In Dialogue with Atheists: Five Things to Consider, Part 2

This entry, “It Is Reasonable to Believe,” is the second in a five-part series stemming from a debate I had with atheist and all-around good dude, Brian Govatos, who runs the website The Proud Atheist. As we debated, five observations occurred to me as useful launch points for a dialogue between the Catholic perspective of faith and the common atheistic views of faith: 1) There is evidence; 2) It is reasonable to believe; 3) Believing is compatible with science; 4) the desire for unity; 5) religious responses are part of our DNA.

When considering the improbability of humanity’s existence, it is reasonable to believe that there was a creator. This most basic of all arguments for the existence of God can seem cliché. But if it does seem cliché to us, we’ve failed to understand the magnitude of that improbability. During the first second after the Big Bang, everything was set in motion for the next 13.8 billion years. In that first second, a speck of energy no larger than an atom appeared out of nowhere. There was no time, no energy, no space. There was actually no “nothing,” because even “nothing” would have been “something.” There was nothing-nothing.

This atom-sized energy exploded and if it had been a slightly stronger explosion, this universe would have been only radiation. Instead, matter and antimatter emerged. Just enough matter was released to cancel out antimatter, its mortal enemy. Then the Higgs boson particle brought mass to the matter. Beyond the strength of the explosion, if one thing would have played out differently in any of the units of “Planck time” (the smallest measurement of time, or 10-43 of a second), then the stars and galaxies that we see, observe, and measure would not be here.

If that wasn’t enough, 9 billion years later planet Earth formed in a way that could sustain life. If that wasn’t enough, life actually emerged. If that wasn’t enough, the life that did emerge was able to replicate. If that wasn’t enough, the life that did emerge and replicate was able to change and adapt by natural selection. If that wasn’t enough, the life that emerged, replicated, changed, and adapted developed consciousness and the ability to ponder the universe and beings’ relationship to the universe.

The margin for error in all of this is so great that at any point along this beautiful and elegant evolutionary journey things could have derailed. Is the improbability of our existence proof? No. But such considerations make it reasonable to believe that there is a first cause that exists outside of time and space.