Published (for fun) by the kind permission of Father Frank O’Sullivan who is a Roman Catholic Priest and Family Friend (corrected – rightly, or wrongly – Microsoft Word and Google Spell Check)
YOUR VISION GIVES RISE TO YOUR VALUES, BEHAVIOUR, AND ATTITUDES
If as certain influential thinkers claim, the whole idea of ‘God’ is a delusion, why is it that the vast majority of the people in the world subscribe to some form of religious belief?
Is it really because they are deluded, ignorant, un-thinking or stupid? Or is it because they are looking for something that they believe gives meaning to their lives?
I think the reason is because, unlike the physical sciences, which have given us an enormous amount of useful knowledge concerning the physical world, religion provides something more that people need. Religion provides people with explanations regarding such questions as the purpose of life, what happens after death, and how best to live one’s life. The vast majority of people who have some form of religious belief are convinced that their `Religion’ has a beneficial effect on their lives, especially the support and strength to cope with difficulties.
The `explanations’ given by the various religions need to be examined, but the fact remains that for the majority of the people of the world their religious beliefs, and for some their religious rituals also, play an important part in their lives. They influence in varying degrees their vision of life, and the values, behaviour and attitudes that flow from that vision.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ‘GOD’ QUESTION
The GOD Question is ultimately THE question, because the answer you give to the question Does God Exist? influences, like the answers to no other question, the values upon which people base their lives, and the behaviour and attitudes that flow from those values.
The answer you give influences the answers you give to questions like Who am I? What kind of a being am I? What is the purpose of life? Every part of my body has a purpose: Have I no purpose? Is there life after death? These are not just theoretical questions. The answers you give have practical consequences in terms of the values you adopt, and the behaviour and the attitudes that flow from them
With regard to the question of God’s existence, many people say their `believe’ in God. Over the past fifty years I have asked many people what they mean when they say they `believe’ in God? I am convinced that millions of people who say they `believe’ in God do not `believe’ in God. What they really mean is that they have formed a judgment that there must be some kind of `force, intelligence, or Being `out there’ who is responsible for the existence of this and every other universe. This is an opinion they have formed, or a judgment they have made for a variety of reasons.
But that opinion or judgment does not seem to influence their vision of life, their values, their behaviour or their attitudes. So they do not really `believe’ in God, because `to believe’ means to `live by’ the things you say you `believe in’.
If you really believe that this world and everything in it owes its origins and continuing existence to a Being of unimaginable power, wisdom and goodness, then you have the responsibility to at least acknowledge this in some form of words, words that form the content of what is normally called `prayer’..
Far from being an `opium’ that leads people to acquiesce with regard to the situations they face, some religions require their followers to actively challenge and resist whatever offends human dignity or oppresses people.
It is sometimes said that religion causes wars. There is a body of reliable evidence evidence that the teachings of Religious Leaders have at times caused much suffering in the world. There is also evidence that suffering has been due to the abuse of power, and to certain religious practices. Sometimes Religion has been used by the Civil Power to bolster its influence. At other times Religion has sought the help of the Civil Power to achieve its own purposes. Nothing anyone can say justifies the suffering caused, or excuses those who perpetrated it. If Christians were the perpetrators, whatever their status in the Church, such behaviour was clearly contrary to the Christian Gospel. Baptism does not inoculate a person against the possibility of sinning, whatever may be his or her status in the Church,
ATHEISTS AND AGNOSTICS
Many people today regard themselves as Atheists, or Agnostics with regard to the question of God’s existence. Strictly speaking an Atheists is a person who is convinced that God does not exist. Agnostics are people who are uncertain whether there is a God, or who say that you cannot prove that God exists.
The word `agnostic’ comes from the Greek word `gnosis’ meaning `to know’. There are different ways of `knowing.’. There is face-to-face knowing, when you see someone or something in front of you eyes. This yields self-evident truth. There is the kind of knowing that comes from seeing something on the TV, or from reading about it in a newspaper or magazine, or hearing about I on the radio. This kind of knowledge has to be `tested to establish its truthfulness.
There is the kind of knowledge that we gain by a process of reasoning and deduction. We form concepts and ideas, based on our own experience, and by a process of reasoning and deduction to come to new knowledge.
Our mind and imagination working together can provide us with a plan to produce some new object whose purpose may be to clean floors or build a factory. There is also the kind of knowledge that is derived from research and experiment, the knowledge that forms the substance of experimental science.
All of these are valid ways of knowing. Our everyday actions are based on knowledge gained in a variety of ways.
It is by these processes that we arrive at `the truth’. We are aware that we will be continually revising our ideas about `the truth’ in the light of new knowledge, and our reflection on the knowledge we now possess.
`God’, by definition, is invisible, but people arrive at their decision/judgment whether or not God exists by a process of reflection on the world around them. Many people say you cannot prove that God exists. It all depends on what you mean by `prove’. A detective investigating a crime looks at all the evidence and decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to place before a court to prove that Bill Sykes committed the murder. In Scotland the Jury can return a verdict of `not proven’. A guilty verdict means that the Jury considered there was sufficient evidence to prove the accused did in fact commit the crime.
The `proof’ for God’s existence follows a similar process of looking at the evidence and asking whether it is reasonable to conclude from the evidence that this and every other universe or galaxy must owe its existence to a Being of unimaginable intelligence and wisdom, or whether it is just the result of `chance’, whatever meaning you choose to give to that word.
People like Richard Dawkins seem only to be willing to accept as valid the kind of knowledge that can be tested or proved by scientific research. But this is not the only kind of knowledge. The vast majority of human beings consider it necessary to include other kinds of knowledge when searching for answers to the fundamental questions that human being ask, especially with regard to their own existence and its purpose.
Having examined the evidence provided by the microscope, the telescope, the underwater camera, the electron microscope, the Human Genome project, and the world of the atom revealed by the particle accelerator at Cerne in Switzerland, I have become increasingly convinced that the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence is that there must be a Being of unimaginable intelligence, wisdom, goodness and power ‘behind’ and beyond this and every other universe or galaxy, a Being on which they depend for their origins and their continued existence. What follows are my reasons for reaching this judgment.