Recently I was engaged in an online exchange of ideas regarding atheism. I’d met Benj of Atheista.net at a bloggers’ get-together in Manila last week, and checking his blog last night, I was regaled by a lengthy treatise on intelligence and belief systems.
I respect Benj and I wouldn’t insult his intelligence by engaging him in a battle of wits to try and win him over to “my side”. And I know he respects me as well. We have amicably agreed to disagree. I do agree with him on one point, though: intelligence can be a bane to the intellectual.
We think too much, consider too many angles, and are therefore encumbered by our own intelligence from embracing what’s in fact plain to grasp for the … uh … less intellectually inclined.
Does this mean that people who believe in God are not intelligent? I don’t think so. Intelligence and faith are not mutually exclusive. However — and I think this is what atheists do not quite comprehend (or cannot accept) — faith does entail being blindly believing. We have no empirical proof of God’s existence whatsoever, and yet we believe in His presence. This is at the very core of Christianity (and perhaps of Islam and Judaism as well), that we put trust in a Supreme Being whom we cannot see or touch.
Writing this, a thought crept into my mind: Why? Why do I believe even without any shred of evidence of God’s existence? Is my belief simply a product of conditioning, upbringing?
Admittedly, I’m Catholic because I had no choice in the matter. However, my belief has long since been reinforced because I have experienced God. When I was in high school, I attended Mass almost everyday, and when I’d pray to ask for something and then receive it, I’d feel this inexplicable warmth all over my body. I lost this religiosity in college, for several reasons.
When I was a little older, I had a very tumultuous episode with my parents, and I was desperate for a resolution to the problem. Nobody could console me (nor my folks). After years and years of ignoring my faith, I turned back to prayer. I prayed as fervently as I knew how… and then, that soothing warm feeling I used to get back then came rushing back. No answers came with the warmth… but I gained a renewed strength to face my problems.
I’ve had other experiences that have made me more resolute that God does exist, but that was the most significant for me.
One other. There is an imagery that I employ whenever I try to explain to people why I believe: the universe. Can you imagine the universe as having a limit, a boundary? Let’s say it does. But if it does have a boundary, what’s beyond? Although I know infinity is also difficult to fathom, can you imagine that there’s absolutely nothing beyond?
What about life? After death… what? Will we just cease to exist completely after we die? Or do we move on to a different plane of existence?
Is it mere human arrogance to claim that we will transcend this fleshly manifestation? Is it misguided anthropocentrism to believe that we have a higher purpose beyond this lifetime?
I have no answers. I only have my faith, one that is very personal. Faith, after all, is a journey, not a destination.