The same is true with debating the existence of God. Authentic religion of any kind has a mystical component that bypasses logic or, rather, that makes logic almost unnecessary. In a very real sense, we have an experience of the grandeur of God – an experience of what mystics call the Numinous – that is above and beyond the rational arguments of the human mind. These experiences don’t preclude logic; they just make logic irrelevant. My felt sense of the awesomeness and holiness of Being – of the transcendent power that maintains in existence galaxies as well as my own beating heart – makes me want to fall to my knees. To try to conjure up a logical premise from such an experience to use in an argument seems as absurd as trying to do the same thing after a date with my wife.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not belittling logic and reason, or even debates on the existence of God. I just recognize their limitations. It is said that at the end of his life, St. Thomas Aquinas, Christendom’s foremost logician, had a mystical experience and, after that point, he refused to write another word. “All of my writings are as straw,” he supposedly said. The same thing was true of Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician, scientist and mystic. When he was young, he had a mystical experience of some kind that changed his life. In a frenzy, he scrawled out a description of what had happened to him:
GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob not of the philosophers and of the learned. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace. GOD of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Your GOD will be my God. Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD. He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel. Grandeur of the human soul. Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
Pascal sewed this inscription into his coat and wore it every day of his life.
All this explains why I am not particularly threatened by logical arguments against the existence of God… and why I can even root for the Atheist team a little. If I were to debate myself, I would never use mystical experience as an argument for God’s existence because it is non-falsifiable, it is an unfair trump card that avoids logical reasoning. But just as my love for my wife is not the result of a logical demonstration, so, too, my faith in God is not the result of a chain of deduction. Reason can perhaps confirm what we know already by faith, but faith is rarely the result of reason. What’s more, I have this sense that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not the Prime Mover of Aristotelian logic… and that to argue for his existence, using the paltry weapons of the human mind, seems almost presumptuous. So, that is why I came to the Atheist debates with a relatively open mind.
Although the existence of God is as self-evident to me as the existence of air, I am perfectly comfortable with the notion that his existence may not be provable logically. The Catholic Church holds as a religious dogma that his existence can be proven, but I am willing to entertain the possibility that, with the development of new tools of logical analysis, the traditional Theistic arguments for his existence may be found wanting. For example, I have long been persuaded that the modern argument from design, at least as presented by the Intelligent Design movement, can be persuasively refuted. The concept of “irreducible complexity,” used by Intelligent Design theorists such as Dembski and Behe, has been effectively refuted by scientists and philosophers. As a result, not all Theist arguments hold water… and I came to the New Atheist debates with an open mind concerning which arguments are solid and which can be undermined. (go to Page 6)