Over the years, I have shown the fatal flaws inherent in the atheists’ demand for evidence of God’s existence. We have seen such demands completely ignore the subjective dimension of all evidence and mistakenly treat evidence as if it can objectively adjudicate disputes. We have also seen that such demands invariably translate as a demand to see a miracle, yet such demands rely on God of the Gaps logic, a form of reasoning all atheists deny. This problem alone renders the atheist’s demand for evidence as incoherent.
Let me see if I can illustrate yet another problem in this demand for such empirical evidence. If you step back from the whole debate, you’ll notice that atheists treat the question of God’s existence as one big game of Where’s Waldo.
Can you find Waldo in the picture above? You see lots of things in that picture – all kinds of different people doing different things in different states of dress. You see people in the water and on the beach. You also see animals, various inanimate objects, various boats in the water, etc. Waldo is just one more thing among many things in the picture.
Now, almost every atheist I have encountered treats reality like that picture, only they can’t find Waldo. They’ve looked and looked, and they can’t find him. They’ve asked countless people to point out Waldo, and no can do it. Thus, they conclude Waldo is not in that picture. Those who think Waldo is in the picture are either delusional or they squint their eyes so hard that someone who kinda, sorta, looks like Waldo (but is not) is identified.
If you think of reality as the picture, and Waldo as God, this is the common atheist approach. But in playing this game, the atheist is merely assuming God’s existence is like detecting Waldo. For they are assuming that God is “just one more thing” (like Waldo) that is part of reality (the picture). We can know this because atheists assume God, if He existed, would be detectable like other things – detected by our senses and our science. We can further know this because atheists treat God as being perfectly analogous to unicorns, fairies, and Santa Claus, which, if any existed, would just be one more thing that is part of our reality.
But is God, if He existed, merely be one more thing that is part of our reality?
Imagine the picture above does not contain Waldo. Does the picture change in any non-trivial way? No, it’s still a picture of the same people at the beach doing the same things. Everything remains exactly the same except…..Waldo is not there. The “one more thing” is simply not there, meaning there isn’t “one more thing” in the picture. And that’s all. Waldo’s existence or non-existence doesn’t have any effect on the rest of the picture.
But can we say the same about God’s existence? The reason the whole of God’s existence has been such a burning, central issue of debate over the centuries is because His existence, or non-existence, has far reaching ripple effects on our reality. If there is no God, there is no reason for existence, there is no purpose to existence, there is no good or evil apart from our opinion, there is no right or wrong apart from our opinion, life has no value apart from our opinion, there is no free will, there is no life after death, etc. The whole picture changes. And once you realize that, you’ll see just how profoundly misguided this whole Where’s Waldo approach is.
I personally think a superior approach is more like another picture.
So what do you see? A young woman? Or an old woman?
I see both.
So what if detecting God’s existence is not like finding Waldo, but more like being able to see the young woman? It’s not the ability to detect some thing. It’s the ability to see the whole. To see it all fit together. For some, they can only see the young woman and this how it has always been. For others, they experience the gestalt shift, and see the young woman for the first time and choose to focus on it. For others, they can only see the old woman and this is how it has always been. For yet others, they experience the gestalt shift and see the old woman for the first time and choose to focus on it. And finally, there are those who go back and forth between the two.
While this example may not perfectly capture how this theist came to see God (and the evidence for His existence), I think it is much better than the Where’s Waldo approach of the atheist. With this gestalt approach, the lines of the drawing (data) remain the same, yet can be interpreted to reflect a vastly different representation. And you won’t get very far arguing endlessly over whether the squiggly lines in the center of picture represent the young woman’s ear or the old woman’s eye. The answer to that depends on your perception of the whole. Meaning that when the atheist insists there is no Waldo in the picture and it is delusional to think otherwise, this theist hears him saying the picture is an old woman and it is delusional to think otherwise.
Of course, this leaves us wondering why God would create such an ambiguous reality. Why not make the picture such that only the young woman can be seen by all? I think the answer to that has to do with us. Being woven into an ambiguous reality is part of our identity and makes us who we are. More on that later. But I’m reminded of something Blaise Pascal wrote – In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.