There is nothing an atheist likes more than a really dumb or hypocritical believer. And, let’s face it, they’re not hard to find. In fact, finding that George Bush Jnr. has strong religious convictions is kind of reassuring – he is not one of us! But what do we do with smart people with spiritual faith? And what if they are smarter than us?
Apparently Einstein believed in “Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists.” His interest in science came about as a consequence of a desire to learn how God had created a harmonious universe. That is, he wanted to give a scientific rationale for his “uncertainty principle,” for his belief that “God does not play dice”
He famously said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Well, Einstein wasn’t a fool by any stretch of the imagination and neither are all those who have faith. Yet it does seem de rigueur to assume that those with faith are somehow mentally deficient and/or lacking the courage to face an existence beyond this earthly one.
Is this really true? Of everyone with faith? Or are such criticisms of faith actually predicated on a distaste for religion, that most tangible and flawed manifestation of belief? Religion has historically been linked to power and, therefore, is invariably dominated by men and subject to the manipulation and abuse that power breeds in all institutions. The list of misdeeds to which we can attribute at least some religious impetus is pretty impressive, even if we just look at Christianity:
· The Inquisition
· Various Pogroms
· Witch burning
· The Crusades (extra points for involving two religions!)
· Various and many wars
· Sexual abuse of children by clergy
Even if we lined up some of the achievements of religion (and there are some), it remains a good target but, in the end, an easy one.
Perhaps faith in God, however, is different and more problematic. How do we deal with the fact that intelligent people are believers?
And is atheism – demanding as it is of infallible evidence of God – merely the product of a limited ability to conceptualise beyond the obvious?
Poor old William Golding, the Nobel Laureate, got an unforgettable lesson in religion. When he was a child in WW2, he relates in his autobiography, he was sitting in school watching a Spitfire fly low over the fields outside his classroom window. Suddenly the scripture teacher was standing before him asking sternly, “What did I just say to the class, William?”
“I don’t know, Miss.”
Bringing her hand across his face she said emphatically, “God (slap) is (slap) love (slap).”