Richard Dawkins is a distinguished British scientist, celebrated author, and world-class evolutionary biologist and atheist. In his new, best selling book, The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006), Dawkins tells us that our collective belief in the existence of God is not only irrational, it is dangerous.
This book is factual and chock full of annotated details about the atrocious harm that religion has inflicted upon society. They include devastating wars, bigotry, and torture and abuse of women, children and slaves, all committed in God’s name. Dawkins rails against fundamentalist religions because they actively debauch science; he dreams of the time when atheism is widespread and God has no role to play in our politics or our thoughts.
I have tremendous respect for Dawkins as a scientist, and I share many of his concerns over religious extremism. I share his zeal as a scientist, believe that we should always ask questions, check things out, and be open to new theories and explanations. Like Dawkins, I also cannot imagine God as a white-haired, celestial superpower who judges our every word and deed and who grants requests and inflicts punishments.
But I don’t think that belief in God is delusional. I believe there are some questions science cannot answer — the mysterious existential questions like what are we doing here, and is there a purpose to it? Dawkins calls these unanswerable questions, “gaps.” He says these gaps will shrink as science advances. I think the gaps will certainly narrow, but I also believe there will always be gaps, because as a species we always want to know more than is available to us. That’s wonderful, because it really doesn’t matter that the bigger picture can’t be answered by science or God. What matters is that we appreciate the enormity of our capacity to be awestruck by wonder.
Dawkins quotes Albert Einstein liberally who said it so beautifully:
“To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our mind cannot grasp, and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious.”
Also, “I don’t try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.”
Life, like nature, is sometimes predictable, often serendipitous and unexplainable. It is because of the unexplainable gaps that I find room for God (the fact that brain researchers have discovered humans are hardwired for mystical experience reinforces my sense that the God concept serves a beneficial purpose). I call these gaps “the place where God lives.”
I also believe there is an indefinable energy that exists in those gaps. I have seen people create energy that consistently and predictably improves the quality of their lives and promotes healing. This energy in the gap I call “The Big Love” or “God Energy.” I believe people can influence this energy by putting out good thoughts and performing good deeds and can spread it around to make a better world.
Dawkins makes a compelling case that religion can be hazardous to your health, but I don’t think God is. It bothers me that one of the unfortunate consequences of this valuable book will be that some will throw out the God baby with the religious bath water. Don’t let Richard Dawkins convince you that belief in God is delusional. Believe in the awesome power of “the gaps,” because it is our greatest resource.