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Monday, April 1, 2013

Was Carl Sagan a Man of Faith?

Carl Sagan
 Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs, And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns. -- by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

In answering the question “Was Carl Sagan a man of faith?” I must reply that I of course never had a chance to visit with him personally, so cannot know firsthand. I’m told this rigorous scientist saw himself as an agnostic—which certainly makes sense as there is no conclusive evidence that there is a God. In other words, belief in God by definition requires faith—a leap beyond anything that can be demonstrated through scientific procedures.

I am blessed by knowing a nonbeliever at work. He is in the downtown IT department and is brilliant at computer programming. He is most characterized by humility and his servant’s heart (and for having a very spicy vocabulary). In fact, I attribute his non-belief primarily to his humility—his sense that if one does not know for certain in a way that can be demonstrated through careful testing and verification by others— including skeptics—then one cannot with integrity accept the hypothesis. I have worked with him on several occasions and can testify to the genuine nature of his compassion and humility and strong desire to be of effective service. I have said of him behind his back that he out-Christians Christians.

If he were in my living room this evening and we were in conversation, I would want to point out that though it can be anecdotally illustrated that in working with people and things humility and generosity of spirit are more effective than arrogance and greed, it cannot be proven so in an absolute sense. In other words, the virtues that he assiduously lives by are guiding principles that share some aspects of faith.

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