Could I have possibly asked a more provocative question?
“Yes!” says the believer.
“No!” says the unbeliever.
Then each begins accumulating evidence to support their conclusion.
For the most part, the argument between belief and unbelief does not advance much beyond this point.
I am a believer; I see evidence of God’s presence everywhere.
I can comfort myself that my view is decidedly the majority one. Probably, the percentage of people who have lived on this planet and who have believed in some sort of superhuman intelligence, force or Universal Being is over 99%. We seem hardwired to believe in God, or something like God.
However, I happen to be a member of the Western World. I also live in the 21st century. In the small subset of human civilization in which I live, the percentage of people who disbelieve in God’s existence is quite high, relatively speaking. Furthermore, this group occupies the fields of human inquiry that require the greatest amount of raw intelligence and focused theoretical development: paleontology, neurology, physics, biology, and the like. They are really smart and informed.
Alarmingly for believers anyway, many people in such fields find no evidence for God’s existence.
I am not as intelligent or as learned as many of those people. However, I am learned enough and intelligent enough to realize it is not data alone that has convinced them there is no God. Like all human beings at all levels, these intelligent people have made an interpretive choice through which they now view the data.
Of course, believers do the same thing.
There is no scientific test or experiment which can prove or disprove the existence of God. That is a fact.
For example, scientists working on the genome project have come to different conclusions about God from the very same data. All of them have concluded that DNA is a complicated language constructed from four simple “letters.” These “letters” carry the blueprint of all living creatures. Language implies intelligence. Just as binary language (two numbers) is the root of all computer computations, DNA is the language for all biological development. Binary is a language humans developed. But who or what constructed DNA? Some say Random Natural Selection; others say “GOD.”
Some believers are unhappy with either conclusion. After all, the believers who worked on the Genome project still insist that the earth is not young and that biological evolution is no longer a hypothesis. But we will leave that for now.
If I were to develop a test for the existence of God, it would be this: do people who know God flourish and develop in ways that those who do not know Him don’t? Do societies that contain large percentages of people who follow God’s ways flourish more than those that don't? Does this flourishing include all parts of life? Are Christian societies, or Jewish ones, or Muslim ones; more just, kind, intelligent, wise, well-ordered, or developed than humanist or agnostic societies?
In other words, if the data of neurology, biology or other fields of human inquiry is inconclusive where faith in God is concerned, then should we not see in the societies developed by believers a different sort of quality, some sort of “cant-put-my-finger-on-it-but-
this-is-better” quality? And wouldn’t that quality suggest the presence of some agent that is missing in other societies?
And yet, what do we see? In our country at least, we see believers avoiding more and more fields of human inquiry. We even see hostility among many believers for those fields. We experience reluctance among many believers to even converse about the possible implications of DNA, quantum mechanics, relativity – indeed for much of the discoveries of the twentieth century.
If God exists and wishes to be known, then there is no field of human inquiry that is not a godly vocation. And, there is no discovery made in those fields that are in opposition to God. If continental drift occurred and is a clock by which we can measure the passing of geological time, then the discovery of continental drift is something our Creator wanted us to discover. If DNA is a language and we have found the signature of “the Word by which all things exist,” then a believer ought to rejoice. If molecules are constructed from sub-atomic particles that have only potential existence then we should laugh at discovering that we have been mistaken about the nature of reality. Such a discovery moves us to humility and awe. It also indicates that we are growing up and ready for such knowledge.
And if all of this forces us to take another look at the lenses through which we read scripture, then this too is something God meant to occur. He surely doesn’t mean for us to force ourselves to grit our teeth and live in the eighteenth century while using technological gadgets made possible by discoveries we are not allowed to acknowledge.
In fact, if I were an unbeliever, I would conclude from observing the reactions of believers to science and human advance a proof for the nonexistence of God. I would also conclude that since many places that believers dominate do not flourish, this too points toward a proof for God’s non-existence.
I began this reflection by claiming that the arguments for and against God’s existence are not much more complicated than “yes He does,” and “no He doesn’t.” For too many of us, the next step of the discussion is simply to yell louder or, if possible to pass laws that will keep one another from offering our different opinions in public.
But the argument is really simple: what difference does a belief in God make in the lives of those who serve Him? Is that difference positive or negative?
If Christians don’t face this argument head on; if we keep on entertaining ourselves by sending out louder and louder emails and dumber and dumber sermons; if worship is really a rock concert with a good light show; if a political party is the same thing as the kingdom of God; if we insist that dinosaurs lived at the time of Nimrod, about 5,000 years ago; if poor people are poor mostly because they are lazy; if it is God’s plan that my church have one race and one socio-economic group even though my church is surrounded by other kinds of people; if it’s OK that some of our most Christian influenced counties are the poorest and most intellectually backward counties in the nation: well, we are going to finally help settle the argument about whether there is a God.
We will have conducted the only experiment that is capable of proving the old argument one way or the other. We will then present our evidence: there is no visible sign of God’s presence anywhere, even among those who follow Him.
He is just a concept that comforts people who are too frightened to face reality.