OK so here is an attempt to deconstruct the whole atheism-religion debate. Of course, without writing a whole book on the subject it’s impossible to do more than touch on one or two areas, so that’s all I’m trying to do here. But it does seem that the voice of reason, the voice of tolerance, is getting lost. Somewhere between Dawkins and the Westboro Baptist Church lies a whole acre of middle-ground, so let’s go there.
Firstly, we need to decide whether God exists. There is no way to prove, in any scientific sense, the existence of God. Science deals with the physical world – or what can be intimated about the physical world, through evidence. God being a spiritual entity, it’s hard to see how science as it is at the moment, can have anything to say about him/her. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: in other words, the most science can have to say is that there is no evidence for God: the most religion can say is that there wouldn’t be, would there? This does not get us any further.
What I would insert into the debate is the question, What is Love? Dawkins, so far as I can remember having read ‘The Selfish Gene’ a few years back, has a great deal to say about sexual and parental love and the genetic advantages to the human race. What he cannot adequately explain is the kind of love that Christianity (and other faiths) is built on, and that is compassionate love. It’s hard to see how it can benefit me genetically to raise money for Water Aid to help people I have never seen and never will see: or even to buy, say, The Big Issue from a man I can see, but whom I only interact with very briefly. It could be argued that there is a ‘good feeling’ attached to these gifts which confers some benefit, but actually this is often not the case: I give because I feel I should, and often don’t feel very good about it at all as it just reminds me of how much poverty and injustice there is in the world. Anyway, if that were a universal law, wouldn’t more people give to charity more of the time? If there was some advantage in it, wouldn’t we all be doing it, just as nearly all of us find a partner and reproduce?
So I don’t buy that. In any case, I don’t think science can adequately define love – and if you accept that such love exists, AND the proposition that God is love, then you have accepted that science can’t define God.