Cracks in the Concrete
As a homeowner, I have come to appreciate more seriously the struggle with nature and its impact on the manmade structures it faces. Carefully poured concrete is no real obstacle to insistent tree roots or pushy weeds that seem not to know that their role is to stay down or, in this case, under the concrete.
It strikes me as somewhat of an analogy of our times. For the last half of the twentieth century it was loudly and publically proclaimed that God is dead. No less a reputable publication than Time magazine boldly announced this very sentiment in the 60s. Of course, from my view, God seems to have an uncanny way of overcoming his human-imposed demise, so we should not be surprised that, social prognostications aside, God as a being, object of interest, and subject will not go away.
Those who have been dubbed the New Atheists see the killing of God not only as an issue but as a cause to champion. Their hopes and goals, often loudly stated, are for the eradication or at least the confinement of any and all religious expression. What a burden it is that the majority of humanity does not have the wisdom, insight, education, or public savvy of "the Brights" (their term for themselves as a means of contrast with the rest of the dull, god-fearing world).(1) For indeed, the majority of mankind at the present, across history, and in all cultures has been and is inveterately drawn to some pursuit of God, the gods, or transcendence.
Of course, this human majority may simply be confused, incorrectly evolved, or inadequately adapted, as is argued by new atheists. But surely to a discipline that claims to be scientific or rational, the phenomenon demands some kind of explanation beyond mere mockery or outright rejection. Is it possible, is it conceivable, dare we imply, could there be something to the divine notion to which the mass of humanity is responding?(2)
At this juncture, an enlightened critic pulls out the "projection" argument. Leaning on Freud, we are to understand that our sense of divinity, our awe at nature, or our longing for coherence is really a transference of sublimated fear. God, they claim, is an emotional crutch, a self-creation to assuage our deep-seated insecurities and fears. Paul Vitz of New York University has ably answered this in his book, Faith of the Fatherless, where he subjects both this theory to some critical analysis and the analyzers to their own analysis and all come up wanting.
You see, beyond the doubts, the theories, and the speculations, we are still left with a nagging question. What if there really is something—or someone—there? The ordering of reality, the complexity of existence, the fine-tuning of the universe, the demanding components essential to life that are both present and constant—it all seems to stretch credulity and common sense to ascribe it to chance and necessity. As someone once said, you need to be careful when you take your skepticism for a walk in the park or a stroll by the sea. There is so much in this world that seems to hint at something more.
The so-called secularization thesis (the idea that society would become less religious as it becomes more modern) is not being played out on the world scene, despite some parts of Europe and the United States. In the now iconic movie The Matrix, the hero Neo struggles with questions about "the real." He is not alone. If the world is a created order, if it has the designer's fingerprints upon it, if there are "traces" of his handiwork all around, then all the concrete (or aggressive arguments) in the world will not keep the idea down.
It all reminds me of a dialogue I once had with a serious skeptic. At the end of some lengthy exchange on the existence or non-existence of God, my conversation partner reached out, put a hand on my shoulder, and with just a touch of polite condescension asked me, "What if there is no God?" Clearly feeling he had raised a question that I hadn't considered, he simply smiled. As we parted, I put my hand on his shoulder and asked him, "What if there is?" In order to find out, all we need to do is ask!
Stuart McAllister is regional director for the Americas at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brights_movement.
(2) Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11, Romans 1:18-20, Psalm 1).