AUTHOR and podcaster Matt Fradd has a few fundamental interests – philosophy and apologetics – but also helping people overcome pornography.
“Two weird things – but there you go,” Mr Fradd said with a laugh before the Real Talk Australia Annual Dinner at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on May 23.
Travelling with his wife Cameron and four children, Mr Fradd has spent the past month speaking in Melbourne and now Brisbane.
Mr Fradd grew up in a small Australian country town and came to Jesus Christ when he was 17 years old, which led into a love affair with his faith.
After encountering a NET (National Evangelisation Teams) Ministries team when he was 19, he went to work for them and then worked for Catholic Answers in the United States, where he now lives.
And his classic Aussie lingo hooked US audiences.
His online podcasts reach hundreds of thousands of downloads on topics ranging from Thomas Aquinas to the morality of mixed martial arts fighting.
Mr Fradd said the positive effects his podcasts had on people surprised him.
“Maybe because I’m old and can’t imagine what it would be like to have your life changed by a podcast,” he said.
He said people wrote to him all the time, sometimes through reviews or emails that say people were coming into the Catholic Church because of (his podcast) Pints with Aquinas, one of his podcasts.
He said it was partly because of the chaos of the times.
This trend of chaos and godlessness meant people were desperate for something more.
“I think we’re all hungry for meaning and we throw ourselves into things and make gods of them,” he said.
“It’s kind of like, if there’s no God, then politics can’t just be politics – politics has to be everything.
“The latest Star Wars can’t just be a Star Wars movie, it has to be everything or we’re just kind of devastated and angry.”
And a lot of this comes down to a growing disconnect in society.
“I think what we’re finding a lot these days is what’s called, or has been called, apatheism,” Mr Fradd said.
Apatheism is the belief that “maybe God exists, maybe he doesn’t, but I don’t care”.
Mr Fradd said if you’re encountering something like this, it was important to talk about how meaningless life would be if God did not exist.
These questions of value and meaning seemed to be constant referees for Mr Fradd’s philosophical grounding.
“The reasonableness about faith I find compelling; I came to my faith when I was 17 years old and I didn’t want to do that if it wasn’t true – just because it made me feel good – and I’d still rather not believe things if they’re not true,” he said.
“I think there’s this misconception, something I had as a kid, that to be a Christian is to leave your brain at the door.
“But the Catholic faith is a champion of reason and I think you see that especially in (St) Thomas Aquinas.”
Even with a robust Thomistic tradition in his apologetic toolkit, there were always going to be specific questions about the faith he hadn’t fully answered yet.
“I like what Blessed John Henry Newman says – ‘a thousand questions don’t make a doubt’,” Mr Fradd said.
“But I think it’s also true that no matter what worldview one adopts, one is going to have questions that they don’t know how to reconcile.
“Like when I was agnostic, kind of moving towards atheism, it was difficult for me to explain the sense of wonder and meaning I felt like I ought to have.
“The intrinsic dignity I assumed other people had and these sorts of things.”
Mr Fradd’s curiosity for the faith was certainly part of his charm for audiences.
But aside from philosophy and apologetics, Mr Fradd was best known for his work on helping people overcome pornography.
“I would say over the last 40 years there’s been a lot of research that’s come out of academia from different branches of science like neurology, psychology and sociology,” Mr Fradd said, “and all of it’s saying porn’s not good for us”.
“You could say that the science is catching up with what the Church has always taught in general – that porn is not good for us,” he said.
“And all of the studies are saying it’s detrimental to our emotional health, to even our neurology, to our relationships and to society.
“That’s something we have a right to know about and I think many people are beginning to speak out against porn.”
Mr Fradd’s book The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography was an Amazon number-one best-seller.
And it was all part of Mr Fradd’s long-term goal, which was “to help save souls and to lead them to Jesus Christ and his Church”.
“And I think some things prevent us from embracing Christ and the teachings of the Church,” he said.
“(It) could be things like porn, which is an utterly despicable and vicious lie about what the human person is and is for.
“And then also just sort of the emotions over facts, sort of things that’s getting pushed upon us every day.
“I would hope that my goal is to lead people to Christ so they can find salvation.”