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.
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.