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As Islam’s holy war against the civilized world continues to heat up, it causes one to increasingly reflect on the Muslim’s god of death and destruction, known to all as Allah. It’s pretty difficult for a civilized person to believe that such a god exists.
But what about the Judeo-Christian God? Can we say with any degree of certainty that God exists, or is he nothing more than the invention of irrational minds?
Time magazine’s recent cover story addressed this question. The centerpiece of the article was a debate between renowned atheist Richard Dawkins and pro-God scientist Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.
I respect the opinions of both atheists and religionists, so long as they do not base their arguments on a priori positions. Unfortunately, most of the arguments on both sides of this all-important question are, in fact, a priori in nature.
Dawkins’ past works are especially egregious in this respect, and his arguments in the Time debate were no exception. His foundational a priori position is that God becomes irrelevant in the face of scientific explanations of the nature of the universe.
But does He? Isn’t it entirely possible that science is not in conflict with God, but, rather, is a gift of God?
Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has said that because of its parallel to the Bible’s story of Genesis, many scientists are uncomfortable with the notion that today’s universe began as a result of the so-called Big Bang. But how much does the Big Bang theory really impact the question of God’s existence?
The problem with giving the Big Bang theistic relevance is that it implies an a priori assumption. The assumption is that to believe in God, one must believe the Genesis version of creation. Or, more broadly stated, one must believe in an inerrant Bible.
Historian Paul Johnson, in his impeccably documented work “A History of Christianity,” points out that there are nearly 5,000 known forgeries in the Bible. But does a flawed Bible mean that God’s existence is less likely? Why blame God for human error?
To say that God can exist only if the Bible, whose authors are unknown to us, is inerrant is presumptuous, at best. I don’t believe that either the Big Bang or the Bible proves or disproves the existence of God.
Kind of reminds me of something Viktor Frankl wrote in “The Unheard Cry for Meaning.” In that work, Frankl presents an “operational definition” of God that he came up with at the age of 15:
“God is the partner of your most intimate soliloquies. Whenever you are talking to yourself in utmost sincerity and ultimate solitude – he to whom you are addressing yourself may justifiably be called God.”
Frankl goes on to explain that such a definition avoids the dichotomy between atheism and theism, and that “if God really exists, he certainly is not going to argue with the irreligious persons because they mistake him for their own selves and misname him.”
In this view, an atheist is simply someone who, when he is talking to God, believes he is talking to himself. Which reminds me of something that another renowned atheist, Nathaniel Branden, wrote in his tell-all book “Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand.” Branden describes the moment, at age 12, when he says he became an atheist by explaining:
“Isn’t it more reasonable to accept the existence of the universe as the starting point of everything? Whatever stages of development it may go through, whatever its forms at different points in time, in an ultimate sense the universe is. … I felt a great rush of exhilaration and, looking at the blue sky overhead … I felt a love of a kind I had never experienced consciously before: a love for being. A love for existence itself. I felt a great sense of serenity.”
I guess it’s all in the eyes of the beholder, but, to me, Branden’s abstract words eloquently describe God. In fact, Bible aside, the whole concept of God is abstract.
The truth of the matter is that neither religion nor scientific discoveries can prove or disprove the existence of God. The Dalai Lama argues “the fact that science has not proven the existence of God does not mean that God does not exist.”
In “The Universe in a Single Atom,” he goes on to state, “There is a fundamental difference between that which is ‘not found’ and that which is ‘found not to exist.’ If I look for something and fail to find it, this does not mean that the thing I am seeking does not exist. Not seeing a thing is not the same as seeing its non-existence.”
God is the ultimate abstract, but one could argue that He is also the ultimate axiom, because an axiom is a self-evident truth that cannot be proven. Perhaps Austrian novelist Franz Werfel offered the clearest evidence for God as an axiom when he wrote, “Thirst is the surest proof for the existence of water.”
Which begs another question: Is a thirst for human blood the surest proof for the existence of Allah? Hmm … let’s save that for another time.
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