The Faith Gene: Are Human Beings Set Up to Believe in a Higher Power?
I think atheists are getting a lot of mileage out of a facile argument. In 1896, long before brain imaging and the discovery of DNA, the famous Harvard philosopher and psychologist William James published a lecture called "The Will to Believe." It contains one idea that is a revelation. James found a way for science to lead to God instead of defeating God. Let me give the revelation a context. James thought people had a right, perhaps even a drive, to say that God existed, and even though they couldn't offer evidence for their religious beliefs, it sustained them with comfort, hope and so on.
Atheists scoff at this rationale, claiming it's childish to fall back on fairy tales about God just because they make you feel better. Far better to grow up and see what's before your eyes: the material world operating through random chance without the slightest sign of a higher intelligence, moral authority, afterlife and all the other trappings of religion. But James was ahead of this argument.
What, he asked, if believing in God actually makes new evidence appear? That was the revelation, because while believing in ghosts or Cinderella won't make either one appear (so far as we know), God is an aspect of our own consciousness. The deity is continuous with the human mind. When Jesus said, "Seek the kingdom of Heaven within," he was pointing to this very continuity. I am paraphrasing James and to some extent going beyond his lecture. But what fascinates me is that he hit upon a familiar notion among seekers today: "You will only see it if you believe it."
Why it is time to keep believing in God
To be clear, James' belief is not the fervent belief of the religious fundamentalist who uses desperate literal interpretations of scripture to mask his insecurities and limited experience of the divine. This is the pragmatic belief of a working hypothesis applied toward improving one's life.
Therefore, I don't think it's time to give up on believing. Quite the opposite. Belief is a step ahead of hope. Hope can be desperate, empty or false. But when you step beyond hope into belief, you do something both real and positive. You say, "I believe in something, so let it appear." In other words, you open yourself to knowledge, which is what everyone wants. Belief is a halfway house. It opens your awareness to a new possibility, and then you find out whether God can actually be known. We have countless saints and sages to tell us that God can be known; and with all their combined doubt, atheists, materialists and skeptics cannot prove that God is unknowable.
The whole issue depends not on religion versus science but on James's insight that the mind allows Nature to reveal itself in greater depth the deeper we are willing to look. I find great encouragement in that insight and thought it was worth sharing. We can all benefit from James' sort of pragmatism, which says God should be adopted as a working hypothesis, even when doubt exists, because as evidence emerges to support our belief, we will succeed in living better in this world.
Deepak Chopra??is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller,??Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on??SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
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