Religion: Can We Know?

   These are thought pieces, intended to take the reader (and hearer at worship, for this is where I take my church in sermons just now) one more step in the epistemology of metaphysics. This first sentence may make you decide this series of thought pieces is not for you, but, before you leave, how about this: 

   These thought pieces intend to show a human being can know, can know God and, indeed, must have knowledge of God in order to have faith. Faith rests on a knowledge base. If we cannot know then we cannot know God. If we cannot know God then we cannot have faith.

   or

   If Christians cannot say we know, if we cannot say Whom we know and if we cannot say how we know, we do not have much more to say.

   During the writing of these pieces, philosophers, logicians, preachers, atheists, agnostics, bellicose believers and contrarians will either write comments to tell me I am failing in my task or they will simply ignore what I write altogether. No matter. This is an exercise as much for me as for any who read it.

Religion: Can We Know?

   The purpose of these pieces is to defend religion. Religion is expanding everywhere in the world today. Modernized, evolutionary religions like Christianity and Judaism are thus thrown into more direct and violent contact with their primitive brothers and with increasingly antagonistic secularists. This is not a set of polemical pieces but, if some of my thoughts seem acerbic, it is because I intend to answer fire with fire. 

   Christopher Hitchens publishes a book titled, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Granted, he only addresses his audience and a paltry few who have to read his screed that we might know the particular venom if we are to supply the correct anti-venom. Few, it seems, answer him at his title, which, in part, reads: "How Religion Poisons Everything."

   Let me point out religion did not poke a hole in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP president, Tony Hayward, was straightly quoted in an interview just months before the deadly incident, thusly: 

   "I am sick of the shallow generalists who are out to save the world. I want only those employees who know there one job is to do whatever necessary to increase the value of this company for its shareholders."

   How is that working for you, Tony?

   Religion did not cause the massive financial melt-down that engulfed the world in 2008 and lingers to this day. Creativity joined with greed to plunge the world into financial panic. God's creativity, engendered by love, creates the best of all possible worlds. Creative greed damages everything it touches.

   Religion does not poison everything.

   In fact, religion tends to lift persons who come to true knowledge of God. Study the various articles on altruism published in many Western magazines for the last ten years. Altruism is virtually the sole province of religion. Religious people are much more willing to give money, time and effort to charitable causes, even those that have nothing to do directly with converting persons to their particular religion. Simply put, there would not be charities in the Western world without the faith based person.

   Religion does not poison everything. Misplaced religion, wrongly assimilated, is almost as destructive as Secularism, but not quite.

   In fact, if one studies history, one notes the various mass-murderers of the 20th century were not just un-religious but violently anti-religious. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Kmer Rouge, et al, denied the existence of God. In addition, each one denied their people the right to worship freely and without intimidation.

   Religion does not poison everything.

   Christians can give a strong, empirically sustainable reply to such overstated drivel.

   Richard Dawkins writes a well reviewed book titled, The God Delusion. In his book, Dawkins completely proves he does not believe in God. Or, maybe he does, he is not sure, but he is pretty sure he does not see the kind of proof he thinks will compel him to believe. He mocks the idea of belief at all because, having helped map the human genome, he reports he could not find a soul anywhere on the body map.

   Indeed.

   If we can, for a moment, rationally discuss the scientific method, it is just this; the discovery of data reliable enough according to modern research standards to be presented for continued research and study. If data are not reliable in early testing, the measurements are set aside until the development of better instruments or more appropriate testing.

   That is it. Scientism over claims when its proponents advance the notion they can prove or disprove the presence or absence of the human soul or the divine being. Since Scientism argues there is no purpose base for life and thus no room for any ultimate ethics, science rules itself out of the ethical discussion altogether, meaning it can comment on itself and its data, but without any pretense to apply world-view implications from its data.

   My friend, Biff, a molecular scientist (and more a Follower of the Way than he thinks, potty mouth and all) works hours a day in a lab to record data intended to show a particular device he has developed will reveal the most damaged tissue in a traumatized human body and thus be able to rush medications directly to the most needy tissue. He thinks the possibility this will help injured people is beyond doubt.

   He is right. On the other hand, what tells him it is good to help injured people? Surely, he would wish to attend his family, or friends (even me) but what about the greater lump of humanity? Yes, he has the joy and pride of discovery and the promise of reward, but that does not seem to be the urge that pushes him. He wants this process, his device, to be generally accessible to the world, including people he does not like.

   I tell him, when he says this to me, he tells me he is doing God's work. How does he know to do God's work?

   Biff works from a Christian world-view. His research urge does not end at the tip of his microscope. He intends the good of all. This is knowledge for the good of God's creation, not knowledge for the sake of personal advancement or knowledge as hubris or knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Biff intends human good. How does he know to work for human good?

   He works from a Christian world-view. He wishes for his neighbor (those who are near to him) what he wishes for himself. He reasons from the near to the far, from the particular to the general, from those he can see to those he cannot see and will never know.

   Religion is not delusion. Religion does not poison everything. Some things are sacred, set aside in creative impulse for the special use of God and all things are ultimately sacred, for God is living and moving to use them for His purpose. 

   Can we know this is true? We can know and we can know how we know and we can say it. Tomorrow we repeat how this is possible.

Opinions expressed here are mine alone, not those of my church. No person or institution or organizational beliefs are expressed here other than my own.

   

3 thoughts on “Religion: Can We Know?”

  1. “the scientific method, it is just this; the discovery of data reliable enough according to modern research standards to be presented for continued research and study.”
    That is about as good a definition as I have read!
    So would this lead us to understand that ‘Scientific Proof’ is more the absence of overwhelming contraindication than the presence underlying, tangible fact?

  2. I dont know if one can decide that any scientific evidence is more than anecdotal, and so available for continued experimentation and research for compiling reliable data. If secularists insist science is reliable knowledge it is so only because it is data that seems to repeat itself and must answer for itself when it is not fully repetitive.

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