Each year our AP classes read Timothy Keller's book Making Sense of God. They are asked to write a letter to a religiously skeptical person in response to Keller's ideas. Here are some of those letters:
I am writing this letter to show some disagreements with your doubts and distrust about the trend of religion. That’s not an offense but I need to declare my perspective towards it to you.
Just as you have said, you are skeptical that there is a God or any supernatural reality. Many people hold similar ideas with you that they assume neither any religion nor secularism is true.
But have you thought about why that religion does not show the trend of decline in modern culture? The reasons are what I want to show you in this letter to respond to your consultation.
The fist point I want to let you know is that science alone cannot serve as a guide for human society. We can not deny that science is a magnificent material force, but it is not a teacher or morals. Just as is put in a speech, “…It can perfect machinery material force, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine…”. It is of great meaning for us to think about who will teach us brotherly love if we only have science without any other believes?
The second point I want to show is that have you discovered that even in our secular age, religion continues to make sense to people is more existential than intellectual. Just as what James Wood, Harvard professor, puts that, “How can it be that this world is the result of an accidental big bang?”(“Is That All There Is?” <New Yorker>) Can you imagine that every life is cosmically irrelevant? Actually, science at this time is not strong enough to explain everything in our life.
I can certainly imagine you may counter, nevertheless ,are not far more people losing their faith than are gaining one? I can totally understand your concerns. However, it turns out then, that the individualism of modern culture does not necessarily lead to a decline in religion. Rather, it leads to a decline of inherited religion, the sort one is born into. From a long term view, there is no denying that in the non-Western world the growth of Christians is stunning. That’s a big”market”.
As you can see from what I have mentioned, it is possible of you to develop an awareness of something missing together with a sense of the transcendent with science only. There must exist something that can hold up your believes and you wish for the future. And religion serves for this.
You may set suspicions aside now. People believe in God not merely because they fell some emotional need, but because it makes sense of what they see and experience in their daily life.
You are welcome to write to me anytime you want if you have any questions towards this issue.
God Bless You.
11th Grade Girl:
You say that you don’t need religion, that science is sufficient, consistent, and most importantly backed by proof. In this way you are like a baby bird: content to sit in its mother’s sturdy nest and rely on her to find food. It has proof that she will come back, just as she has every day, and for this reason it sees no reason to leave. But one day, that baby bird will leave all comforts and take a great leap of faith into the unknown, attempting to fly. Flying does not come easily the first time, though; it is only after many falls and second tries that the baby bird experiences the truly amazing sensation of flying. I believe that you do need religion, but you will have to step out of your comfort zone of proof and take a leap of faith, persevering even when it is hard. You will have much to learn, but the reward will be great. If you do this, religion will answer life’s greatest unknown questions, and reward you with an amazing feeling of fulfillment.
11th Grade Boy:
Why be religious? A fair question that you may be asking as you are secular I presume. Now there’s more than a few reasons why you should at the very least take a second look at the whole thing. One of your key beliefs, the one you hold most dearly, is that there is no God, or at least that he doesn’t interfere with our world. When you say that you believe that you limit your understanding of the world to what science and human reason can explain. I find that a person who strictly looks at the world through this lense is like someone who gets all of their information on the world through what the internet tells them. This kind of person never sees the need to go out and do anything, as they have all of the answers right in front of them, or so it seems. But the reality is that you won’t truly understand anything until you go out and try it, visit it, explore it, and even the most well traveled of men can not hope to know all that there is in this world. This is your view on religion, “I have all the facts, religion is wrong, therefore why should I even consider it”. In my own experience I have seen that most of the world can in fact be explained through the methods that you wish to explain it, but there are still lingering questions, “Does everything we work for in life become irrelevant after death?”. That is just one example of the type of questions that I struggled to answer. I have personally found every answer that I could possibly ask for in the word of God, the bible. I don’t assume that you will finish reading this and immediately begin reading the bible, but I do tell you that it’s a good place to start. You claim that the religious of the world are the closed minded but don’t see how contradictory that statement is. The bottom line is that the world can be explained through science and reason, but only to a certain extent. There are still questions that have and will continue to go unanswered by any form of scientific advancement. I ask you to take your questions, as all secularists at least some, and look for their answers not in chemistry, or biology, or physics, but in a higher power who, the one who created you.
11th Grade Boy:
We both agree that today religion seems to be dying, and the faith lost in America is due to logic and reason overcoming our misconceived emotional values. Many people hold onto this belief, and science, overtime, has seemingly knocked down each and every religious fact. Yet, there are still powers in this world, the unexplainable, that the faith can console and heal. The dying out,(of Christianity/Religion) though it may seem widespread, worldwide, is nonexistent, and instead religion has been growing rampantly in the world today. This book that I have been reading supports this fact and gives an explanation of the world today and how religion is still a powerful force. Yes science is making religion seem wrong, yet it cannot prove human love or morals beyond chemical reactions in the brain, not something more. Atheists still have unscientific views, and cannot explain certain non-scientific feelings, and Christianity is seeing its greatest growth in eastern culture in millenia. Our humanity at times longs for this greater being that watches over us, that knows us as we are, an almighty God. Religion is our bastion, and christianity, still a growing force, can be helpful for us who doubt some of the worldly influences today.. Doubting one of the oldest concepts, as outlined in this book, can lead to loss in religion, but holding on to the ages known beliefs held by christianity can benefit the soul.Will you give religion a chance?
11th Grade Girl:
We are all questioning, I myself am a skeptic at times, of God and other things. But I want to ask you a question: Are you missing something in your life? Because most people feel this, and that is the problem. Image a world where you aren’t constantly searching, where gratification lasts more than just a moment; this can be achieved through religion.
I have spent a lot of my life searching, and sometimes still do. It is an everyday battle to find my way back to God, and when I do I always feel more fulfilled, unexplainable content inside me that I wish everyone could feel. But it is not just me, look around at the growth of Christianity and know that real and intelligent people believe in God, and they all have reasons too. I know you have feelings of doubt, that some ‘being’ out there is too much to comprehend; I understand and can tell you faith is a part of religion, it is belief in something you can’t see. But think if He really is up there, waiting for you to believe. Faith comes from both feeling and reason; there is a need in everyone for this ‘something’, so why not God? Many will find that trying to fill the void with experiences, material things, and even relationships is unsatisfying; but for many Christians, God has and will fill emptiness. So once again imagine, a person relationship with someone bigger than all of life, someone who made you and loves you more than any parent ever could. That feeling? It’s joy and happiness, it is the feeling of being satisfied and fulfilled by God. And I am telling you that can happen.
It happens by living a life with Jesus, the simple yet life changing act of giving over life to God. Living through him creates a complete puzzle, no pieces are missing with God. So I’m asking you to take some time with religion, think about it and explore doubts, if you do have questions I’m a letter away.