A reader’s declining faith in God
Let God Love You through Others, And Let God Love Others through You – (D.M. Street, 1884~1962)
A 67-year-old reader from California is conflicted about his belief in God. You see, at the age of 35 he had a religious experience and became a born again Christian. Despite his faith, he had many obstacles to overcome. In fact, thirty years later he found himself homeless. Struggling to find meaning and searching for answers, he got a library card and started reading. One of the first books he read was written by Carl Sagan, an agnostic. Perhaps this led to or intensified the doubt that he now has. He admits that he no longer believes in parts of the bible. And his faith was shakened when he recently heard an eminent theoretical cosmologist say, “Someday science will eventually have an explanation for all the things from our beginning and there will be no need to include a creator, or a God.” Our reader has asked me to comment on the subject of God. My comments follow.
Our reader’s declining faith in God isn’t unusual at all. It is more likely to occur to those who travel the world or read a great deal. For those who do so experience a spiritual maturity. They begin to realize that they did not choose their faith, but were born into it.
They start to realize that God is not a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, so they question what they were taught to believe. Yet, from time to time, holy men do appear, as did the founders of all the great religions. They came to teach us the importance of getting along with one another, assisting those in need, and making the world a better place for all.
However, after the death of a great spiritual teacher, an institution is formed, bureaucracies emerge, power struggles begin, schisms and sects arise, and the original teachings of the master are reinterpreted and codified. Ministering to the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the imprisoned, and loving your neighbor were the original concerns. Today, however, much weight is given to the type of meat you eat or avoid, the clothing you wear or remove, or the rituals you perform during the day or week.
What has happened to the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself”? What do the religious institutions call their brothers and sisters of other faiths? Not brothers or sisters, but heretics, gentiles, pagans, nonbelievers, and heathens. By labeling others as sacrilegious sinners they feel no guilt as they kill their neighbors. What heinous acts of suppression, destruction, and butchery are committed in the name of religion! I’m not surprised, however, because fighting over religion is much easier than practicing it.
Now I will move away from my introductory remarks and try to shed light on some of the questions our reader encountered.
Does it make sense to believe in God if you cannot prove His existence?
Atheists claim it is illogical to believe in God if you cannot prove His existence. I find it interesting that they think believers are ‘illogical’. Why? Because atheists claim that God doesn’t exist, but cannot prove that is so. Isn’t it illogical for them to believe something they cannot prove?
Science and God
Atheists assert that they believe in science, not the mythology of religion. That being so, let’s see what science has to say.
1. Although not every scientist agrees, the overwhelming majority accept that the universe had a beginning. Almost all unanimously agree that the universe came into existence with the big bang about 13.7 billion years ago.
2. A major tenet of science is that every effect has a cause. For example, every chick was hatched from an egg, which was laid by a chicken. Chicks do not materialize out of nothing. The same is true for the universe. It, too, requires a cause. That cause is called God.
But who or what created God?
Nonbelievers argue, “If every effect requires a cause, so does God. Who or what created God?” This question is only asked by those who do not fully understand what the universe is. Let me explain. The universe is made up of three components: energy/matter, space, in which matter exists and moves, and time, which measures the movement of matter (for example, it takes the moon 28 days to orbit the earth).
So, time, space, and energy/matter were simultaneously created during the big bang. The laws of the universe only apply to the universe. Asking what caused God is like asking what time did God create the universe? Before the universe was created there was no time and no laws of the universe. Therefore the law that every effect has a cause does not apply to God.
Wasn’t the universe created by chance?
True, some state that the universe was created by chance. But how credible is that claim? The moon came out today; is there any chance it won’t come out tomorrow? Absolutely not. The fact is the universe is governed by laws. It operates with great precision. So much so that the American government was able to send the mars rover on a 34.8 million mile journey and calculate exactly where it would land on the surface of the planet. Who or what created the precision and laws of the universe? Wasn’t it the Creator of the universe?
It is ironic that atheists declare they believe in science, not God. You see, without God there would be no science. Science is based on the laws of the universe, which cannot come from chance, for chance is synonymous with disorder and chaos, not precision and order.
Wouldn’t it be possible to create an ordered universe by chance if we waited long enough?
Some think that if we allow chimpanzees to pound on typewriters long enough, eventually they will type all the works of Shakespeare, purely by chance. Similarly, they maintain that an ordered universe could be created by chance if we waited long enough, perhaps trillions of years? This misunderstanding comes from a faulty understanding of time. It may take 25 minutes to bake my pizza, but it is not time (25 minutes) that bakes it; it is the oven! Likewise, it wasn’t 13.7 billion years that created an intelligent universe, it was Intelligence.
How can a loving God permit evil to exist?
For the last 5,000 years, the problem of evil has been discussed in spiritual literature. Throughout the ages man has asked how can an all-loving God and evil coexist. Why do innocent people drown in floods, die of starvation, perish in accidents, and die of illness? Why are blameless people raped, murdered, and crippled?
However, many Christians argue that God so loves man that he has given him free will. And it is man’s abuse of free will that is the source of evil, not God. Here’s how the brilliant C.S. Lewis expressed the argument: “Free will, though it makes evil possible, is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” Admittedly that’s a good argument for the case against moral evil, but it doesn’t explain natural disasters, accidents, and illnesses. What difference does it make if someone’s child is killed by a murderer, tornado, accident, or cancer? Isn’t the result the same (death)? Isn’t the parents’ pain the same? If murder is evil, why isn’t cancer?
Before we ask WHY evil exists, shouldn’t we ask WHETHER it exists? It may seem like a strange question, but is it possible that evil is merely a matter of perception? Could it be we find what we look for? Or is it a matter of distorted perspective? For example, if I were to show the word “LIVE” to someone with dyslexia, they may see “EVIL” (LIVE spelled backwards). Is that what it boils down to, finding evil where there is none? Let me illustrate my point with a few examples.
Holding on to Tommy’s hand, Sandra was leading her five-year-old son through the mall. Tommy stopped in front of Dairy Queen and said, “Mommy, I want ice-cream!” “No, Tommy, “Sandra replied, “it isn’t good for you, but let’s get some nice, cold orange juice instead.” “No! I don’t want orange juice; I want ice-cream.” he shouted. As Sandra gently tugged Tommy away, he could be heard yelling, “I hate you, mommy; I hate you!” Did Tommy misperceive reality? Did he misinterpret his mother’s loving intention as evil? If so, he can be excused; after all, he is only five.
Cathy was disturbed by her 15-year-old daughter’s announcement that she planned to go steady with Eddy. Cathy forcefully explained, “I won’t allow it, Cindy! Eddy is a dropout and a pothead that already got three teens pregnant. You deserve something much better than that. Besides, I want you to concentrate on schoolwork now. You’re too young to be going steady with anyone.” Cindy ran to her room crying, slammed the door shut, and screamed, “I hate you!” Is this another case of misperception, seeing evil where there is, in fact, love?
The paralysis of movie superstar, Christopher Reeves, is another example. He confessed that he never thought about the plight of wheelchair bound people before. However, as a result of his accident, he has set up a foundation to help find a cure for spinal cord injuries. Much more research is now being done in this area because of his efforts. From this vantage point, can we label his tragic accident as evil?
Isn’t it possible that the ‘evil’ we find in the world is due to the puny mind of man trying to second-guess the mind of God?
Wasn’t the universe created by evolution?
Creation is a process. All creations start with an idea and evolve into finished works. This article, for instance, began with the idea of responding to a reader’s question and is evolving into a complete article as I write. You have to start with something before it can evolve. Articles don’t write themselves; they require a creator (writer) that directs the evolution of the work. How is the universe any different?
I have left more questions unanswered than I have answered. But that’s inevitable when dealing with a subject of this magnitude. Some of the questions I did not raise include: What are the attributes of God? What role does or should God play in my life? Does heaven exist? Is there an afterlife? Can we experience God? What is enlightenment? How can we experience enlightenment? What are the differences between religion and spirituality? What is the message shared by all religions and mystics? Which is more important, worshipping God or serving His creation (humanity)? Is it better to be knowledgeable in religious/spiritual matters or to be a loving human being? What did D.M. Street mean when he said, “To think you are separate from God is to remain separate from your own being.”?
On a personal note:
I value all scriptures, but my favorite is the scripture of the Indigenous Peoples. Their scripture is written by the hand of God and is called nature. It is a universal language and is unencumbered by words. It speaks direct to the heart. It is the aurora borealis, the Grand Canyon, and the most spectacular ice sculpture of all, Niagara Falls in February. But it is also the centipede crawling out from under a moss-covered stone, pine needles dancing in the wind, and the fragrance of dew. It is the song of life. And what is life? Crowfoot, a Blackfoot Indian explains: “It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
The Indigenous Peoples are courageous warriors. Unlike religious people who cling onto a rock in the middle of a raging river for security, they let go and learn how to swim. That is the way of the spiritual person. The way of courage. The way of trust. The way of love. Rather than listening to others interpret God’s words, they choose to listen to His Voice silently speaking within their own breast and in the night sky. They understand that true religion is the life we live, not the beliefs we declare.
Albert Einstein also defined religion, “True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” Let us become living lanterns, lighting the way. And whenever we come across a fellow traveler carrying a different lantern, let’s open our hearts and minds so we can learn more and shine even brighter. For as Victor Hugo wrote, “Toleration is the best religion.” When asked, the great American, Thomas Paine, said, “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” When asked, what will you say?
A Case for the Existence of God by Dean L. Overman
THERE IS A GOD: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese