To God or not to God

Sometimes I think we’re alone. Sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the thought is quite staggering.             
—Michael Shermer
How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science

Every so often the Ottawa Citizen fills up with letters to the editor about the existence or non-existence of God. These letters, no matter what opinion they express, often share one thing in common: a nasty tone. Some people, with a staunch “I’m a better human than you are” attitude, write that there is no proof that God does not exist. Atheists, with a smug “I’m smarter than you are” attitude, write that the obligation rests in the other camp to prove that God does exist.

These writers are so busy disagreeing that they forget to notice that they are actually agreeing: everyone agrees that there is no proof. What both sides overlook, in their staunchness and smugness, is the wonderful, liberating freedom that comes with this lack of proof.

The only thing that we can know is that we know nothing and that is the highest flight of human wisdom.
—Leo Tolstoy

No one anywhere knows for certain

No one anywhere can produce a sheaf of mathematical equations from their back pocket, wave it in the air and say, “Ah, ha! That’s it!”

How liberating! That leaves all of us free to read and learn as much as we can about science and to adopt that information into our view of the world. And that leaves all of us free to read and contemplate the great faith stories and to apply that wisdom to our lives.

What do you get when you cross an atheist with a Jehovah’s Witness? Someone who knocks on your door for no apparent reason. —

Quibbles about God or no-God detract from lives of faith.

A faithful life requires nothing more than acknowledging the gestalt idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—the idea that we are all both scientific beings (our atoms) and storied beings (the wonderful stuff we haven’t been able to pin down yet that makes us, well, us.) The science is a given, but we get to write the story, and we’re all in this together. 

Good faith is writing that story by making mindful choices that lead to purposeful actions to improve the world.

For example, I am a middle-aged, white female. I can’t change the middle-age, the white, or the female. That’s my science, and it’s a given. But I am either a happy middle-aged white female, or an unhappy, bitter middle-aged white female. That’s my story, and I choose how to write it.

The planet Earth is mass of water and elements, orbiting the sun. That’s the science, and it’s a given. We can pollute and exploit Earth, or we can respect and protect it. That’s our story, and we choose how to write it—atheists and believers alike.

In the very first post that I wrote for this blog  I encouraged people to turn themselves inside-out. When people disagree about the nature of the universe, arguing individual points of view, they face each other, lean forward to intimidate, waggle their fingers, and turn their backs on the world. But when people acknowledge differences with compassion and acceptance, they turn their backs on those differences, stand side by side, face the same direction and drink in the beauty and wonder of the world.

Let’s make that our story.

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