So I was thinking this morning about the verse in Hebrews that says quite categorically:
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Now that’s all good and well, and very reasonable, if you accept the bible at all. What if you don’t? Well, if you don’t accept the bible, or any other system of faith, if you’re not even trying to please any god, especially not the “one god further” iteration of the Judeo-Christian worldview; even if you’re merely trying to please yourself, then you also can only do so, by faith.
That is just the way it is, you may believe that religion in all it’s forms was a necessary hiccup in the evolution of a sentient species, you may believe that the fossil record and the human genome indicate conclusively that humans evolved from distant ape-like creatures who in turn evolved from simpler and older life forms, just like all life on earth. But the point is that is what you believe, and everything you believe is by… faith.
Now that news may be a bit troubling, or you may not agree with it, but it is the truth. In order to hold an atheist view you must believe in the scientific method absolutely, the same way that a Christian believes in God and textual criticism. You must believe that the women and men who do the research and experiments, who come up with the theories, have no hidden agendas; that the method itself keeps them honest. As if science somehow lifts them from the pressures of life and the human condition, like seminary monks in a 10th century monastery. You must believe completely that they have not missed any vital pieces of the puzzle because of preconceptions, limitations or unpopular scholarly pursuits. You cannot come up with all the theories yourself even if you are a Nobel winning researcher, and you have no way of researching them all yourself either. That means someone else has to do it and you have to believe that they are doing it properly by some standards very few of us understand.
You must believe also in the absolute rigorousness of the peer review process, in the infallibility of the journal publication. It’s no good saying that anything published is open to criticism and disproof, because although that is absolutely true until it is subject to either of those things it has to be accepted as gospel truth, because it is journaled by peer review, that is the standard for the atheist, and the point I’m making is that we all have a standard by which be accept theory as fact by faith.
Let’s say, for example, that there is a second layer of code in our DNA, which scientists tell us there is and I, for one, believe them. In order to hold an atheist view you must believe that scientists would have inevitably found it, as they will inevitably find myriad of other fantastic and surprising possibilities that the universe seems insistent on revealing to us. In order to believe that you have to also believe that scientists are looking at everything without preconception or limited by popular topics, that nothing will be left off the table of theory and research by neglect, wilful or otherwise. Now that may or may not be happening, the scientific method may or may not be that rigorous and self-righting, but whether it is or not, in order to be an atheist you must believe unequivocally that it is.
Now here is the crunch, if you claim to have outgrown the need for faith, if you claim to deal only with facts, then even the cherry picked small group of “facts” you deal with you accept by faith, just like everyone else. The only differences are that others define themselves by what they believe, as opposed to what they don’t believe (and defining oneself by what one does not believe is hardly a satisfactory definition by the scientific method); and other realms of faith deal with a much wider field of knowledge including the meta-physical and relational realms.
I say that it’s good and well, and very reasonable for God to require faith. How is a faith requirement reasonable? Most arguments against belief in God that I’ve heard are that faith is the antithesis of reason; which, by the way, is a bit like saying that a daughter is the antithesis of her mother.
The thinking goes like this, if you have to just believe something by faith then it cannot be reasonable, it’s a cop-out, because all you do is put your god in place of anything that’s too hard or uncomfortable to think about.
But faith it’s not at all unreasonable, it is actually a requirement of every human being, because we are limited in our abilities and our time to personally pursue every question the universe asks. No matter who you are your knowledge base is standing, by faith, on other people’s shoulders. Every single one of us goes “one god further” when it comes to faith. The question is not whether or not you believe in God; the question has always been which god you believe in. Is in not then abundantly clear why you would have to believe God exists in order to please him? Does it not stand to reason why God would choose to hide himself from the scientific method so that we could at least have the possibility of direct faith in him, of discovering him personally instead of through our faith in an article written in a journal by someone we have never met but whom we choose to just believe nonetheless?