The End of Faith?


 We cannot live by reason alone… It is nowhere  written, however, that human beings must be irrational, or live in a perpetual  state of siege, to enjoy an abiding sense of the sacred.  On the contrary… spirituality can be, indeed must be, deeply rational, even as it elucidates the limits of reason. – Sam Harris; The End of Faith

Sam Harris is an atheist, but he sure doesn’t sound like one in the above quote.  He sounds like a very reasoned and rational thinker who refuses to dismiss the possibility of a God, or at least spirituality, however improbable, without clear evidence.  In my opinion, that’s not really an atheist, that’s someone who is waiting for more evidence before making a decision.  I think Mr. Harris is one of the breed of so called atheists I could actually get along with.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an ardent Christ-follower just as Harris is an avowed atheist.  But we can debate the historical record and authority of scriptures until the cows come home and not convince each other of anything until we get one thing perfectly clear.  Nobody knows for sure how the universe was created.

Given the evidence we now have it is equally as likely that the “Big Bang” was caused by the gaseous excretion of a cosmic Chicken, as one atheist told me, as anything worthy of the name God and I agree.  But if God is indeed a cosmic Chicken does that make Him (It) any less awesome and God-like?

What I don’t accept is the notion that the universe simply created itself.  We live in a world of cause and effect and to say that the universe itself has no cause is to deny the entire scientific method that the rest of our understanding of the physical world is built upon.  A theory based on causeless-ness is no less irrational then the cosmic Chicken theory.

You see, all of the “evidence” we have in support of ANY theory for the origins of the universe is circumstantial at best.  Many atheists jump on Carl Sagan’s famous declaration that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence but then utterly fail to live up that requirement in support of any of their own theories.  Where is the extraordinary evidence to support a claim of causeless-ness exactly?  And if you say that I’m missing the point of what Sagan and all your arrogant and delusional atheist friends mean by causeless-ness, quite honestly, we’re doomed to a lifetime of circular arguments.   There is no point to a circular argument and we may as well forget the whole thing.  You can stop reading now, unsubscribe from this blog and never come back.  If all you want to do is argue in circles I’m not interested, see yah!

For those of you who didn’t just click away, congratulations, you at least have enough of an intellect to see that every effect has a cause, thanks for sticking around.

I don’t think if we’re honest with ourselves there are very many true atheists out there.  Just about everyone I have ever encountered when they honestly think about the origins of the universe will admit that at the end of the day there has to be an ultimate cause.  Although circumstantial all evidence points to the fact that something started all of this and that cause, regardless of whether or not it is worthy of the term God as we now understand it is nothing short of awesome.  It has been the task of all reasoned thought to determine that cause since the dawn of time.

So where does that leave us, me and you?  It leaves us with history and the evolution of human understanding in uneasy balance with our inquisitive nature and the future of the things we may yet discover.  It does not make the existence or non-existence of God more or less probable.

Funny thing, when I looked up “faith” in Wikipedia it started out by quoting Christian scripture;

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and  assurance about what we do not see. [Hebrews 11:1]

Are confidence, hope and assurance irrational?  Worse (or better, depending on how you look at it) does faith hinder inquiry?  The answer to both questions in my opinion is an emphatic NO!

Faith and reason can and must live side by side.  Without reason faith is indeed delusion as many atheists claim but reason without faith is empty and leads inevitably to a circular argument that can never be concluded.  In order for reason to have a purpose we must start from a faith position and then use reason to shine a light on the things we do not see.

Will some of our ideas be disproven?  Yes.

Will it be difficult to justify the mistakes of the past?  Yes.

Is it then reasonable, or even possible, to discard faith entirely?  No.

Did I convince anyone without any previous spiritual inclination of the existence of God?  I doubt it but that wasn’t my point, and yes I do have one.  My point is that without faith there is no reason for reason.  Atheists that point to reason as the only worthy pursuit don’t even have a valid starting point for their arguments.  They’re just running in circles.

One last thing; do I think the Bible is literally true? Of course not, but that’s a discussion for another time.

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8 thoughts on “The End of Faith?

  1. My personal experience with those who call themselves athiests is that they don’t have a care regarding God. The one’s I’ve met simply want to bash religion in general. They are rebellious creatures looking for a way to undermine the hope filled faith that others have. And obviously that which they cannot own themselves.

    I know there are a few honest folk who really can’t make up their mind yet. For these, if the Lord wills to touch them, they will gladly receive Him.

    It seems this is the age of “labels”. People go around calling themselves whatever they think fits their mood today. And pride promotes rebellion. If I call myself the thing I think most people admire, I tend to feel good about how they perceive me. Athiest, witch, satanist, rebel, good ole boy. . . . these are just titles most people use to excuse their willingness to obey what is right.

    Thanks for the post. Sometimes it seems there aren’t enough Christians speaking from the words of their heart. I see a lot of Scripture quoting. And though I can’t speak against that, I keep looking for those who understand the Word of God well enough to speak freely.

    By His Grace.

    • Apologetics is tricky, especially in the blogosphere. There are at least 2 steps involved in moving people from Atheism to faith of any type. The first is to get them thinking at least about the possibility of a god, that’s called Deism. The second is moving them from deism into an actual faith of some sort. Most self styled atheists I’ve encountered are actually frustrated deists who can’t find a home within any of the mainstream faith traditions.

      The increasing number of atheists in the world today is actually an inditement against the church (both Chrisitan and otherwise) more than it says anything about the appeal of atheism. Traditionally we in the churches have done a piss poor job of adapting to or combatting new science and new philosphy and have really hurt people who have some honest and legitimate questions about the way we reconcile our traditions and myths (yes I said myths) with the physical realities around us. I believe that Sam Harris is just one example of a man who has been deeply hurt by a mainstream church and continues to ask very legitimate and powerful questions we should all be considering.

      We don’t need more scripture quoting, we need to be more willing to enter into relationships with people who don’t share our beleifs, love and honour them, answer their questions and stay true to our own convictions in the face of opposition. The time to quote scripture may come, but it carries no weight in a disucssion with someone who gives it no creedence.

  2. When the story is fully told by the mouth of the Lord, we will know that His word has been true. It is the Holy Spirit who moves a man from lost to saved. Yet the path seems different for everyone of us. Some are led to understanding by the Bible alone. Some are led to understanding by poetry. Some find the Lord while drunk or drugged. A door way was placed before each of the saints. And the Lord made sure they would walk through and find Him. To describe it, or to identify it, seems beyond our ability. We testify that that door exists. And we strive with all we own to help others narrow their path. May God bless His people with a true work.

    I balk at the thought of dispensing with the Bible in any sense. Yet it’s interesting that even my own blog speaks from a more world centered point of view. In the end, the Gospel was given to men that we might speak our own language in the leading of others to the Lord. Glory is encased in flesh for the time being. And oh how I find myself longing for release.

    by His Grace.

  3. I did not mean to dispense with the Bible. What I mean is that when someone does not believe or has serious questions about it’s authority it is more important to live it than to speak it. The opportunity to speak will come but we have to be patient and humbly wait to be asked. As Paul said, always be ready to give an answer for the hope you now have.

  4. yes. I understood what you meant. I think it would be an equal horror to lose the freedom to read the Bible or to speak of His glory with freedom. They seem to go hand in hand. The Word of God and the testimony of man. I wonder if it’s possible for the one to exist without the other. Jesus told the teachers, “I tell you, if they remain silent the rocks will cry out”. Ponderous stuffs.

  5. F. Ellsworth Lockwood says:

    Lauren: Well, it seems to me that your work is cut out, as usual. I am a frustrated Christian myself, because I seem to be the only guy alive who believes that one can be a Christian while believing that the bible came to us in the normal, usual way that books come to mankind. That is, authors wrote them. Period. They wrote what they thought, believed, experienced, or perhaps in some cases were forced to due to the cultures in which they found themselves. And no, there are no “rules of interpretion,” such as being required to make the writings all agree with each other.

    In my worldview, this position on the nature of scripture does not equate to dispensing with the bible either. It is simply accepting things for what they are.

    Personally paraphrased, Jesus is reported to have asked his disciples, “Who are folk saying that I am?” And they told him. A variety of answers. And then he asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s hand shot up and he said that Jesus was the annointed one, the Son of God. Son of God, by the way, was a well known biblical phrase which did not necessarily have anything to do with virgin births. It was the equivalent of saying he was the coming King, the king predicted, as many Jews believed, as a long promised King of Israel who would restore all the things to Israel that had been taken away in the two captivities.

    Jesus reply to Peter implied that he was giving him an A+ for that answer.

    As things were to turn out, that didn’t happen, at least not literally. Many Christians are still expecting that to happen. Jesus to come floating down from the sky on a horse dripping with blood, taking fiery vengeance on those who don’t know God.

    Many Christians take this event literally, and then they seem to wonder why atheists and those of other religions don’t take them seriously in their protestations that theirs is a gospel of love.

    So much simpler to believe that the bible is what the bible is, inconsistencies included, and to take personal responsibility for what we make of it.

    I am betting that one can do that and still be a person of faith. Or as the scriptures would call it, “a godly man.”

  6. Good post. I think it’s important to have a mixure of reason and faith and I think that both can exist together. The biggest mistakes of the Church of the past involved accepting the idea that their faith cannot exist in a world of reason. I like your summary that faith gives us a reason for reason.

    An athiest friend of mine would debate you on that and say that faith (and hope too) gives us Christians a reason to sit around and do nothing. Yet so long as we don’t take hope and faith to the extremes that it makes us lazy, every study ever done on the subject shows that those who have faith are happier, healthier and live longer.

  7. Hey Rick

    To your athiest fried I would say – show my a man of faith without action and I will show you a lifeless soul who doesn’t understand biblical teaching and certainly never read the epistle of James.

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