Faith in a World of Skepticism

Deacon John Manutes | 31 January 2013
The Atheist Bus Campaign Slogan

The Atheist Bus Campaign Slogan

We witness our faith in many ways, 1st and foremost by our living example, that is to say how we worship, how we live, how we love. Other times we simply witness our faith by discussion and conversation and that can be with other Orthodox and other heterodox Christians where we might reference Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition and the Fathers of the Church. However we might also engage non-believers and skeptics where referencing these same sources, the Bible, Tradition and Church Fathers, would have no weight. This is because obviously, they don’t believe in the divine in the first place. You can’t say “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son” to save us, if you don’t believe in God in the first place.

It is also important to note that we live in a post modern world that, simply put, would like nothing better than to destroy our beliefs in God. They say, “God does not exist”, and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the myths and superstitions of an uneducated and unenlightened people. Our friends may not say it to our face, but as St. Paul suggests, they think we are fools and wasting our time on earth.

We know that these attacks come from all sides, almost every day and in every way. The television, the print media, our educational system, perhaps even our government. It is a gigantic spiritual war that we cannot be lost. So with this in mind, I would like to take a few minutes to suggest three worldly perspectives we could take when we discuss the existence of God with someone who does not believe in Him or is otherwise skeptical. They are philosophy, science and mathematics.

Recently in Great Britain an Atheist group has begun an ad campaign called “the Atheist Bus Campaign”. You can Google it, and if you do you will see that they place advertising and slick slogans on the side of city buses and one says “There probably is no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. Well does this shake our faith? Does it sway us towards one path or another? As an Orthodox Christian I can see how this might resonate with a lot of people, right? Especially in light of our ascetic practices of fasting and prayer. The spiritual war is renewed and another volley is thrown our way. The Devil is very clever and unfortunately, He is probably winning some people over to his side. How do we respond?

Looking at what they said we see right off the bat that the atheists have admitted their own doubt, they say, “there probably is no God”. Probably and probably leaves the door open to the possibility. The fact of the matter is that no one can survey or explore the entire universe. No one can study the cosmos looking for evidence of God one way or another. We draw our conclusions, if we are logical people from all the available evidence. In economics class I learned that the laws of supply and demand can be used with certainty, only when we have perfect knowledge. We do not have perfect knowledge and we can not examine all the possible evidence of the cosmos regarding God. Therefore we cannot draw a definitive conclusion for God’s existence based on logic.

It also follows philosophically, that if there is no God, there is no future for us. Our existence is nothing but a mere accident; a result of cause and effect and destined to extinction. We are the result of random movements of atoms colliding into one another. But consider this example, this beautiful icon of Christ. If we were to put on the floor here a pile of wood and some paint and let’s say we even make the paint the same colors as on the icon, how likely is it that if threw those piles of wood and paint into the air and let them bump into each other, that the result would be this icon of Christ? What if I did it a hundred times, a million time, a million million times? I think we could agree that it would never happen. It makes no sense. And it makes no sense that we are the products of chance, a random collision of atoms in this vast, vast universe. No. We are instead, someone prefigured, expected and loved by a creator. Only a creator could put us here and this creator can only be God. Ironically, this is also the conclusion drawn by a famous atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, near the end of his life.

In addition to a philosophical approach, we could use a scientific approach for the existence of God. Science that leads to belief. Many people believe there can be a crossing between the boundaries of science and religion and of course there are many people on both sides of the science vs. religion spectrum. What is safe to say is that not everything we observe and experience can be explained by science. When science tries to explain something it cannot prove, it is called a theory like in the theory of macro evolution. Validating the theory of Macro evolution allows for only 2 approaches or explanations and if one were to put holes into one approach, then automatically the other approach is validated. Even now the scientific community cannot agree on the essential elements of the macro evolution theory. Still, a fundamental principle to that theory is that the world moves from a state of disorder to a state of increased order and eventually to perfect order. Natural processes continue to move towards ever increasing levels of order. So the cosmos started out with a big bang of particles which randomly collide and become atoms, and these atoms randomly collide with each other and other particles to form molecules and these molecules randomly collide with everything else to become organisms and eventually over enough time, billions and billions of years, we have people, people sitting here at St. Mary Magdalene. It is an upward and escalating process.

The creation model is very different. Creation says that in the beginning everything in the cosmos was in perfect order but since that time, it has what, moved to a state of disorder and chaos. To use the language of the Church, we have moved from a state of divine incorruptibility to a state of fallenness and corruptness. This is in fact what science itself bears out, that things do not progress towards order but rather towards randomness. If the evolutionists are correct, we should see an abundance of evidence of intermediary forms; not just of humans but of all the plants and animals. However there is no one root for all the creation on earth. We see instead families, orders and classes of life forms, that show up suddenly. There is no evidence for intermediary groups which evolutionist theory demands. How can order develop out of randomness? It cannot be proven and can only remain a theory.

The last argument one could use to validate the existence of God with a skeptic is a mathematical argument, basically one of probability and statistics. It would take into account the age of the universe and the number of particles in the universe. How many particles are in the universe? Who knows right? Well I googled it and it is estimated that there are 10 to the 130th, that is 10 with 130 zeros after it, 10 to the 130th power of particles in the universe. That’s a lot. And the number of years that the universe has existed is said to be 3 times 10 to the 12th power, that is 30 with twelve zeros after it multiplied by the number of seconds in a year, that total is 10 to the 20th power and that is how long those particles have existed. That too is a really big number and a really long time. Now it gets a little more complicated, the number of possible events, or collisions that could take place for each particle per second. The number of collisions per second, per particle. Think of the icon painting! This number is estimated to be 10 to the 20th power, 10 with 20 zeros after it. Crunch all these numbers together and you get the total number of events which could occur in space and time to bring order, that is life, to the universe comes out to be 10 to the 170th power, 10 with 170 zeros after it. Ok, that’s part A.

Part B is the other end of the spectrum, the possibility of the chance origin of life. The possibility of the chance formulation of one particle forming into self replicating molecules, not even considering a group of molecules with life and consciousness. That number is 10 to the minus 450, that is 0. then 450 zeros then 1. Therefore the possibility of one replicating molecule arising by chance in all of space and time is 10170 /10-450 which equals 10-280, which is to any educated and logical mathematician, zero; no chance. There is no chance that all of this could come together with this sophistication and order.

These are basic and elementary for sure, and perhaps the best one could hope for is to at least plant the seed of doubt within the skeptic. More then likely they would say they cannot believe in what they cannot see and it is true we cannot see God, leaving the incarnate Son of God Jesus Christ aside. But God did not leave Himself without witnesses. Recently, many world leaders came together at a prayer breakfast. And even as atheists advertised on buses and campaigned that there is no God, two world leaders gave impressive witness to their Christian beliefs, President Obama and Prime Minister Tony Blair. If we can leave our personal politics aside I will quote what President Obama said on a public stage for all the world to hear. “I also belive because of what I have seen and by what I have lived. I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist. Grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion even as she was the kindest, most special person I have ever known. She is the one who taught me how to love and understand and to do unto others as I would want done. I didn’t become a Christian until many years later when I moved to the south side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or revelation but because of month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck. No matter what they looked like or where they came from or who they prayed to, it was there that I first heard God’s spirit. It was there that I first felt called to a higher purpose”. Tony Blair also spoke eloquently about his Christian faith.

You also might remember when President Bush was in Iraq at a press conference and the one reporter threw his shoe at him. Laura Bush was asked by a reporter later for her reaction. She said something insightful, if President Bush hadn’t gone into Iraq and did what he did, the reporter would not have been able to throw a shoe at the President, and live. Isn’t that in a way what Christ did for us. He died on the cross by sacrificing Himself for us and we wouldn’t have the freedom to say “I don’t believe in Him” or “I do believe in Him”. So God has left Himself many witnesses proclaiming His existence.

So while it is true no one can see God per se, God abides beyond our senses and in another dimension if you will. He is in the divine, the spiritual, He is in Heaven. He lives within us and each person must begin his search for God and therefore his search for faith in God, by looking inward, inside themselves. We are not compelled to believe. We believe in God not because we have to but because we are convinced of His validity and His Truth. By His promises and by His death and resurrection, God has something to offer each of us, not only in this world but more importantly, in the next.

Source: St Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church

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