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Wade Clark Roof



Mark Judd



Edie Hughes



Chuck Smith Sr.



Chuck Smith Jr.



Huston Smith



Obadiah Harris

  
Dwight Nelson:

Faith is one of those words like religion that people tend to associate with their grandmothers. Today we often use words like spirituality or energy instead. But there is a growing number of people finding a certain richness, a history of suffering and joy that still resonates when we hear the word faith.

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Dwight Nelson:

Whatever your definition of faith, there's no question that faith matters to the people who have experienced it. One of those who has not only experienced faith, but studied is, it Wade Clark Roof. After writing eight books on religious trends in the United States, he's considered a leading expert. He had this to say about faith.

Wade Clark Roof:

Faith is important because it provides an anchor to one's life. Faith says in effect, when all else fails, this you can believe in.

Marc Judd:

Faith matters because I know enough about life to know that just what I have inside myself and to offer is not going to cut it.

Guest:

The popular idea of faith is that it is a leap into darkness, that it is a jump from objective reality to some subjective myth or unseen thing. But I think that faith is actually a leap into the light.

Wade Clark Roof:

Faith is important. But if I weren't raised with it, how do I go about getting it? Edie Hughes didn't discover faith until she was an adult.

Edie Hughes:

My journey to faith has been an extremely long journey. It's been the majority of my life. I grew up thinking that I had to do things to have faith, I had to be the good person. I had to do all the right things. I had to work. It's only been the last few years that I finally understood that there is nothing, absolutely I can do to have faith except to give my life to God. Once I did t that and understood it, my faith has grown by leaps and bounds.

Chuck Smith Sr. :

At one time I thought maybe I am an atheist, maybe I don't believe in God. But that didn't last long because I found that there were too many unanswered questions and I have more questions in my mind trying not to believe in God than I did when I put my belief in God. And so it was easier to believe then not to believe. And I just didn't have enough faith not to believe.

Dwight Nelson:

Faith can be a powerful thing. But for some, living with faith may seem harder than living without it. Is faith, no matter how nice an idea, simply naive? Science and our ability to reason are the tools that teach us the truth about the world. Or do they?

Chuck Smith Jr. :

There was hope at one time that science and rationalism would answer life's most important questions. And they were able to answer a lot of important questions, like the what questions. What are things made of. Or the how questions. How did things come to be here? But they've been unable to answer the why questions. Why do I exist? Why does anything exist? And the only hope of any kind of meaningful answer then is rooted in faith. I have to believe.

Guest:

I think it's built into the human situation that we want to believe in a power higher than ourselves.

Marc Judd:

If there is nothing beyond the here and now and the things that I can see that looks incredibly empty to me.

Guest:

Faith embraces the total truth beyond our immediate reality, beyond the seeing, beyond what you can feel and sense.

Guest:

I want to use reason as a tool but there are times where in the human mind is simply not capable of the task. For instance, the mystery of God and there will be a failure of reason to comprehend. And in those times, I have to suspend rational judgment and allow faith it's freedom and creativity to embrace a God I cannot fully comprehend.

Edie:

The only thing I can say to people is to surrender. You have to come to the point where you are willing to give up all of it.

Guest:

Without faith, I think I would shrivel and die. I would become something less than human. I would ah, I would stop living. I might exist but I would stop living.

Dwight Nelson:

Wings on a bird point to the reality of air. Sun flowers facing the sun point to the reality of light. Built into the human heart is a longing every day life doesn't satisfy. That longing points to the reality of a God to have faith in. When we come back we'll talk to Houston Smith, probably the most eloquent and respected world authority on why faith matters today.

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Dwight Nelson:

Huston Smith is the author of the best selling book, The World's Religions, a standard text book in universities across the land. And in fact, Dr. Smith, I should have brought my copy from college and had you autograph the book. There isn't hardly an American student that has not been acquainted with that best selling book. But you have been active in writing. I hold here in my hands his latest book, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief. PBS a few years ago, you did a five part series with Bill Moyer. Eleven honorary doctoral degrees, we are delighted to have you here at The Evidence.

Huston Smith:

It's a great pleasure to be here.

Dwight Nelson:

Welcome, welcome. Now I suppose your fascination with world religion had something to do with the fact that you were born in China?

Huston Smith:

Well, it did actually. But more directly it had to do with my parents, but they would not have been parents of sterling and powerful faith had they not had that faith to propel them to go to China and spread that faith to others.

Dwight Nelson:

So you were first obviously very significantly affected by your own parent's faith.

Huston Smith:

Absolutely. I have been a teacher all my life. And I find many of my students that their religious institution church or synagogue rub them the wrong way. And they picked up a lot of negativity but mine was totally different. When I asked them, well, what do you have against religion? Well, they say, first, it's dogmatic.

Dwight Nelson: All right.
Huston Smith:

We've got the truth and everybody else is going to hell in a wheel barrow. And second, it's moralistic. Don't do this, that, and the other thing. That's not what came through to me from Christianity through my parents. It was rather, we're in good hands and in gratitude for that fact, it will be well if we bear one another's burden. And with all my gallivanting through these other religions I've never come upon a formula that has stayed in place as well as that has.

Dwight Nelson:

Let me ask you speaking of these world religions and a formula. Is there one definition of faith that fits all religions?

Huston Smith:

Well, I would say yes. It's like a theme with variation. But the theme that runs through faith wherever it is used is trust.

Dwight Nelson: Ok.
Huston Smith:

And if you ask what it means to be a man or woman of faith, the basic answer is that trust is built in to your make up.

Dwight Nelson:

What's the difference between faith and religion?

Huston Smith:

Religion is organized faith. I wouldn't say there is no religion that is not based on faith. And a specific faith, because then we get into the variations, the common theme that runs through is trust. But trust in what? How do you articulate that? That differs within the various religions.

Dwight Nelson:

Have we outgrown this organized faith as you described it a moment ago as you described religion? Have we out grown it?

Huston Smith:

I do not think so. Human beings are "homo", that's a Latin for human being "religious". We are the religious animal.

Dwight Nelson:

Religious organism. A religious animal.

Huston Smith:

A religious organism. We were made by the divine and as such we carry the image of the divine within the product, within ourselves.

Dwight Nelson: I see.
Huston Smith:

And when in Genesis it says that God breathed upon the creature that he had made, breathed a spirit, that spirit is the Spirit of God. And that is the fundamental, most fundamental element of our nature, deeper than sexuality, deeper than jealousy.

Dwight Nelson:

Is that the common ingredient to all religion?

Huston Smith:

Well, we have variations. Always in the study of comparative religion all the important points come out as, I've already said, theme and variation. So yes, that is the common theme.

Dwight Nelson:

You've spent your life studying world religion. You've spent your life examining faith or trust as you just...

Huston Smith:

I've been very fortunate.

Dwight Nelson:

What difference has religion made in your life?

Huston Smith:

Well, we all understand each...ourselves imperfectly. So I won't say that I'm a clear image to myself. But as I understand it, it's made all the difference. It's the difference between living in a palace and living in a hovel or maybe living in a prison. And how can a difference that great not impact the life very importantly? So I feel that it's the most important element in shaping me.

Dwight Nelson:

When we come back we'll continue our conversation with Houston Smith and we're going to be joined by a very dear friend of his, Dr. Obadiah Harris, a philosopher. Don't go away, we'll be right back.

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Dwight Nelson:

We're talking with Houston Smith, author of "Why Religion Matters" and noted teacher on the subject of religion. Now we're joined by his good friend, Dr. Obadiah Harris. Welcome Dr. Harris, you are president of the Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles.

Obadiah Harris: That's right.
Dwight Nelson:

Gentlemen, with you sitting right there together, let's plunge into this business of religion and science. Two competing world views are there? Would you say competing world views?

Obadiah Harris: I would.
Dwight Nelson: In what ways?
Huston Smith:

Well, I would say that up until the rise of modern science why they fit together like hand and glove. That science dealt with what we could pick up with the empirical evidence of what we can pick up with our senses. This world you might say and religion dealt with what is greater than this world. But now they have fallen into positions of antagonism. And the reason is that science successes in the material world have been so mind boggling, that we've slipped into the mistake of thinking that because it has done such miracles with the material world, it is the omni competent window to truth and can tell us the truth about the whole world. But that is not so...

Dwight Nelson:

Which means we're have the tendencies to conclude that science with all it's achievements really answers the ultimate questions that we don't need anything beyond science.

Huston Smith:

That's the assumption. Answers them or else they are unanswerable. In other words, whatever answers can be forthcoming come from science. Now that is dead wrong.

Dwight Nelson:

Now Obadiah, dead wrong Houston says. And you were very quick to state absolutely incompatible.

Obadiah Harris:

Yes, I think that they are incompatible so long as science insists on being the sole proprietor of knowing what is reality. You see, that is the word reality that separates us.

Dwight Nelson: Ok.
Obadiah Harris:

As if that which is immanent is real, that which is transcendent is unreal. If a scientist will take a little bit of humility and simply admit that there are some things they don't know about, that may be real, then you have compatibility.

Dwight Nelson: You're not suggesting an intellectual arrogance are you?
Obadiah Harris:

Yeah, I think I am. I think there is intellectual arrogance and a dogmatism that is attached to science today because they do not want to consider that reality can have any other definition than the physical properties that we understand is reality.

Dwight Nelson:

I'm curious Houston, world religions. Is this unique to Western thought that science and religion are kept apart? Eastern thought, would it bring science and religion together or is science even a world view to be contended with outside of the west?

Huston Smith:

Well this is a conflict in the Western world. And the rest of the world insofar it is taking on western modes of thought. The rest of the world hasn't been shaped as much as we have by modern science and the controlled experiment. So it is not nearly the conflict there.

Dwight Nelson:

How would you make the case Obadiah then to a scientist with an appeal to trust? Houston a moment ago defined faith ultimately as trust. How would you make the case for a scientist to trust?

Obadiah Harris:

I would say every scientist has ultimate trust. They wouldn't even get into an experiment if they didn't trust.

Dwight Nelson: Trust what?
Obadiah Harris:

Trust the laws of the universe. So in that way we do have something deeply in common. In a trust, in the reliability of the laws of the universe. Every experiment they make has it's foundation in that trust.

Dwight Nelson:

Then what step would a scientist need to take to move from trusting the laws of the universe to trusting a personal being?

Obadiah Harris:

Well, I think that's a big leap for most scientists.

Dwight Nelson: Too big?
Obadiah Harris:

Too big for most of the scientists that I have known.

Dwight Nelson:

There's a metaphor that I like. It says as though we human beings were in a gigantic balloon. And we have flashlights and those are metaphors for the scientific method. And we can shine our flashlights on anything inside the balloon. But there's no way we can get our flashlights outside the balloon to determine where the balloon is in space.

Dwight Nelson:

So you are suggesting that science operates inside the balloon. Religion is what reaches outside that balloon.

Huston Smith:

Very well put. And if only we would recognize what that metaphor says, we would be past this whole agonizing antagonism and become partners. Each recognizing that there is something that the other can do that it itself cannot do

Dwight Nelson:

Obadiah Harris, Houston Smith, what a delight to have you on The Evidence.

Huston Smith: A great pleasure.
Dwight Nelson:

Thank you very much. This is a subject that I'm sure you would enjoy digging deeper into. We have a website. It's just one word. Theevidence.org. Click onto that website. The issue of faith and religion is one of the pivotal issues in life today. Check it out. We're going to be right back after a moment with some concluding thoughts.

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Dwight Nelson:

Sometimes faith can seem like a distant memory. Sometimes God can seem like someone we just can't imagine anymore. And yet people continue to rediscover him. In fact, they encounter God with all the wonder of a wide-eyed child. According to the individuals who've talked about their experiences in this program, it's possible to remember again, to make faith work in our world today. You know I think we sometimes subconsciously resist faith, resist trust. We won't quite allow ourselves to give in to a friendly universe. Maybe we've been disappointed. Something bad happened that we don't understand. Maybe we think we have good reasons for our misgivings. But have you ever asked yourself if chronic doubt is sometimes a form of sulking? We're like the child who refuses to come to the dinner table because we didn't get our way. We feel like God has let us down and we're not going to give him the satisfaction of showing up when he calls. But the people of faith we have heard from tell us maybe it's better to come to the table, to stop standing in the corner. Maybe we've simply misunderstood our father. And maybe with a new understanding we'll realize that God can be trusted, that He is worthy of our faith. That's what I think. I'm Dwight Nelson. Join us next time for more of The Evidence.








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