Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Faith and Reason: Thoughts on Responses to Militant Atheism

As you can tell, I have been doing some thinking and reading on the recent flood of books by scientists that either denounce the rationality of faith (e.g., Dawkins) or that offer a reasoned basis for faith (e.g. Collins).

It seems to me that one reason why the debate is so unsatisfactory is that both sides in this debate come from such different world views. I am a good example. My faith does not come from a rational, fact-driven exercise in which I examined the evidence for and against the existence of God and came to a fact-based conclusion. My faith arose first and foremost from my own personal sense of contact with the Divine. I often feel God's presence, and that is why I am led to faith. I found it interesting that Dr. Francis Collins describes a very personal experience with a dying patient as the beginnings of his faith.

This is not to say that I then ignore my rationality--I am constantly testing the factual, historical claims of my faith. And so far, my faith has survived this scrutiny. Similarly, Dr. Collins' book is a detailed examination of the rational basis for a Christian faith. But, the origin of my faith (and that of Dr. Collins as well, I am sure) is personal spiritual experience--a personal experience that has led me to reject a purely deterministic and materialistic view of reality.

From what I understand, Dr. Dawkins claims to never had a spiritual experience. To me, it is therefore understandable that he takes a very different world view than me. Dawkins admits that he can't prove the nonexistence of God--he merely suggests that the burden of proof must be on those of us who say we have faith. I'll accept that burden of proof, but unfortunately, Dawkins would simply reject as irrational my best proof--the presence of God in my own life.

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