IS THERE A GOD?

These days faith frequently makes the headlines. But beyond the politics and polemics of religion, one essential question is rarely asked: “Is there a God?” In his new book, Do You Believe?, Antonio Monda approaches leading cultural figures for answers to that question. They include

Jane Fonda: “I discovered the grandeur of the Christian universe quite recently and I’m still amazed by how much ignorance there is about it – an ignorance that until a few years ago I shared.”

David Lynch: “I think that a divine being exists who is omnipresent and eternal …. each of us has within the potential for revelation, and for perceiving the existence of the divine.”

Elie Wiesel: “Yes, of course …. the programmatic absence of a God, or at least the illusion of opposing his presence, leads systematically to horror.”

Jonathan Franzen: “I think there’s a reality beneath what we see with our eyes and experience with our senses. There’s ultimately something mysterious and un-materialist about the world. Something large and awe-inspiring and eternal and unknowable.”

Toni Morrison: “I believe in an intelligence interested in what exists and respectful of what is created.”

Martin Scorsese: “I don’t think I can give a precise answer. I think that my faith in God lies in my constant searching. But certainly I call myself a Catholic.”

What do you think? Is there a God?

I’m off to Las Vegas later today for a Bloggers’ Convention. Back Saturday. Neil

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34 Comments »

  1. 1
    James Bow Says:

    Is there a God?

    Yes. Next question?

    Like the new seasonal look, by the way.

  2. 2
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Yes.

  3. 3
    Cate McB Says:

    For me, the question, “Is there a God?” begs the question of what are the conditions of belief in a Christian context? — always in dialogue with other faiths, and always in the face of evil . Having recently gone to a lecture on the work of the Dominican priest Jean-Marie R. Tillard (1927-2000), I was reminded of two of his wise kernels:

    ‘Je crois en depit de tout” (I believe despite everything),

    and ‘God is in the silence’ — the silence of the end of revelation and the silence of no response (i.e., to our prayers, our demands, etc.).

  4. 4
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    I feel believing in God is not a question of Christianity or any other “organized” religion. It is a matter of spirituality not religiosity. Most rituals associated with official cults tend to privilege the form over the substance. We end up giving more importance to symbols than to the symbolized so that obeing illogical rules mimicks as faith. This is the toot of intolerance and bigotry all over the world regardless of the labels. This I think is what Father Teillard de Chardin meant when saying he believed in spite of everything. He was even condemned by the Vatican for his (too) tolerant teachings.

  5. 5
    Cate McB Says:

    Paul,
    My quote was from the work of Jean-Marie Tillard, OP, as I indicated, and not from Teillard de Chardin, although the latter may have said a simiar thing. Also, one may, as I do, subscribe to an “organized” religion, but not subscribe to the privileging of form over substance. I’m not sure who “we” refers to Paul, but count me out. Painting all Christians or all Muslims or all members of any “organized” religion with one brush is also “the toot of intolerance and bigotry” to use your words.

  6. 6
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Cate,
    First, I had a typing error, “toot” should have been “root”. Granted it does not answer your remarks.
    However, I have not painted all aherents to organized religion as bigots. I described the perils of said religions, no matter which one. How each individual reacts is another matter altoghether. I describe myself as Catholic but not, as we say in French, as ” un mangeur de balustrade”. My practice is rather loose but I pay my dues and try my best to follow Jesus’s teachings while respecting the interpretations others may have of said teachings.
    Teillard did indeed say something similar, whence my confusing him with Tillard, whom I had never heard of. My apologies.
    As for “we” it was used in a general way, not targeting any particular group or individual.

  7. 7
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “Is there a God?”

    Nope…

    There have been plenty of man-made gods throughout the ages – but there is one thing I am CERTAIN of: They have all been wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with being spiritual – but you are selling yourself short if you turn to ANY organized religion.

  8. 8
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “My practice is rather loose but I pay my dues…”

    What does “pay my dues” refer to? What does that entail?

  9. 9
    Cate McB Says:

    Paul,
    I’m glad you separate out “I described the perils of said religions, no matter which one,” from “How each individual reacts is another matter altogether.” But it seems to me that even in saying “I described the perils of said religions [what you call “organized religions”], no matter which one,” you succumb, by way of this reductionist generalization, to the very problem you seemingly want to avoid, i.e., “giving more importance to symbols than to the symbolized.”

    You and others may enjoy a book entitled, Strangers, Gods and Monsters (2003) by Richard Kearney, an Irish theologian teaching at Boston College.

    He says, “Most strangers, gods and monsters … are deep down, tokens of fracture within the human psyche. They speak to us of how we are split between conscious and unconscious, familiar and unfamiliar, same and other. And they remind us that we have a choice: (a) to try to understand and accommodate our experience of strangeness, or (b) to repudiate it by projecting it exclusively onto outsiders” [e.g., by labeling them as aliens or outside the fold] p.4.

    So, in answering the question, Is there a God?, I think the choice is ultimately (a) or (b) for all of us, whether we are part of “organized religions” or not.

  10. 10
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Cate,
    Now we are speaking the same language.

    Joe,
    I pay tithe to the Church as a recognition of some past and present services rendered to me and many others, not withstanding past, or even present, errors committed by said Church.
    I respect your agnosticism, I hope you respect my deism in the same manner.

  11. 11
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “I pay tithe to the Church…”

    And this is a large problem I have with organized religion. Do you think the god you pray to is interested in the money you give to the church? Save your money and pray from home – the result HAS to be the same.

    “I hope you respect my deism in the same manner.”

    Most definitely!

  12. 12
    Cate McB Says:

    Joe,
    You’ve asked a good question: “Do you think the god you pray to is interested in the money you give to the church? Save your money and pray from home – the result HAS to be the same.”

    The god I pray to is an embodied god who very importantly, was embodied in the human person of Jesus Christ who lived and died in a special way for the poor. So in my personal case, if I save my money and pray from home the result is not the same as if I give my money to the church. Why? Because in the case of my church, my money goes to help my church feed the hundreds of mostly homeless people (and I’m not exaggerating) whom they feed in downtown Ottawa.

    Even if I saved hundreds, getting together with other givers within my church community allows us collaboratively to feed more than I could ever feed from my savings at home, especially when the church has an industrial size and strength kitchen (literally) which I personally will never have.

  13. 13
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “my money goes to help my church feed the hundreds of mostly homeless people…”

    I’m sure that’s where the money is supposed to go – and in your case it likely goes there. But in many cases it goes to church overhead and salaries – not to mention lavish lifestyles of the upper management.

    Take the RCC for example… the money the vatican has in rome is obsene! The pope lives like a rock star – driving (donated) benz SUVs and flying top notch jets around the world! His throne is worth more than my dad made working for 60 years!

    All of that money could do a lot of good if they ever decide to spend it on the poor – but I’m not holding my breath.

    ****

    So you might like socializing with members of your church, and you feel like your money goes to good use… but my proposal would be: quit the church and pray from home. Donate your money to worthy causes NOT affiliated with a church. And lastly, volunteer at the local soup kitchen!!

    I hope I didn’t offend…

  14. 14
    Cate McB Says:

    Joe,
    You didn’t offend, you’re welcome to your opinions, and I hope you do volunteer at your local soup kitchen if that’s what interests you!!

    As for “lavish lifestyles of the upper management,” they happen everywhere inside and outside of “organized religion.” Unfortunately, it’s part of human nature.

  15. 15
    Chimera Says:

    “Is there a God?”</i?

    There is not one; there are thousands of gods.

    And none of them exist, except in our minds.

  16. 16
    Chimera Says:

    *try again*

    “Is there a God?”

    There is not one; there are thousands of gods.

    And none of them exist, except in our minds.

  17. 17
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    I’m interested in the Kingdom of Heaven within. If there is a God, he is there to be experienced during this lifetime, in the here and now.
    He is to be experienced firsthand, not just intellectualized about.

  18. 18
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Right on Tony.

  19. 19

    I must not be a leading cultural figure. 🙂

  20. 20
    John Says:

    From the flip side:
    Rock star David Bowie once said, “Religion is for those who believe in hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there.”

  21. 21

    For my part, the question of God’s existence is intimately and passionately bound with the question of our power to love. By love I do not mean merely infatuation, affection, or attraction—although these may be aspects of this love. I mean by love an act of the whole person, particularly the heart and the will: a complete gift of self for another and the desiring and choosing of the good for another. I have experienced in myself and seen in others this love that moves me out of myself, yet makes me more myself than when I am indifferent or hateful.

    Love is the greatest thing I have ever experienced. I see it as the meaning of life. To me this power of love seems more than material, more than emotional, even more than merely human. I believe to speak of love itself is to speak of God, a God who is love, who creates from a super-abundance of love, and humbly bends low in love for his creation.

    I don’t pretend this to be an argument for the existence of God. I mean only to say here that for me to deny the existence of God would be tantamount to denying the existence of love. Nevertheless, I experience love, and what I experience I cannot help but call sacred, holy, and divine.

  22. 22
    SUZANNE Says:

    I believe in a personal and transcendant God, one that is both within us and beyond us.

    I just couldn’t NOT believe in God, because I find I’d have to believe in really absurd things– like the idea that all existence just happened. The order of the world, and the universality of causation suggests that things don’t cause themselves randomly. Therefore for this reason (and many others) I believe in God.

    But faith doesn’t come from this kind of argumentation. That involves a form of revelation, witness and encounter that is beside the issue of the philosophical argument. Belief in God is one thing, faith is another.

  23. 23

    I believe in Jesus, and that he was fully God and fully man. Sam Harris would ask how I can justify believing the creeds of one particular faith over another. I give to reasons:

    1. My experience of love itself being something sacred makes sense in light of the doctrine of the Trinity. For if God is love itself, and love is both personal and communal, then God must be both personal and communal.

    2. I trust the witness of the early Christian martyrs, who gave their lives not only for God, faith, and friends, but out of over-abundant love for their enemies.

  24. 24
    Oscar Says:

    Is there a God? I don’t know. But I do believe in karma. Maybe karma is God in one of its forms, hmmmm. If believing in God makes one a better human being, then maybe its not such a bad idea after all.

  25. 25
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “I just couldn’t NOT believe in God, because I find I’d have to believe in really absurd things– like the idea that all existence just happened.”

    You don’t have to believe “really absurd things” to not believe in god… Sometimes it’s as simple as ‘we don’t know the answer’ – like the origin of the universe for example. Science is helping mankind answer this – and many more – question(s)… and rather than give up and attribute anything to a man-made god (without a shred of evidence) I’m much happier saying: ‘we don’t know (yet)’.

    God really isn’t necessary.

    Science is wonderful that way!

  26. 26

    Joe:

    The problem is that science has nothing to say about God and never will have. Any more than religion has anything directly to say about science. They operate in two entirely different spheres, the one on experiment and measurement, the other on faith. As I am sure you are aware, there is an interesting trend developing. As direct result of their work, more and more scientists are starting to believe there is a Supreme Being. Thanks for your comment.

  27. 27
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “The problem is that science has nothing to say about God and never will have.”

    Science has nothing to say about pink unicorns either… what’s your point? (seriously – I’m not trying to be snarky).

    “Any more than religion has anything directly to say about science.”

    You’re off a little here. It wasn’t that long ago that Galileo was being tried for heresy for practicing good science. Science has always had to fight the church for acceptance… it’s much better now (the RCC has a better policy now) but it’s not smooth sailing yet.

    Look at the snopes trial in Dover (USA) last year and tell me that religion is saying nothing about science!

    I agree that they shouldn’t be saying anything about science – but that hasn’t stopped them!

    “As I am sure you are aware, there is an interesting trend developing. As direct result of their work, more and more scientists are starting to believe there is a Supreme Being.”

    That’s not true at all… there have been a couple, but hardly a trend.

    I think you’ll find the opposite is happening… as people worldwide become more educated they are leaving the church.

    “Thanks for your comment.”

    You’re welcome!

  28. 28
    Chimera Says:

    Neil: Is it that more scientists are starting to believe in a supreme being? Or is it that more people who believe in a supreme being are becoming scientists?

    Why is it a problem that science does not address the existence of a god, or vice versa? As you say, they operate in two entirely different spheres. Also, incidentally, in different parts of the brain.

    Science and faith — the one does not need the other, but neither do they cancel one another.

  29. 29

    Joe Agnost:

    As Chimera says, science and religion operate in two different spheres. Religion has nothing to say about the make-up of DNA. Science has nothing to say about a Creator. But that does not mean they are not related. Every discovery of science reveals another aspect of the Creator. Which is another reason so many scientists are now positing a Creator. They examine the unbelievable intricacies of the human eye or the human brain and they concluded there is no way these phenomena could have evolved from slime. Just as a man examining an intricate watch would conclude it never just happened. There must have been a watch-maker.

  30. 30
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “Which is another reason so many scientists are now positing a Creator.”

    This is patently false. There is no such “trend”…

    “They examine the unbelievable intricacies of the human eye…”

    This is a common error used by creationists often – you haven’t gone as far as some in suggesting that Darwin himself doubted evolution because of the eye. There is a famous quote by Darwin himself discussing the complexity of the eye – and taken out of context makes a great case for creation. But only when taken out of context and not in it’s entirety.

    “there is no way these phenomena could have evolved from slime”

    Hogwash.

    It amazes me that people still use the ‘it’s so complicated it HAD to have a creator’ line… That is just giving up!! We need to keep investigating and learning – imagine if the ancient people had given up with lightening? It’s clearly an act of god they once said….

  31. 31

    Joe:
    Scientists can “keep investigating and learning” till the cows come home and they won’t disprove the existence of a Creator. They may well be able to analyze the elements of the “Big Bang” but they’ll never be able to explain what is beyond the “Big Bang.” This world is not some perpetual motion machine.

  32. 32
    Joe Agnost Says:

    “they won’t disprove the existence of a Creator.”

    Why on earth should they?

    They will never disprove pink unicorns or the easter bunny either – it’s not their mandate.

    The whole ‘you can’t disprove god’ idea is ridiculous – there is nothing to disprove. Someone can make an unbelievable statement (such as ‘god exists’) – but for anyone to take him seriously he must provide the proof for his unbelievable statement. It’s not up to science to ‘disprove’ every unbelievable statement made by men… many statement are not provable one way or the other (such as pink unicorns).

    Since science hasn’t disproved pink unicorns should we conclude that they exist too??

    I’m not sure who came up with the idea that since it hasn’t been DISproven – then it must be true. This is awefully bad logic… the burden of proof is on the one making the (unbelievable) statement, not the other way around!

    “they’ll never be able to explain what is beyond the ‘Big Bang.'”

    I’m sure they used to say the same thing about lightening….. don’t be so quick to quit on science!

  33. 33
    Chimera Says:

    “This world is not some perpetual motion machine.”

    Actually, that assumption may not be true. Theoretical physicists have been working on String Theory for a number of years, now. They’re not quite sure what they’re going to find when they’ve got all the formulae finally in place, but there have been some fascinating speculations. The “Theory of Everything” may upset some very self-important applecarts.

    It may also tell us that we’re all just animated toys, living in a messy heap on the floor of a giant child’s bedroom closet. Which explanation would go a long way to explaining a few things, all by itself.

  34. 34
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    Jesus said you cant prove their is a God. Peter said” thou art Christ the Son of the living God” Jesus replied “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you”, arguably this could mean science as well.” but my Father who is in Heaven”. ie Faith.

    The Catholic Church teaches it is the Fa ith of the community believing in Christ that matters. I have a Son who is a non-believer. I tell him, I believe enough for both of us.


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