Monday, August 4, 2008

Our certainty about God is not derived from scientific experiments, but from certain conclusions based on our experience

While I am pressing the issue of faith and reason, I cannot help but share what I read before turning off the light and going to sleep last night: Msgr. Albacete's Inside America column, which he writes for Traces, the monthly publication of Communion and Liberation. Again, this is in the June issue. The column is entitled Dispelling the Fog and is about his participation in a two hour panel discussion at the World Science Festival that took place at NYU. The discussion was called Science and Faith. The other panelists were "a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, a self-described Jewish atheist who is the American director of research in a study of the 'biological origins of religious convictions' paid for by the European Union, and a cognitive psychologist from Hawaii who is examining how the brain functions during religious experiences".

The physcist described himself as a Christian and the cognitive psychologist is a convert to the Catholic faith. At the end of the discussion, after Albacete's intervention, the self-described atheist proclaimed- "“Either I am not an atheist, or you are not a believer, because I agree with you more than with anyone else on the panel.” Albacete ends his piece by writing about how he thought Giussani, whom he knew well, would react to the atheist's comment: "All I thought about in the limousine (!) ride back home was Fr. Giussani’s face, smiling!".

To see how things ended that way, you have to read Albacete's column. To do that, you must go to Traces and follow the archive link to June 2008, on which page you find the link to Albacete's column.

I find much resonance between certainty about God arising from conclusions based on our experience and St. Anselm of Canterbury's observation that "we do not seek to understand in order to believe, but we believe in order to understand". Anselm's insight no doubt arises from the experience we all have of needing to make sense of the world into which, employing Heidegger's term, we are thrown. It is a fresh posing of the question of Being, of Sein, which Heidegger sought to recover by destroying classical metaphysics- Why is there something rather than nothing? Before this question science is rendered mute.

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