Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Escalating God Debate

In the Books section of the Philadelphia Inquirer, 6-7-2009, John Timpane reviews Terry Eagleton's latest book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution, Reflections on the God Debate. According to John Timpane: "The oldest questions of all -- Does God exist? Can science prove or disprove it? Is religion good or bad? -- have become the highest-profile intellectual debate of the decade."

Timpane points out that Eagleton's book was the result of a 2006 review that Eagleton wrote about Richard Dawkin's book, The God Delusion. As the result of Eagleton's review, Yale University invited him to give the Dwight H. Terry lectures in April 2008 relative to how "science and philosophy inform religion." The four lectures Eagleton gave form the basis of his newest book.

Eagleton's premise is that the great atheist writer's of our time, such as Dawkins, Hitchens and Sam Harris, have missed the point in thinking that the argument is about proving the existence of God. Rather, Eagleton believes that the issue is: "not about subscribing to some supernatural entity. It's about the image of Jesus in the gospels, a far more radical, subversive image than anybody is willing to accept. The idea is that of transformative love: having the courage to abandon oneself for others, a cause, for justice, in the radical way the New Testament presents Christ as doing." This last quote reminds me of G. K. Chesterton's words: "Christianity was never tried and found wanting. It has never been tried."

While reading John Timpane review was extremely interesting, instead of concentrating on Eagleton's argument, I found myself concentrating on the place of miracles in this recent God Debate. For example, Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion, claims that belief in miracles is not only unscientific but also childish. He writes in a tone of ridicule, about a God who not only created the universe and maintains it, but "who also intervenes in it with miracles, which are temporary violations of his own grandly immutable laws."

I think that it is unfortunate that so few people in our modern world admit to believing in miracles, including the clergy. I can't help but be reminded of the importance of history in understanding how the beliefs that seem so dominant in today's world, slowly developed. While I have been following the God Debate over the last decade, I have to admit that I am more familar with today's atheists, than I am with Marx, Engel and Lenin. While I knew that atheism and Communism were connected, it was only recently that I learned that atheism has been a part of Marxism since its inception. Nor did I realize that Lenin has said: "Our revolution is international, and our first enemy is religion." Then, about the middle of the 20th Century, the Communists started to emphasize a form of Scientific Atheism, which stresses that it is only through sound education in science that religion will ultimately be abolished!

Most people who do not believe in miracles turn to science to support their arguments. And many, many more are simply swayed by what our common culture either approves or disapproves. My interest in miracles has increased over the last two decades, because the number of reported apparitions of Our Lady, together with numerous messages and miracles, have increased dramatically. If God doesn't exist, as the atheists claim, all of these alleged apparitions of Our Lady are just that, alleged but not factual. And concomittantly, when you strip away miracles from the Christian belief in God, you have to ask: "Why believe in Jesus Christ?" If not miracles, "What supports your belief in Jesus as the Second Person of the Triune God?"