By Mark Poindexter
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a piece about “Atheism and Christianity” asking whether or not the church could make room for those who might not believe in God but who longed for a sense of community and were committed to the same struggle for peace and justice that churches are, or should be, engaged in. The article generated a few comments. One comment that I found especially interesting was from a person who said that I “was almost there.” That I “only needed to take another step and I could join him in the world of free-thinking that atheism had provided for him.” I found it interesting that because I seek to have an open and understanding attitude toward those who do not share my faith, that I must be just about ready to cast my faith aside. Nothing could be further from the truth for me. Though I respect those who honestly look upon the world and say “I don’t believe,” for myself, I can’t help but look upon the world and still say, “I do believe.”
Now, that my faith is different than it was at other points in my life there is no doubt. My understanding of God is definitely different than it once was. I used to understand God as a supreme being. Assuredly, God was the greatest of all beings, but still a being. I no longer understand God that way. Now, the way I think of God can be found in that famous Dr. King quote; “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it always bends toward justice.” Mahatma Ghandi said it this way, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.” I now think of God as the source that continually calls us to move further toward love and hope and justice. For me, God is found in what I consider the deep realities of the universe, things that are real even though they cannot be measured by weight or volume – things such as beauty, joy, kindness, love and hope. It is these realities that give life meaning and purpose and direction.
I have great respect for the world of science. My daughter has a chronic illness and she benefits from the medicines that have been developed from scientific discoveries. I firmly believe what science teaches us today about the age of the universe and the origin of species. I fear no truths that science might discover about the material world. But I cannot make the move that says the material world is all the world there is, that there is nothing more. The reason I so appreciate the medicines that have been found which provide help for my daughter is because I love my daughter. The medicines that help her are real and so is my love for her. They may be a different kind of real, but both are, to me, undeniably real.
In a sermon I preached a few years ago about the relationship between science and faith, I quoted Erwin Schrödinger, a pioneer in the field of quantum physics and the developer of what is known as “wave mechanics.” In his book, My View of the World,
Schrödinger wrote these words:
The scientific picture of the world around me is very deficient. It gives me a lot of actual information, puts all our experience in magnificently consistent order, but is ghastly silent about all that matters to us. It cannot tell a word about the sensation of red and blue, bitter and sweet, feelings of delight and sorrow. It knows nothing of beauty and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains but the answers are so very often silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
Science is reticent too when it is a question of the great Unity of which we somehow form a part. The most popular name for this Unity in our time is God, with a capital “G.” Science is very usually branded as being atheistic. After what we have said, this is not astonishing. If its world picture does not even contain beauty, delight, sorrow, if personality is cut out of it by agreement, how should it contain the most sublime idea that presents itself to the human mind. (p. 93)
This is one reason I still believe in God. I often refer to my belief in God as my belief in Holiness or the Sacred; or my belief that life has true meaning and purpose. I believe that love and hope and joy are deep realities that are part of the fabric of the universe. I believe their reality witnesses to the reality that is the source of it all – God. This I still believe.