Saturday, January 13, 2007

Atheism Revisited (but I am still a Christian)

To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole

staircase: just take the first step.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



There has been a good amount of response to my previous blog about 2007 possibly being the year of the atheist that I need to address the issue again. Naturally, as a Christian, I don't want to turn my blog into an debate on atheism, but I have been enlightened by the comments, especially from Vjack at Atheist Revolution and feel it is necessary to revisit this topic.

One of the points I've learned is not every atheist is angry and hostile towards those who are religious. There may be some like that, but it is not the majority. We have made a stereotype and also some atheists make a stereotype that we Christians/religious people are all trying to force or convert atheists and others to our beliefs. It has been mentioned that Christians back in history were brutal and violent in this effort. I don't disagree with this, but would like you all to keep in mind that many Christians and other religious people were also brutalized for believing. So one of the main concepts both groups, believers and non-believers, need to keep in mind instead of passing a quick judgement is that it is not right to stereotype and that both groups have faced persecution or harrassment for their opinions.


In a recent blog post at Atheist Revolution, Vjack states,while it is not universal for all atheists, that their are two prongs to atheism: faith is irrational and religion is harmful. I would like to address the first prong about faith being irrational.
Because something can't yet be proven, or any concrete evidence found to prove it's existence, does that mean it doesn't exist? Every day scientists are learning new things, finding and inventing new means to quantify, measure, and prove the existence of different things. Right now, we are just finding many new species of animals and plants we never even knew existed. If years ago, someone found a drawing of one of these animals and stated it existed, they would be laughed at and ridiculed. Yet now it is fact. Just because there currently, today, exists no proof for the existence of God does not mean He doesn't exist. Perhaps the right tools or measuring devices just aren't around to verify His existence. Also, perhaps we aren't MEANT to find His existence through science, as this would eliminate the need for faith. Maybe we are meant to find God only through the means of faith, as many Christians do believe. And that is not irrational to us at all.
The second prong mentioned, religion being harmful, may be true in some cases. Again, we are talking about religious extremists who want to beat into submission those who don't believe. I don't subscribe to that path, nor do many other Christians and people of other faiths. Again, it is necessary to avoid stereotyping. In fact, research has been done and it has been proven that religious practice promotes the well-being of individuals, families, and the community.

Perhaps it would be better for atheists to consider themselves "apatheists": Continue not believing in God or religion, but also stop worrying if others believe. To put it simply: live and let live.

18 comments:

Simen said...

Maybe we are meant to find God only through the means of faith, as many Christians do believe. And that is not irrational to us at all.

You can't just redefine words (in this case "rational") like that. The key phrase here is "to us". Just because you believe in something it isn't rational or logical.

I could believe in, say, unicorns. Would you consider it a rational belief if I say, "Maybe we are meant to find unicorns only through the means of faith"? Faith is not rational. What you believe in could be true (had we not been able to disprove it - but that's irrelevant) but it's not rational.

UrbanReason said...

I'm glad you added another post about this.

Just to add to the dialog, you mention the numerous reference to Christian brutality and suggest that Christians have also historically been persecuted for their beliefs. I think atheists are non-discrimanatory when it comes to religios persecution... Christians were persecuted but they were persecuted by other religious people. They were persecuted for going against the Roman deities, for blaspheming against Yahweh's promise to the Israelites, or later for rebelling against the Catholic church. They were not persecuted for "believing", they were persecuted for believing in something ELSE. So the point that Christians were persecuted only reinforces the "second prong" of atheism, that religion is dangerous.

I think your comment about the "faith prong" of Atheism is astute but I must, in the friendly spirit of debate, disagree with your logic. Even Dawkins recognizes the remote possibility that there might exist an intelligent power or even a "God" in the universe, but this is not faith. So to answer your question "Because something can't yet be proven, [...] does that mean it doesn't exist?"... of course not. And i think most scientists and atheists agree. It does not, however, mean that we should accept that something does exist simply because there is a possibility. As Dawkins famously says, there exists the possibilities of fairies, Thor, and Zeus, but that doesn't give us any reason to believe that they exist.

On your note about the 2nd prong "religion is harmful", the important piece you're missing here is that faith enables and fosters the acts of extremists. When people are taught from a young age to believe in something for which there is no uncircumstantial evidence, and are encouraged to believe in a very narrow "cherry picked" interpretation of that God... there is no limit to what they might feel justified in doing. God instructs people throughout the Bible to literally slaughter entire cities leaving not even the women or children alive. Again, this is not exclusive to Christianity, most mainstream religions have these elements.

To many atheists, there is a strong ethical component, an element of concern and compassion, a value and appreciation of humanity, diversity and social well-being, a yearning for "truth" and integrity. This is why it's difficult for many of us to be content as what you describe as "apatheists".

Ruth(aka NHBlogger) said...

Simen-the reason I chose the phrase "to us" is to show that this belief IS rational to the Christian perspective. If you believed in Unicorns, it might seem irrational to me, yet it is very rational to you, and I wouldn't try to convince you otherwise. Rationalism (if there is such a word) is in the mind of the beholder. To me Chrisianity and believing in God is rational.

UrbanReason said...

Ruth is right, "rational" is an unfortunately broad term according to standard dictionary definitions. It includes elements of "sensible" and it can be said that some people believe in a God for reasons that are not entirely absent of "sensibility" and thus some form of "rationality".

Scientists and atheists often use "rational" more narrowly, however, to define a provable logical argument (sometimes called a rational argument) or something that has been subject to the testing of the scientific method. When an atheist says faith is irrational they mean that your argument looks something like this:

There is no evidence for Krishna +
The belief that Krishna exists is the evidence his existence
=
Therefore the Krishna must exist

The Bible's most famous definition of faith says that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1)

When faith is stripped down to it's logical argument, you can see that "I hope for it + I do not see it = therefore it exists" is really not a rational argument.

Growing up I loved dinosaurs. There are accounts by natives in the congo of a creature they call Mokele-Mmbembe and have compared it to illustrations of sauropods (like brontosaurus) when shown by explorers. I would LOVE to see a direct living ancestor of the dinosaurs, i have never seen one nor have any photographs been taken (though several expeditions have been undertaken). That alone, most people would agree, is not a rational reason to say "I believe with great certainty that Mokele-Mmbembe is real." That is simply gambling.

DJ Drummond said...

simen is correct; Faith is not rational.

Neither, for that matter, is Love, many friendships, much of Art or Music, nor many of our most precious ideals.

Matt said...

I just thought I would mention a study that was done at Harvard University. There were 4 groups - people prayed for and not told, people prayed for and told, people not prayed for and told they were, and people not prayed for and told nothing.

All were going through heart bypass surgery, and the group that fared the worst were the ones that knew they were being prayed for.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060403133554.htm

And just to mention, the "live and let live" argument doesn't work in a minority-majority situation. At this point, there are people trying to bring prayer back to public schools, funding for faith-based charities, etc. What if Jehovah's Witnesses ran the government and wanted to abolish hospitals because it goes against their idea that blood transfusions are against God's will? It is the same sort of idea for us.

Wisko said...

Somebody in an earlier comment, quoted Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Even though I believe in, and love God, I can't really call myself a Christian, because Christ was only doing what God, the Father, bid him to do. Christ's main purpose for being made flesh was to be the "Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world."
Even though Christ had every right in all eternity to proclaim himself as "The Way, The Truth, and The Life", as without his obedience unto death, nobody at all would be able to reach out to God. However, since God instituted the act of salvation by sending His Son to be the sacrifice, God, the Father, is the One that paid the price.
In Romans 6:23, Paul states that "The wages of sin is death, but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life through Jesus Christ."
I choose not to put my faith into someone who was seen, heard, and even touched, but instead choose to put my faith in the Father, believing in "the evidence of things not seen."

UrbanReason said...

Wisko, in all possible politeness... I'm having trouble understanding how your post contributes to the dialog here. It seems you are merely letting all of the posters here know that you are a "believer". It seems to me that you simply qualify your assertion by stating what many of us already know about theists... you have come up with a rather bizarre illogical argument to justify your belief in something for which there is no evidence because it 1) makes you feel good or 2) alleviates the socially instilled fear of eternal damnation (or unpleasantness/seperation, for more moderates). Am I missing something?

Cori said...

Two things to add to this discussion. First, the explanation of the faith verse in Hebrews is incorrect. Faith is not simply belief in things unseen and hoped for. Rather, faith is the SUBSTANCE and EVIDENCE of things hoped for and unseen. God does not require irrational faith to believe in His existence. There is plenty of evidence for those willing to see it. Secondly, every single person, religious or not, expresses faith every day. Everytime you sit into a chair which you have not sat in before or seen someone else sit in you exercise faith. Faith in the manufacturer of the chair, in the materials, in the continued maintenance of the chair. You don't check all those things out before you sit in it, you have faith that the chair will support you. The question we all must answer is, "In what will we place our faith?"
Cori

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps it would be better for atheists to consider themselves 'apatheists': Continue not believing in God or religion, but also stop worrying if others believe. To put it simply: live and let live."

The University of Minnesota did a study last year and found that atheists were the least trusted minority group in the US (http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/03/24/67686)
With this in mind, your suggestion is insane to any rational atheist.

In the 1960s (or even today) you would have never said: "Perhaps it would be better if black people considered themselves as 'not being discriminated against': Continue being black, but also stop worrying if others are racist...."

I know, it's not a perfect analogy, but I think it gets the idea across. You're asking for the wrong thing, and asking for it from the wrong group of people.

I find it insulting to be asked to "not care about" an aspect of who I am. An aspect that is unjustly used as a weapon against me in the hearts and minds of a majority of my fellow citizens.

Ruth said...

Anonymous wrote:
>The University of Minnesota did a study last year and found that atheists were the least trusted minority group in the US (http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/03/24/67686)
With this in mind, your suggestion is insane to any rational atheist.<

I don't feel as if it is insane. I am not asking atheists to stop their way of thinking: I am asking those atheists who resort to anger, mocking, agressive behavior towards believers to just leave us alone. Stop caring if we don't agree with you. But many atheists just can't stop. If they were to have discussions that were polite, respectful, tolerant, without the overwhelming need to be right, or to try to prove us wrong all the time,perhaps they would be more trusted. As for that survey, it involved only 2,140 people. I don't believe they represent the entire U.S. or even a large portion. And of course, there would be different results depending on what geographical area you survey. I don't hate or mistrust atheists at all. I mostly feel sad for them. Yet I have no desire to convert them or mock them. I have wanted to understand them, to gain knowledge,and from some of the wonderful, thoughtful discussions I've seen in some of the other comments on my blog, I have learned a lot. Let evangelical atheists duke it out with evangelical religious people: I am not part of that.

>In the 1960s (or even today) you would have never said: "Perhaps it would be better if black people considered themselves as 'not being discriminated against': Continue being black, but also stop worrying if others are racist...." I know, it's not a perfect analogy, but I think it gets the idea across. You're asking for the wrong thing, and asking for it from the wrong group of people.<

Wow. You are are right that it is not the best analogy but I can't fault you after my tooth fairy/santa analogy. :-) But there is a BIG difference between the discrimination blacks have endured and the "mistrust" atheists have received. When atheists are: taken from their homes and made into slaves, told to sit in the back of the bus, have separate waiting areas, lynched, prevented from attending schools, I will stand right beside you and protest this with all my heart. Again, I am not asking you to STOP your beliefs, I am asking you to respect mine. If you have a problem with people trying to convert you (evangelicals) or hating you or whatever, I don't subscribe to that religion. You need to find their message boards and take it up with them.

>I find it insulting to be asked to "not care about" an aspect of who I am. An aspect that is unjustly used as a weapon against me in the hearts and minds of a majority of my fellow citizens.<

Once again: I don't want you to stop your way of thinking or not care about it, I want you to stop caring about what I believe. And I really don't think a "majority" of your fellow citizens use this as a weapon, to have you stop caring about your beliefs. If so, you are talking to the wrong citizens. Atheists need to be careful, as some of them are coming across as paranoid. We (myself and other non-evangelicals) are truly not trying to get you.

UrbanReason said...

Cori, as with Wisko, i must politely take issue with your statement. I spent a good 20 years of my life invested in the study of religion and Christianity. I've read the Bible many times and attended more churches than I'd venture to say most normal people have.

All of my life I've never wanted to do anything half-heartedly or simply be a follower. So when I was attendeding my own church 2-3 times a week and visiting other churches in-between, I wanted to be one of the most knowledgeable about the scriptures, about God, about Jesus, etc. So to say that my assessment of Hebrews is simply "incorrect", while i know you didn't intend it that way, is frankly a bit insulting to the years of dedication and research I devoted to religion and Christianity.

Perhaps your personal interpretation is different, but out of the many churches I've visited across the country I've found a similar message. What Paul did not, by most interpretations, intend to imply that substance and evidence should lead us to have faith. He rather intended to imply that faith (the belief) was itself evidence and substance for things not seen.

I must agree, I like your interpretation much better. It implies we should not believe things without evidence or substance. This is, in essence, the foundation for the scientific method and ultimately the epistimological route that led me (and many others) away from "faith".

Moving on to your assertion that there is evidence for those "willing to see it"... Anyone who has devoted serious thought and discussion to their lack of belief has inevitably encountered this ultimately unconvincing and unsatisfactory type of argument. So it's nothing new to me. As has already been stated by a great number of Philosophers and Scientists from Russel to to Dawkins, you could find what you call "evidence" for a great number of things. But having had the priveledge of being on the "inside" for so long I realize that by "evidence" you simply refer to your own lack of ability to comprehend it or that science has not yet proven a concrete hypothesis for it. Evidence cannot, by definition, be the lack of explanation or understanding. You may find it difficult to understand how out of the billions of rocks orbiting stars in our universe, our rock happened to be the type of rock in the right type of configuration to allow for our type of life. That is not evidence for God, however. It is only evidence that our planet happened to be in a position that made it hospitible to our type of life. But because someone can not explain how a flower grows from seed into a beautiful piece of botany does, I'm sure you would agree that this offers no evidence that fairies live at the bottom of every garden and use magic to make it grow. That is type of 'evidence' available to those willing to see it.

As far as the argument about the chair goes... you're simply relabling "faith". I can't tell you how many people use this type of logic and what it boils down to is a simple difference in how we define "faith". I don't have "Faith" that a chair will support me, I know through years of testing that so long as the chair has four legs and does not feel wobbly when i touch it; so long as I maintain a healthy level of body fat it is very likely the chair will support me. I would never claim it is out of the realm of possibility that a chair that looks and feels sturdy might not support me. However I know the likelihood of a chair collapsing beneath my weight is slim, therefore I sit. I don't think I have to elaborate on what true "Faith" in the chair would imply.

Thank you for your input, but you're going to have to develop a more convincing defense. The arugments you put forth are extremely common and "faith" aside, their refutations are fairly straight forward and much more logically convincing.

Cori said...

Ruth, I appreciate your blogsite, and the intention to create healthy conversations between Christians and Atheists. I have to say though, that your post to anonymous was fairly simplistic. You state the hope that volatile, angry, mocking atheists would just settle for nice, polite discussions then they would be more trusted. One of the big problems with this is that there are many who call themselves Christians who are the same or worse. They bait and criticize and blame atheists for all the ills in our country. It is not unreasonable for some atheists to respond as they do. I agree that it would be great - but it would have to be a change that comes on both sides, and I suspect that people like that (Christian and atheist alike) are unwilling to take the first step. The Christians, however, should be first.

Urbanreason, Thank you for your post. You are correct when you say I meant no insult, I apologize if it seemed that way. And you may even be correct on the proper interpretation of the Hebrews verse, it warrants revisiting on my part. I will do so.

You are also correct about "evidence." I have seen and experienced things that are evidence to me because they support what I already believe - although I will say that in all truthfulness it was the evidence of creation that led me to a faith in God. Whether Paul intended that or not in Hebrews, certainly he expressed the possibility of that in Romans.

As for exercising faith, what you described as your reason for sitting in the chair simply shows that in that instance you are placing your faith in statistical probability. As we all know, sometimes the chair does break - in spite of the fact that reason tells us it usually doesn't.

I do appreciate and enjoy the dialog, and don't feel a need to "defend" my beliefs nor change yours. I doubt that apologetic arguments ever convince an atheist.

Best, Cori

Anonymous said...

"As for that survey, it involved only 2,140 people. I don't believe they represent the entire U.S. or even a large portion. And of course, there would be different results depending on what geographical area you survey."

Okay, I'm no statistician so if you want the hardcore dope on statistics and polling I suggest taking a college course, but I can supply you with some information. A generally acccepted margin of error is 3%, and to achieve this margin polls need to have a sampling size of approx. 1000 people. This particular poll had a sample of over 2000 people so it meets the generally accepted margin of error.

Your comment about differing results with different geographical areas is true but also irrelevant to my position. It was a national poll, not just a Minnesota poll.

"I don't hate or mistrust atheists at all. I mostly feel sad for them. Yet I have no desire to convert them or mock them. I have wanted to understand them, to gain knowledge,and from some of the wonderful, thoughtful discussions I've seen in some of the other comments on my blog, I have learned a lot. Let evangelical atheists duke it out with evangelical religious people: I am not part of that."

All of that is great. Well, except for the part where you feel sad for us, but I understand that, given your perspective. Nonetheless, there are lots of religious people in this country who are not like you.

"Wow. You are are right that it is not the best analogy but I can't fault you after my tooth fairy/santa analogy. :-) But there is a BIG difference between the discrimination blacks have endured and the "mistrust" atheists have received."

Yeah, and I alluded to that very fact when I said it wasn't a perfect analogy. Why harp on an irrelevant aspect of an analogy once I've already made it clear that wasn't the point I was trying to convey?

"When atheists are: taken from their homes and made into slaves, told to sit in the back of the bus, have separate waiting areas, lynched, prevented from attending schools, I will stand right beside you and protest this with all my heart."

I'm sure you don't intend it to sound like your okay with injustice as long as it isn't institutionalized, but that's what a literal reading of this sounds like. Apart from that this is a straw man arguement.

"Again, I am not asking you to STOP your beliefs, I am asking you to respect mine."

Sorry, I don't respect anyones' beliefs; I respect the reasons they believe them. That aside, you've now changed your request. On your blog you suggested I not care about others' beliefs, but now you've narrowed it down to just your own.

The fact is that I have to care about others beliefs becuase their beliefs are central to what they think of me and how they treat me. That was the point of the analogy. I wasn't suggesting that atheists and blacks have shared similar sufferings, but that we both have to care about what makes other people hate us.

Cori said...

Urbanreason, as I said I would, I have gone back and once again looked at Hebrews 11:1 ("Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.") and must stand by my interpretation. There are a couple of reasons for this. One relates to the language used by Paul. The word translated "substance" is the Greek word hupostasis and it is a scientific term. It is the opposite of our word hypothesis, or theory. In other words, faith is more than just a theory, a pie in the sky ideal. Looking at the Greek word for "evidence", elegchos, shows that this phrase takes on more of a legal flavor. It refers to evidence that is accepted for conviction. The word is used over 20 times in Plato's account of the trial of Socrates. So you can see by the language itself that Paul is stating that Christian faith is more than a "hope-so." The other reason I believe my interpretation to be correct is that it supports Paul's comments in the first chapter of Romans - stating that the evidence of God's existence and character can be clearly seen, giving faith a foundation.

Best, Cori

David said...

One of the things Richard Dawkins points out is that belief in God runs on a scale with an infinite number of steps. For simplicity's sake, he suggests a scale of nine points, with 1 being absolute belief in a god, and 9 being absolute disbelief.

I bring this up because he (rightfully) points out that in his example, there are a multitude of 1's (absolute belief in a god) but very few 9's (absolute disbelief in a god), as in science, the proof of a negative is virtually impossible. Now Dawkins is almost militant in his atheism, but scores himself between 8 and 9 on his scale. I'm probably about an 8, so I choose to call myself an agnostic.

If I were to choose to believe in a creator, I'm afraid Christianity, even though it is the faith I was raised in, would be very far down the list indeed. As Bart Ehrman, (Chairperson of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina) points out in his excellent book "Misquoting Jesus, which introduces the science of Textual Criticism to a introducing a more general population, the Bible, in particular the New Testament, is rife with inconsistencies. The four gospels fail to agree on the names of the apostles. The Gospel of John tells a very different (i.e. factually inconsistent) story that the other three. In the Gospel of Mark, most early texts end when the body of Jesus is found to be mising from the tomb. All that follows in Mark was tacked on later to bridge a theological consistency gap. In John, the story of the (almost) stoning of the woman convicted of Adultery was not original to the text; it was added later by scribes, at first as a margin note and then in the actual text.

It is not surprising that it is his very study of the Bible that led him from his fundamentalist Christian faith to agnosticism.

But back to Dawkins. He points out, accurately enough, that any scientist who should find a way to prove the existence of a creator would become the most famous and revered scientist of all time. Still, no such evidence exists, but not for the trying.

The argument that proof must not exist in order to make room for faith is fine, but as a non-believer, this presents a real problem, which no one seems to have addressed here.

To believe in a personal God, an ominpotent, all-powerful, all-knowing God, I have to allow for a being complex enough to monitor every iota of activity in the universe, a being also capable of interceding on anyone's behalf at any moment.

Now a believer might argue that the above is possible. And I am certainly unable to argue against the possibility. After all, there is no proof that such a being does not exist, as I pointed out earlier.

But to believe in such a being, without appropriate evidence, is a fools' choice. Because now, from the point of view of science, the problem of the universe has more than doubled. For if the universe has a creator, a creator by necessity that is more complex than his creation, than who created the creator?

While the above argument is certainly an old chestnut, it is valid just the same.

Founding father Thomas Paine, a deist (like so many of our founding fathers), explained perfectly in "The Age of Reason" the fallacy of belief without evidence.

"... admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it."

The Fated Place said...

One thing I think has been overlooked is the simple illusion of Ruthiness' second prong. For many atheists, or even philosophers such as Neitzsche or Freud, it is not the extremists who pose the greatest threat as religious persons. Rather, it is herd consciousness that perpetuates the structure of religion. I disagree that the extremists are the only harmful portion of religious believers. They're only the most prominent. The far more subtle danger of general religious beliefs, as both Nietzsche and Freud have argued separately, is that they turn attention away from this life, this world. By distracting persons from this world a whole host of harm is cast upon humans. The hope that there is another world or the belief that this world is merely a stage, an illusion, is a dangerous belief.

Anonymous said...

Here's the point of view of an actual scientist:
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. His most recent book is "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief."

I am a scientist and a believer, and I find no conflict between those world views.

As the director of the Human Genome Project, I have led a consortium of scientists to read out the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome, our own DNA instruction book. As a believer, I see DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God's language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God's plan.

I did not always embrace these perspectives. As a graduate student in physical chemistry in the 1970s, I was an atheist, finding no reason to postulate the existence of any truths outside of mathematics, physics and chemistry. But then I went to medical school, and encountered life and death issues at the bedsides of my patients. Challenged by one of those patients, who asked "What do you believe, doctor?", I began searching for answers.

I had to admit that the science I loved so much was powerless to answer questions such as "What is the meaning of life?" "Why am I here?" "Why does mathematics work, anyway?" "If the universe had a beginning, who created it?" "Why are the physical constants in the universe so finely tuned to allow the possibility of complex life forms?" "Why do humans have a moral sense?" "What happens after we die?"

I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments, and was astounded to discover, initially in the writings of the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis and subsequently from many other sources, that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of the existence of God on purely rational grounds. My earlier atheist's assertion that "I know there is no God" emerged as the least defensible. As the British writer G.K. Chesterton famously remarked, "Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative."

But reason alone cannot prove the existence of God. Faith is reason plus revelation, and the revelation part requires one to think with the spirit as well as with the mind. You have to hear the music, not just read the notes on the page. Ultimately, a leap of faith is required.

For me, that leap came in my 27th year, after a search to learn more about God's character led me to the person of Jesus Christ. Here was a person with remarkably strong historical evidence of his life, who made astounding statements about loving your neighbor, and whose claims about being God's son seemed to demand a decision about whether he was deluded or the real thing. After resisting for nearly two years, I found it impossible to go on living in such a state of uncertainty, and I became a follower of Jesus.

So, some have asked, doesn't your brain explode? Can you both pursue an understanding of how life works using the tools of genetics and molecular biology, and worship a creator God? Aren't evolution and faith in God incompatible? Can a scientist believe in miracles like the resurrection?

Actually, I find no conflict here, and neither apparently do the 40 percent of working scientists who claim to be believers. Yes, evolution by descent from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things.

But why couldn't this be God's plan for creation? True, this is incompatible with an ultra-literal interpretation of Genesis, but long before Darwin, there were many thoughtful interpreters like St. Augustine, who found it impossible to be exactly sure what the meaning of that amazing creation story was supposed to be. So attaching oneself to such literal interpretations in the face of compelling scientific evidence pointing to the ancient age of Earth and the relatedness of living things by evolution seems neither wise nor necessary for the believer.

I have found there is a wonderful harmony in the complementary truths of science and faith. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. God can be found in the cathedral or in the laboratory. By investigating God's majestic and awesome creation, science can actually be a means of worship.