In God we doubt

John Humphreys became an angry agnostic but he does not find an answer in the militant atheism of Richard Dawkins and others either. He writes:

My spiritual journey – if that’s not too high-falutin’ a notion – took me from my childish Big Questions to my ultimate failure to find any corresponding Big Answers. I have ended up – so far, at any rate – as a doubter. It’s clear that I’m far from alone.

In almost half a century of journalism I have never had such a response to anything I have written or broadcast as I did to last year’s Radio 4 series Humphrys in Search of God. The letters arrived by the sackful. It felt a bit like putting my fingers on the religious pulse of the nation; and the pulse is still strong. However empty the pews may be there are plenty of people with a sincere and passionate belief. There are also plenty of people who think it’s all a load of nonsense.

What surprised me is how many think of themselves as neither believers nor atheists but doubters. They, too, are sincere. Devout sceptics, if you like. And many of them feel beleaguered. I’m with them. SINCE starting to write my book, I have fallen into the habit of asking almost everyone I meet if they believe in God. And here’s the interesting thing: it was only the atheists who seemed absolutely certain.

He concludes:

Trite it may be, but most of us can see the beauty as well as the horrors of the world and, sometimes, humanity at its most noble. We sense a spiritual element in that nobility and, in the miracle of unselfish love and sacrifice, something beyond our conscious understanding. You don’t need to be an eastern mystic or a devout religious believer to feel that. We should not – we must not – be browbeaten by arrogant atheists and meekly accept their “deluded” label. They are no more capable of understanding this most profound mystery than a small child making his first awe-inspiring discoveries.

As for the fanatics – religious or secular – history suggests they succeed only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be defeated by our own irrational fear. For every fanatic there are countless ordinary, decent people who believe in their own version of a benevolent God and wish no harm to anyone. Many of them regard it as their duty to try to make the world a better place. It is too easy to blame the evils of the world on belief in God. In the end, if we make a mess of things, we shall have ourselves to blame – not religion and not God. After all, he doesn’t exist. Does he?

Read it all in The Times online.

Past Posts