Atheists, God, and Reason

In a recent issue of Scientific American, arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss discussed the relationship between science and religion.

Dawkins, whose latest book, The God Delusion, is only one of a slew of recent books attacking religious beliefs, prefers an "in your face" approach. He once wrote that "if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane." He then added "or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that."

In his discussion with Krauss, Dawkins stood by his statement, calling it "a simple and sober statement of fact."

For his part, Krauss prefers to "reach out" to people and "understand where they are coming from"-not so that he might learn from them: Like Dawkins, he assumes that the people in question have little, if anything, to teach him. Rather, his goal is to "seduce" them into "understanding" and accepting scientific truths.

Thus Krauss says that "telling people . . . that their deepest beliefs are simply silly-even if they are" is counterproductive.

As you may have inferred from the "even if they are," Krauss does not deny that religious belief is "irrational." He simply thinks that religion is too deeply ingrained to be done away with. Better to help people "moderate" their beliefs and "cut out the most irrational and harmful aspects of religious fundamentalism."

All of this begs the question: "Is faith, in particular, Christianity, irrational?"

Neither Dawkins nor Krauss comes close to proving this. Instead, Dawkins and Krauss simply assume that materialism-the idea that there is nothing besides matter-is true. Thus, what makes a faith "rational" is whether it can be proven empirically.

Dawkins and Krauss do not offer any arguments to justify their assumptions. They do not tell us why materialism is true: Instead, they ask you to take its truth as a given-in other words, on faith.

Speaking of faith, what Dawkins means by the word faith is, to put it politely, idiosyncratic. His technique, on display in the Scientific American piece, is to find the most extreme, fringe Christian positions and ascribe them to all Christians. He then cites these beliefs as proof that all Christian faith is irrational.

Reading their discussion or anything else associated with Dawkins and what is being called the "New Atheism," you would not know that many of the greatest scientific discoveries were made by people of faith-not scientists who happened to be Christians, but people whose faith inspired and informed their scientific endeavors.

The work of physicists like Krauss would not be possible without Michael Faraday's work in electromagnetism. Faraday was a devout Christian who believed nature to be intelligible because it was created and upheld by a God who made Himself known in both His Word and in nature.

Rodney Stark, the eminent sociologist, writes that Christianity rescued reason. Christians saw reason as a gift of a rational God, and it could, therefore, be used to explore the universe and world that God had made. This belief made modern science possible.

If you meet someone who says your Christian faith is irrational, ask him to explain the basis of his faith.

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  • Guest

    Thank you Mr. Colson for addressing this important topic. I would like to add….

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (36) says “Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.”

    So regardless of approach, the atheist surely imply that we are being irrational in our belief in the Existence of God.

    No wonder.. few people know the simple ways to explain what our Church teaches.

    Simple approaches are needed to teach these. Check out the “Free” bulletin inserts at:

    http://www.CartoonKeyToHeaven.com

    Let’s educate young and old.

  • Guest

    I find this statement to be very true of the majority of people today. Not counting Christians.  The electro magnetic age has dulled some senses, in the fashion of controling the mind to act as it sees, hard evidence.  If they cannot see it they cannot comprehend it.  Dulled senses.  Plain and simple not relying on the inner man to inspire beyond
    the what is seen.

    "Neither Dawkins nor Krauss comes close to proving this. Instead, Dawkins and Krauss simply assume that materialism-the idea that there is nothing besides matter-is true. Thus, what makes a faith "rational" is whether it can be proven empirically."

    The interesting part about this statement is the fact that in Revelations or Apocalypse, they will receive what they wished for.  Lots of proof as matter coming down from heaven, the earth having many forms matter erupting.  They who challenge Gods Word, will see exactly what they hoped for.  The Greatest Proof.  All the tribes of the nations will mourn when they see the Great Sign "The Son of God".

    Peace

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    And, thus, Mr. Colson, Cartoon Key and bhokuto, do we speak of the Church’s fateful missteps in catechesis.

    Why mention (let alone ‘teach’) the grandeur of rational apologetics about God’s pre-creative and procreative plan, will, love, grace and eternity,
    plus the Church’s millennially tested traditions about her One Foundation and His Spirit,
    when you can make ‘Religion’ classes of dry weed beds of bland (faith and reason-wise) conformity and dusty, wheezy emotion?

    By the way, by the Greek roots of ‘ecclesia’ and ‘evangel’,
    the ecclesial task of evangelization is ‘to summon forth’ with ‘bringing the Good News’.
    Sort of in-depth philological apologetics.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In our delighted glory in our Infant King,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    HOWEVER, Mr. Colson . . .

    Permit me to remind, here, how Protestantism has attempted to form the completion of religion making possessing the Urim (of the ‘lights’) of the scriptural something that can nurture faith and reason minus the Thummim (toward ‘perfection’) of Apostolic Traditional insights into the Good News.

    Your ephod is short one gem.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In our delighted glory in our Infant King,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

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