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The language of humans

09/06/07 | by [mail] | Categories: faith/skepticism

This is a response to Kyle's response to my review of the Language of God. Read those if you want to know what the first sentence of the next paragraph is about.

It's a good story. That kind of connection between people is beautiful and important and maybe even a clue to why we're here. It transcends race, nation, class and religion. Some people look at that moment and see God at work, and I can respect that. It certainly doesn't violate the rules of science and common sense like so many other attempts to prove God is real.

But I see it a different way. I see the connection between humans, the empathy, the struggle against meaningless and despair and ultimately the decision to find or create meaning through your life. Those things are very human and require no supernatural help.

The subtitle of the book is "A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," but the principal reasons Collins believes are neither scientific nor evidence. That came as a surprise and disappointment for me. I was expecting a certain type of answer and got something very different. I know that Kyle finds the personal sources of faith to be the most convincing, but that just doesn't do the trick for me. Feelings can be explained in so many other ways. Evoking the supernatural seems like a much more unlikely explanation than many others.

If science answers some of the questions left after religion is gone, then humanism takes over most of the rest. For instance, in the story Kyle quoted, I think the value, kindness, empathy and searching comes from the people involved. I don't see them as proxies for those same attributes in a deity.

If we have flaws, they are human flaws, not the slings and arrows of the devil. If there's any hope for our salvation, then it comes from the goodness inside humans, not some rescue from outside. This view of the world means we take more responsibility for ourselves and we're less fatalistic. How many times have you heard someone end a discussion about the problems of the world by saying, "Once Jesus comes back, it will all be fixed"? If our problems are going to be solved, we'll have to do it ourselves.

In practice, this is not such a different view from many Christians. As much as I respect and agree with any Christian Humanist, I can't help but notice that they're making a great departure from the essentially apocalyptic teachings of Jesus and Paul. Just as Kyle asked why anyone would believe in God once science has answered certain questions, I wonder why someone would believe in God once they had accepted the humanist explanations for others. That's the point I finally arrived at before giving up religion. For me, all the explaining power of Christianity was gone and the only thing keeping me in it was inertia.


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