Sunday, June 12, 2011

Evidence for God

Ads ruffle feathers 
A recent ‘No God’ campaign ruffled some feathers in Kelowna, BC. ‘No God’ campaign ads read, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The ads are installed on the sides of city buses.

The ‘No God’ campaign originated in London, England in 2009, and spread throughout Europe and North America. The campaign has been repeated periodically since then in various cities around the world.

Some Christians feel threatened with the ‘No God’ campaign. Two of the Kelowna ads vanished into thin air. Maybe the vanishing act was an act of God, a divine attempt to prove God’s existence. More likely, it was an act of vandalism perpetrated by an annoyed Christian.

Other Christians like the campaign. The ads promote discussion around kitchen tables, in lunchrooms, and over a beer in the local pub. The ads get people talking because they raise good questions.

“There’s probably no God,” suggests some uncertainty. “Stop worrying,” suggests a particular image of God. “Enjoy your life” focuses attention on values and happiness.

"There's probably no God"
“There’s probably no God.” Here is a point of connection between theists and atheists. The connection is doubt about beliefs. Neither the theist nor the atheist can definitively prove their position according to scientific method.

Both will use their own version of apologetics, or reasoned argument, to prove their position. Apologetics are unlikely to convert either a staunch theist or atheist, although a carefully crafted argument may influence someone who is undecided, searching, or disillusioned. The ‘No God’ ad campaign is a sort of apologetic tweet.

The Christian evidence for God is experiential. We encounter God personally in the events and people of our lives, historically in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and traditionally through the witness of the past. We also encounter God’s presence in the complexity, interdependence and beauty of creation and in the marvels that science continues to reveal.

Blaise Pascal (b.1623- d.1622)

None of this is hard evidence for the existence of God. My experience of God will not prove God’s existence to someone else. Belief depends on faith experience, and on choice. In his famous piece on the existence of God, the French philosopher and mathematician Pascal concluded that belief is a wager between two choices. Belief is a wager for the proposition, “There probably is a God.”

"Stop worrying"
“Stop worrying.” The image we have of God influences our relationship to God, to other, and to the environment. Often humanity’s image of God is androcentric. God becomes like man, instead of man becoming holy like God. God becomes a powerful and tyrannical male ruler. God is the tough taskmaster, waiting to crack the whip every time humans mess up.

If this is our image of God, our relationships are diminished as we seek to lord it over others. The environment becomes a source for personal gain and is no longer treated as a life-giving source for the common good.

If we relate to God as a tough taskmaster, then we have a lot to worry about. When we see God as a loving creator who nurtures humanity, and who calls every individual to holiness, there is no need for worry; our only need is to make ourselves more like this God. So, “stop worrying.”

"And enjoy your life"
“And enjoy your life.” What makes people happy? Is the purpose of life essentially pleasure? Is belief in God incompatible with happiness and the enjoyment of life?

Psychologists have come to some conclusions about happiness. The hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, wealth, or power does not ensure happiness. Happiness comes from being connected with family, friends and community, from having enough financial means to live with dignity, and from a sense of self, values and purpose.

There is a transcendent element to happiness, a spiritual element that takes the individual beyond the self and its every whim. The way to enjoy life is to get beyond one’s ego.

If people connect belief in God with unhappiness, Christians may be responsible. Maybe we are Christian in name but not in practice; we talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Maybe our lives fail to reflect the love that comes from Christ.

The most convincing evidence for the existence of God is an authentic believer whose life proclaims God with fidelity and joy.

“There’s probably no God.” “There’s probably a God.” Place your wager.

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