Monday, September 3, 2007

"Bigger than Jesus"

   Much has been made over the revelation recently of Mother Teresa's private papers and correspondences that show her to have suffered a crisis of faith for most of the last fifty years of her life. The first commentary I read on the matter was on Friday, at Atheist Revolution, in a blog entry rather hyperbolically titled, "Mother Teresa an Atheist?
   It was a comment on that entry that first brought to my attention the phrase, "dark night of the soul," described by the commenter as "a time in the lives of saints where they don't "feel" the consolations of the faith. It is considered a trial and not an actual lack of faith. It forces the soul to rely upon the rational basis of the faith and not mere feelings and emotions which are fleeting and often deceptive." (We'll just leave aside the irony inherent in the use of the word 'rational' in that sentence for today.) In the next day's National Post newspaper, religious columnist Father Raymond J. DeSouza expanded on the idea in his article, "
Mother Teresa's darkness."
It is a form of agonizing spiritual purification, in which the soul draws very close to God. Yet God is infinite, and infinitely beyond our finite senses, so He appears as nothingness -- hence the nada, nada, nada refrain of St. John of the Cross. It is not that God is nothing, but rather that infinity appears that way to the souls who see deepest. It is something like a powerful telescope; the greater its range, the more empty the heavens appear to be. It is only to those stuck on Earth that the skies seemed crowded with stars.
   This is, of course, spin doctoring of the highest order. It is the "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" mantra of the woo-woo community pushed to its most extreme. The fact that one cannot feel the presence of God, the theologians would have us believe, is proof that one has approached him more closely than the average person. Absence of evidence, they tell us, is, in fact, evidence of presence. And they say it with a straight face.
   I am in awe of their fortitude in the face of such silly rhetoric. Reading Father DeSouza's column, I find myself giggling upon discovering such statements as, "To be sure, she knew [the absence of God] as only those closest to God know it," and flat out guffawing over, "[n]ow we have discovered that her realism was borne of daily contact with God as He really is..." Um, absent?

   I wish to point out to Reverend DeSouza the point at which his argument completely fell apart for me. It was his use of the analogy of a large telescope looking at the sky. That analogy reveals that Father DeSouza, like so many of his colleagues, has willfully kept himself blind to the realities of our universe, and the science that reveals them, in order to protect his God Delusion.
   Ray (can I call you Ray?), when you train a powerful telescope on a small section of sky that, to the naked eye, appears devoid of stars, do you know what you see? You see more stars. And if you choose a small section of that small section, and zoom in again, do you know what you see?Uh huh, more stars. And you can perform the same exercise over and over again with the same result. Eventually, what you begin seeing are not individual stars, but crowded fields of galaxies, composed of billions of stars each. And when you zoom in on those, even more galaxies are revealed beyond them.
   This, Ray...Raymond...Father DeSouza, is the true nature of infinity. And it's far, far larger than any God you can imagine.


luddie343 said...

Not an atheist but got a good gaffaw from this.  Truly thought it was a joke @ first.  Having read "Dark Night of the Soul" 30 yrs ago and always studying astronomy (many of my posts are about cosmic doings) I think absence of evidence is more a way for scientists to be jolted into either finding that evidence or refuting what Biblical literalists are convinced must be there.  Whatever God means to anyone, I doubt it would require anyone's faith in it to exist.  Does the absence of light automatically prove the existence of darkness?  Geez come on, I can see when it's dark, I can't see God but if I feel it's "absence" that sure sounds like I made it (God) up.  Understandably, religious faith or its lack is a very personal intimate thing - science isn't.  Science is proof.  I'm given that everytime I train my scope onto the night sky & look into the past.  Good post.  CATHY    

plittle said...

  Just one minor correction to your comment. Science is absolutely not about "proof." Proof is for mathematicians. Science is about discovering how our world and universe work through the observation and collection of evidence. A scientist need always be aware that new evidence might come to light that disproves his dearly held theories, and he will have to adjust his theories to fit the new evidence. Proof never happens.

dpoem said...

Religion has an infinite number of built-in "outs" or ways of dismissing everything as proof of god.  Ignorance, to them, is proof of god, and they use that as a way to justify either their inability or flat-out laziness to learn and comprehend.

And, what is that silliness about questioning and doubt being a "rational basis of faith?"  That's just funny talk.  Faith is the road to insanity, and it's littered with hobgoblins, bogeymen, and any number of irrational delusions.  


stillh20z said...

When this came out in the news, I immediately thought of you sitting at your desk, laughing your ass off. (Would you then become "ass[less]face"?) Anyway, my second thought was "they are going to spin this so far we won't be able to find our way back in this lifetime". The christian folk (I imagine) will point to this as proof of sainthood, and God's ceaseless love, and the non-believers will say the woman was simply dedicated to her cause.  I'm not a big fan of catholicism and the whole sainthood thing, but I do believe all of us could stand to be a bit more like Mother T. She didn't forget those who slip through the cracks.


bpslider45 said...

Seeing as I can find no evidence of and am having serious doubts regarding the fact that I am independantly wealthy with a hidden bank account with millions of dollars, this therefore must prove that I do in fact have money to burn.
I therefore request that the bank's and credit card companies all eff off and respect the fact that I could buy them all out, if I so chose to.
I'm feeling wealthier already.
This CRAP really works.

princesssaurora said...

And, for me, the magic of that infinity, found and refound again, over and over with the Hubble is where my faith lies.

be well,

smeaglesfree said...

This is my favorite video!