Love Letter to a Skeptic
You know who you are. Just be yourself now, be comfortable. I only want to talk to you.
Forgive me, I don’t often make gestures like this. My love letters have been narrowly circulated. Still, I am compelled, and it is by love.
Our relationship to God points to an immense asymmetry; as though that were not obvious. But it is not always so obvious, and so we have the idea that attempts to define God are restricted to analogy; attempts to understand God are folly; we try to pull God down and fit him into our minds, when we ought to lift our minds and fit them within the reality of God.
There is another asymmetry worth mentioning: Between you, dear skeptic, and atheism. That is, you cannot fit into atheism. It is smaller than you, too small for you. You are a human being – atheism fits you like the wings of a butterfly. It appears as liberty, but it is only over-indulgance. It appears as freedom, but it is only a free fall.
No – real liberty, real freedom, have a referent. They must refer to something, or else they mean nothing.
And atheism, being nothing at all, does not properly fit into you, either. It is like an empty stomach, a hole in the heart. It doesn’t fit into anything – it only leaves a gnawing ache. It is a sign of something missing.
What of love, then?
You are more than a void, you are more than a pre-determined and meaningless accident. These are the unicorns, these fabricated entities – nothing like them exists. There is no meaningless accident. (Cynic, hold back your protest).
No – when you love, you rise above any conceivable reality composed only of matter. Quantum vacuums cannot love; a supernova cannot love; a flower cannot love; though we may be tempted to believe so because of their beauty.
Now, naturally, naturalism might come roaring in. Perhaps love will one day be reduced to an algorithm. Maybe two, since it has a peculiar out-going and in-flowing quality about it, requiring two sequences of operation. Maybe it will be explained by the likes of evolutionary psychologists, whose playful efforts have made for interesting bathroom reading, but could not be relied upon by a policeman or a poet.
Just for a moment, be still. Hear the feeble voice of someone trying to love you. Hear, not the tune, but the soul of every love song. Pull together the discordant thoughts; yes, seek the pattern. If atheism is true – whence comes the pattern? From nothing?
But there is nothing in that faith except impossible things. There is no love – not love which is also the heartbeat of creation, which is also color against the gray of suffering and dull reliance on only those things immediately in front of us. Those things even more transient than our short lives, those things you burden with the weight of all possible meaning.
Love is electricity, love is the Big Bang. Love is money in your pocket, when you come to realize someone else put it there.
Love is a steady but not static Universe, with laws that are firm, with hidden patterns and minds prepared to discern those patterns.
Love is childbirth, a warm hug in a cold world, the steady tick of a clock which reminds you, all suffering will pass.
Love is the second cheek, patient forbearance, the extra mile, the happy martyr. These things do not matter in an atheistic Universe, no more than a stiff neck; with God, they are tokens of eternity.
Transcendence, then? Dear skeptic, have you sought transcendence by denying God, as though you could get over, through, under, or around Him? As though, with the Author out of the way, you could tell the story your own way?
Put aside childish things. Bring your fingers to the ground – you did not make the least grain of sand, not even the dirt that crunches beneath your feet. Breathe in the air – that was not of your making, neither the oxygen nor the lungs. Give a shout – not a thing will move or even hear you, unless the Author permits it to be so.
No – what is better than atheism (which only declares the absence of a promise, and boasts the absence of meaning)? Anything, of course – but the Truth, above all.
You could not write the whole story – but you are like the Author, and so you have stories to tell. You could not create out of nothing – but you are like the Designer, and so you can invent. You could not produce even the dazzling elegance of a cell, certainly not from as-yet unknown particles obeying as-yet unknown laws – but you are a child of God, and you can have children of your own.
If you will take just one step down, dear skeptic, off of that piddling, petty pedestal you’ve made, you might have a ladder, with angels ascending and descending from Heaven. If you will not shirk the weight of faith, you might bear the weight of your full dignity, take up a throne of glory.
You have no reason, I know, to change your mind. Love seldom converts a cynic.
But still it moves.
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