God could exist despite no evidence

One of the less savory aspects of modern life (along with police-state IRS powers and gay marriage at Disney) is the venom with which God is attacked by the leftist establishment. Hounded out of public schools by the ACLU, disparaged in classrooms as mere myth, denounced by feminists as another male oppressor, our Father in Heaven seems much put upon.

Not surprisingly, one element of the attack comes from the atheist camp, some of whom go so far as to demand that the words, "In God We Trust" be removed from our coins. I don't mean mere agnostics, either; these folks are dead set convinced that God just flat doesn't exist. No way, no how.

They are, of course, entitled to their opinion. But some of the atheist arguments take on as it were a holier-than-thou tone, implying (if not stating flatly) that belief in God is for the slow, the dull, the mindless. Religions other than atheism (and it is one, as we shall see) are dismissed as "mumbo-jumbo" and the like. The claim is that any thinking person, free of religious brainwashing, will find it obvious that there is no God.

I see such ideas as resting on two major errors, one far more subtle than the other. They both rely on the same tenet itself highly debatable that there is no objective evidence for God's presence in the world. Even granting that point, the two errors crop up.

The more obvious one is the claim that lack of evidence implies nonexistence. In other words, "if I can't see it, then it's not there." Not only is it strange to say that human perception defines reality, it is patently false. Who has ever seen a quark? An positron? A virus, without an electron microscope? Until this century, no one had ever perceived a pulsar in any way. Did they not exist? Some biologists estimate that thousands of tropical species have never been seen or named. Are they therefore not there?

The second mistake, though, is harder to dispatch. It is the claim that lack of evidence makes it very unlikely that God exists, the claim that since so much of the universe can be explained by physical laws of cause and effect, everything probably can. The idea of a benevolent, all-knowing creator seems as silly as believing that space aliens are running the government (although with this administration, perhaps that's a bad example).

The trouble with this assertion is that it assumes the whole universe probably works just like the parts we know about. But what we know of existence necessarily comes from our perception and our experience as humans, and human experience has little bearing on questions as deep as whether there is a God. If you drop a stone, you can be pretty sure you'll see it fall (and could, if you've studied, work out exactly how fast), but only because you or someone else has seen it happen hundreds of times. Even if you accept the idea that such things happen without divine intervention, why would it then be likely that everything else does? How many other universes do we know about, to say that most of them don't have a God and so this one probably doesn't?

An analogy may help. Suppose you know nothing about relativity or atomic physics. I walk up and tell you that time and mass are not absolute, that as you speed up, time slows down and mass increases. I also claim that solid objects are mostly empty space. "Ridiculous!" you say. To prove it, you take a stopwatch and a scale, drive 100 mph in your car, and show me that the watch did not slow down and your mass did not change. You pound on a table. "See? It's perfectly solid," you cry, and you call the men in white to take me away.

In your experience, what I said seemed insane. Yet the above claims are true. Relativity has been verified with atomic clocks in airplanes, and atoms really are mostly space. It's just that at human speeds, from human size, it's very hard to notice. It seemed highly unlikely because the experience and perception of the person in the story was too limited to tell if it was true, or even if it was likely to be true.

So it is with the atheist belief that theirs is the most likely view. At base, it relies on faith that reality is prescribed by human perception. It therefore has no intrinsic advantage over other religions, but must meet them on their own terms. From what I've seen, the smart money is on God.

John Keisling prays nightly. He is a math Ph.D. candidate whose column appears Wednesdays.

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