Accommodationists are always telling us that we need to better understand the minds and motivations of the faithful, for only this will enable us to reach them. (Never mind that, as Richard Dawkins points out, we’re usually trying to reach not those whose arguments we address, but the interested bystanders.) Well, I read a fair amount of writings by religious folks, ranging from fundamentalists to sophisticated believers, and so far I can characterize the religious mind in two words.
Delusional and evasive.
Already this week we’ve had a minister come to this website and patiently explain that, yes, religion is predicated on real truths like the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, but, you know, these aren’t really the kind of truths that are true, at least not in the way that scientists and nonreligious folks think of truth, but truths that meet the religious community’s understanding of truth.
The proper response to this kind of argument is derisive laughter. You can get more of it—and another revealing take on the “liberal” religious mind—at HuffPo, where Rabbi/real estate broker Alan Lurie answers the burning question, “Why does God hide?” Now I know that Pharyngula has sworn not to link to HuffPo, and I think I’ve said the same, but it’s hard not to because its pieces on religion are so unintentionally funny.
A normal response to a question like “why don’t we see that invisible, pink six-foot tall rabbit?” is “because it doesn’t exist”. But when the rabbit is God, that answer is just far too simple. Witness the tortuous logic of the sophisticated religious mind as the good Rabbi Lurie gives not one but four reasons why we can’t see God. Here’s the first:
1) A Misunderstanding of the Nature of God
The notion that God can “appear” as a visible entity demonstrates a belief in the nature of God as a being, separate from ourselves, and living somewhere “out there”: a person, perhaps like ourselves, only much, much bigger, smarter, etc. If this is our vision of God, then we will certainly be frustrated at “his” hiding. This image of God, though, is frankly a childish one that we must all agree does not exist. The great theologians, mystics, and spiritual guides have all recognized that what we call “God” is not a limited being. What, then, is God? Well, not to be evasive, but this is not a simple answer that can be written in a short blog, and whatever I write will be inaccurate, misunderstood, and radically incomplete. I can say this, though: God’s presence is experienced, not quantified, measured, or recorded. The first step, then, is to let go of a literal vision of God, and to begin to know that the search for God is more akin to the search for love and connection than the search for a graviton or Big Foot.
He’s pulling a Fermat! I have a marvelous explanation for why we can’t see God, but it’s too big to be contained on this website. And what about those ancient and wonderful times when God did appear—sending his son to Earth to perform miracles, and supposedly performing miracles and interceding on Earth ever since? Why did he withdraw, like a snail into its shell, when science came on the scene?
If you can swallow this kind of stuff with laughter instead of nausea, have a look at the rabbi’s three other explanations. They give a really good look at how evasive the faithful can be when confronted with data—or, in this case, the absence of data.