|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Thursday, April 01, 2010
A great deal of needless offence and rancour, it seems to me, is caused by the unfortunate tendency of certain believers to take the speeches and books of atheism literally. To an unwary or hasty reader, perhaps caught up in or reacting against fundamentalist readings of the texts, it may seem that atheists are denying the existence of God. Nothing could be further from the truth! What could it possibly mean, to deny that a being, agreed by all to be inconceivable, exists? That would be to claim knowledge of the unknowable. Atheists are not, of course, such fools. They are asserting, in common with all believers who have reached the age of reason, that they have no conception of the Inconceivable.
Likewise, when a Dawkins asserts that natural selection makes a Creator unnecessary as an explanation of design in nature, or a Hawkings avers that that his current understanding of time makes an act of Creation superfluous to the temporal origin of the Universe, they must be understood as giving the Creator the highest praise of which such men are capable. This praise is exactly like declaring one's admiration of a supreme artistic or athletic accomplishment by describing it as effortless. When Hitchens (the elder) declaims that religion poisons everything, he is making the same heartfelt protest against the unworthiness of the human vessels of divine revelation as has been made by saints and reformers from the beginning.
Atheists, by speaking of the non-existence of God, proclaim the depth of their devotion to and understanding of the divine hiddenness. Let us therefore agree, this particular fine morning in April, to cultivate our own gardens.