Richard Dawkins and the Atheist’s PrayerFeb 28, 2012 at 01:11:06 AM
Richard Dawkins, the worldwide Dean of Atheists and author of The God Delusion, is not sure about all this.
Last week in a public debate at Oxford University, Dawkins clarified that he prefers to call himself agnostic rather than atheist – i.e. he lacks total certainty over whether or not there is a creator.
Though Dawkins may indeed be a long-time agnostic, that's not how the world views him. His recent statement created a big tumult and raises the question: What difference does it make whether someone is an agnostic or an atheist?
A big difference.
An agnostic remains open to the idea that God exists and is willing to pursue the evidence, wherever it may lead.
Indeed, there are very few atheists (is it possible to prove that God doesn't exist?). Those who call themselves agnostic should, by definition, be actively examining the evidence and weighing both sides of the debate. In the absence of this, “ignorant” is a more accurate term than "agnostic."
This all reminds me of the true story that Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l loved to tell about a self-described atheist named Jeff whom he met at Aish in the Old City of Jerusalem.
"Fantastic! A real atheist!” said Rabbi Weinberg. “Tell me – what are you doing here speaking to a rabbi?"
Jeff said he had been in Europe, visiting his Norwegian fiance. And he decided it was now or never: either he would come to Israel or he'll never make it.
So he headed for Jerusalem and figured he would stop by the Western Wall to see some old stones. Yet upon his arrival he was amazed. He felt something heavy. He was moved.
Jeff stood before the Wall, and made up an atheist's prayer. He looked at the stones and said:
"God, I don't believe in You. As far as I know, You don't exist. But I do feel something. So if I'm making a mistake, I want You to know, God, I have no quarrel against You. It's just that I don't know that You exist. But God, just in case You're really there and I'm making a mistake, get me an introduction."
Jeff finished his prayer, and one of the yeshiva students who happened to be at the Wall, saw Jeff and thought, "Perhaps he'd be interested in learning some Torah."
He tapped Jeff on the shoulder, startling him so much that he jumped three feet in the air. Jeff whirled around: "What do you want?!"
"I'm sorry. I just want to know if you'd like to learn about God."
The question hit Jeff like a 2-by-4 right between the eyes. He had just finished asking God for an introduction, and immediately someone was offering to introduce him to God.
Jeff learned at Aish for the next six weeks. He was a very serious student, and went back to the States with a commitment to continue learning. A year later, Jeff came back to Israel and told Rabbi Weinberg the end of his story.
During that previous summer he had been meandering through the cobblestone alleyways of the Old City when he saw a pretty, sweet, religious girl walk by. He said to himself, "Look at the charm of this Jewish woman. May the Almighty help me meet someone like this."
One Shabbat morning during the next year, Jeff attended a synagogue in Boston. Standing there was the same young woman he had seen in the Old City. He made his way over to her and said: "Excuse me, but I believe I saw you last summer in Jerusalem."
She answered, "You're right. I saw you, too."
They’re now married and living in New Jersey.
King David said: "The Almighty is near to all those who call unto Him, to all those who call unto Him in truth." (Psalms 145:18)
The power of sincerity is so overwhelming that even an atheist can get God's attention. If you're in a genuine search for truth, remember Jeff's prayer.