* Attila and the Witch Doctor
* Basic Principles of Objectivism - Nathaniel Branden - from Lecture #4
* The Case of God vs the Case of Reality
* God as Big Daddy
* Religion and Insanity
Christianity vs Objectivism
I wonder if you realize just how profoundly antagonistic are Christianity and Objectivism. I will make a brief comparison to exemplify this.
In morality, Christianity holds that one of the major sins is Pride (remember that that was a main cause of the expulsion of Lucifer). On the contrary, Objectivism holds Pride as one of its cardinal virtues (PSE, chapter 12).
In ethics, Christianity regards self-sacrifice as a primary virtue. Objectivism holds self-sacrifice to be an abomination and self-interest to be a primary virtue (VOS, chapter 1).
From Augustine's "Confessions": After denouncing all the pleasures of the body, he continues with a comment on the mind: "To this is added another form of temptation, more manifoldly dangerous. For besides the concupiscience of the flesh which consists in the delight of all senses and pleasures, the soul has, through the same senses of the body, a certain vain and curious desire, veiled under the title of knowledge and learning, the seat whereof being in the appetite of knowledge, and sight being the sense chiefly used for attaining knowledge, it is in divine language called 'The lust of the eyes.'"
Contrast this with part of the description of John Galt:
"The first thing she grasped about him was the intense perceptiveness of his eyes - he looked as if his faculty of sight were his best-loved tool and its exercise were a limitless, joyous adventure, as if his eyes imparted a superlative value to himself and to the world - to himself for his ability to see, to the world for being a place so eagerly worth seeing. It seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure consciousness." (AS Part 3, chapter 1)
Faith is the acceptance of an idea as true in the absence of reason or in defiance of objective reason to the contrary. It is not the acceptance of an idea on the basis of incorrect reasons, it is the belief that reasons are unnecessary. In defense of assertions not defensible in reason, Tertullian writes:
"It is believable because it is absurd. It is certain because it is impossible."
He is joined by Augustine who writes: "One must first BELIEVE, that one may then know."
Faith is the willful abdication of one's consciousness, and it is THIS act that Objectivism holds to be the most fundamental sin that a man can commit.(PSE chapter 12)
There is no common ground between Christianity and Objectivism. They are diametrically opposed to one another.
Christianity vs the Lightning Rod
Of all the fatal manifestations of nature, the one which is most clearly an overwhelming attack of a divine being against man is the lightning bolt. And yet, if the lightning stroke were obviously the wrathful weapon of a supernatural being, there are some difficult-to-explain consequences.
As it happens, high objects are more frequently struck by lightning than are low objects. As it also happens, the highest man-made object in the small European town of early modern times was the steeple of the village church. It followed, embarrassingly enough, that the most frequent target of the lightning bolt, then, was the church itself.
Over a 33-year period in 18th-century Germany, no less than 400 church towers were damaged by lightning. What's more, since church bells were often rung during thunderstorms in an attempt to avert the wrath of the Lord, the bell ringers were in unusual danger and in that same period, 120 of them were killed.
You will recall, in this context, the famous kite-flying experiment in which Ben Franklin demonstrated that lightning is nothing more than a big dose of electricity. Franklin had noted that an electrical discharge takes place more readily and quietly through a fine point than through a blunt projection. If a needle were attached to a Leyden jar, the charge leaked quietly through the needle point so readily that the jar could never be charged.
Well, then - If a sharp metal rod were placed at the top of a structure and if it were properly grounded, any electric charge accumulating on the structure during a thunderstorm would be quietly discharged and the chances of its building up to the catastrophic loosing of a lightning bolt would be greatly diminished.
Franklin advanced the notion of this "lightning rod" in the 1753 edition of POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC. The notion was so simple, the principle so clear, the investment in time and material so small, the nature of the possible relief so great, that lightning rods began to rise immediately over buildings throughout the world.
And it worked! Where the lightning rods rose, the lightning stroke ceased. For the first time in the history of mankind, one of the scourges of the Universe had been beaten, not by magic and spells and prayer, but by science, by an understanding of the laws of nature and by intelligent cooperation with them.
There was an embarrassed reluctance about putting up lightning rods on churches. It seemed to betray a lack of confidence in God. But it soon became all too noticeable to all men that the town church, unprotected by lightning rods, was hit, while the town brothel, if protected by lightning rods, was not.
Every lightning rod on a church is evidence of the victory of science and of the surrender of religion - and no one can be so blind as not to see that evidence. Even though they may choose to be so blind as to deny it.
Christianity vs Women and Sex Under Christianity, women lost all legal status and all right to property (rights they had firmly held in the preceeding Roman society). All this was justified by the Christians on the grounds that Eve had been the cause of Adam's downfall.
Some attitudes toward sex, as expressed by several of the founders of institutionalized Christianity:
Saint Paul: "It is good for man not to touch a woman. But if they do not have self-control let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn."
Saint John: "Among all savage beasts, none is found so harmful as woman."
Tertullian describes woman as "a temple built over a sewer."
Clement of Alexandria: "It is disgraceful to love another man's wife at all - or one's own too much. He who too ardently loves his own wife is an adulterer."
The Compendia of Catholic Moral Theology devotes 44 pages to a description of all possible forms of sin. 32 of these pages are devoted specifically to sexual sin. Of all the ways you can sin, 73 percent of them are sexual.
Make no mistake about it, the Christian religion has a profound and passionate hatred of sex.
Interview with God
When I found God, He was sitting in a remote corner of another universe, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with the Grand Design. "I am moving to another universe," He said, "because too many Christians have moved into this neighborhood."
Asked about his actions, God said: "Return good for good. Return evil with justice."
Asked if he was angry, God said: "Wouldn't you be if something you made didn't work? I made man to think, to use his reason, his thought, his logic, to be free, to be just, to create beauty, to love truth, to achieve, to be joyous."
"My eagles soar, don't they? My fish swim don't they? I made man to walk in joy and triumph. My greatest achievement. My masterpiece. And what does man do? He fears. He crawls. He has faith. He ignores reality. He evades action."
"I gave him vision. I gave him principled imagination. I gave him courage. I gave him Mind. I gave him Life. I gave him my love of Truth. What does he do? He seeks masters and saviors."
"This is not what I wanted at all. I am going to try it again in the next universe. Maybe there things will work out better."
Are you planning any changes in the next universe, God?
"Yes, I am. No religion. No government. No Church nor State to oppress and intimidate my creation."
One last question God, if you will?
Do you feel bad about leaving anything behind?
"Yes, I do...." (A tear came to God's eye. The first tear in a billion years. His sorrow made me tremble in fear. I waited for Him to speak.)
"I will miss two things most dear to me.... Conscience in the service of Justice, and Genius in the service of Truth."
"I will miss the admiration and pride I felt when my creation perceived Justice and asserted his knowledge of it."
"I will miss that immortal light of Genius, the power and glory of Man, whose radiant glow gave me warmth and comfort on cold nights."
"I am just too damn disappointed to listen to any more foolish prayers."
Robert Ingersoll on Religion
There may be a God who will make us happy in another world. If he does, it will be more than he has accomplished in this.
I have little confidence in any enterprise or business or investment that promises dividends only after the death of the stockholders.
I had rather think of those I have loved and lost, as having returned to earth, as having become a part of the elemental wealth of the world, I would rather think of them as unconscious dust, I would rather dream of them as gurgling in the streams, floating in the clouds, bursting in the foam of light upon the shores of worlds. I would rather think of them as lost visions of a forgotten night, than to have the faintest fear that their naked souls have been clutched by a Christian god.
For thousands of years men have been writing the real Bible, and it is being written from day to day, and it will never be finished while man has life. All the facts that we know, all the truly recorded events, all the discoveries and inventions, all the wonderful machines whose wheels and levers seem to think, all the poems, crystals from the brain, flowers from the heart, all the songs of love and joy, of smiles and tears, the great dramas in Imagination's world, the wondrous paintings, miracles of form and color, of light and shade, the marvelous marbles that seem to live and breathe, the secrets told by rock and star, by dust and flower, by rain and snow, by frost and flame, by winding stream and desert sand, by mountain range and billowed seas. All the wisdom that lengthens and enobles life - all that avoids or cures disease, or conquers pain - all just and perfect laws and rules that guide and shape our lives, all thoughts that feed the flames of love, the music that transfigures, enraptures and enthralls, the victories of heart and brain, the miracles that hands have wrought, the deft and cunning hands of those who worked for wife and child, the histories of noble deeds, of brave and useful men, of faithful loving wives, of quenchless mother love, of conflicts for the right, of sufferings for the truth, of all the best that all the men and women of the world have said, and thought and done through all the years. These treasures of the heart and brain - these are the Sacred Scriptures of the human race.
It is to him who masters our minds by the force of truth, not to those who enslave men by violence, it is to him who understands the world, not to those who disfigure it, that we owe our reverence.
Wherever these human beings may be who have shared our love, whatever landscape soothes their soul, whatever breeze cools their brow, their country is our country too. Each square foot of land occupied by a man of good will is part of our country.
Christ never wrote a solitary word. It has always seemed to me that a being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind....
If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament he would be a criminal. If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New, he would be insane. (When religion makes you act like a fool, it is a wrong religion... Heinlein)
Pious ignorance always regards intelligence as a kind of blasphemy.
If we are ever judged at all it will be by our actions, and not by our beliefs. If Christ was good enough to die for me, he certainly will not be bad enough to damn me for honestly failing to believe in his divinity. Think of the egotism of a man who believes that an infinite being wants his praise! (I will live by what I see and reason, not for a pie-in-the-sky possibility of a god's existence and His liking me enough to confer immortality on me for kissing His ass... Brick Pillow)
[During the Dark Ages] Faith reigned with scarcely a rebellious subject... She built cathedrals for God and dungeons for men. She peopled the clouds with angels and the earth with slaves.
When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The day of Science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of today.
The building in which they were assembled took fire and many of these men and women perished in the flames. A French priest called this horror an act of God. Is it not strange that Christians speak of their God as an assassin?
This Deity says, "pray for those that despitefully use you; love your enemies, but I will eternally damn mine." It seems to me that even gods should practice what they preach.
They are taught as a part of their creed to despise the descendants of the only people with whom God is ever said to have had any conversation whatever.
Thomas Jefferson referred to the clergy as "mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus," and making it their business in life to confuse mankind with their abracadabra. He compared them to cuttlefish, having the "faculty of shedding darkness... thro' the element in which they move, and making it impenetrable to the eye of a pursuing enemy, and there they will skulk."
Thomas Paine: "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Protestant church, not by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."
Religious Roots of Evil
Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian doctrine, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the non-ideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificied for men who are vicious. Here is the essense of the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice. Christians do not know how to love their god except by crucifying man.
Jesus joined humanity in order to redeem it, and for this redemption to take place, he HAD to be crucified, thus taking the sins of humanity onto his own shoulders and expiating them. If that is so, then Judas, Pontius Pilate and other villains had essential parts to play in this redemption, and had they refused those parts, all of humanity would still be laboring under original sin. That should make those men heroes, shouldn't it?
Saint Basil (AD 360): "The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is that of one who is naked; the shoes you do not wear are those of one who is barefoot; the acts of charity you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit."
Saint Ambrose (AD 360): "You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his."
Thus we see that in the Christian belief, anyone who possesses property needed by another must surrender it or be guilty of theft.
Pope Paul VI (1973): "True justice recognizes that all men are in substance equal. The littler, the poorer, the more suffering, the more defenseless, even the lower a man has fallen, the more he deserves to be assisted, raised up, cared for, and honored."
Marshall Cohen, Professor of Philosophy CUNY: "Once an adequate social minimum has been reached, justice requires the elimination of many economic and social inequalities, even if their elimination inhibits a further raising of the minimum."
Jan Tinbergen, first Nobel laureate in Economics: "A modest first step might be a special tax on persons with high academic scores."
An Ayn Rand villain: "The men of ability? I do not care what or if they are made to suffer. They must be penalized in order to support the incompetent. Frankly, I do not care whether this is just or not. I take pride in not caring to grant any justice to the able, where mercy to the needy is concerned."
Ayn Rand: "What passkey admits you to the religiously moral elite? The passkey is lack of value. Whatever the value involved, it is your lack of it that gives you a claim upon those who don't lack it. To demand rewards for your virtue is selfish and immoral they claim; it is your lack of virtue that transforms your demand into a moral right."
Attila and the Witch Doctor
The consequence of the epistemology of religion is the politics of tyranny. If you cannot reach the truth by your own mental powers, but must maintain obedient faith in a cognitive authority, then you are not your own intellectual master; in such a case you cannot guide your behavior by your own judgment either but must be submissive in action as well. This is the reason why, historically, faith and force are always corollaries; each requires the other.
To say that any man or human phenomenon can be perfect is to blaspheme God, for to allow any value or significance to humanity is to derogate by just that amount from the majesty, perfection, and supreme value of God. Thus, no matter how good a man is, in the eyes of a Christian he is not as good as he ought to be. If a man is sinful, the fault is his - but if he is virtuous, the credit belongs to God. Similarly, if an investor loses his money on dry holes, the loss is his - but if he hits a gusher, his profits should rightfully be taken by taxes.
Nietzsche is correct in stating that Christianity fears, resents, and attacks strength. But it is not Nietzsche's notion of strength - brute strength, unleashed passion - that Christianity opposes. It is intellectual strength, the strength of the sovereign, independent, rational mind that all mystics oppose. It is no accident that in this opposition to reason, Christianity and Nietzsche are allies. The Witch-Doctors and the Attilas both hate the mind that yields to neither faith nor force.
Basic Principles of Objectivism - Nathaniel Branden - from Lecture #4
Let us examine the concept of god and observe some of its striking implications for man's consciousness.
To begin with, those who profess to believe in god are unable to identify or communicate intelligibly what it is that they believe in. What is the nature, the identity of god? What is the meaning of the concept? "God is 'something'" they say, "only I don't know what it is." They claim to believe in it nevertheless. No philosophy, theology or religion has ever given a rationally intelligible definition or even description of the nature of god, or any intelligible content to the concept god. Observe that I said "intelligible." A great many descriptions have been offered and a great many attributes have been ascribed to god but they are of a kind that represent a negation and a mockery of man's consciousness as well as of everything known to him in reason about the nature of reality.
"God" claim the mystics, "is infinite." What does it mean to be infinite? It means to possess no limits. To possess no specific determinite finite number of attributes - no specific particular identifiable qualities. It means to be nothing in particular. But to be nothing in particular is not to be. To assert that an infinite being exists is to assert that something can exist that possesses no identity - that is nothing in particular. To accept the existence of a being who possesses no identity one has to reject the Law of Identity. But to reject the Law of Identity is to reject the total of one's grasp of reality. Thus the concept of an infinite god is the destruction of man's concept of existence, of being.
"God" claim the mystics, "is pure spirit" or "pure consciousness." What do they mean by spirit? Well, in rational terms the concept spirit is intelligible and simply means man's consciousness. Consciousness, in rational terms, means the faculty of awareness possessed by a specific material living entity. But this is not what the mystics mean. By "pure spirit" they mean a non-material entity. And by "pure consciousness" they mean a faculty without any entity to which it belongs. What is a non-material entity? The mystics have no identification for it and no definition. No concept except the negation of man's concepts. Non-material means simply "non-anything you know." Spirit, in the mystics' terms, is not something specific or identifiable. Its nature is precisely that it cannot be identified. It is not to be grasped by man. It is not merely different from matter, it is the metaphysical opposite of matter. It is that which matter is not. To grasp it you must reject everything which you do grasp and replace it with the concept of "that which is not what I grasp." In terms of man's consciousness, to grasp means to understand, to identify. The definition of spirit offered by the mystics is in effect "that which is not to be identified by man." The same epistemological devastation is performed by the mystics' concept of pure consciousness. Man's concept of consciousness is a faculty belonging to a specific being who possesses specific means of awareness such as sense organs, nerves, a brain - which make it possible for him to be aware of reality in the form of sensations, perceptions, conceptions. But the mystics' concept of pure consciousness is a faculty without an entity. A faculty that exists by itself and is conscious without any specific means of awareness. An action without an entity that acts. The action of an unlimited entity - unlimited by any specific means. This is not only the destruction of the Law of Identity but also the acceptance of the one epistemological method that destroys a rational consciousness: the dropping of context. Logic, man's means of cognition, requires the preservation of the full context of every concept man forms. To accept the idea of a pure consciousness, man must drop the context, the meaning, the root of consciousness as he knows it and replace it with the idea of a consciousness which is "not what I know or mean or grasp." Thus the doctrine of "god is pure consciousness" is the destruction of the concept of consciousness.
"God" claim the mystics, "is omnipotent." What does omnipotent mean? It means that god can do anything. Since the actions possible to an entity are determined by the nature of the entity that acts, for god to be unrestricted in action, he would have to be unrestricted in identity. And this would mean that he possesses no identity. If god is omnipotent, not only does he possess no identity but neither does anything else possess identity. Think about that. God can do anything to any entity and he can make any entity do anything, regardless of the entity's nature. Which is tantamount to saying that the entity has no nature. Anything goes. Anything is possible. If miracles can happen, reality is fluid, arbitrary, unpredictable, unknowable. A miracle is the rationally impossible. If god is omnipotent, contradictions have to be possible. This raises a number of questions the sole meaning of which is a mockery of man's reason. For example: it has been asked "Can god tie a knot that he cannot untie?" or "Can god create a mountain that he cannot climb over?" The answer given by the mystics is "You must not try to understand, you must believe." You must believe that that which is inconceivable to you is possible. And that that which you do conceive of, such as specific identifiable entities, can be negated and dissolved by miracle at any moment. Thus the concept that god is omnipotent destroys the Law of Identity and the Law of Causality.
"God" claim the mystics, "is omniscient." To be omniscient means to know everything: past, present and future. Observe that the attribute of omniscience is necessitated by the attribute of omnipotence. In order for god to be able to do anything, he would have to know everything. But observe also that the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience contradict each other. In order for god to know everything, everything would have to be fated and predetermined. But if everything were fated and predetermined, it could not be changed. And if it could not be changed, this is a limitation on god's potency and he is not omnipotent. Here again the mystic will tell you "Don't think, don't examine, don't wonder, don't question - believe." The concept of omniscience is the secret wish-fullfillment of every mystic. To acquire one's knowledge, by a process of struggle and effort, is abhorrent to the mystic. But to know everything, to know it instantaneously and without effort, to know it causelessly without any specific means of knowing it, or acquiring one's knowledge, or holding one's knowledge, this is the mystics' passionate dream. The concept of omniscience is a psychological monument to the mystics' hatred of effort.
Finally, the mystics claim that "god is all-good." This means that he is incapable of evil. This poses a number of problems. The first is, if he is incapable of evil, how can he be omnipotent? Or consider another problem: consider what is meant by the concept "Good." The concept of good or evil can pertain only to a being who has the power of choice. Morality applies only to entities who have a choice of action. If a robot were constructed for a certain job which it would execute flawlessly because it was so designed by a scientist, you would not call it a virtuous robot. You would know that the robot has no power of choice and that it does only what it HAS to do. But if god is incapable of choosing evil, then he is as amoral as that robot. If god has no power to choose evil, if by nature he must always and automatically choose the good, then he is outside the concept of morality and his actions cannot be described as either good or evil. The doctrine of "god is all good" creates an enormous problem which the mystics have never been able to solve. It is known as the Problem of Evil, and it consists of the question "If god is omnipotent and all-good, why does he allow evil to exist in the world?" The philosopher Epicurus expressed this problem thus:
"Either god would remove evil out of this world and cannot, or he can and will not, or he has not the power nor will, or lastly he has both the power and will. If he has the will and not the power, this shows weakness, which is contrary to the nature of god. If he has the power and not the will, it is malignity, and this is no less contrary to his nature. And if he is neither able nor willing he is both impotent and malignant and consequently cannot be god. And if he is both willing and able, which alone is consonant with the nature of god, whence comes evil? Or why does he not prevent it?"
Theologians have been painfully aware of this problem and they have offered a number of answers. The most common answer is that man's limited intellect cannot grasp the mystery. That god in fact works for good purposes, but the purposes are of a kind which man's reason cannot grasp. So, if we see innocents slaughtered by the millions, and the seemingly evil prosper, and if it seems to us that we are witnessing something evil, why it is only an illusion - it is not evil. By god's standards, it is good. If you see your loved ones being tortured and murdered, do not dare consider it evil, do not dare pass any moral judgement; it merely seems evil from your limited viewpoint. It serves a good end from god's viewpoint, which you cannot grasp and must not question. If god wills it to be so, who are you to call it evil or to protest? Thus the doctrine of "god is all good" is the destruction of morality. Observe that the mystics' answer to all the problems and contradictions in the concept of god is "Your mind cannot conceive of it. If your mind cannot conceive of the irrational, the contradictory, the senseless, the impossible, it is your mind that must take the blame."
The ultimate brain-killer is the mystics' claim that god is unknowable. Do not confuse the concept of unknowable with the concept of unknown. Unknown merely means something not known at present or not known to you. But unknowable means that which can never be known. That which by its nature cannot be known. The most consistent theory of the mystics, pertaining to god as the unknowable, is that of a theological school known as negative theology. The negative theologians insist that one cannot possibly say what god is because to ascribe any attributes to him is to limit him, and this amounts to an impertinence. One must not say that god is finite - that would limit him. One must not say that god is infinite - that would limit him also, since it forbids him to be finite. One must not say that he is all-good because that implies that he cannot be bad. One must not say that he is good AND bad, because that forbids the possibility of his being exclusively one. One must not say that he is omniscient, because that forbids the possiblilty of his being fallible. One must not say that he is fallible because that forbids the possiblilty of his being omniscient. Well, here in this theory you can observe the full, open and explicit meaning and purpose of the mystics' advocacy of faith in god: the hatred of man's mind and the desire to destroy it. To destroy all the cardinal concepts of man's reason. To destroy the base of man's consciousness, the Law of Identity. And to leave man groveling on his belly, as an abject idiot, cringing in terror at a nightmare apparition which he dares not identify as either real or unreal, knowable or unknowable.
The Case of God vs the Case of Reality
To a rational person, there are many more reasons for not believing in God than for believing. However, there are times when even a rational person must ask himself if there might not be some basis for such a belief. Probably this query most often occurs when no evident explanation can be seen for some phenomenon. Given this situation, religion might be viewed as an error concerning causality and the proper means of establishing causal connections in reality.
Perhaps early man did not develop a science since he may not have believed that cause and effect could possibly be linked together inexorably. Instead he tried to forsee the acts of an inconstant reality (gods) by augury and astrology.
Much of human energy has gone into the working out of the proper ritual for control of such a mystical Universe and into the effort of establishing rigid adherence to that ritual. Verbal formulas, uttered by specialists, are relied on to bring good luck to a fishing fleet, members of which would be uneasy about leaving port without it. If we think this is but a vagary of uneducated fishermen, I might point out that the Congress of the United States would feel most uneasy about beginning its deliberations without a chaplain mimicking biblical English in an attempt to call down good judgment upon them from on high - a device that seems very rarely to have done the Congress much good.
What is a religion? A religion is a system of beliefs and practices resting on the assumption that events within the world are subject to some supernatural power or powers, such that human needs, either physical or psychological, can be satisfied by man's entering into relations with such powers; the supernatural powers in question are called supernatural in virtue of the fact that they can be known, related to, or influenced primarily by means other than those of reason or sense experience. The fundamental characteristic of all religions is this belief in a supernatural power which can control everyday events. And a fundamental practice characteristic of all religions is the attempt to influence this power.
But the psychological consequences of this belief are all-pervasive and devastating:
Christianity, and most other religions, teach that God, by whatever name He is called, is the father of us all. This places man in the role of a child who is at the mercy of another's command and in whose will lies the final verdict upon which all of man's actions must be based. This will covers a multitude of irresponsible actions on the part of man. Man is assigned no responsibility except to believe and obey. If he does not succeed in life, it was not his fault; it was God's will that he should not. God has a purpose for everything and everyone, and if we cannot see what that purpose is, it does not matter because God knows. The Bible teaches "all things work together for the good of those who love God."
We are told "take no thought for tomorrow, for sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." This pearl of wisdom was given in the famous Sermon on The Mount by Jesus to his followers. In this same sermon they were told that God would provide whatever they needed in the way of food and clothing just as he fed and clothed the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. Religion today teaches the same thing: God will provide, just as long as one serves Him. So what if you do not get to make the decisions, you will be taken care of. Thus religion replaces critical thinking with fantasy and wish fulfillment.
To a religious person, the concept of God explains everything. Man has no need to ask why. His mind is not needed, only his faith. His faith gives him the security of the firm conviction that SOMEONE knows what is going on, even if he does not. It gives him the hope that SOMEHOW all will turn out well. And if he is mugged every time he steps out of his door he has the assurance that God will destroy the evil-doers and reward him for his endurance.
This sort of faith in an all-knowing God and in a righteous judgment is a great comfort to the believer. It relieves him of responsibility for just about everything. It gives him a sense of worth as being part of "God's Great Plan". AND, it promises him immortality!!
Now that is a pretty good argument for investing in something that really does not cost very much. A little faith, professed now and then, and one can go on his merry way without a worry in the world.
But what does it REALLY cost? This is where the rational, reality-oriented man finds his reasons for NOT believing in God.
An adult person is one who has reached the point of maturity in his life where he is able to care for himself. He has no need, nor wish, for anyone else to take care of him. For this person, the religious obligation to defer to a will outside himself would preclude belief in God. This type of person is one who uses his mind to reason and find out the facts in reality that account for phenomena. The exercise of his reason teaches him that blind faith will never net him a thing except the frustration of his hopes (just ask any man who has ever attempted to adjust a carburetor), and that learning to deal correctly with reality will help him realize his aspirations. He says with Robert Ingersoll, "We need the religion of the real, the faith that rests on fact." The cost of faith in God's omniscience is the abdication of one's own ability to reason and to know.
The believer has no real control over his life, since everything he does is governed by what he is taught is "God's will." He has no answer for what happens to him except that "it must be part of the Divine Plan." The only goal of his life is to reach the end of it as well as he can and hope for his reward in heaven. He has no real knowledge that this reward exists, only his blind faith in religion's promise. He drags through existence with the hope that someone else has the ability to know, and the fear that they may NOT know or that he may not measure up in the end.
The automonous individual, on the other hand, knows that he himself has control over his own life. He has ascertained the facts of reality by the use of his ability to reason and arranged his life to be in accord with them. He seeks the explanations for everything that happens to him in the knowledge of cause and effect. The goal of his life is his own happiness here on earth, and he does not look for or expect unearned rewards. This individual has the self-taught knowledge that rewards do indeed exist and that they are obtained by his own efforts. His life is LIVED in the knowledge of his mortality, without fear, and with the confidence that he has the ability to be happy while he lives. It is of no importance to him whether God exists or not, HE exists, and it is important to him to be happy while he exists.
The cost of hoping in the promise of heaven's rewards is the sacrifice of confidence in one's own ability to live a happy life on earth.
What about the explanations for those things we can't explain? The believer has no quandary in this regard, to him, the mystery of God explains everything. He has no need to ask why, he only needs to accept what he does not understand as part of the mystery. He is told that there are some things he is not supposed to understand.
A rational man knows that there are some things he does not yet have an answer for, but he also knows that he is capable of seeking an answer. His mind is the tool he finds joy in using to solve the mysteries of the universe he lives in. He is not willing to accept a lack of understanding as a final judgment on his ability to understand.
His own worth as a human being is the biggest reason a rational man finds for NOT believing in God. A being who has discovered the glory of his own nature cannot regard himself as a chunk of depravity whose duty is self-abasing obedience to supernatural commandments.
Once more, Robert Ingersoll expressed the attitude of the man of reason very well: "Astrology was displaced by astromony. Alchemy and black art gave way to chemistry. Science is destined to take the place of religion. In my judgement, the religion of the future will be reason."
God as Big Daddy
"God" is not a concept. At best, one could say it is a concept in the sense in which a dramatist uses concepts to create a character. It is an abstract of actual characteristics of man combined with the projection of impossible, irrational characteristics which do not arise from reality - such as omnipotence and omniscience.
God: Somewhere, in an inaccessible place, there is an old man in a nightshirt who knows everything and is all powerful and created everything and rewards and punishes... and can be bribed.
This is only a malignant practical joker with the morals of a terrorist.
Aren't malaria, cholera, syphilis, yellow fever, and bubonic plague merely the punishments that this infinitely wise, compassionate, and forgiving Father created to inflict upon His children? The victims that He hounds the most gleefully are always the poor, the hungry, the defenseless. What kind of a fiend would we brand any human father who treated his children like that?
The Sun is in a backwater arm of an absolutely humdrum galaxy. Why should I- Am-That-I-Am hang out around here? There must be more pressing things for him to do. All this intervention speaks of incompetence. If God was clever enough to create the Universe, why wasn't He clever enough to create it in such a way that life could evolve naturally without miraculously improbable events? Those who claim that the evolution of life is prohibitively improbable without Divine intervention are saying in effect that God was a bungler who couldn't get it right the first time (and who, after ten billion years of tinkering, STILL hasn't got it right!). If God didn't want Lot's wife to look back, why didn't he make her obedient, so she'd do what her husband told her? Or if he hadn't made Lot such a shithead, maybe she would've listened to him more. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn't he start the universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants? Why's he constantly tinkering, repairing and complaining? No, there's one thing the Bible makes clear: God is a sloppy mentufacturer. He's not good at design and he's not good at implementation. He'd be out of business, if there were any competition.
Religion and Insanity
Apparently many schizophrenics are drawn to charismatic/fundamentalist Christian sects wherein "hearing voices" is normal and accepted. People with mental illness are often treated with generosity and kindness in Fundamentalist churches. This is worth remembering when news articles appear, as they frequently do, describing how some religious fanatic just committed a social atrocity on the advice of "God" or "Jesus," because usually the mental illness preceded the religion. Of course the influence of exploitative preachers and/or fasting and many of the other trappings of fundamentalist Christianity, would aggravate pre-existing illness.
The great trouble with religion - ANY religion - is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge the consequences of those propositions by evidence. Thus he can easily come to commit the most heinous atrocities in good conscience.
THE WAR-PRAYER by Mark Twain:
O Lord, our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;... help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; ... help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst; ... We ask it, in the spirit of love.
Beyond the region of the Probable is the Possible, and beyond the Possible is the Impossible and beyond the Impossible are the religions of this world. The mystical ideas in which they trust are fictions, barren in their yield of results, powerless in prediction, and devoid of useful application. In a word, they are worthless.
Maybe I cannot see the naked Face of God - but my eyesight is good enough to detect fradulent baloney.
In conclusion I can only say this: I hope, for His sake, that God does not exist. Because if He does, He has one hell of a lot to answer for!
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