Reading the latest issue in Newsweek, "Is God Real?", with a corresponding debate between Pastor Rick Warren and Atheist Sam Harris ("The God Debate"), I came up with a thought or two.
In the article, the author states: "As Mr Harris likes to point out, people who demand evidence for everything else in their lives are somehow all too happy to accept the word of long-dead Biblical authors in a corner of a long dead empire."
In the first place, I don't think people of faith demand evidence or proof of everything in their lives. No one does. Or at least has the time or knowledge to even try and gather evidence on everything, let alone have the training or intelligence to understand it or judge the truthfulness of it. Who knows everything? How the car works, what's holding up the bridges, how the universe works, how my toaster oven works, or what is the theory of relativity and what does it have to do with my toaster oven.
I would turn the argument around. The atheist takes so much for granted - on faith. Things he no more understands than God. Things that are above his intelligence, beyond his learning, bigger than his imagination, then he trusts that others know enough so that he can safely rely on their knowledge, and he can only too happy to accept this ignorance and go about his life.
And after accepting on faith most of what goes on around him, he then expects the biggest mystery of all should be made easy with simple explanations to his inexperienced, untrained mind until he is completely convinced. Me thinks he thinks too much of his understanding powers.
As a side bar, I would like to say that I think some on the religious right have the same problem. They want to be convinced with earthly proofs that their God is real.
Here's my reply:
I think you’ve got this right! I’ve been thinking about this myself, wondering what to write concerning this article on my blog. What you’ve said is very close to what I’ve been thinking.
On top of that, Harris is using the same-old-same-old arguments that have been used in the modern era against the existence of God – “we can’t prove his existence scientifically so he does not exist.” Ho humm.
We (at the CCO) are seeing that this is not what today’s college students are thinking. We are seeing that they have a new openness to spiritual things, an embracing of the mysterious. Not all things need to be proved in a test tube.
It’s a great time to be in campus ministry!
And you’ve got the religious right’s problem correctly too. They have made the mistake of falling into the same mentality—that if it’s not “proven” then it’s not true. And thus they fight the Harris’s of the world with arguments that seek to place God in a test tube. That’s a mistake, for God is bigger than that; God is more mysterious than that.
So it comes down to this:
God, who is quintessentially mysterious, does something about it: He appears in the form of a human being. He says that if you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the Father. He tells us that his intentions are for justice and peace in the world. And then he proves that the way to justice and peace is through sacrifice – suffering at the very hands of the oppressors. And then, to show that this is the way to victory, he arose victorious from the grave on Easter.
He says to humanity: You must follow me and my ways. This is the way of truth, the way of life, the way of peace, the way of justice.
God becoming flesh does not obliterate all the mystery (in fact it brings up new mysteries, like how could God come in the flesh??), but it does show that God is not completely leaving us on our own.
Harris, sadly, is on his own. His ethics are based on what he can conjure up on his own. His justice is based on what he can believe on his own. Harris is worried that people of faith base their societal lives on words of “long-dead Biblical authors in a corner of a long dead empire." I worry that our societal lives would be based on the capricious thoughts of people basing their ethics on the latest scientific analyses.
Both are based on faith.