INTELLECTUAL ATHEIST, EMOTIONAL BELIEVER
“I don’t know if it’s God that I rely on. There is a concept of God that is part of what I rely on. I think that it’s more that I rely on people, and I rely on culture, and I rely upon the sort of unspoken agreement that we have among us as human beings…that we behave when we’re together and also when nobody’s watching. And…that whatever rules and manners or attitudes we have toward one another, we have to agree upon as human beings, and we have to negotiate, we have to work together, we have to talk, we have to meet, we have to see each other as worthy.
Individuals, as human beings, should treat each other with dignity and demand dignity from one another and from ourselves. I don’t know, maybe that is God. There are so many ways of looking at God or describing God. I think it’s ultimately just an expression of everyone’s wishful thinking. I think there is a connection between everything but it’s probably more at the atomic level and the fact that the physical world is connected through energy and space. And that is about as deep as I can get. Whatever it is we call God, it will always depend on our knowledge and imagination and the culture that we were brought up in…and the possibilities and concepts of God we encountered. And mine are just changing all the time.”
I met up with Lene Rachel Andersen in Copenhagen after we were introduced by our mutual friend, Rabbi Rivka (Rebecca) Lillian. Lene was raised Lutheran and studied to become a pastor, but ultimately her journey led her to embrace Judaism.
Lene is also a philosopher, a futurist, and a writer. She feels most connected to God when she is studying science. As she describes herself: “I am intellectually an atheist and emotionally a believer!” I so appreciate the way that Lene is able to hold together the paradoxes of a spiritual life in the modern, scientific age. Her writing is provocative. She believes that the increasing polarity in “have’s” and “have not’s” with regard to nutrition, education, and health care will ultimately produce two different species of humans. And, yet, Lene’s sense of the transcendent and the spiritual lifts her out of seeing life just as random molecules. She believes that self-replicating DNA is God’s greatest invention. Her most recent books are: The Nordic Secret: A European Story of Beauty and Freedom; Metamodernity: Meaning and Hope in a Complex World; and, Bildung: Keep Growing.
I was fortunate to return to Copenhagen and have dinner with Lene to continue our conversation. How blessed I am to have met a scholar and spiritual guide who looks to science and faith simultaneously and seamlessly…and who expects faith to support her scientific journey.