Dawkins and Doubt

I see over nine-thousand comments at the HuffPo on the piece where Richard Dawkins has a sliver of doubt on the non-existence of God. (Sure glad we only get a sliver of HuffPo’s traffic here.)

Naturally, Dr Dawkins suggested that “religionists” should also share his rational, six-point-nine approach to this. In the world of science, there is little of ironclad certainty. There can always be one misinterpretation, one slipped decimal point, one vaguely defined aspect –any of which can wake a researcher in the middle of the night and throw the whole works into a mess of doubt.

It’s my contention that many religious believers follow this same pattern. On the basis of reason, they have convinced themselves God exists and that their way of living the faith is the Way To Go.

If a Christian announced she or he had finally found rational proof of God, I wouldn’t be interested. I would hope others wouldn’t be either. Do you suppose why?

The full debate video is up at the link above. I confess little to no interest in watching it. A debate is never likely to solve an issue of faith. More illustrative for any seeker is walking with (companion) a person of faith. Walk with a person who lacks faith, and it will largely look the same as any other human pedestrian: wake up, shower, eat, go to work, interact with other people, go home, play with the dog or the child, go to bed.

For a person of faith, something beyond measurement is at work. It might be just a glimmer. It might shine a little more brightly. Though if you’re looking for electromagnetic radiation, you’re not likely to detect a darn thing.

One of the best scenes in the movie Contact involves a challenge from the scientist, as played by Jodie Foster, to a person of faith, played by Matthew McConaughey. Prove the existence of God, she suggests. The dialogue turns back on the scientist (and you have to see the scene to get the full interpretation, well done by Ms Foster):

Palmer Joss: Did you love your father?
Ellie Arroway: What?
Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?
Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.
Palmer Joss: Prove it.

Proof and reason are not needed. Human beings communicate with one another and with God on levels different from the realm of reason of Western Society. For believers, we’re better off living as though everything depends on faith, and not that everything depends on what we know. But I think we should be cautious about allowing too much reason into our practice of the faith.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News, Commentary, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dawkins and Doubt

  1. Another sign of siblinghood, TF, the “Contact” excerpt. That’s why, besides the whole “Cosmos” series I’ve always had great affection for Sagan.
    Of course, we won’t mention that “Father” Joss, Clinton’s spiritual guru in the film, was weaker in matters of the flesh than the spirit and natural/God’s laws! ;-) But forgiveness still abounds, as any real man would be hard-pressed (bad pun alert) to not be enticed by the intellect of Ellie Arroway first, and her resemblence to Jodie Foster second!
    As far as the neo Athiests go, I’ve never found Dawkins to be other than a bitter brew; I was always partial to the beloved bellicose Hitch, RIP.

  2. Patti says:

    Hmm… I dunno, Todd. I’ve seen some very good examples, even here, where people “of faith” show something pretty dark at work as they insist that all the world participate in that faith and in ‘the right’ (i.e.: their) way.

    In one way I will agree with you: there’s no real room for empiricism here. Faith is a choice. You decide to believe, or not.

  3. Liam says:

    Empiricism is about dealing with certainty and uncertainty. Certainty is not the same thing as trust, and love is based on trust, not certainty. Indeed, where there is certainty there cannot be true trust: a interstice of some sort is the necessary space for love to grow. Without that, you have the certainty of machines, not the love between persons.

    “I don’t set myself up to give spiritual advice but all I would like you to know is that I sympathize and I suffer this way [with doubt] myself. When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.”
    — Flannery O’Connor (1959 letter to Louise Abbot)

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