The irrationality of rationalists
Rationalists pride themselves on being more rational than religious believers but I am not sure that they are, perhaps even less so. What do you do if you are faced with a proposition that is highly believable but you yourself do not wish to believe? Or with evidence so weighty it is almost inescapable, but which, nevertheless, you yourself do not wish to accept? There are well tried methods. You redefine the highly believable proposition in terms that are unbelievable and then say “I don’t believe it”. Or you simply declare the weighty evidence as inadmissable and then say “there is no evidence”. This is the position of rationalists in relation to religious belief.
They define religious belief as belief in an omnipotent and omniscient being outside the universe who made it much as one might make a watch. But this is not what intelligent religious believers believe. All the great religions of the world agree that, far from the omnipotent
and omniscient being atheists believe God not to be, God is so mysterious that the creeds and dogmas in which they try to define h(i)r blind as much as they illuminate (not that any of the great religions of the world act on this belief; possessing God as a bomb over which you have complete control so you can drop Him on anybody you don’t like – the God bomb is usually masculine – is too powerful a weapon to be foregone). The core proposition of religion is not that there is an immaterial and omniscient God but that there is an immaterial realm of reality beyond the capacity of our reasons and imaginations to comprehend, of which the material realm we inhabit is an indirect expression. But we are metaphor-making beings with imaginations that require images, so humanity has always pictured this other and further dimension as the realm of the gods.
There is no certainty that such a realm exists. But the evidence that it probably does is overwhelming. The ancient world believed this universally. Consider all those Neolithic tombs built in the shape of female wombs in which the dead were buried curled up like fetuses , because it was believed that death was a re-birth into another life. Or think of all those myths about journeys to the underworld. It is true that the ancients did not have science, but they were exceedingly close observers of nature to a degree that is rare today. All through its history mankind has been aware of a numinous dimension in nature that cannot be explained in terms of molecules and chromosomes and genes. But these people didn’t know about molecules and chromosomes and genes. Therefore their evidence doesn’t count.
Or consider the Hindu rishis. For five thousand years they have been conducting experiments in the internal sphere, purely human and in no way dependent on revelation, as rigorous and disciplined as any scientific experiment in the outer, and overwhelmingly they report the existence of another dimension of consciousness they call advaita, non-duality. The experience of this dimension they report is one of extreme bliss, but it is impossible to understand, define or describe it. All they will say is ‘it is neither true to say that all is absorbed into the one nor to say that all is not absorbed into the one’. But these experiments are in the internal sphere and since by definition it is only ones in the external sphere that count, they are inadmissible evidence.
Perhaps most impressive of all, science itself is now discovering this realm that is beyond imagination and rational conception. Science can tell us that subatomic particles are both particles and waves but nobody can understand how this can be. Experiments have established beyond doubt that two photons that have once been involved with each other, or entangled as physicists say, can communicate instantaneously with each other even though they are separated by the whole universe, a capacity that abrogates the most basic law of the dimension we habitually inhabit, Einstein’s discovery that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, even light itself. Nobody can understand how at the subatomic level effects can cause causes. But they do. But none of this evidence is admissible either for the whole job of science is to disprove religion.
Science does not disprove religion at all. It does disprove a God outside the universe who directly created species. But it in no way disproves a cosmic intelligence deep in the universe, of whom the universe in all its beauty and wonder and meaning is an expression. Which is more likely? That this amazingly intelligible universe we know is just unintelligibly there? Or that it is the expression of a cosmic intelligence? The latter, to say the least, is just as rational an explanation. Can you even have intelligibility without intelligence?