One professor Mawson recently requested that atheists pray to God in order to experience for themselves the presence or reality of God. He actually wrote an article persuading atheists to pray. Honestly, I do not see a point in this Atheist Prayer Experiment. Do you?
If you read the professorial article, you will find it fiercely utopian and rationally idealistic. I note his recurring theme on the plausibility of an atheist praying to God as one likened to this analogy, "It is surely no more unreasonable than the act of a man adrift in the ocean, trapped in a cave, or stranded on a mountainside, who cries for help though he may never be heard or fires a signal which may never be seen."
He also uses the illustration of a man lost in a dark room calling out, "Is anyone out there?" He said it is only logical for a man in the dark room to holler out. So, isn't it equally logical to expect an atheist to pray to God? Is it?
Imagine the likes of Dawkins, Harris and Dennett availing themselves to such a prayer experiment. What is one to expect from it? Wouldn't the enduring silence be interpreted as a false positive (or true negative) and an embarrassing confirmation that God is a figment of the theist's vivid and sometimes desperate imagination? As one comedian remarked, "Religion is basically guilt, with different holidays."
I can also imagine that many doubting Thomases had on numerous occasions closeted themselves in the privacy of their cellars, basements and rooms to call out to that Man-in-the-Sky for help in their neediest hour and yet heard nothing but "pin-drop" silence or mocking echoes. This has to be a very safe bet to make, or else there won't be enough churches on Sundays to take in the floodgates of converts
Bertrand Russell once remarked that believing in God is as absurd as believing that a teapot revolved around the sun. Why stop at a teapot? Why don't throw in an elephant, a trapeze act or the whole darn circus, all orbiting around some beyond-our-telescope planet, singing to the choruses of Eurythmics' "sweet dreams are made of this"?
The point is that Christianity falls short on direct physical evidence and that's an undeniable fact (at times, it can be quite a frustratingly lamentable one). If it was otherwise, there would be no need for any form of evangelism since miracles, that is, physical-law-defying occurrences, would be happening everywhere at anytime for everybody to marvel at; like raindrop, snowflake and lolly pop.
Is God playing hide and seek with the atheists? God says that "you will find me if you seek me with all your heart." Didn't many atheists and agnostics, who were in the throes of their trials and tribulations, once seek Him with all their heart, mind and even streaming tears and found nothing but a silent wall with no one on the other side?
Why didn't God show Himself to them? Are we to infer His irrefutable existence from the silence and His divine hiddenness? Should the atheist utter these words of an orphan: "I know I have a father but I can't see or hear him because he is never around"?
Going back full circle, I guess the prayer experiment is an exercise in futility. If an atheist wants to believe in God, he has to accept Him by faith and faith is antithetical to empirical proof. Faith is believing even before believing could be wholly proven. Faith is "reason gone courageous".
In the conclusion of the article, he wrote, "And whilst it was an atheist, Bertrand Russell, who said that were he to meet God in the afterlife, he would chide Him for not having provided enough ante-mortem evidence of His existence, we do not know if Russell anticipated what he would then say were God to reply to him, ‘Well, you didn’t ask me for any, did you?"
I think a better reply would be, "my son, the evidence is everywhere. You just refused to see it."
In a debate with scientist Francis Collins, Richard Dawkins once exclaimed, "There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding." Collins interjected, "That's God!" I think that is the position I take.
Einstein once said, "I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being towards God."
Are the Dawkins and Hitchens of this world less than the intelligent beings we would normally expect in the view of the Einsteinses of this world?
Predating Einstein, Charles Darwin once wrote, "When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; I deserve to be called a Theist." (Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, Nora Barlow).
CS Lewis added that he believes in God "as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
How about these theistic insinuations from physicist Freeman Dyson, "The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew we were coming."
Finally, how many popular atheists of today are prepared to echo these words by the atheist-turn-deist Professor Antony Flew, "I am open to omnipotence...I am entirely open to learning more about the divine Reality."
So I say foolhardily that we believe that there may be a teapot orbiting around the sun. Or a circus playing in some far-flung planet beyond our scope, chanting "Sweet Dreams".
Because to the secular world, there's nothing crazier than a Christian subscribing to a belief that an all-powerful God, who created the vastness of the universe, even bothered to make His way down to a speck of dust called earth and offer Himself to die at their hands so that He may raise again to reconcile all of humanity to Himself.
Now tell me, compare to the orbiting teapot and revolving circus, which tale is even more exceptional? I guess such exceptionality only points to either of two things: I as a Christian have gone exceptionally mental, or I have a God who happens to love me exceptionally. Cheers out!