I’m going to try to address your thoughts, Morgan, along with the comment Chris posted to my earlier entry.

Morgan, your point (“Theology ought to be put through the same kind of rigorous wringer as empirical science“) is a strong one. I, too, am a firm believer in reason, empiricism, and cold, hard facts. And I think we generally make things better by expanding the use of these methods. The technology that makes our lives better each day is one of the benefits of living in a secularizing, modernizing world.

But I don’t think the spiritual realm can be properly touched by science. Sure, scientists will try to infer from “gaps” the existence of God, but I think what I said in my first post establishes where I stand on this matter. While well-intentioned, these scientists may actually be doing a disservice to religion by trying to make the spiritual conform to the material.

In short, I can’t offer any material “evidence” for the existence of God. I know it’s been attempted, but I don’t find these attempts particularly appealing or useful.

Which brings us to you, Chris. You argued that “to believe in something without evidence is faith” and that Dawkins is criticizing this. You’re right in the sense that Dawkins, like many scientists, thinks it foolish to believe in something without evidence.

This argument is flawed because the acceptance of any realm requires a “leap of faith,” to use John Hick‘s term. To accept the existence of the material world and defeat solipsism (the belief that “it’s all in your mind”), one must take a leap. To accept in the existence of some sort of moral framework, a further leap is needed. And, finally, to establish the existence of a spiritual realm, we need yet another leap of faith.

Dawkins has spent his career studying the material world, but to get there he had to take a leap of faith. He had to take another leap in order to be able to deploy such pithy normative arguments as “Atheists should ‘come out of the closet’.” Taking the leap to the spiritual level may be less accepted and may lead to more disparate conclusions across cultures, but there is nothing irrational in itself about choosing to believe in something outside this world. And, for reasons I’ve given earlier, once people make this choice, they’ve waived off any serious critiques from other paradigms. Each realm has its resident expert: the scientist, the moral philosopher, and the theologian. True there’s some overlap, but at the end of the day, they must all confine their arguments to their camp. Science has gotten better, in large part, because morality and religion have started to keep their distance. Why should it be any different with religion?

Finally, Morgan, to come back to the general question your last post begs– “Why should a thinking person believe in God?”– my best, and perhaps only serious response is to point you back to Pascal’s Wager, and simply say, “Why not?” As Pascal told us, we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain when we choose to believe in God.

Daniel Corbett