Praying to the law of gravity

Ch.1, §1: ‘Deserved Respect’ (pp.31–41), continued

To add weight to his distinction between Einsteinian ‘religion’ and supernatural religion (religion proper), Dawkins again quotes Carl Sagan:

if by ‘God’ one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying … it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.

I’ve been arguing that Dawkins’ Einsteinian / supernatural distinction is an unhelpful one, that leads to him misunderstanding material that he finds on both sides: he does not, I think, understand Einstein, and he does not understand some fairly mainstream bits of monotheistic theology, which simply do not fit his descriptions well. Sagan’s comment about prayer gives me exactly the same reaction.

I immediately thought of Simone Weil (and not just because she wrote about Gravity and Grace…), and her discussion of prayer as attention. And from there it is a short leap to contemplative prayer in general, arguably the dominant meaning of prayer in the history of the Christian tradition, and one which has little to do with the answerability of the way things are to prayer, and much more to do with the answerability of the one praying to the way things are.

In the Spinozan-Einsteinian cosmos (and even, to a much more limited extent, in the thinned-out Dawkins–Sagan version) something recognisably akin to prayer as it has often been understood in the Christian tradition remains possible. The distinction Dawkins has tried to erect is not as airtight as he thinks.

(I’ll be coming back to the idea of God as ’emotionally satisfying’ later, I think. I can hear St. John of the Cross revolving in his grave…)

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation