversation with Relevant Radio® show host Timmerie, he shared a few of the reasons why he left.

“The weak liturgies, the sort of effeminate liturgies that I was raised with as the only option, these sort of sappy hymns from the 70s—these songs that weren’t even cool fifty years ago—and the felt banners and all that sort of sentimentality doesn’t really give people, especially boys, something to hold onto. Something to understand that there’s a real order and a beauty and an intellectual heft,” explained Knowles, author and podcaster at The Daily Wire.

Knowles arrived at Yale University as an atheist, searching for knowledge and truth. “I noticed that all the people were very smart, most of them atheists, but the very smartest people were Christian and the smartest of them were more traditional—they were either high church Anglican or Catholic or on their way to becoming Catholic.”

A roommate convinced Knowles of the existence of God by St. Anselm’s ontological argument. As he began to read more about faith and theology, he began a slow journey back to the faith.

“It was this long process of getting myself over the intellectual hurdle, because our whole culture tells us that if you believe in God you’re some kind of dummy even though I don’t think anyone would call Thomas Aquinas a dummy!” laughed Knowles.

After he got over what he calls the “intellectual hurdle”, he began to dive into the spiritual aspect of the Catholic Faith, a journey that continues today. This depth is something that Knowles appreciates about the Faith—it’s a never-ending process of growing in knowledge, faith, and understanding.

“My priest Fr. Rutlers says, quoting Dr. Johnson: ‘Shallows are clear and shallow thinking is clear, but deep things are profound, they’re a little murky.’ So you can delve those depths and there’s no end to it because we could never comprehend the faith. In its very nature it’s incomprehensible,” he said.

The world is seductive, but it really doesn’t make sense of the deeper things, says Knowles. He believes that if young people took the time to sit and ponder these eternal questions, they would find the answers and peace they were looking for.

“When you see the world through the lens of the Faith, everything begins to make sense. Catholicism is so rich in symbols that we recognize that this material that we’re touching that’s all around us has a spiritual and a metaphysical significance as well. Either the world is one cruel joke and we’re wrong about everything and we can’t even rely on our own faculties of reason … or this makes sense.”

Hear more of his interview on Trending With Timmerie:

Tune in to Trending with Timmerie weekdays at 6-7pm CT only on Relevant Radio®.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.