In Cathedral or Laboratory, It’s the Same God, National Prayer Breakfast Told

President Bush, First Lady, heads of state, Members of Congress, distinguished guests… I am deeply honored to be speaking with … Continued

President Bush, First Lady, heads of state, Members of
Congress, distinguished guests…

I am deeply honored to be speaking with you on this significant and moving occasion. As you have heard, I am not a man of the cloth nor a political leader. I am a physician and a scientist, here this morning as a private citizen, but who had the incredible privilege of leading the Human Genome Project. I am also a believer in God.

The astrophysicist Robert Jastrow started his book on science and faith with the following words: “When a scientist writes about God, his colleagues assume he is either over the hill or going bonkers.” I hope and pray that I am neither of those! And yet in the scientific community there is often an unwritten taboo about discussing one’s spiritual leanings, so many assume that scientists are generally godless materialists. That’s not actually true – a recent survey found that 40% of working scientists believe in a God to whom one may pray in expectation of an answer. And that number has changed very little over the past century.

Yet there are increasingly shrill voices around us who argue that the scientific and spiritual worldviews are incompatible. I am here this morning to tell you that these different ways of finding the truth are not only compatible, but they are wondrously complementary.

As the leader of the Human Genome Project, I had the great privilege of serving as the project manager for a dedicated team of more than 2000 scientists from six countries. Together, we determined all three billion letters of the human genome, our own DNA instruction book, and made all those data freely available on the internet every 24 hours. It is hard to get your mind around how much information this is – three billion is a big number, even here in Washington! Suppose we decided to take a little time this morning to read the letters of the human genome together, just to express our awe at God’s creation. If we took turns reading, and agreed to stick with it until we were all the way through, we would be here for 31 years! And you have all that information inside each of the 100 trillion cells of your body.

We have learned many interesting things already about this amazing human DNA instruction book. One profound observation is just how much we are all alike. Your DNA and mine are 99.9% the same — and that would be true regardless of which one of you I chose for the comparison. At the DNA level, we are clearly all part of one big worldwide family.

Faced with this rapidly growing body of information, one cannot help but feel a sense of awe at the amazing complexity and elegance of the human body – from the intricate digital DNA code, to the marvelous nanotechnology machines that operate inside each cell of our bodies, to that most amazing organ of all, the human brain.

But this exploration of human biology is not just a sterile academic pursuit. Whether you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, or still searching, you would probably agree that the mandate to alleviate suffering is one of our highest callings. The new tools of biomedical research, many stemming from this new science of genomics, now provide an unprecedented opportunity for breakthroughs in cancer, diabetes, mental illness, infectious diseases, and many other conditions, and a true revolution is underway. Though there are legitimate concerns about setting appropriate boundaries for this research, we also have a strong ethical mandate to proceed as quickly as possible, so long as a sick child lives somewhere in the world who could be helped.

So these are exciting times for a scientist. But my hopes and dreams for us all do not rest solely in science. I am also a man of faith. Many of you probably assume that this stance stems from childhood training in a particular religious tradition – as that is certainly the way in which many come to believe. But that is not my story.

I was raised on a small farm in Virginia by wonderfully unconventional freethinking parents who greatly valued learning, literature, music, and the arts – but for whom religion was just not very important. Falling in love with science as a teenager, slipping into a worldview that assumed that the only true meaning in the universe was to be found in mathematics and physical laws, I became first an agnostic and then an atheist.

But my scientific curiosity eventually led me from chemistry and physics into medicine. And there at the bedside of people with terrible illnesses, matters of life, death, and the spirit were no longer academic. Just as it has been said “there are no atheists in foxholes”, I found that there were few atheists amongst those lying in hospital beds in North Carolina. One afternoon, a kindly grandmother with only a few weeks to live shared her own faith in Jesus quite openly with me, and then asked, “Doctor, what do you believe?”

Stammering something about not being quite sure, I fled the room, having the disturbing sense that the atheist ice under my feet was cracking, though I wasn’t quite sure why. And then suddenly the reason for my disquiet hit me: I was a scientist. I was supposed to make decisions based on evidence. And yet I had never really considered the evidence for and against faith.

Determined to shore up my position, I began to explore the path of others before me who had asked the same questions about faith. In that search, I was particularly affected by the writings of the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis, who had similarly sought as a young man to defend his atheism and instead became a believer in God.

As I explored the evidence more deeply, all around me I began to see signposts to something outside of nature that could only be called God. I realized that the scientific method can really only answer questions about HOW things work. It can’t answer questions about WHY – and those are in fact the most important ones. Why is there something instead of nothing? Why does mathematics work so beautifully to describe nature? Why is the universe so precisely tuned to make life possible? Why do we humans have a universal sense of right and wrong, and an urge to do right – even though we disagree on how to interpret that calling?

Confronted with these revelations, I realized that my own assumption — that faith was the opposite of reason — was incorrect. I should have known better: Scripture defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Evidence! Simultaneously, I realized that atheism was in fact the least rational of all choices. As Chesterton wrote, “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas … for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” How could I have had the arrogance to make such an assertion?

So I had to accept the plausibility of a powerful force, a creative Mind, that existed outside of Nature. But was God only to be found in the abstract, or did he also care about me? I felt an increasing hunger to answer that question.

After searching for two years more, I ultimately found my own answer — in the loving person of Jesus Christ. Here was a man unlike any other. He was humble and kindhearted. He reached out to those considered lowest in society. He made astounding statements about loving your enemies. And he promised something that no ordinary man should be able to promise – to forgive sins. On top of all that, having assumed all my life that Jesus was just a myth, I was astounded to learn that the evidence for his historical existence was actually overwhelming.

Eventually, I concluded the evidence demanded a verdict. In my 28th year, while hiking in the majestic Cascade mountains in the Pacific Northwest, I could no longer deny my need for forgiveness and new life –- and I gave in and became a follower of Jesus. He is now the rock upon which I stand, the source for me of ultimate love, peace, joy, and hope.

But, some of you might say, you’re a geneticist. Doesn’t that make your head explode? Aren’t there irreconcilable contradictions between your spiritual and scientific worldviews? No. Not at all. As long as one uses a thoughtful approach to interpretation of the meaning of Scripture in light of what science has allowed us to learn about the universe – as St. Augustine compellingly articulated 1,600 years ago — I can’t identify a single conflict between what I know as a rigorous scientist and what I know as a believer. Yes, science is the only reliable way to understand the natural world. But being a believer allows me to see scientific discoveries in a wholly new light.

In that context, science becomes a means not only of discovery, but of worship. When as a scientist I have the great privilege of learning something that no human knew before, as a believer I also have the indescribable experience of having caught a glimpse of God’s mind. Bernard Lonergan captured this aspect of scientific discovery as “the eternal rapture glimpsed in every Archimedean cry of Eureka.”

If this is all true, why does there seem to be such a battle going on between science and faith, at least in some quarters? As is often the case in such battles, a bit of effort on each side to understand each other would go a long way. Concrete-thinkers amongst my own colleagues who deny the value of a spiritual worldview would be well advised to admit the ultimate impoverishment of a perspective that offers no answers to questions like “Why am I here?” Perhaps Jesus was thinking of such folks when he said in Matthew 11:25, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

On the other hand, some well-meaning believers have adopted the view that science is a threat to faith, and that God has to be defended against certain scientific conclusions. Is this really compatible with complete trust in the Almighty, who could hardly be threatened by the efforts of our puny minds to understand his creation? God’s creation is majestic, awesome, intricate, and beautiful – and it cannot contradict itself. He is the same God, whether you find him in the cathedral or in the laboratory. He is in the laws of physics, but he is also the ultimate source of love and forgiveness.

On June 26, 2000, I had the privilege to stand in the East Room of the White House, next to the President of the United States, announcing the completion of the first draft of the human genome. I was overcome with awe and a sense of history that morning. As a believer, this remarkable book of life did indeed seem to be written in the language in which God spoke life into being.

But that day was also one of personal mourning, for I had just spoken at a memorial service for my sister-in-law, a marionette artist whose wonderful light had been snuffed out much too soon by breast cancer. The promise of these new discoveries about the human genome had come too late for her.

Recalling the mixed emotions of that day, they bring into sharp focus the complex nature of our human condition. We have great hopes for health and long life for ourselves and our families, but all too often we stand at the gravesides of loved ones who have been taken from us much too soon. We find in the great truths of faith the kind of clear spiritual water that we long for, but all too often we see that pure water has been poured into rusty human vessels, distorted, and discolored. We want to believe in ultimate human goodness, but all too often our hopes are dashed by selfish and violent acts of our own human family against each other. We cling to the promise of new scientific breakthroughs to help our hurting world, but we fear that some of these discoveries may be used in ways that cause more harm than good. In sum, we dream of an earthly garden of delight, but all too often it seems more like a vale of tears.

Yet if we put our trust in God, and resolve to put love above all else, we are promised ultimate victory over all these trials. “Come unto me, all you are burdened and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” So, my brothers and sisters from every creed and nation, let us here today resolve to love one another, and to celebrate the beautiful and intricate world that God has given us. Let us agree to protect it, even as we seek to join the power of science with the warm embrace of human compassion to reach out to all those who need healing – whether of body or spirit.

To conclude this homily, I propose to do something risky – to ask you all to join me in singing a song. Some may find it ironic that last year’s speaker, the rock star Bono, spoke about justice and world economics, but passed up the chance to sing. Now this year’s speaker, a scientist who might be considered a bit of a nerd, proposes to sing and play guitar. But the Prayer Breakfast is where we are all supposed to break out of our comfort zones.

So please help me — break out of your own comfort zone, and sing along with me. The words are in your program. The tune will be familiar to some of you, and will be quickly learned by the rest. Harmony is welcome!

My brothers and sisters, lift your hearts and voices with me, as we praise the God who is the source of all faith and learning.

Praise the Source of Faith and Learning
Words by Rev. Thomas H. Troeger

From Borrowed Light: Hymn Texts, Prayers and Poems
Copyright 1994 Oxford University Press, used by permission
(To the tune of Hyfrydol)

Praise the source of faith and learning who has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning how the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing from the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing and renew our need to pray.

God of wisdom, we acknowledge that our science and our art
And the breadth of human knowledge only partial truth impart.
Far beyond our calculation lies a depth we cannot sound
Where Your purpose for creation and the pulse of life are found.

As two currents in a river fight each other’s undertow
Till converging they deliver one coherent steady flow,
Blend O God our faith and learning till they carve a single course
Till they join as one, returning praise and thanks to You, their Source.

Remarks delivered at the 55th Annual National Prayer Breakfast
February 1, 2007 in Washington, D.C.

Francis S. Collins is Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and author of ‘The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief’ (2006)

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  • Soja John Thaikattil

    Dear Professor CollinsWhat a heart rending and beautiful homily! I feel moved to tears. Thank you for sharing your faith journey. The fact that you were once an atheist makes your faith journey even more significant. Thank you for speaking on behalf of all people of science who see the glory of God reflected through science. One of my favourite passages in the Bible is Psalm 139, which I have read hundreds of times and never tire of reading. And yes C S Lewis, when his student and friend, Bede Griffiths, introduced me to his books in 1984, I fell in love with his writing straight away. My lifelong Christian belief found a strong rational foundation to rest on.I hope that your sharing on this “On Faith” forum will encourage people with an open mind to see that science and faith go together, reinforcing what Einstein once claimed. Yes, for believers who do science, faith and science are like the two wings of a bird.Thank you once again.Soja John Thaikattil

  • slandry

    Francis Collins saddens me. A man who is so otherwise thoughtful, yet completely abandons reason with regard to supernatural deities. His path to faith (a.k.a. abandonment of reason) is marked by non-sequiturs and leaps of logic unconscionable for someone so well-heeled in the methods of truth-finding used by scientists. If you read his book critically, you will understand that this is a man who completely abandoned good sense so that he no longer had to hold what for him was apparently an uncomfortable position. He readily admits that intelligent design is wrong. He readily admits that the Bible is wrong about many things (including the age of the earth). Yet somehow he believes in a very particular incarnation of deity – the Christian god. Somehow he does not see that his belief in this particular god is as unsupportable as intelligent design.

  • James

    Buddhist Wisdom Exceeds God/Prayer WisdomThe only justification for the kind of faith Dr Collins describes is “it makes him feel better.”So does opium.All of his claims for any truth value to his faith are as leaky as a sieve. I am happy he feels better, but drug addiction is not a healthy personal or societal habit.Buddhist Practice has Spiritual Validity and power that has been demonstrated longer than Christianity, and Practice Buddhist Loving kindness and mindfulness. If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.

  • Betty

    Given that Dr Collins begins by noting his copresense with President Bushwho has used Prayer and Faith and communing with his Higher Fatherto commit the US to the worst Foreign Policy disaster in our history.how can any of us not doubt the efficacy of prayer, versus, say, a little investigation of the Reality Based World.

  • Bob

    Are you kidding me? This fellow is really a scientist? This is a joke right?

  • Karen

    Norrie Hoyt, I have read your entry twice and I still don’t understand why you think that the only answer to the WHY questions is HOW To and SHOW ME HOW. Could you please elaborate? I am not being fatitious, I really don’t get your point. I work in the scientific/research field. I spend a lot of time figuring out the how to or how come of things. That never answers the big questions of life. Knowing how I got here, whether by creationism or evolution, to me, still does not answer the question of why I am here. Maybe my religious world view sets my mind in such a way that for me a life without purpose is a life without meaning.Bob, yes, Francis Collins is a an MD. PhD and one of the most brilliant scientists of his generation. Why are you so condescending? How about if I said this of Richard Dawkins because I disagree with him, would you not tell me that I am such a prejudiced christian? If you have a thoughtful critique of Dr Collins’ comments, why don’t you put it out there instead, like Norrie Hoyt did?Non-believers, please accept that there are many brilliant scientists like Dr Collins that are also believers. Why don’t you engage them on the merit of their opinions and stop being so astonished every time you find out that there are educated scientific minds out there that also worship God?

  • slandry

    Karen,I am “(engaging) them on the merit of their opinions.” Let’s say we want to answer why we’re here. Let’s say we have no other knowledge of our world (that is, we weren’t raised Christian or Muslim or atheist or Buddhist).How would we go about finding the why? I argue that the only method that has worked to discern truth from fiction is reason – a rational process for uncovering the truth. We examine evidence for and against our beliefs, constructing the best explanation we can that fits the evidence. The only method you can use to arrive at belief in the Christian god is a suspension of reason, because there is a great amount of evidence against it (certainly no more than for any other god). The process one must use to arrive at belief in the Christian deity cannot be used to uncover any other truths. It is useless to identify the mechanisms of gravity. It is useless to detect someone guilty of crime. And so on.Science has no answer to why. I believe that there is no why, only a how. The randomness and structure of the universe seems to support this belief. However, I am open to changing any of my beliefs should new evidence arrive. There is certainly no conclusive evidence for why. There are conclusive answers for how, and they argue loudly against the Christian god.

  • Carl S.

    Just because Collins may be a “brilliant scientist”, doesn’t mean he has a monopoly on common sense.Example:”Just as it has been said ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’, I found that there were few atheists amongst those lying in hospital beds in North Carolina.”Like, DUH, Collins, what did you expect?!And while *he* may not be directly claiming that there are “no” atheists in foxholes, his repetition of that lie is an insult to our servicemen. He needs to surf on over to:Then he says:No, Francis. If it exists at all, it could be called Fred, or Sally or the Big Question Mark, or anything. You, Francis, choose to call it God because you are clearly susceptible to peer pressure. And why should anyone feel a need to *worship* any Fred, or Sally, or Question Mark or God?Finally he says:”Simultaneously, I realized that atheism was in fact the least rational of all choices. As Chesterton wrote, “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas … for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” How could I have had the arrogance to make such an assertion?”Is he admitting that he formerly claimed 100% certitude that God did not exist? If so, he was indeed arrogant—a lot more arrogant than about 99.99% of the atheists (a-theists) I know.He needs to get out of his office once in a while and interact with some real atheists.What is even more infuriating is that OUR President probably just sat there and soaked it all up. Yep, it’s politically okay to tolerate anti-atheist slander.It’s time for a rational President who will hold a National Reason Breakfast.

  • EOG

    Francis Collins wrote: “There are increasingly shrill voices who argue that the scientific and spiritual worldviews are incompatible. I am here to tell you that these different ways of finding the truth are not only compatible, but wondrously complementary.”The first sentence is a statement of fact, the second is an opinion. In my opinion, the problem with the second sentence is the word ‘the’, just before truth. Are you saying that there is ‘a’ truth, and that both science and religion reveal that truth? I have no problem with the notion that science and religion are different ways of finding truth, but each addresses a different realm of The Truth.The domain of science is nature, that is, the reality of the universe of matter, space and time. In this realm, science as a way of knowing is king of the hill. The domain of religion is the supernatural, that is, the reality of what is above or beyond the limits of space, time and material things. The stuff of science can be pretty obscure. Who among us has personally experienced an electron, or even an atom? As far as I know, no one has ever really seen either, but that does not mean they don’t exist. How do we know they exist? Science is a way of knowing that was constructed by human beings to understand the reality of the material, temporal and spatial universe. Science is a process or method that is able to definitively eliminate ideas that are incorrect, leaving us with ideas that are still in the running to be true. Science is fundamentally tentative. Philosophically, it always leaves open the possibility that there might be another, more accurate understanding of natural phenomena.The stuff of religion, too, can be pretty obscure. Who among us has personally experienced God? As far as I know, quite a few folks make that claim, but that does not mean he/she/it exists. Religion is a way of knowing that was constructed by human beings to understand, for want of a better description, the reality of that which is transcendent, spiritual, and/or having to do with God, which, in essence, cannot be reduced to a process or method (though I expect, some might disagree on this latter point). Asking science to address the WHY, is like trying to drive your car to the moon. It wasn’t made for that purpose, is not suited to that endeavor, and simply will not get you there. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your car. Although some scientists (e.g. Richard Dawkins) seem to think that because science has been so spectacularly successful in its domain, that its domain is somehow all there is. I would argue that scientists who denigrate things spiritual do so at their peril, and with no true scientific backing. So, too, I would argue that religious folk who denigrate things scientific (e.g. evolution) do so at their peril, and with no true religious backing. Some scientists claim that there is no God, based on science. Some religious people claim things about that contradict our scientific understanding of those things having to do with space, time, and matter (like does the sun go around the earth, or is it the other way around?), based on their relilgion. Science and religion are neither incompatible nor complementary; they are simply different ways of knowing different things. Neither can legitimately disparage the other, as long as each sticks to its own domain.

  • Faith

    I haven’t read the whole article…but since I am in agreement with the Scientist..Material science is fallible, and human is susceptible to err. Since belief is rational, reason may directed science to the goodness of humanity. I have stated this a couple of years ago that Faith and Science will marry in the end…

  • Gerry

    The story of Mr. Collins makes me sad. It is not because he gives up reason and sucks up Bush’s benevolence, Bush’s, a monster caricature of “belief” responsible for one of the greatest desasters in recent human history.I am sad that a person of Mr. Collins’ reasoning ability in a special “compartment of his brain” does not influence other, more philosophical compartments. I am sad because a person of his capability succumbs to the primitive binary idea of god vs. nature, and even succumbs to the stamp one puts on that wonderful feeling of awe towards nature (shared by every mature human being!) by adopting a denominational religion, like any brand of Christianity and a personal god. We are back at the level of prayers to win a football game, or at the religious “heureka” outcry of a post in “On faith” of a guy after having retrieved his stolen car through prayer.How can a man like Mr. Collins wilfully ignore the historic genesis of the Christian religion, including the fairy tales of the virgin Mary (“virgin” meant a “young woman”, not the awfully technical “immaculate” meaning attributed to it later), the resurrection story, the “scapegoat” story of Jesus’ proxy death etc. If he rejects the creationists, which he necessarily does, he must fall into a split mind attitude, since his “Jesus” belief rests totally on the Old Testament, as Jesus affirmed absolutely (“no iota must be changed”). Very little help, Mr. Collins, to a spiritual development of our species!Why can we not get away from this formalistic semanticism of the word and the concept of “God”? The concept of god is like a prison of the human mind, and Mr. Collins has missed the chance to bring the human mind on a level where the discussion about reason and faith simply is no issue any more. Instead he tries to combine the two, thus reenforcing this incompatible dualistic principle of “either faith or reason”, even as he tries to combine it. If we could get away from this “God” concept, as a human personalization of nature (understandable as it is in the face of human limits, formerly Thor throwing lightnings etc), there could not be “atheism” either, because the notion of God would not dominate the spiritual discussion anymore. We would stand at a universal admiration and exploration of nature, at the inscrutable miracle of our own existence, and “science” would not be an insult word for the stupid “creationists” any more (“Kansas” is the cue). The religious would not have to rely on any scriptures, which, as everyone knows beyond any reasonable doubt, are historical outputs that will be replaced by other historical outputs, as mankind – hopefully – develops.The whole discussion of “agnosticism” vs. “atheism” would lose its subject, and mankind could proceed to tackle more important issues of finding ways to live together with a liberated mind.

  • Duff

    Since Collins is now generally considered as a mentally ill person by the scientific community, the religious community has gained a valued adherent, who along with them, would be considered mentally ill were it not for the fact that there are so many of them.

  • DZ

    Faith: Faith is not ‘rational’. It is, in fact, a suspension of rationality. Belief in something the existence of which cannot be demonstrated in any way cannot be considered rational. Now, that said, I don’t care what you believe – that is your business. BUT, there are more atheists in the U.S. than Jews and Muslims combined, and our numbers are growing not declining. There is no impending or even developing convergence of faith and science. Indeed, quite the opposite is occurring.

  • Bobby

    Thank you Dr. Collins.Signed,A Scientist and Christian

  • Karen

    Norrie Hoyt, thank you for taking the time to clarify your point. I think that I understand better what you are saying.You say: I gather that you agree that science can’t answer this purpose question. In my post I suggested that a question without a HOW answer is unanswerable”.In my opinion, a why question without a how answer is only unaswerable if you take belief in a Creator out of the realm of possibilities. Since atheists on this site have agreed many times that the existence of a Creator can neither be proved nor disproved though they find it highly unlikely, then logically, you should be saying that the WHY questions are only unanswerable if there is no belief in a Creator. Would you agree with that statement?About the Big Bang: I do believe that that is how the world started, as do many christians and christian scientists. But nobody can tell us why the big bang happened. Even atheist scientists tell us that science and reason fail at that point. Maybe science will figure it out someday but that is a big maybe. Until then, how the big bang happened still does not explain why the big bang happened. Again, an unanswerable question only if you rule out a reason/mind/creator behing the big bang.Finally, you bring up Jung. I am aware of his “God is an archetype” explanation. Interestingly, this leads to the idea that belief in God/Creator gives the believers an evolutionary advantage. Though I do not agree with this premise, I find it ironic. So our brains are wired for belief in a higher power, this belief probably gives us as a species some evolutionary advantage… yet everyday believers are pilloried on this site for their foolishness. What gives?

  • Brambleton

    What’s sad is the character assassination that takes place by posters who I can only assume are anti-Christian. This is supposed to be a forum devoted to discussing ideas and exchanging thoughts.I can’t help but wonder what causes such hostility from the anti-Christian wing. You certainly can tear down the man’s statements and question his beliefs, but what exactly is the point in belittling anyone? Is there something heroic in the name calling and bullying that I’m missing? I only pray that none of you have children that are subjected to this kind of adolescent behavior.Maybe the Washington Compost shouldn’t allow the Jerry Springer audience to post on these boards. Perhaps, then, we can have some meaningful discussion.

  • Faith

    DZ, and Norrie HoytSince you are making a contrary claim to my statement, you have to show the evidence to prove the non-existence of my belief and at the same time prove your non-belief. Rationalisation cannot be proven by popular opinions, or personal attacks.

  • James

    Faithyou prove the non existence of Santa claus(that is to say, yours is a silly request)

  • Heraclitus

    God and Santa ClausOK James,you heretic!Many personages claim to be Santa Claus,Santa Claus has a white beard that is obviously fake.this is harder than i thought.i’ll get back to you

  • DZ

    Faith: Neither Norrie nor I attacked you in any way. We disagreed with you. I accept that you believe in something that I do not, but belief in something on the basis of pure faith with no supporting evidence of any kind may not be called rational. Rational means based on reason. Also, I do not need to prove the non-existence of anything. Based on the evidence, I believe that there is no god. Show me actual evidence of something, and I will believe based on what that evidence demonstrates.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    The word in the last sentence should, of course. be “LONGER.”Too many words and letters to get them all right when hastily posting!

  • Karen

    Norrie Hoyt:I am glad that we agree re: the Big Bang. So to go back about the idea of a Creator. What I know of God, I get from reading his Word, ie the Bible though I do not take all of the OT literally. Therefore I believe that one of the reasons God created us was to have creatures in his image to love and commune with. He did not create robots or slaves, but humans with free will, hence the possibility that we would mess things up, as we have since the beginning of times. I believe that the main impulse of creation was love.You say: “the fact that a belief is hard-wired in our brains doesn’t make the belief true or useful. The belief has to be examined ab initio.”Just thought I would let you know that most of my beliefs I have acquired as a teenager and later as an adult. I have searched and read and prayed, and was not “indocrinated” as a child. I grew up in a civil war and tried to make sense of things mainly on my own. For me, the only world view that makes sense is the one given to me by Jesus. But I remain a seeker of knowledge and understanding and I am very interested in other people’s world views. There are so many questions that I wish the moderators would put out there that may elicit some really interesting answers from people without (one can only hope) bringing out the condescention, insults etc. For example, I would be really interested in knowing whether you believe in an afterlife and whether the answer is yes or no, how does this world view affect the way you live.

  • Karen

    Norrie Hoyt: I read your last 2 posts with great interest. I appreciate the fact that you are honest about all the stuff that you do not know or are not sure of, which is what being an agnostic is all about I guess. You leave the door open to all sorts of possibilities once more evidence becomes available.I too have struggled with the concept of Hell given my belief in a loving God that want all to be saved. The way I understand it at this point is that if we choose during our lifetime to live a life separate from God, our free choice excercised with free will gets honored on the other side and that Hell is eternal separation from God. Having said that, I do believe that above all God is just and that in the end, it will all make sense even if I cannot comprehend it at the time. So as you have gathered, I do believe in an afterlife and that belief has a tremendous impact on how I live my current life. It gives me hope and courage when facing difficult circumstances because I can tell myself that this is just a blip in eternity and that it too shall pass. Since I do not believe that I can or should try to earn my way to Heaven, I am liberated to do the best that I can for the sake of being a good christian, helping others and leaving a good mark on this earth, but not to earn brownie points with God. Receiving Jesus as my savior has made me want to change for the better and do good things in order to honor Him, but again, not to earn my salvation. When I see all the horrors of this world and know that no matter how hard I try, I can only influence a small piece of it, I take comfort in the fact that God is the ultimate judge and that justice will be done. Being reminded by scripture that our kingdom is not of this world and that we are just passing through helps me not to hold on too tight to material things and focus on the things that really matter. Many things that the average american considers essential to his or her happiness absolutely do not matter to me because they are just things. So having an eternal perspective helps me keep envy, greed etc in tight check and to genuinely be happy and thankful for what I have.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Karen,I think that somewhere along the way you picked up a mistaken idea about Buddhism: that it involves detachment from the world. In all my reading I’ve never come across a Buddhist idea that involved what I would call detachment.I think the person who wrote that probably had a misunderstanding of “emptiness,” the idea that nothing in the universe has an inherent identity.That is, for example, a “tree” does not have an inherent, concrete, enduring, separate identity as a tree. A tree is a process, arising from causes and conditions, and is never the same from one moment to the next. It is an example of impermanence in action. The same is true of people, animals and everything else, even subatomic particles. Or perhaps the writer misunderstood that aquiring the ability to not be adversely affected by negative happenings in the world somehow constitutes detachment. It doesn’t. Such a Buddhist is completely aware of what is going on in the world. He is not detached. He has simply learned how not to be harmed while maintaining his full awareness.Most Buddhists, except maybe a few who live in monasteries, are actively involved in the world and with helping people. Many Buddhist teachers are known for their amazing senses of humor.I wish you well on your path.

  • Dolores Lear

    Do all religions believe God created Life on Earth and Humans were to be the Caretakers?What kind of a planet will they find? Christians that start a pre-emptive war in Iraq? Christians that have filthy dumps, pollution, oil spills and nuclear bombs on land and sea? Is this what Caretakers are supposed to do? How about the people in all the other religions? Are they taking care of their Home Spaceship?For those that expect their God to return to Earth in the End Times, it is time to houseclean and get ready for the visitors, before we blow up our planet.Peace.

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    rgwn ezjn fpya agoyz

  • chair

    fhxmgor