Dawkins was asked if seeing God would cause him to believe, he replied, in effect, he’d presume he was hallucinating. You can hear him in his own words at about 12:30 in the following video:
Dawkins was articulate, charming and persuasive, but his way of thinking isn’t mine.
One atheist friend said to me, “it stinks being an atheist. Once you die that’s it. I wish I could believe.” I asked him if he saw a vision of God whether he’d believe, and he said, “I’d think I was hallucinating! I want science to show God exists.” So unlike Dawkins, he actually would like to believe, but the way he seeks evidence illustrates the fundamental problem. The problem is that at some point an element of faith in an unprovable assumption must exist for someone to accept God’s existence, even assuming God is real. I’ve often said, to formally prove God exists, you’d have to be omniscient, but if that were the case, you’d be God!
This raises an interesting problem of what can anyone have certainty in. I saw an apparition many years ago the night before my confirmation into the Roman Catholic Church while singing a hymn. I wasn’t looking for it nor was I in some sort of extreme emotional state. I eventually left the Roman Catholic Church and became a Reformed Presbyterian.
Charles Bonnet and other disorders show that human perception is not always reliable:
Sufferers, who are mentally healthy people with often significant vision loss, have vivid, complex recurrent visual hallucinations (fictive visual percepts). One characteristic of these hallucinations is that they usually are “lilliputian” (hallucinations in which the characters or objects are smaller than normal). The most common hallucination is of faces or cartoons. Sufferers understand that the hallucinations are not real, and the hallucinations are only visual, that is, they do not occur in any other senses, e.g. hearing, smell or taste.
People suffering from CBS may experience a wide variety of hallucinations. Images of complex colored patterns and images of people are most common, followed by animals, plants or trees and inanimate objects. The hallucinations also often fit into the person’s surroundings.
One of the greatest scientists of all time is also the hardest genius to diagnose, but historians agree he had a lot going on. Newton suffered from huge ups and downs in his moods, indicating bipolar disorder, combined with psychotic tendencies. His inability to connect with people could place him on the autism spectrum. He also had a tendency to write letters filled with mad delusions, which some medical historians feel strongly indicates schizophrenia. Whether he suffered from one or a combination of these serious illnesses, they did not stop him from inventing calculus, explaining gravity, and building telescopes, among his other great scientific achievements.
Then there was the sad story of Claude Shannon as his brilliant mind eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s. So being more scientific and having a great logical mind does not guarantee one will have a better hold on ultimate reality than anyone else. The fundamental problem is the only thing we can be sure of is the existence of our own internal feelings. Beyond that, inferences about the would outside of our consciousness and sensory experience has greater and greater levels of uncertainty the farther we extrapolate our senses and memory to make inferences.
In discussions of what is real by philosophers, Zhuangzi’s quote often comes up:
Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
One thing we know experientially is we feel sleepy before we sleep and the dream states happen when we sleep. When in the non sleepy (aka awake) states we have more constancy and consistency of what we deem “real”. In the awake states, we have some control over what happens in the dream states, hence for this and other reasons we rightly conclude we are not butterflies dreaming we are human. But it’s not quite so easy to make that inference, I had to think about it to describe the inference more rigorously. The proof I offered I think is generally correct, but probably not formally demonstrable.
And that leads to something I’ve said repeatedly, it doesn’t seem logical to argue there is a complete and formal proof of God’s existence, or for that matter any else’s existence. The only thing that seems an absolute truth at a personal level is the existence of pain. One might say, “feeling good” can also be a certainty. How do you know what “feeling good” is without knowing what it means to feel bad?
One might scientifically deny consciousness is real in the scientific sense since what it is can’t be so nicely defined, but at a personal level pain is real, whatever the cause.
Dawkins might, when confronted by God, conclude he is hallucinating, but if during that confrontation Dawkins feels some pain, that pain would be undeniable. In that sense, if God exists and Dawkins denies it, God administering some pain might be a means of persuasion, otherwise, it would seem, according to Dawkins, he’d think he was hallucinating.
Will God say to Dawkins, “I find your lack of faith disturbing”: