Hi – I’m reading “The Kingdom of Speech” by Tom Wolfe and wanted to share this quote with you.
“There were five standard tests for a scientific hypothesis. Had anyone observed the phenomenon—in this case, Evolution—as it occurred and recorded it? Could other scientists replicate it? Could any of them come up with a set of facts that, if true, would contradict the theory (Karl Popper’s “falsifiability” test)? Could scientists make predictions based on it? Did it illuminate hitherto unknown or baffling areas of science? In the case of Evolution… well… no… no… no… no… and no. In other words, there was no scientific way to test it. Like every other cosmogony, it was a serious and sincere story meant to satisfy man’s endless curiosity about where he came from and how he came to be so different from the animals around him. But it was still a story. It was not evidence. In short, it was sincere, but sheer, literature.”
The Bottom Line on Atheism and The Totally Other
For the last few years I have been trying my best to understand the new atheist movement and all of its ranting and raving against God and religion. Then it dawned on me, that I could not understand them because we were not talking about the same things. The god and religion that they are ranting against is not the God I believe in or the religion I practice.
The majority of them talk about a god that I believed in at one time and a religion I was a part of when I was a young man. However, I no longer believe in that god nor do I practice that religion. It took a number of years on my journey to find The Wholly Other; or should I say for him to find me and to lead me out of the forest of religious idols I was lost and hiding in.
Looking back on my journey it is hard to understand why it took so long to be found by the Lord seeing that “We live and move and have are being in him”, though he, himself has no being, for He is being, i.e. He does not have existence rather he is existence. Therefore, there really is no way to argue for his existence for he does not exist in the way we think of existence. So, what are we arguing for, or against? I will get back to this later.
I found that not only do the new atheists have a different vision of The Totally Other, they (at least the majority) had a different vision of religion, which is as narrow as their vision of the God symbol. They seem to believe that all religion is the same, which in their minds means that all religion is bad. Of course, it does not take much thought to realize that the word religion is a word that points to a concept which is as deep and broad as the ocean. Therefore, when the new atheists start bashing all religion and lumping it all together it makes me wonder how much real thought they have put into their subject. I have found some so allergic to the word religion that they cannot even admit that religion can be good or bad. This strongly points to the level of maturity of so many in that movement. They take a thumb full of the ocean and believe that they have captured the ocean. I am not saying this in malice but I believe that many these people have some deep problems.
You may have noticed that I have tried to avoid using the word God, the reason being that the word has been so vulgarized and distorted that it has lost any value in helping us to understand the mystery that I refer to as The Wholly Other. The distortion of the God symbol is one of the real problems with religion and atheism.
Religion should help us in our journey to The Totally Other. However, instead of helping it often hinders by giving us false ideas of God, these false images in ancient times were called idols. The problem with idols is that there is no image or thing in reality or in the mind of humanity that can picture The Totally Other. All images of God created by humanity whether in mind or in stone, are idols because they are too small and distort the symbol we use for The Totally Other, i.e. God. The false ideas of God in turn him and him I solicit a false responds e.g. the new atheists.
This means that the atheist that has a pure heart may be closer to having a correct view of God than many believers. That is, if he has no image of God in his mind. You see nothing is better than the something if the something is wrong. This is why I call the something that you cannot image or speak about, The Wholly Other, the uncreated one, I Am or maybe nothingness? I do it to keep people from creating a false image of God that is too small.
Of course, the problem is that for both believer and atheist, religion stands as a mediator between them and The Wholly Other. You see, for the atheist to argue against God he must have an image of that God in his mind. Whatever image he has in his mind is simply an idol. This is the only reason why they can form an argument against it, for no argument can be formed against the Wholly Other for he lies beyond all argument. The majority of men will never get beyond the idols of this world whether they claim to be atheist or theist, i.e. their God is too small. I often wonder how humans could become so corrupt that the scripture would tell us that every imagination of their heart was corrupt, I now know; their God was too small, they were idolaters.
The theist often creates a God in their own image and then projects that image into heaven. The atheist then comes along and says that is not God and they are right. It is an idol that can be manipulated and controlled by man. It is the god of the religious man and the atheist. A god that is created for the opium of the people; or as a tool to control the herd. On the other hand, the deist created an aloof impersonal God that is somewhere out there beyond everything, located in some distant heaven, too aloof to be involved with his creation. Of course, any god that can be herded into some small corner of space and time is just too small to be The Totally Other. It also is an idol.
The high theists of the world know The Wholly Other, since they know, that they know little or nothing of being. They confess that they are quite ignorant of The Total Other. They understand, as Isaiah the prophet also understood; “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” To them the word God is a symbol which stands for the limits of their knowledge. This knowledge calls for humility and they are careful not to over speak on the subject of the deity.
You may ask, “Are you saying we can know nothing of being?” No, I am saying that you can only know what He has revealed to you. How does He reveal Himself? One way is through nature and the study of it, that is science. The study of nature has reviewed how great and powerful the Wholly Other is and how different he is from humanity. This knowledge should create awe and wonder in ones spirit, which is true spiritual worship. Unfortunately, many that study nature end up worshipping nature, failing to see that she is an arrow pointing to that which is beyond her. As the seer says when the prophet points at the moon the majority look at his thumb. For many science and religion has become the study of the thumb.
Some may say that this Wholly Other dwells in a cloud of darkness and mystery. Why does he hide Himself? Why does He not reveal Himself? Well, I do not think He is the problem, I think the trouble lays elsewhere. Could it be that He is so awesome and so glorious that in our present form we cannot approach Him without melting into nothingness. This unapproachableness is pointed out in the bible when God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).
There is the real possibility that the darkness that hides the Wholly Other is the darkness that is in the human heart. Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. Now by pure in heart I do not think Jesus is talking about not having impure thoughts e.g. lust, greed, etc. but rather having the right focus of one’s own being. He refers to this as the single eye. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt 6:22-23).This may be why children find it easy to see God until their parents or their culture (which includes religion) fill their eyes with darkness and forces them to see the world through dark-colored glasses. It is no wonder Jesus said “unless you convert and become like little children you will in no way, enter the kingdom of God.” So, let’s stop blaming God and the devil for our bad eyes and poor sight. For that matter let’s stop blaming our parents and culture and accept responsibility for the condition of our own heart. Our hearts are filled with darkness because we have made God too small and are about the business of building idols.
Then, there is the Bible. What is the Bible? The Bible is a collection of writings from men who were searching for The Totally Other. It is the history of their journey and their interaction with the Uncreated One. It records their successes and their failures. It shows them as groping, sometimes searching as a lost children would search for their parent and slowly, in due course growing into adolescence. The Bible also reminds us that the story is not over and that adulthood is still away off.
What about the contradictions and mistakes in it? Would you not expect to find a few anomalies and problems in any writings trying to explain The Total Other? It is a book of symbols that point to something that is on the border of human knowledge, known yet unknown. The Bible itself is a symbol which claimed to be both human and divine. The divine part is perfect in doing what it was created for, which is the building of souls as they journeyed towards the Totally Other.
However, there is a consistent theme and a trend that run though the whole of Scriptures, which connects all of its parts, though sometimes overshadowed, it is always there. It is the central symbol of Scriptures and God’s people throughout the ages. We could summarize that one central symbol with the word ‘someone’. Someone is coming, someone is here and someone is coming again.
The someone of Scripture is the Promised One, the Anointed one, the Messiah or Christ. The one who would save the people from their enemies. Their greatest enemies being sin and death. The Scriptures gave clues to help people recognize this someone. It said that he would be extraordinary and different from other men. His words would be different and his life would be different, he would be Other like the One who sent him.
One man has said that it takes extraordinary evidence to prove an extraordinary claim. the scriptures say that the someone in himself is the extraordinary evidence that the Total Other has given to man. This someone is the final and perfect symbol that points to The Total Other. He spoke like no other man and lived like no other man. When he spoke things happened, people were healed, water was changed into wine, storms were stilled and the dead were raised. No man has ever had so many people believe in him and at the same time has had so many hate him and despise his teachings. He truly is the extraordinary man, the someone sent from The Totally Other. This totally other man is still calling people “To come follow me”.
 Acts 17:28
 When I say He has no being it might be better to say he is super being. We live and move and have our being in Him, but we are not Him.
 Existence is beyond our comprehension though we apprehended it through our own existence and the existence of things around us.
 When humans argue for or against the idea of God they are arguing for or against a human construct that at best can only point to the One that stands behind it. Therefore we spend a great deal of time arguing about the idea of God. Now it is true that some ideas of God surely are better pointers than others but all fall short of the reality. This is true in science as well, for there is no theory of reality that is reality. The map is not the territory.
 It is unlikely that most atheists have no image of God in their minds, because if so, they would have nothing to argue against.
 Unfortunately, Carl Sagan did not define what extraordinary evidence would look like. For some skeptics, there would never be any evidence of any kind or enough to prove the existence of God.
When Atheists Criticize Religion
“New Atheists.” These are attitudes masquerading as ideas, emotional commitments disguised as intellectual honesty”.[i]
When atheists criticize religion, for the most part, they are simply criticizing the human condition, which is one of ignorance, sinfulness and hypocrisy. These characteristics can be found in any society, culture, civilization and for that matter, in every person. These traits are found in religious cultures, secular cultures and atheist cultures and they are common to all men. Pointing these things out in any culture does not take a great deal of intelligence nor understanding and it reflects a pretentious virtue to criticize others and it also demonstrates a shallow understanding of human nature. Given the same circumstances and conditions most humans will react in the same way as others. Much of the criticism of religion by atheism is nothing more than self-righteous virtue signaling at best and total moral egotism at its worst. It proofs nothing other than humanity is ignorant, sinful and hypocritical.
The truth is that atheism as an ideology, or as a foundational philosophy for a culture, has demonstrated itself to be totally inadequate in supporting a virtuous culture, no more than religion has done. Moreover, the atheist criticism of Christianity represents a shallow understanding of the message of Jesus. A casual reading of the New Testament would demonstrate to any rational person that Jesus never intended his teachings to be the foundation of any large society, for his teachings are too demanding for the masses. However, many atheists continue to attack the teachings of Western Christianity, as though people could live the pristine teachings of Jesus. Therein the atheist demonstrates their ignorance of Scripture or their dishonesty. In the majority of cases, it is ignorance. The scriptures clearly teach that no one can live out the teachings of Jesus. His teachings were not meant to be a moral code for the masses. The apostle John speaking to Christians said, “If you say you are without sin you are a liar and the truth is not in you” (I Jn 1:8).
Many atheists also have a very shallow and fundamentalist view of religion. Religion is a concept that is multilevel and as deep as the ocean, which means that it can have numerous shades of meaning. Many atheists want to reduce it to organized religion, i.e. Catholicism and Protestantism, etc. In doing so, they oversimply the word and in essence, destroy it. They refuse to see the difference between concepts like faith, spirituality and religion. Moreover, they refuse to see the difference between the history of Catholicism and let’s say Protestantism and other smaller sects of Christianity. In this, they pick out the weakest and most corrupted form of Christianity to criticize and justify it by saying there is only one form of Christianity. That is like saying that all government is evil because one form is corrupt.
[i] “Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies” by David Bentley Hart
Faith as Tacit Knowledge
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is seeing the invisible or is it seeing the unseen? One day I was riding with my son in law who is an avid hunter. As we were riding along he kept saying “Look, do see the deer?” My useless reply was, “Where?” Then he would point to a spot in the woods and say“There!” However, often even after he pointed out the spot I could not see the deer.
This leads me to the question why. Why could he see the deer, and I could not? I concluded that there were only four possible answers. 1. He had more practice than me. You know the old saying ‘practice makes perfect.’ 2. That he and others have a gift of seeing, i.e. they’re wired differently than other people. 3. It was a combination of both one and two. 4. He was delusional and there were no deer there.
The following is based on my thinking about the above experiences. My first observation is that the more you know about a thing the easier it is to find it and see it. My son in law knows a lot about deer, so he knows what to look for and where to look. I do not. His knowledge has come from years of his personal experience of hunting deer. His knowledge of deer is twofold, it is both objective and tacit. By tacit I mean intuitive. He has a gift of seeing and picking the deer out of the background environment. He does not have the gift because he loves to hunt; he loves to hunt because he has the gift.
My second observation was that people see what they expect to see; what they are looking for and what they want to see. This means that sometimes the knowledge of something and believing it’s there helps you to see. If you do not believe something might be there, you will not even be looking for it. Therefore, unbelief tends to close your eyes and your mind to seeing and believing.
I hike often with a friend who climbs a small mountain on a daily basis. Often he climbs it twice in one day and is on his way down the first time before I start climbing up. My friend prides himself on his awareness so I decided to put his ability to the test to see how much of his surroundings he was actually aware of. So, I began to hide from him to see how long it would take for him notice me. I began by hiding behind large obstacles like trees and rocks, but as the experiment when on I made myself more and more obvious. It finally reach the point that I simply squatted down in the middle of the trail. I was simply amazed at how close he got to me before seeing me. Of course, my last experiment was done on a steeper part of the trail where one is prone to be watching where they are stepping.
My experience lent support to the theory that you tend to see what you are looking for and fail to see what you are not looking for, even if it is self-evident. In other words, you see what you expect to see and you see what you are looking for. Also being intensely focused on one thing causes you not to see or notice other things. We could infer from this that specialization causes people to be blind to other things and to even be ignorant of their own blindness.
There are hidden clues which point to the fact that there is more than meets the eye. Ancient seers who had the ability to see the clues of the unseen labeled them as “faith or revelation”. In this, faith is the product of revelation or God lifting the veil that humans can see the clues to his existence. In this, there is nothing strange with some men seeing God better than others. In fact, it is the norm. The idea that God must show himself equal to all men comes from a Democratic ideology more than sound reason. From this, we can gather, that there is a good reason to follow some men’s opinion on spiritual things. One of the ways you can tell who to follow is laid down by Jesus when he said, by their fruits you shall know them.