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The Evolution of Faith

My faith is a work in progress. The more I trust in something greater than myself, the deeper that trust takes root in my life.

“I just don’t get it!”

That’s a quote from a profile of Richard Dawkins published in this week’s New York Times. You’ve heard of Professor Dawkins, right? An Oxford don, one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists and, most notably, a prominent atheist who has made a considerable reputation bashing religion? Not simply hidebound and self-serving religious institutions, mind you. That would be too easy. It’s the entire notion of spirituality and the worship of God that gets under his intellectual skin. It totally irks him.

Even now, at the age of 70, he is still lecturing on the absurdity of religious belief. He particularly likes to speak in the Bible Belt …which is in and of itself an act of faith, or at least fervent conviction. It seems that some atheists hold to their beliefs with the same zealousness of a religious fanatic.

Actually, I like Richard Dawkins, and I read his books, though I obviously don’t agree with him. He is honest, intellectually rigorous and very entertaining. His views challenge mine and that’s good. He perceives the world empirically and sees no reason for the existence of God. I see my life and find the need for God as absolute. Dawkins would call me a fool. Fair enough. He’s entitled, though not many people would agree with him, at least not on those particular grounds anyway. We are mostly a world of believers.

The article on Dawkins brought to light something amazing, though, something I never knew. One of Dawkins’s staunchest and most respected allies in his somewhat controversial theory of progressive evolution (the idea that most species evolve naturally toward complexity rather than simply evolving randomly) is Professor Simon Conway Morris, the highly regarded Cambridge paleobiologist and … a Christian. Morris is as outspoken about his faith as Dawkins is about his lack of it. How does Dawkins account for his brilliant colleague’s spirituality?

Dawkins fumbled for an explanation then simply shook his head, exasperated.

“I just don’t get it!” he finally told the interviewer.

Eureka!, as the scientists might say. Because that’s often how I feel. Not about atheists or evolutionary biologists but about my own sometimes faltering faith. There are days when I am a doubter. Not in God but in my ability to truly and fully accept God, to live my life from the perspective of the soul, to believe that what I can’t understand about the world God understands for me. I look at my spiritual journey with its twists and turns and seemingly uncertain direction and think, “I just don’t get it!”

The very complexity of it baffles me. 

But today, at least, I do get it, as I probably will tomorrow. The piece on Dawkins helps clarify things. Belief reinforces belief. And my faith is a work in progress. The more I trust in something greater than myself, the deeper that trust takes root in my life. It is not a trust that can be explained scientifically. Yet it does evolve. And on that point perhaps Professor Dawkins and I both get it.    

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