Have you ever watched a dog chasing his tail? Round and round he goes in dizzying circles that take him nowhere, wasting energy, frustrating his friends, and amusing his foes. The same sort of thing is seen in some debates: round and round the discussion goes, covering the same ground with no starting place, no ending place, no progress. Energy and precious time are wasted, and any onlookers are either frustrated or amused.

There is a sharp difference between the agnostic or unbeliever who is really searching for truth and one who is simply trying to think up new ways of stating the same question, a question that has already been answered but, the answer having been rejected, is posed again and again. The one searching for truth asks questions, seriously considers the answers, and goes on to another question, in the way that a person walking on a winding path through the woods follows the trail markers, choosing the path that will take him to the desired destination.

The other kind of debater is like a dog chasing his tail, making no progress. Miles there are to be covered, miles of fragrant forest with beautiful sights—a sudden break in the woods when mountains come into view, or a fern-filled hollow where violets and mosses are breathtaking. There are warm moments of uphill effort that will leave one panting, but also cool, refreshing moments of stopping to rest and have lunch by a stream. But none of this will be experienced by the tail-chasing atheist or agnostic who refuses to go on the path at all.

It is a joy to see the one who “walks” from one question to another, from one answer to another, discovering the satisfying, logical steps there are to be taken along the path that is unfolding in unexpected beauty. Such a ...

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