Thinking about all the people I might struggle to identify with, and you might be surprised to find that in some ways, atheists are not too hard for me to have empathy with. God, the knowledge of his existence and goodness permeates, well, everything in my life, and so trying to think of a world, of even a breath, without him, simply doesn’t compute. And yet, I have a deeply analytical, logical mind, and can totally see how, without encounter, that might lead to deep, humanistic thoughts.
Two of my favourite writers, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, were atheists; they were also admirably compassionate people. Whereas Sir Pterry did teeter on the edge of agnosticism on occasion, Adams described himself as a “radical” atheist.
I will let him speak for himself today: “God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is.” (excerpt from Adams’ interview with American Atheists in 1998)
Adams had a vast intelligence, but as I’ve said in other articles, genius can blind us to spiritual truths. There is not much point arguing God’s existence by logical means, though many have tried. His existence is extremely logical, that isn’t the problem. The problem is that the type of mind that wants to have God proven logically, is not prepared to take evidence of heart and soul into account. Any apologist who leaves out the heart of the matter is diluting God to the point where he might be explained away. And that can lead to all sorts of problems, as Adams ironically (and aware of the irony) well knew….
“Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bog-gglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
The argument goes something like this: `I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, `for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’
`But,’ says Man, `The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’
`Oh dear,’ says God, `I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanished in a puff of logic.
`Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets
himself killed on the next zebra crossing.” (from Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams)
It can be hard to respect and empathise with a viewpoint so different from one’s own, but a sense of humour, respect and dignity, are vital, as is remaining calm. Passion is often misunderstood. Besides stupidity (like denying the age of fossils), there is nothing more damaging to a logical apologist’s argument, than the tell-tale steam coming out of her ears. In my view, we are always better off living love as our witness of God’s heart.
If you would like to read my article “The Blindness of Genius” you can find it here http://jellyjots.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-blindness-of-genius.html
Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017