Some of you have written to say it is useless to promote dialogue between believers and atheists. You said atheists would never understand faith, because faith is beyond reason. You can probably guess I disagree, in part. While there is no scientific proof of a personal, providential, or loving God, there are plenty of reasonable explanations for belief in a creator ("un-moved mover" or "un-caused cause").
I find the discussion of "free will" — our ability to make moral decisions — of particular interest to the question of God's existence, perhaps even more interesting than the question of the origin of matter. Strict atheists have a hard time explaining our spiritual and moral nature. When I spoke to David Quinn by phone from Ireland and asked him for post-debate comments, I asked him what he thought about this aspect of free will. David told me this:
But since Dawkins is, in fact, a declared atheist, he does not and cannot believe in free will or objective morality. We are the products of our genes and our environment, full stop. Free will is an illusion. In some of his writings, he admits as much. But if there is no free will and there is no objective morality, then his numerous moral condemnations of religion, on which a great deal of the appeal of his arguments rests, make no sense. They are literally incoherent. If there is no free will you can no more morally blame a man for being bad, then you can morally blame a dog for being bad.
Dawkins is a die-hard philosophical materialist. Materialism is the belief that matter is all there is. This is his faith. He cannot know, scientifically, that this is true. He should not misuse science to pretend otherwise but this is what he does continually.
You will remember from the debate Mr. Dawkins continually dismissed the topic of "free will" as of little interest to him. Because I know Mr. Dawkins is a very intelligent person, I had a hunch he must surely have interest in the concept of free will and just didn't want to go there because of his radical views on the topic. I did some research and found that on another occasion Mr. Dawkins spoke openly about his dismissal of free will and, therefore, the moral obligations that flow from it. Click here to read his essay, entitled "Let's all stop beating Basil's car."
I think that's enough for today. On Thursday, I'll post your comments and questions, and a few answers. I am particularly interested in hearing from the many self-described agnostic, atheist, and non-religious readers of this blog. I want to give you a chance to respond.
God bless, Father Jonathan