Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Richard Dawkins Has More Faith Than I Do

Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.

Famed evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins is one of those atheists who inspire faith in me even while dissin’ it. I found a recent New York Times interview of him by Michael Powell more uplifting than that week’s religious articles. Of course that’s because most media coverage of religion highlights faults more than insights.

I’ve written before that I am not an atheist because it requires way too much faith! It’s easier for me to believe that there’s a God than that there’s not, not just for psychological comfort, but to fully comprehend the awesome cosmos and all its living things.

I’m with Marcus Borg when he invites atheists, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in,” because the God I believe in is not the one on which I was reared. In fact, the more I might try to define or describe God, the more likely I am to be wrong, or idolatrous, or just plain presumptuous. At the least God is that “oomph” Dawkins implies when speaking of evolution as progressive, tending toward greater complexity. You could say that when I say the Lord’s Prayer each morning, I am aligning myself with that “oomph.”

The article quotes British literary critic Terry Eagleton’s observation that Dawkins offers “vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.” I can’t say if that’s true, but atheists and progressive Christians probably have a lot more in common about the God they don’t believe in than atheists might think.

“If you look up at the Milky Way through the eyes of Carl Sagan, you get a feeling in your chest of something greater than yourself,” Dawkins tells Powell, “And it is. But it’s not supernatural.”

I agree. My feeling and faith of something greater than myself is NOT supernatural. It is an embodied experience. That’s the reality that the story of the incarnation is pointing to: that which we call God is with us, among us, within us.

And the “something greater than myself” also is not supernatural, but a natural and integral part of all that is. The Milky Way serves as an icon revealing that God is also beyond us and beyond our imagination.

“Religion teaches you to be satisfied with non-answers,” Dawkins is quoted as saying. Actually, I believe that much religion has too many answers. Spirituality teaches us, in Rilke’s well-used phrase, to live the questions. 

For those interested in listening to my sermon in Wilmington, DE this past Sunday, Oct. 9, on same-gender marriage, please click on: "The Wedding Banquet"
Coming up:
Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 23: Chris will speak at the Rockville United Church, 355 Linthicum St. 20851 at the 9:30 am morning class on “Claim the God in You as a Progressive Christian” and his sermon title during the 10:45 worship will be “Jesus Was Not a Literalist.” Lunch follows with a question-and-answer period with Chris.


  1. Thanks, Chris, for another excellent reflection. One of the things that has always bothered me the most about the "Scientific Atheism" of the current era is that while the claim is to scientific objectivity, what they really have is a new dogmatism based on a very biased view that what is currently untestable is therefore non-existent. I recently reviewed a rather intriguing book, "Knocking on Heaven's Door", by Lisa Randall, for Amazon. One of the concerns I expressed in that review is that though the author assumes that while "Consciousness" seems to exist as a reality outside physical testability, it can be safely ignored as a major dynamic of the cosmos. How very strange. I far prefer the perspective of Teilhard de Chardin, which perceives it as the interior dynamic of ALL evolution. As you say, it requires less "faith" to believe in an inherently orderly universe with "somebody in charge" than in a completely random universe somehow producing orderliness and consciousness.

  2. I subscribe to the simple saying used by many in recovery such as myself: There is a God, and I'm not it.

  3. "I am not an atheist because it requires way too much faith"

    How can anyone say this seriously?

  4. Great post Chris. I recently wrote a post titled - Deity-less Does Not Mean God-less: Atheism Vs Theism.I do not believe in "supernatural beings", which makes me, by definition, an Atheist. My God is my Creator, that gifted me this turn upon the field of play, for which I am grateful. I suggest that theists do not own the word God, and that the proper term for their belief is the worship of a deity, a supernatural being. I would argue for a correction in understanding that atheism is defined as Godless, as it is not. It is defined as not believing in deities, in supernatural beings.