A different brand of faith

Posted: Jun 20, 2001 12:00 AM
I often marvel at the leaps of faith required to allow one to believe that the miracle of human life, let alone the wonders of the physical universe, just spontaneously evolved from nothingness. I’ve always believed that it would take far more faith not to believe that God created man and the universe than to believe that He did. Indeed, since becoming a Christian, I find affirmation of this truth in Romans 1:18-20. "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, in his book "Jesus Among Other Gods," gives us some idea (in mathematical terms) of the magnitude of faith necessary to believe that the material world resulted from some random process. Zacharias quotes Chandra Wickramasinghe, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cardiff, Wales, concerning the marvels of the human cell. Wickramasinghe "reminded his readers that the statistical probability of forming even a single enzyme, the building block of the gene, which is in turn the building block of the cell, is 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power. The translation of that figure is that it would require more attempts for the formation of one enzyme than there are atoms in all the stars of all the galaxies in the entire known universe." Nevertheless, today’s popular culture seems wedded to the bias that a belief in God is born of irrationality. The conventional wisdom is that one must leave his reason at the door in order to believe in God. Says Zacharias, "Unfortunately, for reasons justifiable and unjustifiable, individuals hostile to belief in God often malign faith in Him as the lure of emotion clinging to an idea with the mind disengaged." I have remembered Zacharias’s words as I have read the many articles written lately about the work of scientists who are researching the relationship between the brain and religious experiences. The scientists are attempting to understand the physiology of spiritual experiences, apparently believing that most religion is based on these experiences, which they consider to be illusory. "Religion is a property of the brain and has little to do with what’s out there," says researcher Michael Persinger. The Washington Post article chronicling this asks, "Could the voices that Moses and Mohammed heard on remote mountaintops have been just a bunch of firing neurons ­ an illusion? Could Jesus’s conversations with God have been a mental delusion?" Even more interesting is the researchers’ speculation that mystical experiences may be the result of "decreased activity in the brain’s parietal lobe," which "creates the transcendental feeling of being one with the universe." Doesn’t this sound like Zacharias’s point about the "mind disengaged"? It is amazing to me how simplistic this "scientific" approach to religion is. Just for starters the researchers fall into two obvious errors. First, they lump all religions together, which is unwarranted. For example, the Hindu concept of transcendentalism and becoming one with the universe is foreign to Christianity, which holds to a belief in a personal God and the conviction that each individual retains his unique personality -- never merging into the absolute. Second, the researchers seem to assume that one’s faith is wholly dependent upon mystical experiences. To the contrary (regarding Christians, at least), many Christians will tell you that though their lives have been changed since becoming Christians, they have never had a mystical experience at all and, regardless, their faith is based on much more than mere feelings. Christians cannot depend exclusively on feelings; otherwise they may wholly abandon their faith upon encountering life’s difficulties. They must rely on things much more immutable than subjective feelings, such as belief in the Word of God and the finished work of Christ, to sustain them through their various trials. Like it or not, many of these researchers have an agenda, and that agenda is to discredit religion in general and Christianity in particular, which they believe are responsible for most of the ills in society, such as "religious wars, fanaticism and intolerance." How ironic is the degree to which some scientists are willing to discard their scientific methods in pursuit of conclusions that support beliefs based on their secular brand of faith.