The Atheists’ Paradox

Atheists Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer
Noteworthy atheists, Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer. Photos: David Shankbone (CC BY 3.0, Dawkins) and Loxton (CC BY 3.0, Shermer).

Atheists have long been faced with a paradox of which they have remained entirely blind. After decades of contemplation, only a couple of days ago did I finally realize this paradox with such clarity. So, I’m not surprised that the very people who need this understanding the most, and who avoid it the most fervently, have not yet found it.

I’ve been blessed with the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist. Yet, some of my earliest memories dealt with questions of existence and faith. I have always struggled to understand more about our universe—both the physical and the non-physical halves. So, it amuses me when an atheist comes with the challenge that there is no such thing as God or spirit. They speak with such confidence as if they have proof of this marvelous and controversial fact.

Atheists frequently demand proof of God or proof of miracles. But they don’t understand the inadequacy of their paradoxical request.

First of all, they’ve never seen a real miracle, or recognized one if it happened in their environment. They have a ready answer to explain away any such thing. They say that such a phenomenon that cannot currently be explained by science does not automatically mean there is a God, spirits or miracles.

While the reasoning is sound, the conclusions drawn from such reasoning are heavily flawed. Quite often, an atheist will conclude that science will one day explain such phenomena, and that there is no God, there are no spirits, and there are no miracles. Such reasoning is based on the common logical fallacy of an Argument from Ignorance. Quite simply, a lack of evidence never disproves a hypothesis. On the flip side, such a lack never proves a hypothesis, either. What atheists seem averse to saying is, “I don’t know.” Such a humble stance would make them agnostics, instead of atheists.

I have struggled for years to find better and better ways to talk about the miracles I have experienced. These are events that defy the laws of physical reality. They couple a mental intention with an instantaneous effect in the physical environment.

Pushing a button on a console or keyboard can seem to have a similar effect, but we can explain the cause-and-effect relationship between the bushed button and the resulting effect using our knowledge of mechanics and electronics. Mentally thinking one thing and having it happen instantly in the physical realm is beyond the purview of physical science or any of its branches.

As I’ve explained elsewhere, science and physical reality are based on continuity; the spiritual realm is based on discontinuity. If we didn’t have continuity of space, time, energy, mass and the various states of existence, science would become impossible. There’d be no predictability.

Spirit is the realm of true free will. It is not shackled by continuity-based effects. The mechanistic and deterministic universe make it impossible for a person to decide anything other than the predetermined result of all the effects working on his current existence. The wild card in all this is the true, spiritual self which has, for many people, remained entirely asleep. Thankfully, this is changing.

The bridge to the spiritual self is the unconditionally generous attitude of altruistic love. Egoistic selfishness locks us into nature’s deterministic effects. When we sense that there must be something more, we are waking up spiritually.

So, what is this paradox in which atheists are supposedly trapped?

Again, it involves their need for proof of things like God, spirit and miracles. Their unfounded belief that these things do not exist helps to keep them blind to any proof which might otherwise change their minds. But the paradox is a bit more involved than this simple relationship—blindness from arrogance. But the paradox is related to it.

Atheist: Michael Shermer
Atheist, Michael Shermer. Photo: Loxton (CC BY 3.0).

The Meaning of Faith

In the atheists’ attempts to dismiss “faith,” they will color the topic with the dismissive label, “blind belief,” not realizing how wrong and inadequate that label truly is. Faith—the foundation of miracles—is more than belief and can never be blind. Belief is an ordinary state, bound by continuity, that stretches from negative “doubt” to positive “strong belief.” Faith stands apart from the entire belief spectrum. It is not based in continuity, but in discontinuity. Faith allows the bending or breaking of physical law, including space, time, energy, mass, inertia and all other physical states and effects. It is not deterministically bound by physical continuity and law. Faith is part of the basis for creation. Without it, there would be no physical reality or continuity of existence for scientists to study.

Faith is the perfection of confidence. Most Westerners don’t understand this concept, but there is an analogy that can help. In nature, there is one state that is digital like the spiritual, in that it goes from fully off to fully on without any intervening (continuity) steps. This is pregnancy; a woman is either pregnant or she is not. There is no half-pregnant, or 73% pregnant. In Buddhist philosophy, this is called a paramita—literally, the “other shore” of existence. This is a metaphorical description of the gulf between the physical and the spiritual realms.

Faith is perfected confidence. This expands on the meaning of the Jewish shabbat as a day of perfecting one’s self and perfecting the world (tikkun olam). Faith is what Moses used to part the sea. Faith is what allowed Peter to walk on the storm-tossed waves of Galilee, and a lack of faith (doubt) had him promptly sink.

The atheists’ need for proof is, in itself, a form of doubt, and this makes it incompatible with miracles. And here’s the paradox:

With faith, you get proof; with a need for proof, you can’t reach faith.

Atheist: Richard Dawkins
Atheist, Richard Dawkins. Photo: hane Pope (CC BY 2.0).

So, atheists have put themselves into an impossible situation—a Catch-22. The only way out of their predicament is to be perfectly humble and to gain the perfection of confidence which is faith.

Atheists create several barriers for themselves. The most common such barrier is the egoistic, know-it-all arrogance that nothing can change their mind, because their mind is already perfect on the subject. Another barrier is their judgment of “importance.” They think their viewpoint is important. They also consider their need for proof to be important, though they are frequently committed to dismissing any evidence no matter how thorough or well-reasoned. Atheists also think up clever alternative explanations, but never debunk the claim of spiritual action or existence. Quite often they will accept an alternate explanation as if it were proof, but without following through the same rigor required by actual proof. Many scientists do the same thing with uncomfortable topics.

I hope this simple insight will help others get beyond their own Catch-22 on the subject. With the storm that’s headed our way, we need all the spiritual help we can get. For greater insight on compelling evidence that God exists, see my book, Proof of God.

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