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A fantasy world

That’s where Michael Novak seems to reside. Take a look:

As far as I can see, the New Atheists have been slowly executing a strategic retreat. Many seem to admit that there is not now, and can never be, a knock-down proof for atheism. Many seem also to be admitting that, no matter what their skeptical friends write, belief in God is not only here to stay, but also seems to be rooted in human nature itself. It may even provide an evolutionary advantage.

Thus, the line of defense to which they have more and more frequently retreated seems modest and open-minded. As their reply to the question, “Is there a God?” their new answer is perfect for a bumper sticker: “I don’t know, and you don’t know, either.”

Novak, of course, doesn’t support any of this. The “New Atheists” were christened as such when the media decided that a rash of atheist books being published was a novelty worth some column inches. They’ve since dropped it and these atheists have dropped into the level of obscurity they typically inhabit. You’d be hard pressed to locate some writing by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Dan Dennett backtracking on their previous claims. But hey, falling out of the media light isn’t an excuse for another column of recycled atheist bashing. So maybe we can give him a break.

This is a mistake. The New Agnostic holds that the burden of proof is not on him; the burden is on others to “prove” to him that there is an object “out there.”

But the evidence about God is not to be sought “out there.” It does not reside among other classifiable, sensory objects in this universe. The question about God is essentially a question about one’s own personal identity. Do you yourself, Mr. Agnostic, find evidence within your own inner life (in a way that can be replicated by others) that your identity is not fully known until you admit that you participate in a life much larger than your own, drawing you toward becoming more fully developed and greater than you are? In a Light more powerful than the light of your own conscience? The question is about you.

Now, let’s evaluate his argument that God is not like other things people claim exist and why we are to give up normal standards of evidence in the debate about him.

Oh wait, he didn’t make that argument. He just made an assertion. I so wish I was allowed to do that when arguing about politics.

Those who discover such evidence can claim to know that God exists within them, not simply to believe it. They hold that to find this evidence is the norm, not the exception; it is the default position of human beings. That is why the emergence of the religious impulse is to be expected in every generation. That is why a personal tie with God keeps being rediscovered in every era in human history, in virtually every culture.

It’s odd, since these people are obviously wrong. Yes, people claim to have that feeling and “know” they’re correct. But what they claim to “know” is contradicted by what other people claim to “know.” Such a feeling isn’t a reliable indicator of truth. Nor can you explain why some people lack such a feeling. Well, unless you’re going to resort to empty slogans like “God works in mysterious ways” or “He’s testing the person”). On the other hand, the benefits of religion from an evolutionary and societal standpoint give you decent reasons why religion is common. We would expect cultural influences to play a role in their existence and we wouldn’t expect absolutely everyone to have the feeling.

The column goes on, but it’s not that interesting. I like reason and I think a lot, ergo, God exists. Not impressive.

Categories: Religion
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