December 24, 2004
TURNING FROM THE DEMON'S TRAIL:
Going All the Way: An atheist "converts" to intelligent design. Why so timid, Mr. Flew? (ANDREW KLAVAN, December 24, 2004, Wall Street Journal)
Joining the Episcopal Church was the culmination of 35 years of thought and reading, periods of atheism, agnosticism, deism, Zen. And while it seems a tremendous act of presumption for me to pit my line of reasoning against that of a famous philosopher like Prof. Flew, I can't help thinking this may be one of those situations in which, as St. Paul wrote, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."
Well, I am decidedly one of God's foolish things, so I'd like to put forward why it seems to me that science and science-based philosophy just miss the point when it comes to these matters--that Prof. Flew, indeed, is missing the point even now.
Perhaps the argument for nonbelief most identified with the professor was what he called "the presumption of atheism." Here, atheism is understood in its negative sense: The atheist doesn't assert that there is no God; he simply doesn't accept that a legitimate and meaningful concept of God exists. For such an atheist, the burden of proof lies, as it does in law, with those who make the positive assertion--that is, for those who believe.
The presumption of atheism seems to me to be at the heart of all scientific reasoning about religion. And as I'm someone who loves and believes in science, it was a major stumbling block for me most of my life. After all, why would anyone believe without proof in that for which there is no evidence in the first place?
It was in my re-reading of the Romantic poets William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge that I felt this stumbling block dissolve. What finally occurred to me--what tipped the scales in favor of baptism--was that the presumption of atheism proceeds without respect for the human experience of God's presence. Thinkers like Prof. Flew dismiss this experience because they make the mistake of applying the scientific method of analysis, of taking things apart, to an inner life that can only be known as a whole.
The Demiurge’s Laugh (1913) (Robert Frost)
IT was far in the sameness of the wood;Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2004 10:43 AM
I was running with joy on the Demon’s trail,
Though I knew what I hunted was no true god.
It was just as the light was beginning to fail
That I suddenly heard—all I needed to hear:
It has lasted me many and many a year.
The sound was behind me instead of before,
A sleepy sound, but mocking half,
As of one who utterly couldn’t care.
The Demon arose from his wallow to laugh,
Brushing the dirt from his eye as he went;
And well I knew what the Demon meant.
I shall not forget how his laugh rang out.
I felt as a fool to have been so caught,
And checked my steps to make pretence
It was something among the leaves I sought
(Though doubtful whether he stayed to see).
Thereafter I sat me against a tree.