Mystical explanations are thought to be deep. The truth is, they are not even shallow.
Somebody spilled a big jug of jabberwocky all over the Internet today. Let’s begin with Alan Lightman:
In my opinion, Dawkins has a narrow view of faith. I would be the first to challenge any belief that contradicts the findings of science. But, as I have said earlier, there are things we believe in that do not submit to the methods and reductions of science. Furthermore, faith, and the passion for the transcendent that often goes with it, have been the impulse for so many exquisite creations of humankind. Consider the verses of the Gitanjali, the Messiah, the mosque of the Alhambra, the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Should we take to task Tagore and Handel and Sultan Yusuf and Michelangelo for not thinking? Faith, in its broadest sense, is about far more than belief in the existence of God or the disregard of scientific evidence. Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand. Faith is the belief in things larger than ourselves. Faith is the ability to honor stillness at some moments and at others to ride the passion and exuberance that is the artistic impulse, the flight of the imagination, the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world.
That final sentence sure is purty, but, you know, what the fuck? Faith means being able to feel quietly contemplative and passionately exuberant? And aside from literal solipsists, who doesn’t believe in “things larger than ourselves”?
As Lightman surely knows, there are varying degrees of faith, and it’s disingenuous of him to conflate them. Having faith that my family will still love me tomorrow, or that gravity will still be in effect, is not the same thing as having faith in the narrow religious sense that Dawkins is attacking — a specifically anti-intellectual form of religious faith that treats reason and evidence as snares and obstacles.
But all of this presumes an awful lot about the nature of a God we know really very little about. By killing all preconceptions we have about who or what God is, we do indeed free God simply to be, as stated in Exodus and by great theologians and philosophers ever since. Arguments about theodicy dissolve, claims that God punishes certain people selectively for whatever reason we deem valid lose their teeth.
Well, I have gone one step further, and killed my conception of God’s very is-ness! For is it not presumptuous of us to insist that God must conform to our limited conception of being? Yes, I have liberated God from the burden of existence itself, the freest freedom of all! I call this innovative maneuver the “reverse-Anselm.”