Unification News for December 1996
Notes To An Atheist - Part One
Recently I was involved in two on-line discussions. One was with a minister I know. A friend of his had been murdered; a crime so terrible I saw it on the national news. We discussed God's grace, and the spiritual world.
The other was with three members of my writer's group: an atheist technician, an agnostic scientist, and a struggling Catholic musician. It was about Science and Religion, and whether either is based in reality, and if they can really help us.
These discussions lead me to write this article. The subject has already filled entire libraries with centuries worth of hard-thought- out tomes. In this incarnation, it's just long enough to fill a two- part article.
I have written this as a letter to an atheist I might meet someday.
There are saints who proclaim that they see the glory of God everywhere, during every waking moment. There are also scientists who tell us, flatly, that they see no evidence of God whatsoever.
You've told me that you don't believe in God. You know that I do, and you don't seem to mind that. You have so many reasons to doubt, and not enough reasons to believe.
Let's begin by framing the debate.
The most fundamental question has always been: Is there a God? This might be rephrased in our scientific era as: Is there a supernatural? (Things that have not been, and perhaps cannot be, measured by science.)
I won't ask you to try to "prove a negative," just to remain open minded. Many things once unsuspected, even in theory, are now accepted as routine.
Are there forces beyond measure? There is little agreement about what such forces might be like. The Pagans believe in an amorphous "life force" which imbues the cosmos. There are several very old, as well as some recently updated, versions of this belief.
If that is true, then monotheists such as myself would say that this force is but one aspect of a vast, personal God.
Let's look at the monotheist's descriptions of God. Religious liberals believe in an all-forgiving, milquetoast sort of God. Fundamentalists see a demanding, judgmental God. One version of God sends nearly everyone to Heaven; the other, to Hell.
I would say that the truth is beyond either of these ideas. God created us in His image, with both a mind and a heart. Let's use them both, just as God does. I will use "His" for God, while accepting that God embraces both genders.
Objections to belief
I would like to address some common objections to belief in God. By now, I suppose I have heard all of them. Fortunately, they can be answered.
Doubters ask, "Why evil?" The old lament goes: "Why do the wicked prosper, oh Lord, while your own people suffer?"
Many who have suffered personal tragedy tend to blame, and then to doubt God. "A good God would not have allowed such a thing to happen," is their heartfelt cry.
God does not treat with this world, directly. With the rarest of exceptions, He only works through the minds of people, especially those He has called to lead His Providence.
God does not micro-manage our physical world. He might count the sparrows, but He does not prevent the hawk from swooping down on their nests. He might number your hairs, sir, but He will not intervene if they begin to fall out.
An example: when a tornado passes through their town, the people whose house was spared ought to thank Chaos Theory-and not God-when the fickle wind veered around their home and wrecked the neighbor's place instead. God was not on the side of the "winners," here. Nor is He against the losers, in sports contests and most other venues.
Some wonder why evil exists at all; and how it could have emerged in a cosmos that should have been entirely good.
Fortunately, the Divine Principle answers this question decisively. I would recommend a reading, or better yet, a workshop. For now, I'll try to summarize it here.
God does not stay the hands of the evil, except when good people arise to do it, whether in crime or war. Recently, over in Scotland, there was a terrible massacre of children. During the memorial service, the town's Pastor said a very wise thing: "God's heart was the first to break." We make Him suffer, but we can also bring Him great joy.
The Principle explains how evil arose in this world, and outlines three specific reasons why God did not prevent this. You have never heard about this, I'm sure, despite monumental efforts on the part of Rev. Moon and his people. The reasons for this are many. It is most unfortunate, especially for those who have been "stopping up their ears and rushing forwards to stone him."
Without this understanding, Christianity has been helpless in the face of many heresies and competing beliefs. Such as Mithraism, which teaches that Good and Evil have always existed, and that the best we can hope for is to keep the two "in balance." Today this is the "darker" variety of New Age belief.
By now you must be itching to tell me all about the horrors promulgated by "organized religion," such as the Inquisition. What the Church authorities could not overcome by virtue of their own weak doctrines, they often crushed by brute force. For example, a medieval incarnation of Mithraism, called Catharism, was exterminated by one of the bloodiest massacres in French history.
Many wonder why a good God would condemn so many to Hell. Or how a powerful God could lose so many of His creations to eternal perdition. If Heaven and Hell's populations were sports scores, then (according to mainstream doctrine) God is losing badly.
Simply put, God neither condemns nor rewards anyone-people do this to themselves, in this life and especially in the next. Also, though Hell is a terrible place, there is a way out; a road that anyone can follow to Heaven.
Science vs. religion
You have great respect for science, and you've told me you think religion has mostly opposed science. Therefore, that religion has been a roadblock to the advancement of humanity.
You've brought up Evolution, the obvious example. Science seems to have "won," hands down, on this point. Even the Pope himself recently admitted that evolution must be true.
The Creationists have consistently invoked a so-called "God of the gaps." Everything science could not explain, they attributed to God. But as more is discovered, God is then (supposedly) shoved out of one more perch. Eventually, evolutionists gloat, God will have no possible role.
Actually, it works both ways. Science has given us the Big Bang, as well as the Cosmological Anthropic Principle. There are several excellent books which explain these, so I won't go into the details.
I have a friend at UC Berkeley, a research embryologist, who tells me that he has uncovered previously unknown "spiritual" forces, involved in the development of all new life. His work has already been featured in peer-reviewed journals.
Suffice it to say that the latest scientific theories have given us a very probable role for an intelligent Creator.
Most believers in God point to the existence of miracles. By their very nature, no one would claim that such things can be reproduced in a laboratory. There are people who are famous for their alleged "psychic abilities," though the vast majority of them have been proven as fakes. A vast reward fund remains unclaimed.
However, our CIA, and others, have taken a very serious interest in human abilities beyond the ordinary "five senses." If I were a genuine psychic, I wouldn't even need such abilities to perceive the circus- much less the sheer danger-that would arise from my claiming that reward.
I look for God's hand at the time of the Big Bang, and at the time the first true humans were born on this world. I would look for it in holy places, though, usually, well away from the glare of publicity.
Religion has been a great boon to humanity. Sure, there have been abuses, as there are in every walk of life. Such violent "religious" people, past and present, have not been following the clear teachings of their own Faiths.
Limits of science
For scientists, such accusations are like "the pot calling the kettle black." Historically, when people have ruled by their non-religious "rational principles," they've seldom managed to improve their societies. Quite the contrary, some of them produced the most horrific dictatorships in all history. Science too has its limits!
The great laws, the foundation of civilization, all have religious underpinnings. From the edicts of the ancient Hammurabi, to Moses, to the American Founders, we see the hand of God. The understanding that people are not simply cogs in some domineering social machine.
Even rulers with the best of intentions, be they Kings or bureaucrats, have a terrible time guiding their nations. Whole economies, and specific programs, seldom end up as planned. Even our finest science- fiction writers have had a hard time envisioning any better future.
This leads us to the realm of politics, and the creation of Laws. A relative handful of "health and safety" regulations have a genuine basis in science. Beyond these, the creation, enforcement and effects of human legislation are so utterly unscientific as to give one fits.
In guiding humanity, religion had done better then science.
This concludes the first section of my hypothetical letter, and of this article. The rest will follow next month.
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