When spirituality and physics started to be linked, many scientists called it the use of metaphor. It couldn’t literally be true that there was a Tao of Physics that linked quantum mechanics to ancient Chinese philosophy. At best there might be a weak link–God and the new physics–the way one might say God and DNA. With a little imagination, the two could be joined, but there was no possibility that God could intrude into hard science. There might be a gene for faith (so the speculation went), yet physics is couched almost purely in the language of mathematics, and no matter how you cut it, God isn’t numbers.
After two centuries of the tug-of-war between science and religion, it’s clear science occupies the dominant position. It has passed the “So what?” test, meaning that science as applied to practical daily life has been immensely more important to modern people than God. This has given atheism, both casual and militant, the upper hand. As much as belief in God has deep human significance, he (or she) doesn’t pass the “So what?” test. If you put a video camera on the shoulders of an atheist and a believer, without knowing which was which, it’s hard to claim that the believer will have a better life because of his belief. Atheism therefore looks like just as good a choice.
I’ve always felt that this lopsided advantage that we automatically give to science, and therefore to atheism, is unfair. In a new book, The Future of God, I turn the tables, proving as best I can that God isn’t just a humane, comforting, or moral choice but the most practical source of well-being. This will certainly come as surprising news to millions of the faithful who have been leading divided lives. Their practical affairs are secular, taking advantage of technological advances, while in their hearts they leave a privileged space for God. Rarely do we hear that God is actually more rational than science and more practical than technology.
In every religion that believes in a personal God, there’s a connection between the divine and the human. A personal God created life, and he (or she) cherishes his creation. No love is more intense than divine love. No anger is more intense than divine wrath. As relationships go, the one with God poses the most difficulties, for an obvious reason. God is invisible and leaves no evidence about his existence in the physical world.
All religions who demand the worship of a personal God must overcome the same obstacle. There are various ways around it. You can ask people to have faith in God, with the promise that the faithful will meet him one day in heaven. You can depict the sufferings of Hell if faith fails. You can examine the triumphs and tragedies of everyday life and say that God is behind them, expressing approval when things go well and disapproval when things go badly. In short, there are many strategies for keeping a personal God viable. (more…)
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people who want to believe in God is the existence of bad things in our lives. The evening news carries enough stories about war, crime, famine, oppression, and much else that a loving God wouldn’t permit. But as we saw in the first post, such a God is formed in our own image. He, or she, is envisioned as a human being on a supernatural scale. This is just one of the assumptions that needed to be cleared away before seriously asking the question of why God permits bad things to happen.
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