When I wrote this post challenging James Martin’s contention that the sense of “incompleteness” experienced by so many people in large-scale societies was not a yearning for God — and could be more easily (and better) explained by social conditions in those societies, I was not aware that Martin would be regularly blogging on how we might identify our “innate and universal” desire for the Christian God.
In his most recent post, Martin argues that when we experience exaltation and clarity, what we are feeling is not human nature but God’s nature. The Dalai Lama (a Buddhist) would probably be surprised to hear this and would most likely disagree (in an affable way, of course). Perhaps sensing that his argument is circular or tautological, Martin prefaces his post by noting:
In my last few posts, I’ve suggested that our very longing for God is a sign of our innate religious nature. That is, God calls to us through those desires. As St. Augustine said, “O Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Atheists and non-believers probably won’t believe this (or me), but I believe our desire for God comes from God and is one key way that God calls to us. (Even if you say that these desires are merely biological or psychological phenomena, I would say that God can use even these means as ways of attracting us.)
One need be neither an atheist nor a non-believer to disagree with Martin. It is becoming apparent that Martin equates all aspects of human experience to the Christian God, which renders his musings impervious to challenge or refutation.
For those who might be seeking a sense of the sacred or experience of the divine, you will find a much more nuanced and potentially convincing account in Robert Fuller’s Spirituality in the Flesh: Bodily Sources of Religious Experience. As emotional states, exaltation and clarity would have been highly adaptive in an evolutionary setting. Recognizing these facts, as Fuller explains, need not lead to atheism or non-belief.