By tuli alexander.
In a new annual lecture series on philosophy and Christianity, Michael Rea, professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame, will present his lecture on “The Hiddenness of God” at 7 p.m. on May 21 in Fraser Hall 2.
The lecture is a way to present a certain argument for or against a thesis that may be true, said Western philosophy professor Dr. Dan Howard-Snyder, who organized the lecture series.
Rea is a Christian who will be arguing against J.L. Schellenberg’s interpretation that God does not exist, as laid out in his book titled “Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason.” Schellenberg argues that because there are inculpable atheists of an all-powerful God, such a God cannot exist, according to Howard-Snyder.
Mother Teresa is a vivid example of this, said Rea. When she was young, she had an intense religious experience in which she felt the presence of God and devoted her life to Him. But there came a point in her life where she had an intense longing to experience the presence of God and felt a total absence of that presence.
In a compilation of her letters titled “Come Be My Light” published posthumously in 2007, her doubts became public.
“Where is my faith?” she wrote. “Even deep down… there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God — please forgive me.”
This phenomenon is not isolated to her or to other people who have had deep religious experiences; it is experienced by many religious people, Rea said.
“On one hand they have oriented their life around God and their religious activity but on the other hand they have very little idea of the real presence of God,” he said.
Atheists don’t feel a longing to have a relationship with God and say that Christianity, Judaism and Islam must be mistaken, said Rea.
Surely, if God wants a relationship with this atheist, he could just come right out and show it, as the atheist argument goes, according to Rea.
“Why might God not do that sort of thing?” Rea said. “He’s omnipotent; it can’t be that God’s incompetent, like a junior high boy afraid to talk to the girls.”
The point of Rea’s lecture is to look at a variety of different ways to address the problem.
“If God loves us, he owes it to us to be present to us somehow. But he doesn’t owe it to us to be present to us in the ways we want,” Rea said. “It might just be immaturity on our part. We can’t expect to be as mature as God.”
Rea said there’s a mutual interest in this subject, whether a person is atheist or deeply religious.
“I’ve been grappling with this myself,” he said. “I’ve had friends sitting in my kitchen sobbing because they’ve spent their whole lives serving God and they’re getting nothing back.”
Some people may have religious experiences, but for most of us, most of the time, we get nothing, Rea said.
“In your darkest times you pray for things and it’s like the prayers just bounce off the ceiling. It an existentially gripping problem,” he said.
Of the audience that will attend the lecture, Rea expects that ninety percent will be people who have been raised with some kind of church background.
“Some still may practice Christianity, Judaism or Islam,” he said. “But to ask these people, ‘What are your biggest obstacles?’- this will be one of them and will be an explanation of why they’re not more gung-ho about their religion.”
Howard-Snyder said he feels it’s important to have religion on an academic campus.
“Religion is central to human life and there’s no reason why at a university, whether it be secular or a state school, that it cannot be discussed with civility,” he said.
Another reason to bring this lecture series to campus, Howard-Snyder said, is because the dominant religion in this country is Christianity.'
The lecture should last approximately 40 minutes, leaving time for an hour question and answer section, Howard-Snyder said.