Richard Dawkins is perhaps the world’s most renowned Atheist today. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science. He is a senior editor of the Council for Secular Humanism’s Free Inquiry magazine, and has been a member of the editorial board of Skeptic magazine since its foundation. In his 2006 book, The God Delusion, Dawkins argues that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion - “a fixed false belief.” Interestingly, just a few weeks ago in London, while Dawkins was on a live radio program with the former dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the antagonistic Atheist was mocking the Christian believer by making the comment that most Christians could probably not even name the four Gospels. Thoughtfully, the dean proposed the question, “Richard, you are a great defender of Charles Darwin, aren’t you?” Without hesitation, Dawkins replied, “Of course I am!” to which the dean reminded him that The Origin of Species was not the full title of Darwin’s book. Dawkins snidely remarked, “I know that.” The dean pressed farther by asking, “Can you name the full title of Darwin’s book?” Confidently, Dawkins said, “Of course, The Origin of Species... uh... uh... uh... (pause)... Oh my God!?” (Silence) And a bewildered look came over his face. Perhaps the old bumper sticker is true: “As long as there are math tests, there will always be prayer in the schools”. In other words, here was an avowed atheist who could not remember the classic textbook for modern Atheism... and he actually called upon the name of God, whom he didn’t believe in, to help him remember this most famous book. We can laugh at the irony of that real conversation; however, if we are honest, all of us are occasionally just that fickle when it comes to our faith in God.
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4, we read about when Jesus fell asleep in a boat out on the Sea of Galilee with a group of fisherman. (Remember, they were the experts in making their living out on the water; Jesus’ day job was on land.) When a sudden wind storm arose, the disciples became panicked, woke Jesus up, and they sarcastically accused him of not caring about their lives as the boat rocked violently upon the waves. In verse 39-40, we read, “He woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace. Be still.” Then the wind ceased and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Here were a group of men who had spent a considerable amount of time with Jesus witnessing his profound teachings and astonishing healings, but, at that moment of crisis - their crisis - they underestimated who was in their boat. One might even say, at some level, they lost their faith in God.
Sometimes in our lives, when we are at the end of our rope with nothing else to say or do (like Dawkins), we cry out to God because we don’t know where else to turn. Other times, when we hit a crisis (like the disciples), we lose our heads and underestimate God’s presence (and power!) to overcome our challenges, but still cry out to God for help. In both responses, faith in God wells up from situations of desperation. This event on the Sea of Galilee is a remarkable reminder that even with Jesus in our metaphorical boat, there will still be storms in our lives. A peaceful journey is not the life voyage we travel on; however, a peace-filled journey, with Christ always present, is. Wherever you are in your life this week, may you be humble (and desperate) enough to cry out to God in faith to give you peace.