Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents

Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon

“God is, or is not. There is an infinite chaos separating us. At the far end of this infinite distance a game is being played and the coin will come down heads or tails. How will you wager?” —Blaise Pascal, Pensees

HAVING SHOWN THE POSSIBILITY of miracles, we can now proceed to examine whether faith is reasonable. At first glance this may seem like a paradoxical quest. How can reason be invoked to justify unreason? I intend to show here that faith is in no way opposed to reason. Rather, faith is the only way to discover truths that are beyond the domain of reason and experience. Drawing on philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, I intend to argue that the atheist’s wager against God’s existence is manifestly unreasonable. Given what we know and don’t know about what is to come after death, there is no alternative but to weigh the odds. When we do this, we discover that from the perspective of reason itself, faith is the smart bet. It makes sense to have faith.

To many these conclusions will seem surprising, because for them faith remains a troubling and even offensive concept. Stephen Jay Gould examines the famous scene in the Gospel of John in which the apostle Thomas refuses to believe that Christ has risen from the dead. Thomas says, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” So Jesus appears to Thomas and allows him to see and touch, and Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus responds, “Thomas, because you have seen, you have believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Gould comments, “I cannot think of a statement more foreign to the norms of science … than Jesus’s celebrated chastisement of Thomas. A skeptical attitude toward appeals based only on authority, combined with a demand for direct evidence (especially to support unusual claims), represents the first commandment of proper scientific procedure.”

To Daniel Dennett, faith evokes images of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, beliefsappropriate for children but certainly not for adults. Carl Sagan writes that while science “asks us to take nothing on faith,” religion “frequently asks us to believe without question.” From Richard Dawkins’s point of view, faith is “a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn’t matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence…. Faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.”

At first glance the atheist hostility to faith seems puzzling. We frequently make decisions based on faith. We routinely trust in authorities and take actions based on their claims that we don’t or can’t verify. I wasn’t present at the Battle of Waterloo, but I am quite convinced that it happened. I have never been to Papua New Guinea, but I am quite sure that it is there. I trust the word of others who have been there, and I trust maps. Similarly, I express a lot of faith in air traffic control and the skill of the pilot every time I board an airplane.

So thoroughly do we rely on faith that modern life would become impossible were we to insist on evidence and verification before proceeding. How do I know my cereal is safe to eat? How can I be sure my car is not going to blow up? Why should I take it for granted that the person whose voice I hear at the other end of the telephone is really there? How do I know my vote for a presidential candidate will be counted as a vote for that candidate?