Is God Really There?

These are the notes from Fr. Carter Griffin’s talk at the Newman Center on March 23rd, 2011.

Introduction

Why hasn’t anyone asked me if I believe in God?
Setting a low threshold – basically, an intelligent Creator or force
Leaving aside question about who is God/Christianity later
Presumption of favor to theism
That there is something beyond us? Funerals…
In love with her DNA??
What makes us human: love, honor, goodness, curiosity, justice…
World of spirit, everything that makes us great – atheist – flat existence
Not to believe in God is not to believe in us
History of humanity

Witness of our Mind

Church believes we can know of God with reason alone
Five ways of Thomas
1) Motion – nothing can move itself
2) Cause – nothing can cause itself
3) Contingency – could be time when nothing existed; need necessary
4) Gradation of Being – Predications refer to uppermost thing, which causes the others…also true for being, uppermost of which is God
5) Design – natural bodies move to goal; many not knowledgeable, need another intelligence to move them (witness of creation)

Eternal world possible, but
-Still metaphysical creator
-Eternity is dogmatic too – and no proof, scientific evidence against it
-And works against third proof

Atheism is sustained only by ideology

Witness of our Conscience

Without God there is no foundation for moral life
If only instinct, might makes right – no right and wrong
Are you prepared to live in that world?
Proof from conscience (Newman)
Good atheists, but sustained by Judeo-Christian background

Witness of our Heart

Human yearning for eternity: would make no sense: C.S. Lewis
Nietzsche quote
Human yearning to give thanks

“What could an atheist do with the sea? How could he place it? For him, no Mind designed it, no Artist loved it into existence. It is not art; it just is. It does not mean, only be. It has no place, no address, no home in the Mind of God. No Heavenly Father gave it to him as a gift. What a terrible moment that must be for an atheist – when he feels great gratitude for the gift of the sea and there is no one to thank for it. For most of us, the most terrible moments in life are the moments of grief, when hope is tested. For an atheist, I think the most terrible moments must be the moments of joy, when there arises from his heart the wisest and best feeling anyone can have – cosmic gratitude, praise for his very existence and that of the whole universe – and he has to believe that that feeling is false, stupid, wrong, pointless, and out of tune with reality, since reality is nothing but chance and gravity and molecules. That feeling of cosmic gratitude and praise was a temptation to be ‘religious’. Imagine how horrible it must be to feel that gratitude is a temptation! That’s almost like believing that goodness is evil. It’s like waking up one morning to see that the sun is a black hole.” (Peter Kreeft, The Sea Within: Waves and the Meaning of All Things.)

Human yearning for meaning: Atheism tries to give depth to the moment; only religion does

Agnosticism

Very few have the courage to be atheists – conclusion is that world is absurd and meaningless
Easy to talk to honest atheist better than agnostic; seriousness
Agnostics – most simply drift there without looking any further
Not speaking about seekers – Walker Percy quote/Woytyla story
Agnosticism is the opposite of curiosity, seeking: it is a temptation
If because no effort has been spent to look, then it is laziness
If because no courage to embrace something (someone), cowardice

Christianity

Impersonal force – but likely to create rational creatures, persons, if this “force” is not a person?
Effect cannot exceed the cause
Likely for God not to reveal himself? Why not?
Role of faith – a gift
First look at religion, not philosophy
Monotheistic
Internal contradictions (e.g. Islam)
Judaism or fulfilled in Christ
If so, which Christian?

Conclusion

Most are not atheists: What are we willing to die for?
Letting go – allowing ourselves to believe, and to be loved
Witness of joy, credible life, vibrant fidelity – that alone is convincing

“The root cause of atheism is the fear of God.” (Benedict XVI)