The modern mind is inclined to that which can be known empirically. What exists outside the known, visible world is abstraction, mere illusion. Thus, increasingly, humanity consigns “god” to the realm of the unknown, the unreal. In the simplest of terms, religion is understood as “man’s attempt to explain the unknown;” in other words, faith is a coping mechanism, a way in which to comprehend uncertainties until better apprehensions are attained.
Consider, however, that if only empirical data is to be considered, we will only ever have uncertainty. If there is no “god,” no “soul,” no “afterlife,” we will never know. If, when a person dies, that is all, we will never know absolutely that there is no God, no soul, no afterlife, for (individually) we have no way to verify such findings. Science cannot probe the mind of the dead. (Can we really stand this last fury?)
Once, a young man told me, “I hope the Christians are right.” I asked him what he meant and he explained that he did not want to believe that when a person died, that was all. He was not himself a Christian, nor even religious, but he maintained hope in an afterlife. Why? Because the contemplation that there is nothing beyond this existence, poor as it is, is too much to bear.
An atheist, or humanist, might object to the notion that God must be disproved first. Such a person will assert that God must be proved first. The humanist will maintain that insisting upon belief in a divine being, absent any evidence of such a being, is unreasonable. Why not argue some other unverifiable reality? My point, however, is that there are unverifiable realities.
If there is no “god,” then all matter, all energy has always existed (in some form), and, as such, cannot ever be measured or known decisively. (Such a notion forces us, undeniably, into the realm of the metaphysical.) The very universe, then, is an unverifiable reality, for we can only know the part which our senses can perceive, and our senses cannot quantify forever. (And, if it can ever be proved, as Stephen Hawkings hypothesizes, that matter sometimes disappears, then the known world — that which we do perceive — will become an unverifiable reality.)
That which lies beyond human life is also unverifiable, as only the living can know of death (finality), but nothing more. When you die, it is all over. You will have know way to verify what happens (or doesn’t happen) next.
If we who are in life cannot speak
Of profound experiences,
Why do you marvel that the dead
Do not tell you of death?
If there really, truly is no god, what is reality? The answer to this question can only be approximated. But if there is a god — do I here assert Pascal’s wager? — then we should be able to comprehend the unverifiable reality of God. (Here, I assert that comprehending an unknown is possible so long as the “unknown” is real.)
Why, if there is a god, did God make us in such a way as to have to rely upon faith? One might argue that existence, as devised by this divine being, is a cruel joke, that he tantalizes us with realities beyond our comprehension, only to consign us eternally to the realm of uncertainty. Or, perhaps the incomprehensible is part of reality. Perhaps, God did not make us flawed, but as we actually must be. Our empirical senses, then, are not restrictive, but an act of grace. We, who are finite, are permitted to examine the Infinite –
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts. — Proverbs 20:27 (ESV)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us… — 1 John 1:1-2 (ESV)
I cannot ever remove doubt from the equation of faith, because that is how — in my Christian understanding — God has made us. “For we know in part…” (1 Cor. 13:9). God requires that we approach him in faith, i.e. belief in what is unseen (cf. Heb. 11:1), precisely because we can only approach him accepting the reality of who he is: infinite, immeasurable, eternal. If God could be measured, i.e. fully known through empirical senses, would he be God? No, if God could be measured, we would likely be bowing to wooden idols, fully measurable, but extraordinarily unreal — and astonishingly farcical. That God should present himself as he is is the ultimate sign of grace.
God, immeasurable, is the God of reality.
And the God of reality can be known.
“And the Word became flesh…”, “when he appears [i.e. the second coming] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (John 1:14; 1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:10).
Christianity posits, at its core, a revelation of reality, to be embraced by faith and grasped at the second coming of Christ. The modern mind might question why it is this way and not some other way, but, as I have suggested above, it cannot be any other way for it cannot be real any other way. (The way it is is the way it is.)
Religion, I hypothesize, is not “man’s attempt to explain the unknown,” but the Unknown’s effort to reveal Himself to finite humanity (cf. Rom. 1:19-20). If we dismiss the (at present) unverifiable reality of God, do we also dismiss the unverifiable reality of the universe? Is this reasonable? Consider that science has, after all, advanced extraordinarily. Perhaps, instead of engendering disbelief, such a movement should be itself accepted as a sign of the God of Nature revealing himself. (Also, does not a conception of the unknown, through the scientific method, propelled our understanding of the universe?)
It is not my intent here to prove the existence of God. I already believe. My intent is to demonstrate, however feebly, that the known world is predicated upon unknown realities. To be dismissive of God is to be intellectually insensible; itself unreasonable. I argue that faith in God affirms what is reasonable.
I make no statement regarding the justness of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, but there is one aspect of the case that troubles me considerably: that Zimmerman instigated the confrontation. I have two questions: when did walking become a crime? And when did the pedestrian, a young, black teenager, forfeit his right to defend himself, first by running, and then (allegedly) by standing his ground?
Listen to Zimmerman’s call to police. At what point did Martin commit a crime that placed him at the mercy of an armed citizen?
What is more troubling about this case is that had Martin been a 43-year-old white male like me, Zimmerman probably would have been convicted. I often walk through neighborhoods, and I am sometimes stopped by citizens asking, “What are you doing?” They are perfectly within their rights to ask, but so am I in replying, “None of your damn business.” That, of course, would not be very friendly, so I generally reply with the obvious: “I’m taking a walk.” (No sense in starting a confrontation.)
Now, if I was being followed by a car, and if the person in that car got out and pursued me, I would probably fear for my safety. Not knowing the person’s intent, I might even run. If that person started to chase me, I would run really fast. Somehow, in Florida, this constitutes a “stand your ground” defense for the pursuer. This is unfathomable. Consider if the person being pursued had been a white female — would not anyone recommend that she run? Yet, her running constitutes a “stand your ground” defense in Florida.
Actually, probably not. The color or her skin (or mine) would tip the scales. The Zimmerman/Martin case would have been viewed differently had Zimmerman been a young black male and Martin an older white male. It is difficult not to notice such things.
President Barrack Obama lately stated: “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away” (link).
Indeed, it yet appears that the scales of justice tip against young blacks. As a white American, I am sadly more free.
Here is the scene: Young people gather in a home for a party. They are drinking. Some pass out. Later, an unconscious teenager is sexually assaulted. The deed is photographed. People watch. Photos and video are sent out. The event goes viral.
Such a scene played out in Saratoga, California in September, 2012. And also Steubenville, Ohio. And also elsewhere. And repeatedly.
The Saratoga case is especially grievous, as the young victim, Aurie Pott, committed suicide 10 days after the crime (see story here).
The common denominator in these cases is alcohol. While drunkenness cannot be accepted as an excuse, it must be examined as a contributing factor. Emerging studies show that alcohol doesn’t incapacitate ones mental faculties as is generally supposed — that people are unaware of the things they do — but that alcohol causes people simply not to care (see story here). Again, these studies don’t excuse the boys’ behavior, but such studies certainly expand our understanding of the problem, and we should arm ourselves with this knowledge.
Unfortunately, we do not.
The typical response to such cases is outrage. Boys are told to respect young women. (One college student even produced a viral YouTube video on the subject.) Schools implement anti-bullying policies. People proclaim the victim is not to blame. The problem with all of this activity is that people simply do not care, when they are intoxicated. All this outrage falls on deaf, uncaring ears once the keg is popped.
Now, it is possible that Pott’s assailants were not inebriated. It is possible that, sober, they simply did not care. And, frankly, it is obvious that an entire community of young people, those who shared images of the assault, did not care. But, alcohol was readily available at the party, and the victim was indeed so intoxicated that she passed out. Alcohol was a factor.
For my part, I would not discourage people’s attempts to address the social problem of bullying, but I would also not ignore the obvious issues, namely substance abuse among teens and the general decline of morality in our society.
As the Supreme Court ponders the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act, it should be noted that traditional marriage was never intended to discriminate against homosexuals. In fact, I don’t know that anyone has argued such a point. What is posited is that traditional marriage no longer represents the values of society, that it has become discriminatory. If the Supreme Court rules that traditional marriage is, in fact, discriminatory, merely extending marriage to same-sex couples will do little to establish true marriage equality.
The problem with the institution is that marriage, however it is defined, is an exclusive relationship. If the rights of marriage are extended to homosexual couples, vast classes of people will still be excluded. Though I do not support polygamy, if marriage is to be redefined, the definition should include polygamous parties. Why should it not? Polygamy is a normative institution in much of the world, and outlawing it in the United States harms immigrants who are already involved in such an arrangement. Simply that it is not normative behavior in the U.S. should not exclude it from constitutional protections.
And there is another, more common class of people who are harmed by the current rules: singletons.
It may defy logic to include single people in the definition of marriage, but such will prove necessary if “equal protection” carries the day in the gay marriage cause. By virtue of being single, I am unable to enjoy the benefits of marriage. Some might say, “Well, you can always get married” — and, yes, that is true; but it is also true of homosexuals: any gay person can marry someone of the opposite sex. Why is it that I cannot, as a single person, enjoy the financial and legal benefits of marriage? Why are my health and social security benefits limited to me, when such are shared by married couples? Why am I excluded from any other of the myriad of benefits shared by married couples?
Given that singletons are a growing class, such considerations are not extravagant. If we are going to redefine marriage, why stop with homosexuals? Will such ensure true marriage equality?
Extending the marriage contract to everyone might deprive gays of their civil rights spotlight, but the Constitution was not ratified to champion individual agendas, but universal freedom. I am for true marriage equality, or else the status quo.