How NOT to Think Your Way Into Religious Belief

The conservative columnist, Ross Douthat, wrote  a magnificent article in the New York Times Sunday Review, “How to Think Your Way Into Religious Belief,” in which he answered the atheist Daniel Dennett’s book, “Breaking the Spell”. Douthat argues against Dennett’s statement that religion prevents believers from seeing the world clearly. Douthat masterfully replies that maybe atheism prevents non-believers from seeing the world clearly. I love the very long article Douthat writes in which he gives a two thousand year argument for the existence of God. But I had to reply to Ross Douthat as follows:

I am a 92 year old priest/ psychotherapist who admires Ross Douthat’s constant and consistent scholarship.  But at my age, I no longer try to use intellectual arguments about God, faith, or religion. I have painfully traveled the continuum from theism to atheism, to pantheism, to pan-entheism. Panentheism means finding your bodily center in the Ground of Being, as described by Paul Tillich. Or as Tillich himself says: “finding the God above the God of theism” . Or in a material way I would say we need to find the God BELOW the God of theism.

I have never been able to give an intellectual argument for the existence of God.  I have only found God in my heart and especially in my guts through experience, especially the experience of grace. Back in the 40’s,  the holocaust survivor Franz Werfel’s “Song of Bernadette” began with “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary, and for those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible.”  I would say now “for those who have experienced grace and love inside themselves, no explanation of God is necessary, and for those who haven’t, no explanation is possible.”  Many have  experienced grace or love, but never stopped long enough to feel it or become aware of it.

As the song says: “You’re nobody until somebody loves You,  so go and find somebody to love.” Maybe even an animal. I know my dog is more in  touch with unconditional Love than many people. He’s an enthusiast. I remember the English author Monsignor Knox saying that enthusiasm comes from “en-theos”, being in God. There you have it. Being in God/ Love/Grace, instead of talking about Him/Her/It.

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