Having spent the past two blog entries trying to explain why I do not subscribe to a God of organised religion, I thought i’d now make an argument for why I’m not an atheist in the sense that I cannot accept, unequivocally that a God does not or has never existed, on a philosophical level.
As explained in previous blogs, I reject Christianity on the basis that it attempts to explain the unexplainable. It has hijacked the idea of God for it’s own power and wealth needs. (Why would a God use a commandment up telling me to not worship false idols, instead of telling me, say, not to sexually abuse children? Is God jealous, or was it just a design on power by a few people three-four thousand years ago? I’m going to go with the latter) Christianity attempts to use simple language and human knowledge to justify something that is beyond simple language and human knowledge. It then attempts to set out rules and laws that run contrary to many of my own principles. For example, I reject being told that I must “love thy neighbour“. Love and acceptance cannot be willed or forced. Neither can belief in a God of Organised religion. I reject Catholicism because the very reason it is as powerful as it is, has nothing to do with it being ordained by the power of God, and everything to do with the largely ignored evils and atrocities it has committed over the past two thousand years. I reject Protestantism for much the same reason.
Christianity tends to contradict itself by suggesting on the one hand that by revealing certain “laws” set out by God, that the nature of God is therefore knowable by human kind. Yet, the God of Christianity is one of complete perfection whom transcends human understanding, which by definition, means he is unknowable in every way.
But rejecting Organised Religion in no way implies a rejection of the principle of God in its entirety.
The Benedictine Monk, Anselm, both impresses me and infuriates me. He infuriates me because he suggested that belief preceded reasoning, which is a cop-out for me. It can also be quite a dangerous idea. Reasoning should always precede belief when it comes to such important ideas that belong to such a powerful organisation like the Catholic Church. Belief without reasoning is at the very heart of the problems Catholicism has endured over the Centuries. The largely illiterate populations of European States during the 16th Century were content with belief without reasoning, and the 16th Century happened to be rife with religious war and struggle.
“Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.” Anselm’s idea of “belief” in the eleventh century was a far cry from our understanding. For Anselm, belief means to resign oneself completely to the obedience of God, and with that obedience will come understanding. This, at first glance, sounds quite loose and unreasoned. But on a deeper level, Anselm is clearly referring to a state of meditation. Meditation is used across the World, spanning Continents and cultures, religions and races. Even Atheists meditate, it helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves and our issues. So, perhaps Anselm is loosely suggesting that to know oneself, is to know God, and since we are all interconnected by matter, by time, by space, by emotional response, by language, therefore to know oneself is to know everything, to know the eternal, and so by definition, everything is God.
Anselm also impresses me with his ontological argument of perfection. Anselm suggests that we all have an understanding of “good” and of “beauty” and of “perfect”. Those understandings, we use to base compare everything in life to. To Anselm, the very height of “good” or “perfect” is God. There must be a perfect perfection. Perfection must have an end point by it’s very nature, and that perfection, is therefore called God, because there is nothing greater than perfection. Anselm argued that to imagine the perfect Good is one thing, but for it to exist in reality would be greater than it existing purely in his mind, therefore, God must exist. It’s a convincing argument. But then, does God also become the perfect imperfection? The perfect evil? And also, surely the greatest creator, would be one that could create the universe, but not actually exist himself? That would be the ultimate perfection. Me painting a great work of art would be amazing, but me not existing, and yet managing to create a great work of art, would be better. And so by that logic, God doesn’t exist. Right?
I would argue that we are debating the idea of God in very much the wrong way. We are trying to prove the existence of a Being much like ourselves; who can consciously communicate and direct from the comfort of his cloud in the sky. That he can listen to prayer and intervene in the World. I think that’s wrong. I blame Organised Religion for that.
I think the idea of God needs to change. To have created a universe out of nothing suggests a creator that we give human attributes too. But, creating out of nothing, means that “nothing” is separate from God, and so that puts humanity at a great distance from God. We are not a part of God, God is not a part of us. Just as if we create a clock, we cannot suddenly become a part of that clock, and direct that clock to be whatever we so wish. But even if a God did create the universe ex nihilo, then, we must ask, who created the creator? If we take the Organised Religion route, we must say that before existence there must have a been non-existence. Which means God must have jumped into existence, at the moment of creation, unless he existed in non-existence, and if he did indeed exist in non-existence (a state in which nothing exists) then by definition, he didn’t exist. So, in order to change from a state of non-existence into a state of existence, something must have started his existence, which means there is something greater than the creator of everything, because something created the creator primarily. Still with me?
But, going with Anselm’s theory, the greatest perfection, in my rather skewed subjective analysis of the situation, would be a Being that could exist when existence itself does not exist. Does this prove the existence of God? No, but it is a far better argument than the one given by most Christians….. “God exists, because the Bible says so”.
What if the universe had no beginning? What if the big bang was simply one in an endless line of big bangs? What if there was no Aristotelian Prime Mover, because there was no need for a Prime Mover? We slowly come to the conclusion, that existence itself is bound together. We are all part of the same conclusion. Matter, energy, time, wisdom, and space, are all interconnected. Which, I think Thomas Aquinas was suggesting, when he noted that God is the immutable, God is the perfection, and God is the infinite. He wasn’t suggesting there is a man in the sky who has all the makings that we traditionally associate with a God of Organised Religion. When he spoke of the nature of Jesus, he wasn’t suggesting that a God one day decided to put his son on Earth. He was suggesting that the “son of God” was simply the result of the hard and desperate times. Humanity created Jesus. In the same way that every generation has a person stand up against the natural order; that person would not have the same influence if the natural order was perfectly acceptable. Therefore, Jesus was simply a man who stood up against the accepted Roman order. The son of God, simply means, the son of everything. It was inevitable, for Aquinas, that eventually a man would want to fight back against Roman powers. Aquinas, the great Philosophy of Christian tradition, was suggesting that because everything is interconnected to everything else, therefore everything is God.