“Noted philosopher and legal scholar Mortimer Adler was the co-editor of The Great Books of the Western World, a fifty-five volume series published by Encyclopedia Britannica several years ago. The idea was to marshall the eminent thinkers of the western world and their writings on the most important ideas that have been studied and investigated over the centuries. This included ideas in law, science, philosophy, history, theology, and love that shaped the minds of destinies of people…
The essays were assembled for comparison and contrast. But very striking to the observant reader is that the longest essay is on God. When Mr Adler was asked by a reviewer why this theme merited such protracted coverage, his answer was uncompromising.
“Because,” he said, “more consequences for life and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from any other basic question.”
On the issue of God’s existence, testifying to both the intellectual depth and pragmatic breadth of the subject, intellectual giants through the centuries have lined both sides of the fence, holding tenaciously to their own view and passionately rejecting the opposite.
Brilliant minds such as Bertrand Russell and David Hume have severely castigated the intellectual credibility of theism. Yet, other great philosophical and scientific thinkers, such as Jonathan Edwards and Blaise Pascal, have firmly and unblushingly held the theistic worldview. Scientists and philosophers continue to debate the issue today.
It is therefore utter folly to maintain, as some do, that informed minds have eschewed the idea of God, and that only the pre-scientific, unquestioning, antiquated, or simple-minded have succumbed to this belief, through fear or ignorance.
There are many approaches from which this issue can be studied. We could view it scientifically, historically, philosophically, existenially, or pragmatically. Each avenue lends its own distictive strength. Each can tender volumes to the arguement, with or without relevance.
But for the purpose of brief presentation of the coming weeks, the challenge presented to atheism is one thaat will touch more weightily upon the existential struggle of humankind, for in the words of Max Weber, the German sociologist, “man embraces religion at the point of meaning.” However while studying it from this vantage point, we shall also look at other relevant facets and disciplines.
The unanswered questions fo atheism soon surface, both in their assumptions and their conclusions. Academic attempts have been made to run from these questions, but they have a way of painfully catching up in life’s most tender moments and inescapable realities. Conversely there will also be arguement for theism- claims that are both strong and valid for the mind to espouse and the life to embrace.
It is important that we take this many-sided look, because while man may own religion at the level of meaning, he often disavows it at the level of reasoning.”
– from “The Real Face of Atheism” – by Ravi Zacharias.