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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The God Delusion

I choose an odd title for today’s inspiration.  But it is a deliberate use of the book title of Richard Dawkins’ widely controversial 2006 book, The God Delusion.  Dawkins is the well-known scientist who teaches at Oxford University in England.  He also is a well-known atheist.  And it is atheism that he is really touting in this book.  Or, I can imagine Dawkins saying, it is the stupidity of the traditional god that he is bashing as nonsense.

Dawkins is an entertaining writer!  He is the kind who would rather provoke than placate.  If he can say something that would raise the ire of a believer, he feels successful.  “Ah ha,” he might say, “now I have you thinking about what you really believe.”  And I would say that is his real point…other than telling you he thinks the God in whom many of us would say we believe is, indeed, folly.  I must admit, this does not raise my ire because I know I cannot prove the God in whom I believe.  I guess that is why it is called faith.

I read Dawkins’ book some time ago, but had an occasion recently to return to it.  So it seemed good to interact with some of what he says.  Maybe it can be inspirational in an oblique way.  The first thing to establish is just what kind of god is Dawkins trashing?  “The traditional, supernatural divinity,” I am sure he would say.  Let’s look at an example.

Early in the book Dawkins defines the god against whom he rails.  “…there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us.”  Indeed the whole one-liner is italicized for emphasis.  Rather than get uptight and defensive (which Dawkins would only enjoy!), I want this exercise to be a reflective pondering on my part.  Certainly, much of this definition of god turns out to be quite like the God in whom I believe.  Is God intelligence?

I realize I don’t go around thinking about how “smart” God might be!  If I push myself a little further, I realize I think about God more as “wise” than “smart.”  I would trust scientists who tell me certain kinds of monkeys have a kind of intelligence.  And the porpoise apparently is quite “smart.”  Clearly, some humans are pretty smart and some of us are less than smart.  And amazingly, some of us who are fairly smart do dumb things!

But wisdom is another thing.  It is not unusual to see the Greek word for wisdom, Sophia, used to describe God.  Part of what Dawkins is against, is a smart god designing and creating the world.  For many of us that is provocative.  You would not be surprised that Dawkins is convinced the world and every thing in it evolved. 

I would not disagree with him.  The disagreement comes when Dawkins would deny any guiding principle (except things like natural selection).  For him there is no “intelligent design.”  And I do not plan to submit that view of creation.  But I realize I do affirm there is a sense of Wisdom permeating the fabric of creation.  The universe seems purposeful to me.  As sappy as it gets, somehow I have faith that love is one of the ingredients in this human and cosmic evolution (I really have no problems with evolution as a principle).

So is my kind of God (only sketchily presented) the kind to which I can pray?  Dawkins would laugh out loud!  I would laugh and say, “sure.”  But what am I sure about?  I am sure I can pray to that God.  “Will it do any good,” many would ask?  I don’t know.  My job is to pray, not answer the prayers.  Prayer is not manipulative, utilitarian, nor selfish.

So, how did we wind up talking about prayer?  Whether God exists is an intellectual question, which is interesting to me.  But what does it matter, even if I think God exists?  It matters because I think God is love and love is at the cosmic heart of it all.  And I do think God and evolution allow for blessing or cursing.

Prayer is my way of practicing my faith in the God who so loved the world…  I can’t prove it.  I may be deluded.  So Lord, be with me and all of us this day, I pray.               

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