A secular Jew, [David] Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:
- Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.
- Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
- Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.
- Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.
- Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
- Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.
- Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.
- Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ballpark.
- Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.
The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions,
My friend and I stuck my sister in a garbage can. When crabs were biting my other sister’s feet in the bay and she was crying for help, rather than lend her a hand I sat on the dock and laughed. Both times they looked at me shocked that I could turn on them like that, and I was a little shocked too, and the fact that I’m writing about it now shows that I still carry the regret. But growing up is an ugly endeavor at times and we can only try to be good when we know how awful it feels to be bad.
Tom Papa, your dad stole my rake . . ., page 224.
We can’t see light itself. We can see only what light lights up, like the little circle of night where the candle flickers—a sheen of mahogany, a wineglass, a face leaning toward us out of the shadows.
When Jesus says that he is the Light of the World (John 8:12), maybe something like that is part of what he is saying. He himself is beyond our seeing, but in the darkness where we stand, we see, thanks to him, something of the path that stretches out from the door, something of whatever it is that keeps us trying more or less to follow the path even when we can hardly believe that it goes anywhere worth going or that we have what it takes to go there, something of whoever it is that every once in a while seems to lean toward us out of the shadows.
Originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words
Shared by Tom Pedersen
Ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith, because there is no way to prove that the world and all that is within it and its deep mathematical orderliness and matter itself all simply exist on their own as brute facts with no source outside of themsnot believing is an act of faithelves. If the theory that God exists leads us to expect what we find, whereas the belief that there is no God odes not, why not move ahead, at least tentatively, but adopting the theory that God is there?
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 227.
Even in its beginnings, the movement of Jesus followers spread out in all directions outward from its Middle Easter origins, not only to Europe, but also to North Africa, to Turkey and Armenia, to Persia and India. “Christianity was a world religion long before it was a European one.” And today again, . . . Christianity is the religion that is most equally distributed across the continents of the world. So “no other [faith] . . . has so extensively crossed the cultural divisions of humanity and found a place in so many diverse cultural contexts.”
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 229.
Francis Crick, a leading molecular biologist and neuroscientist, famously wrote: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” If there is no God or spiritual dimension, that is pretty much the logical conclusion.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 224.
If we believe that the Resurrection really happened, then Jesus Christ has, as it were, made an opening in the barrier between the ideal and the real. The downtrodden of the world can say, “Now I have got something, I have a hope. I have a hope for the future.” Middle-class people can get excited about philosophy and ethical principles, but not the masses, not the people who are really stuck in the darkness of this world. The Resurrection, not taken as a symbol but believed as a concrete fact, will lift up the downtrodden, and will change the world. Belief in a final judgment gives us enough hope so that we will neither resort to violence to bring in justice nor give in and collaborate with injustice.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 172.
The Gospel would still be true even if no one believed it. The hopeful thing is that, where it is tried–where it is imperfectly and hesitantly followed–as it was in Northern Ireland [and South Africa] during the peace process[es], as it is in many a Salvation Army hostel this Christmas, as it flickers in countless unseen Christian lives, it works. And its palpable and remarkable power to transform human life takes us to the position of believing that something very wonderful indeed began with the birth of Christ into the world.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 192.
Quoting A. N. Wilson, It’s the Gospel Truth.
All judgments that something or someone is good or bad do so based on an awareness of purpose. If you know what that purpose is, then your moral evaluation of something can be a factual statement, a truth that exists apart from your personal likes and dislikes. You may not like watches for some reason, but if it is a good one, you will have to acknowledge it to be so. If you know the purpose of a farmer is to get a crop out of a piece of land, but she does not get any yield at all, year after year, then you know she is a bad farmer, however much you may like her personally. If, however, you have no idea of the purpose of an object, then any description of it as “good” or “bad” is wholly subjective, completely based on inner preferences.
How, then, can we tell if a human being is good or bad? Only if we know our purpose, what human life is for. If you don’t know the answer to that, then you can never determine “good” and “bad” human behavior. If, as in the secular view, we have not been made for a purpose, then it is futile to even try to talk about moral good and evil.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, pages 186-187.
Eastern religions today teach that after death our souls merge with the All-Soul of the universe. Just as a drop of water returning to the ocean loses its individual nature in the whole, so we become an impersonal part of the impersonal spiritual life force knitting all things together. But if after death there is nonexistence, impersonal existence, or in any case nonconsciousness, that means there is no love, because only persons can love. If we are not a self after death, then we have lost everything, because what we most want in life is love.
Tim Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 167