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Monday, October 08, 2007

Faith in the invisible

Yesterday's Gospel reading touched upon the subject of faith, when the disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith. The priest in yesterday's Mass gave us a beautiful story about a man who carried on a conversation every day, sometimes twice each day, with an empty chair in front of him. This chair is reserved for the Lord whom he invites to come around each day just so they can talk. This practice was suggested to him by a friend, and the man, who had previously confessed not knowing how to pray, took to it to his deathbed. One day, he calls his daughter to him, kisses her and hugs her, she goes off and comes back an hour later to find him dead, with his head leaning over to rest on the empty chair.

Our priest ended his story with the assertion that "faith is belief in a God whom one cannot see."

I often find myself amazed at the blindness of militant atheists, those who actively preach against the existence of God. On one hand, in their inability to perceive God, they therefore conclude, with full confidence in their rational analysis, that this proves the non-existence of God. Or base it, perhaps, on the inconsistency among different faiths and religions. To them, they cannot believe in a God that they cannot perceive. On the other hand, they have no trouble believing in phenomena in the physical universe -- even when they cannot perceive them either. Who has ever perceived or grasped in their minds the immensity of matter and energy, dark matter, or their origins? Who has ever perceived or grasped in their minds the electro-chemical inner workings of the human brain and the nervous system? There is much in the physical universe that we know to be true despite our inability to either perceive them or truly understand them. Some atheists have had no problem using the term "mystery" for things that they acknowledge to be unknowable at present. And these same people have blasted religious or secular authorities of past centuries who were oh so wrong about the universe and nature after all.

Science is a lot of good things. It is rigorous, it is based on fact, observation, careful analysis, experiments and logical reasoning. But when science is abused, then we have a problem. Science tells us what and, to some extent, the how of certain phenomena, i.e., the sequence of events that culminate in the observed phenomenon. But Science would not be scientific when it steps out of bounds. It cannot answer why because purpose belongs to an entity, and such an entity -- Jesus Christ who claims to be God, thus the only candidate with physical dimensions and interfaces that can be observed and gathered data from -- they reject. The Church -- who claims to be the body of Christ and thus sharing the same opportunity to gather data from -- they also reject.

So they grasp at straws and step out of bounds. They know enough to use the right instruments and observe the right environments and use the appropriate criteria when it comes to their scientific disciplines. But when they talk about faith, and attempt to use inappropriate instruments, environments and criteria -- that's bad science. They start out with misconceptions and the wrong equipment -- is it any wonder that they find it hard to believe?

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