Brother: Tell me Howard, does God exist?
HG: Why ask me? Why would I know better than you?
Brother: But I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
HG: It is.
Brother: No No No. Not for you it’s not.
HG: Why not?
Brother: Hang on, Howard. I’m asking the questions here. You’re the religious one. Do you believe in God?
HG: A classmate in grade six wrote an essay that offended me. He said there’s no such thing as believe. Either you know or you don’t. I wasn’t ready for his rigour. But I can’t fault his position. Either you know something or you don’t.
Brother: Exactly. I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you: Do you know?
Brother: Answer me. Do you know or don’t you?
Brother: Don’t dodge the question.
HG: I’m not. Sometimes I do know.
Brother: And the rest of the time?
HG: Look, I am the victim of a scientific education. Nothing in science is proven. My education in science taught me Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Heisenberg was interested in knowability of the position of an electron, I seem to recall. I learned the difficulty in knowability of everything. You could say my position is uncertainty.
Brother: So you’re an agnostic.
HG: I don’t know.
Brother: I know why you’re dodging the question. As an observant Jew you’re embarrassed. I’ll ask you a different question, why do you pray?
HG: That’s easy. I need to.
Brother: Who do you pray to? When you don’t know if God exists?
HG: You mean whom.
Brother: Don’t dodge. Whom do you pray to?
Brother: That’s absurd, isn’t it? Talking to someone when you don’t know He’s there?
HG: I can tell you what I do believe in, all the time…
HG: I believe in prayer.
Brother: That would be even more absurd, wouldn’t it? To pray to a being when you can’t say he exists; and to believe in prayer when you know prayers aren’t answered.
HG: What prayers aren’t answered?
Brother: When Dad was dying you prayed for him to be cured!
HG: Not exactly. I prayed for him to be healed. But I can explain what it is about prayer I believe in.
Brother: I don’t think I’m interested until you answer the big question.
HG: Humour me. I believe in prayer like I believe in breathing. I need to do it. I need to say thank You. I need to cry halleluya! I need to cry out in pain. I need to keep faith.
Brother: Keeping faith with a God whom – whom, notice – you don’t know exists!
HG: I do know sometimes.
Brother: That’s crazy. What happens to your other faith – I mean Science?
HG: Science actually means knowing. But it’s only one way of knowing.
Brother: Let me remind you, either you know or you don’t know. If you know, that must mean scientific knowing.
HG: Wrong! I know lots of things through my senses: I know hunger, thirst, pain. You certainly do too. You know when you’re randy.
Brother: That’s true. But it’s not religious truth. That’s not absolute truth. God is absolute or He’s nothing.
HG: I do know an absolute. I know love.
Brother: What’s that got to do with it?
HG: Possibly everything. When I worked at a Catholic hospital a nun said to me, God is love. I didn’t get it. I asked her to explain. She repeated, God is love, and she left me to puzzle over it. I thought it sounded profound, but mysterious. That was nearly fifty years ago. It’s still a mystery to me. But I can tell you what you believe in.
HG: Love. You love your children.
Brother: You’re twisting words. You and your nun. If you believed in love as God, you’d worship love. You’d pray to it. You’d personify it. But you’re actually an agnostic. Probably a Godfearing agnostic.
HG: Fair enough. There is another angle on love and God. It’s in Les Mis: To love another person is to see the face of God. Too banal for you? Let me tell you how I do know God is real.
HG: I visited The Breakaway at Coober Pedy.
HG: I stood there in that desert immensity. Silence. Vast emptiness. And the still soft voice that spoke without sound.
Brother: And God?
HG: I stood in creation and I knew the Creator.
Brother: Very nice. But unconvincing.
HG: I’m not trying to convince you. I’m searching on my own behalf. But I know you’ve stood in immensity and been overwhelmed.
Brother: When? Where?
HG: In Yosemite. At the foot of El Capitan. We stood there together, with Dad. The universe spoke to us all, no words, no sound, but a state of inspiration.
Brother: I didn’t see God there. Feeling overwhelmed, feeling uplifted like that, that’s not knowing. That’s something distinct from knowing.
HG: It is knowing, you just don’t recognise it. Let me tell you of your knowing that you don’t know to be knowing. Deep knowing, incontrovertible knowing, beyond argument, beyond doubt.
Brother: I’m all ears.
HG: When you listen to music, when you know its beauty is truth, when that knowing clinches in your being. Sometimes I know God like that.
Brother: You’re twisting again. You don’t now whether God exists. You’re an agnostic.
HG: You think you know that. Hold on to it as an article of faith if it helps you. But would you like to know why I pray when I’m in a non-knowing state?
Brother: Tell me.
HG: When faith eludes me, I pray to keep faith. I keep faith with Dad. I keep faith with his father, with all the fathers – and with the mothers – who’ve prayed.
Brother: Perhaps your prayers are a request to God to please be.
HG: If God exists, that is The Great Fact. I can’t think of anything more prudent than praying to cover that possibility. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because I love it. It’s the marriage of words to existence.