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The vitality of men’s belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it? – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 2oo.

A great deal of the “new atheist” thought centers around the inability of science to prove the existence of an unseen God.

The atheists have a good point.

Chriopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Several of the new atheist thinkers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have said that “the absence of evidence” for the existence of God is “the evidence of absence.” In other words, since no scientific proof of a Supreme Being exists, then logically no Supreme Being can exist. If you come at the question from a purely scientific point of view, their argument might make some sense.

But the argument has a fatal flaw, rooted in the nature of science itself, which by definition is the rational study of observable phenomena.

Science can’t study what it can’t observe, or at least infer from observation. Neurologists can tell us, under controlled conditions, what areas of our brains activate a Magnetic Resonance image when we feel certain emotions–but no scientist can tell us what causes us to experience wonder, or create art, or love someone. Our feelings, our thoughts, our higher emotions, our altruistic motivations, our spiritual yearnings—they all transcend the fixed boundaries of science. Science can measure some aspects of life; but it cannot instill meaning into life.

Science, in other words, is far from omnipotent—it has built-in limits. In this era of enormous scientific achievement and marvelous discoveries, that can seem hard to believe. But even the most insightful scientists recognize and accept its limitations—the great scientist Max Planck said “Religion belongs to the realm that is inviolable before the law of causation and therefore closed to science.”

The Baha’i teachings say that science and religion ultimately go hand in hand. But if we could reduce everything in human existence to scientific data, our existence would lose all of its beauty and mystery. We would no longer be human.

The Baha’i writings agree with the new atheists in one important way, however:

To every discerning and illumined heart it is evident that God, the unknowable Essence, the divine Being, is immensely exalted beyond every human attribute, such as corporeal existence, ascent and descent, egress and regress. Far be it from His glory that human tongue should adequately recount His praise, or that human heart comprehend His fathomless mystery. He is and hath ever been veiled in the ancient eternity of His Essence, and will remain in His Reality everlastingly hidden from the sight of men… No tie of direct intercourse can possibly bind Him to His creatures. He standeth exalted beyond and above all separation and union, all proximity and remoteness. No sign can indicate His presence or His absence; inasmuch as by a word of His command all that are in heaven and on earth have come to exist, and by His wish, which is the Primal Will itself, all have stepped out of utter nothingness into the realm of being, the world of the visible. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 97.

So the Baha’i Faith confirms what some of the new atheists say—that no sign can indicate God’s presence or absence. Baha’is believe we know the presence of God by the evidence of the manifestations and prophets, the founders of the world’s great Faiths, the messengers who reflect the attributes of God into the world, those who Baha’u’llah calls God’s “Vicegerents,” the appointed deputies of the Creator:

In all the Divine Books the promise of the Divine Presence hath been explicitly recorded. By this Presence is meant the Presence of Him Who is the Dayspring of the signs, and the Dawning-Place of the clear tokens, and the Manifestation of the Excellent Names, and the Source of the attributes, of the true God, exalted be His glory. God in His Essence and in His own Self hath ever been unseen, inaccessible, and unknowable. By Presence, therefore, is meant the Presence of the One Who is His Vicegerent amongst men. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 118-119.

So does that mean the prophets and manifestations represent the human forms of a God incarnate? No, absolutely not, the Baha’i writings say:

The divinity attributed to so great a Being and the complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God in so exalted a Person should, under no circumstances, be misconceived or misinterpreted. …that invisible yet rational God Who, however much we extol the divinity of His Manifestations on earth, can in no wise incarnate His infinite, His unknowable, His incorruptible and all-embracing Reality in the concrete and limited frame of a mortal being. Indeed, the God Who could so incarnate His own reality would, in the light of the teachings of Baha’u’llah, cease immediately to be God. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 112.

This Baha’i teaching—that God is unknowable, unreachable, far too vast and all-encompassing for any human mind to grasp—has a remarkable resonance with the current scientific view of the known universe. It does not ask us to suspend our intelligence or reject science or repudiate logic. Instead, the Baha’i view of God tells us that the Creator’s continual revelation of the great Faiths has given us the gifts of all the names and attributes of God, such as love, knowledge and power, sovereignty and dominion, mercy and wisdom, glory, bounty, and grace.

10 Comments

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  • Amanda Yorke
    Apr 25, 2018
    Exactly. I'm a Christian but only because I had a moment of awareness if what I understand to be Jesus's saving presence in my life 30 years ago. I cannot then make dogmatic statements about faith and salvation; the Bible is words, hopefully divinely conspired but humanly recorded and interpreted, therefore I, at least, feel hesitation about claims by dogmatists.
  • Lorraine Dick
    Oct 03, 2016
    Christopher Hitchens' quote is actually "That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"? seems opposite to what you said he said. Could you please find me the source of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins quotes.
  • Paul Brady
    Jun 15, 2016
    I'm pretty sure I saw in the Writings of 'Abdu'-Baha that in the future a new science would be initiated about spirituality. There is ample evidence, as you mention above in the regions of the brain that respond to feelings, to conduct trials and establish Cause and effect. There are already innumerable psychological studies on the effect of prayer, that it promotes healing and happiness, for example.
  • Aug 03, 2015
    The article displays a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of science. The scientific method provides a consistent approach to explaining that which can be observed; if an entity has no observable effect then it's existence is scientifically moot.
    Until theists can describe a consistent method to demonstrate the existence of a deity, or otherwise, and as yet no method has ever been described, then by definition (a matter of language definition, not science), there is no evidence.
    The absence of a method is why science is disinterested, and the per se absence of evidence is atheism is growing.
  • "If you come at the question from a purely scientific point of view, their argument might make some sense."
    On the contrary, as per Carl Sagan, there also is no evidence that God does NOT exist. Therefore atheists also are NOT being scientific in their claims.
  • Oct 31, 2014
    I'd argue that when Bahá'u'lláh says, "Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is a direct evidence of the revelation within it of the attributes and names of God, inasmuch as within every atom are enshrined the signs that bear eloquent testimony to the revelation of that Most Great Light", He is stating that God can be "seen" by inference, just as we must infer the existence of some subatomic particles by their effect on particles we can see.
    The Bible, likewise (Psalm 19) tells us that "the heavens are telling the glory of God ...and the firmament displays His handiwork".
    Bahá'u'lláh takes this idea further when He says, "To a supreme degree is this true of man, who, among all created things, hath been invested with the robe of such gifts, and hath been singled out for the glory of such distinction. For in him are potentially revealed all the attributes and names of God to a degree that no other created being hath excelled or surpassed. All these names and attributes are applicable to him."
    Our own human intellect and the things it is capable of causing to happen is the most potent evidence of the existence of the God whose Intellect is reflected in ours.
    Read more...
  • Oct 31, 2014
    David, please consider even more assertive proofs as to the existence of God because our air waves are increasingly influenced by the new atheism which of course in turn greatly influences the younger generation where we now see believers in the minority in western countries.
    “Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth. He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbour, nothing can ...induce him to walk uprightly.”
    Bahá’u’lláh, Súriy-i-Mulúk, (Súrih of the Kings) paragraph 60
    Naturally, Baha'is wont shoot any one at dawn for being an atheist and we welcome consultation on the subject and refrain from ostracizing atheists but,alas, their views are so dangerous, let's be clear about that danger, that the burden of proof rests with them.
    It’s not that we Bahá’ís see ourselves superior to Christians, Muslims and others when (dis)proving the (non)existence of God – rather, the Founders of their Traditions hardly elaborated on the subject because the existence of God(s) was pretty much a universal given during former Dispensations. Actually, Baha'i proofs are so copious that any atheist considering her-his legacy must address the proofs of God's most recent Messenger rather than attacking God's message delivered thousands of years ago when atheism was virtually non-existen
    Read more...
  • Oct 31, 2014
    David, please consider even more assertive proofs as to the existence of God because our air waves are increasingly influenced by the new atheism which of course in turn greatly influences the younger generation where we now see believers in the minority in western countries.
    “Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth. He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbour, nothing can ...induce him to walk uprightly.”
    Bahá’u’lláh, Súriy-i-Mulúk, (Súrih of the Kings) paragraph 60
    Naturally, Baha'is wont shoot any one at dawn for being an atheist and we welcome consultation on the subject and refrain from ostracizing atheists but,alas, their views are so dangerous, let's be clear about that danger, that the burden of proof rests with them. It’s not that we Bahá’ís see ourselves superior to Christians, Muslims and others when (dis)proving the (non)existence of God – rather, the Founders of their Traditions hardly elaborated on the subject because the existence of God(s) was pretty much a universal given during former Dispensations. Actually, Baha'i proofs are so copious that any atheist considering her-his legacy must address the proofs of God's most recent Messenger rather than attacking God's message delivered thousands of years ago when atheism was virtually non-existent
    Read more...
  • Oct 28, 2014
    God can't incarnate into a human body, but God does incarnate into the Divine Body. The quotes of Bahaullah here are somewhat taken out of context in my personal view, because earlier Bahaullah claimed that his body is the Body of God