Sunday, April 29, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I began some reflections on the work of prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.  I suggested that he seems more of a high school debater than a learned academician, which is what he purports to be.  He defines his terms the way he wants, and then proceeds to ridicule the term as defined.  He defines faith as belief in the absence of evidence, and then proceeds to point out how stupid faith is, then, and how unlike science.

I suppose I would agree that faith is stupid if I agreed that faith means to believe in something for which there is no evidence.  But I don’t.   Rather, I agree with St. Paul’s definition in his letter to the Hebrews:  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Just because something cannot be seen does not mean there is no evidence for its existence.  Can you show me air?  Can you show me a thought?  They and many other things are not seen, but it makes perfect sense to accept their existence, based on evidence from science.  Dawkins does not want science and faith to have anything in common.  In fact, he says they are opposites.  “Where science is filled with doubt, skepticism, willingness to learn, open to correction, faith is just the opposite.”

Have you never found doubt helpful in your faith journey?  Have you not been open to learning more about faith?  We believe (that word again!) that faith and science are very compatible, even opposite sides of the same coin.  Both faith and science depend heavily on ideas that have no empirical evidence.  Did gravity only come into existence once we were able to prove and explain it?

Dawkins says that science has the humility to know there is much we do not understand, and asks why it is that no major religion has looked at science and thought: “this is bigger than we thought.”  He says that a religion able to look at the magnificence revealed by science might be struck by reverence and awe not revealed by religion.  Does understanding a sunset take anything away from its beauty and awesomeness?

He further says that faith has an arrogance that is missing from science.  Faith says: “I know the truth, and nothing will change my mind.”  Pathological faith, maybe.  He says believers say “my priest tells me the truth; I need look no further.”  That’s news to me.

So Professor Dawkins is not, in my estimation, a worthy representative of atheism.  In fact, quite the opposite.  He is saying what he accuses religion of:  “I know the truth, and nothing will change my mind.”  Pretty darn arrogant, if you ask me.  What do you think?

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