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"FAITH" AND "REASON"

This lead article summarises and pulls together all other articles within this section of the website.

It examines the causes of atheism in the West,
and suggests why the existence of God can be seen as
a rational option at this point in time.

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

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1. INTRODUCTION

Is God Real? Does God exist? I will begin by making the statement that God’s existence is indeed believable when facts are presented in an unbiased way. It is definitely possible to gain a believable, theoretical understanding of what God is, and how he relates to us and this world of ours.

It is also clear to me, and many millions of people around the world, that it is possible to build belief and faith in God based on reason. Indeed if you, the reader, simply needs to test for yourself whether God does exist, i.e. you are ready to try faith for yourself, then I suggest you access the next section of this website, "Believing in God". That section explains how to approach that task. I am very confident that we can all prove for ourselves, beyond reasonable doubt, that God does indeed exist. In essence, when we know how, we can recognise the presence of God in our lives. I understand that this may seem unrealistic at first to the uninitiated. I can say that because I personally spent a long time as a strong willed atheist myself before coming to believe... BUT... something certainly changed my mind!  I still do not take the subject of atheism lightly. I completely understand how religion is written off as fanciful rubbish in this day and age. As indicated already, it did look that way to me a long time ago! Until we can open ourselves to the possibility, there is no chance of having that view changed!

However, getting back to the issue at hand, some people do need to have an understanding of what God is supposed to be, and realise that conditions on this planet of ours do not in any way negate the possibility of Gods existence, before trying to believe in his existence. That is, they need a ‘believable’ God before going on to try to believe in him. As a result of this perceived need, my aim in this section of the website is to present credible concepts that can be used to support the first steps towards faith.

The final section in this website is titled "Christianity explained". It aims to give a deeper understanding of where Christianity ‘is coming from’ and what it offers its followers. Whereas this section tries to provide an understanding of Godbeing, you will find an explanation of the personal nature of God, or who God is, in that final section.

2.    DOUBT AND DENIAL 

It seems almost paradoxical. On one hand, modern society with its consumer attitude expects to be sold on the idea of religion. If religion really has a sound basis, then somebody should be able to provide hard evidence to the world at large. On the other hand, people do have difficulty these days believing anything they are told. Even when hard evidence is shown to prove a point on any issue in question, a healthy dose of cynicism may still be held by most of us. ‘Spin doctoring’ is becoming a science, after all.

Centuries of hatred and war, cited in the name of religion, have also critically damaged its credibility as far as many atheists are concerned. Mind you, this outlook denies the benefits directly received from the great religions of the world by billions of people over thousands of years.

Similarly the natural philosopher, within us all, leads us to question why would God – who is supposed to be intrinsically good – create a world where suffering and evil are so apparent?  Many of us are also led, by those who know no better, to accept that science and religion are completely at odds with one another.

Atheism has become more socially acceptable in some circles. It can be seen there as a downright embarrassment to even admit to believing in God.

But, the increasing level of atheism has not seemingly improved contentedness within society! Certainly within my lifetime I have seen aimlessness and dissatisfaction with life grow within the community. The increasing number of suicides is an indicator of ‘something not quite right’ within Western society. Power over others, wealth and possessions, holidays abroad, inappropriate use of legal and illicit drugs, living for oneself etc simply do not provide the happiness that is expected of them. Ultimately, atheism is a flawed theory. I have detailed why this is so in, "Believing in God" which is, as I have already stated, the Lead Article for the following section of this website.

Atheism does not offer a viable alternative to religious faith. As a result, some people have looked to other alternatives, away from atheism and away from organised religion as well. The pseudo religion of the New Age Movement, attracts many through its piecemeal approach – offering spiritually based solutions, derived from age-old established religions, but without the benefit of the whole-of-life philosophies provided by those religions.

Other questioning people really do not know where to go, or how to make any sense of available options.

As to doubt itself, I would point out that it is not always a bad thing. Of course most of us initially associate it with a totally negative outlook. Surprisingly, though, what I would call healthy doubt can be used effectively on the road to faith. An article titled, "How to deal with doubts" is included in that next section of the website.

3.    THE CASE FOR GOD

So let us examine some of the pointers that may encourage us to believe that the existence of God is a possibility after all.

3.1    Availability of 'believable' concepts

The first hurdle for many potential believers, as I have stated, is the lack of a believable God. I maintain that such a concept is readily available.

As a younger man, I began my own search for knowledge of God’s being and nature by reading the theories of the major religions of the world. I found that believable theories were available out there in fact, although they often seemed to be in conflict with each other. My research also involved a detailed study of some of their practises (e.g. mysticism). I certainly wanted to see whether some knowledge of the nature of God’s being, and presence, could be gained through them. Importantly, outcomes of these practises helped me understand that seemingly opposing religious systems, such as pantheism and monotheism”, could be reconciled to some extent. I also came to see that the remaining differences in their theologies existed for just cause.

God is broadly defined, within pantheism, as ‘pure consciousness’. Everything, including ourselves, is ‘of God’. Pantheism concentrates its beliefs on God and the universe as being one and the same; the sum total of reality. This closeness with God is defined as immanence. Although it is believed that Gods existence, as such, can be experienced within pantheism through the practise of mysticism, it is not normally considered theoretically possible for us to have a two-way personal relationship with God. This is because we, as individuals, again theoretically are not truly separate from God. He is us and we are him.

On the other hand, monotheism concentrates its beliefs on God’s transcendent nature – he is theoretically all powerful, all knowledgeable and has his basis outside the universe. Monotheist religions maintain that God has a personal nature as well, in that each of us can enter into a two-way  relationship with him, just as we do with people that we know. (Of course, such a relationship with God is considered very special indeed.) This relationship is theoretically possible, within monotheism, because God’s transcendent basis is separate from our own.

Many past and present writers, particularly from the monotheist religions have a similar understanding to my own – in that they reconcile the two perspectives to portray God’s nature as a complex amalgam of both immanence and transcendence. Based on my experiences, it is the only way it can be!

Simply speaking, God is both present as an all-pervading creative force within our universe (as the Ground of Being) and yet, at the same time, exists beyond the boundaries of time and space that he maintains – the great “I AM” of monotheist religions. As one analogy, if God can be understood as pure consciousness or an extremely powerful mind, then the universe is the content of his mind (just as the contents or thoughts of our minds are separate from our minds themselves, yet contained within them).

Of course this is the briefest of summaries and I would suggest that you read the complete article "So, what is Godif you need a more comprehensive understanding. The article also explains how I came to substantiate my own viewpoint. Personal experiences, and much reading of course, were the dual bases of my understanding.

3.2    What does science have to say at this time?

I must say upfront that I hold the opinion that religious faith should stand on its own merits. Atheists and religious fundamentalists alike often seem to overlook the fact that science and religion have very different objectives. That is, there is no real need to compare the two.

Despite this, I have had a ‘long hard look’ at where modern science has been headed. I initially wondered whether there was any compatibility between scientific and religious theories. Around the time that my study commenced, thirty plus years ago, well credentialed writers were in fact skilfully presenting books that abounded with parallels (particularly from the pantheist perspective). Whilst a basis of fact existed in their writing, they tended to ‘stretch the edges’ a lot. Their books were big sellers as a result. I admit that my enthusiasm back then had me accepting more of what I read than I should have. To my defence, I was less likely at the time to critically evaluate the writings of ‘experts’ than I am now.

At this point in my life, my understanding is a lot more balanced (although still very positive on the matter). I can truthfully say at this time that twenty first century science, and its mathematically based theories, presents us with a universe that has a very mysterious element about it. It is in fact much more amazing than the surface-deep theories of Newton and Darwin would have had us believe. In their defence, scientific knowledge has since indicated an underlying complexity undreamt of in their time.

Science offers absolutely no evidence against the ‘case for God’. In fact, sciences current representation of the universe, our planet and life itself as being so theoretically complex, and unlikely due to the odds of it all being just the way it is, makes an intelligent Prime Mover (i.e. God) at least appear as a valid option. I have covered this view, as cautiously as possible, in the article, "Science and religion" that is included in this section of the website.

3.3    Suffering and evil?

Why would there be suffering and evil in a world created by God? I believe now that it is too large a ‘question’ to be fully answered by any human being. The issue certainly troubled me in my early days of faith. For example, I had seen the faces of faithful believers who had lost cherished ones despite their pleadings to God.

Although I am still deeply troubled by the sad events that come to my notice, I know that some of the answer lies in how real we should  expect the world to appear? In effect, we cannot expect to be continually shielded from the laws of “cause and effect” or the actions of nature, can we? By virtue of its name, ‘reality’ must look real.

Nor can we be shielded from mans inhumanity to man. The free will of humankind provides us with this ongoing dilemma.

The balance of the answer seems to relate to God’s role in our lives. And again, this is not as simple as I had thought in my early days of faith. I now believe that God is to be seen fundamentally as our comforter and counsellor in these circumstances. Other factors, such as the shortness of our lives, as opposed to eternity, and the personal and spiritual end result of physical and emotional pain on us as individuals, can only be fully considered by God. My personal experience with illness, both my own and that of close ones, and the loss of a very close loved one, has assisted me to understand this point more fully as time has past.

I have devoted a small article titled, "Suffering and evil" in this section of the website to this thorny issue.

4.    LAST LOOK AT THE CHALLENGES TO FAITH

I am confident that an insight into the theoretical nature of God’s being is available within the writings of the world’s great religions. Believable concepts are definitely available. I have, as previously stated, done my best to present an overview of how the various religious theories dovetail together in the article, "So, what is God" within this section of the website. As opposed to metaphysical theories about Gods  being, an understanding of his all important personal nature is provided within the final section of this website, "Christianity explained".

I remind you that scientific evidence can never disprove God’s existence. And science cannot categorically answer any of the deep questions that face us in life (the ‘whys?’). As a major example, why did the universe come to exist in any form at all, out of the nothing-ness that presumably pre-existed it? I have again endeavoured to present a credible view of the current theories of science, and their relationship to religion, in an article devoted to the subject, "Science and religion" in this section of the website.

Similarly, I point out that the ways of this world should not oppose the possibility of God’s existence. Many of the major wrongs of the world, notably evil, are caused by us humans and not God. We all have free will. Although we enjoy it, we also pay a price for it! It also seems that some level of suffering and pain is inevitable for us due to the very nature of our planet and our own physical human bodies  both of which we find are exceptionally functional, once scientifically studied. If God was to continually overrule the visible laws of physics to safeguard us from suffering, then flaws in the space/time continuum would soon become evident (reality itself would be unhinged). Please read the small article,  "Suffering and evil" that I have prepared on these issues if they conflict with your ability to approach belief in God.

5.    CONCLUSION

It is true that this Lead Article, or those supporting it in this section of the website, may just be viewed as a collection of cold hard statements. They cannot in themselves prove to you that God exists. Hopefully, they can offer a positive option to you, “Hey, maybe God does exist!” The fact is that the reality of God can only be found through recognising his presence in our individual lives, evaluated through a sensible framework of knowledge. Admittedly, many of us have little idea as to how we might tackle this. Again, I know that this was the case, as far as I was concerned, when I started looking for myself decades ago.

I sincerely hope that the next section of this website, "Believing in God", can assist you in that critical evaluation. It focuses on  how we  can open ourselves to God; trialling faith for ourselves. It also explains other ways to recognise him in our everyday lives and how to identify his presence within church events. Our reasoning powers are fully utilised during these processes and not switched off, as atheists would guess. Faith is not belief in some far fetched fairy tale being; it is based on knowledge, evidence and reason, and indeed it must be if it is to endure and grow!

I am positive that you will find that faith and reason are good friends indeed, if you really put it to the test with an open mind.

 



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