Richard Dawkins is an atheist ready to dismantle all religions so that mankind can get on with life without the old superstitions of religion, which he attributes to evolutionary misfiring. His latest book is The God Delusion. In a lengthy book review in The New York Times, reviewer Jim Holt writes,
Despite the many flashes of brilliance in this book, Dawkins’s failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading it an intellectually frustrating experience. As long as there are no decisive arguments for or against the existence of God, a certain number of smart people will go on believing in him, just as smart people reflexively believe in other things for which they have no knock-down philosophical arguments, like free will, or objective values, or the existence of other minds.This fits in with recent blog entries as Dawkins is one who would decidedly say that the Scientific Method is the way to know things. In the evolutionary biologists worldview, there is no way of knowing beyond what can be proved by observation and testing.
Dawkins asserts that “the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question.” But what possible evidence could verify or falsify the God hypothesis? The doctrine that we are presided over by a loving deity has become so rounded and elastic that no earthly evil or natural disaster, it seems, can come into collision with it. Nor is it obvious what sort of event might unsettle an atheist’s conviction to the contrary. Russell, when asked about this by a Look magazine interviewer in 1953, said he might be convinced there was a God “if I heard a voice from the sky predicting all that was going to happen to me during the next 24 hours.” Short of such a miraculous occurrence, the only thing that might resolve the matter is an experience beyond the grave — what theologians used to call, rather pompously, “eschatological verification.”
If the after-death options are either a beatific vision (God) or oblivion (no God), then it is poignant to think that believers will never discover that they are wrong, whereas Dawkins and fellow atheists will never discover that they are right.
But as for the voice-from-heaven proof suggested above, the Christian philosopher Dallas Willard causes his students to confront this quandary each year. I found this illustration in Lee Strobels book, The Case for Faith. Try thinking through this scenario from Willard’s in-class hand-out:
Next Tuesday morning, just after breakfast, all of us in this world will be knocked to our knees by a percussive and ear-shattering thunderclap. Snow swirls, leaves drop from trees, the earth heaves and buckles, buildings topple and towers tumble. The sky is ablaze with an eerie silvery light, and just then, as all the people of this world look up, the heavens open, and the clouds pull apart, revealing an unbelievably radiant and immense Zeus-like figure towering over us like a hundred Everests. He frowns darkly as lightning plays over the features of his Michaelangeloid face, and then he points down, at me, and explains for every man, woman, and child to hear, “I’ve had quite enough of your too-clever logic chopping and word-watching in matters of theology. Be assured, Norwood Russell Hanson, that I most certainly do exist!”Dallas Willard then asks his students, if the heaven opened and God so spoke that clearly and directly to some guy named Norwood Russell Hanson, what would this Hanson do? Willard’s best guess is that he would explain the whole thing away.
So what do you think? Is there anything that could disprove God to all the faithful of varying religious stripes? Is there anything that could prove God to all those who say, "I have no need of that hypothesis" when thinking of things divine. After all, one could decide that it had just been a delusion. Apparently, this is not a new issue. Jesus ended his story of a rich man and the poor man Lazarus who begged at his gates with the rich man asking God to send Lazarus back to preach to his family. Jesus' punchline was,
they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead."
So if Jesus was convinced returning from the dead wouldn't be enough to give someone faith, what would show God to be more than mere delusion?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church