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Faith and Doubt

“Take a look around. Look at the clouds blowing across the blue skies, the people walking and talking, the flowers budding, and you, look at you – watching and thinking, feeling, just being. Doesn’t it make you wonder, just wonder?”
I had a discussion a few weeks back with a few friends about the existence of God. One of my friends, a fervent atheist, argued vehemently that the whole notion of God was ridiculous. His position was that a man of reason could not possibly believe in God. There was simply no evidence. Not only was there no evidence, there were many internal inconsistencies in all religions. He argued that the premise of a kind, loving God, given the suffering experienced in the world made no sense and finally, that science, for example, chaos theory and randomness, explained all that we needed to know about our existence in the world. I listened and despite being of contrary view to his initial premise, agreed that all his arguments were indeed plausible. However, what surprised me was the absolute lack of doubt in his viewpoint. He was certain, he was absolutely adamant, he was utterly sure that there was no God. This troubled me. On one count it is simply logically flawed to be certain that something does not exist. One just cannot prove a negative existence. However, as irrefutable as this counter argument is, it is a little too cute to be of any intellectual use.

To believe in God is to have faith. On this much we can all agree. However, it seems to me that to be certain that there is no God is also to have faith. It is the very lack of doubt itself which is the leap of faith. It is a faith in the accuracy of a human interpretation of the universe. Yes, science explains a great many things. Randomness and uncertainty do seem to be important principles. These are after all, fundamental tenets of both Chaos and Quantum theory which seem to explain much of the way in which the universe works. The theory of evolution is also extremely compelling in terms of both its logic and evidence. And yet, these all remain just theories and as accurate as they may seem, they are valid only until a superior theory replaces them. So has it been throughout the history of science: Newtonian Physics gave way to relativity and quantum physics; Lamarckian theory on the transfer of traits was superceded by Darwinian’s evolution; and earth, wind, water and fire as fundamental entities were replaced by the elements of the periodic table. I don’t mean to suggest that our scientific view of the world is necessarily wrong. I personally am convinced by much of it. What I do suggest is that, regardless of one’s reasoning, regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, one should at least recognize the room for doubt in one’s view of the world and to the extent one chooses not to doubt, one should recognize that, whether it is regarding a position for or against the existence of God, one is making an equivalent leap of faith.

April 17, 2001
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