“O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying.
I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on,
than be a king over all the perished dead.”
- —Achilles’ soul to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey
It is common for Atheist to deny the existence of God asking such questions as:Why God would allow catastrophes to happen, like earthquakes, volcanoes, or evil to be committed, specially on Innocent children, or permit the existence of criminals like Hitler, or Stalin, and exterminate people by the millions, like the Holocaust?
It is a fair question, but in my opinion, not a very good one when we believe in Free Will, the question become redundant, Free Will permit individuals to do as they please, may this be Moral or Immoral that is a different question altogether! As death for catastrophe, does it really matter how, or when you will die since death is unavoidable?A better question in my opinion would be:Why God would give us the Gift of Existence, just to take it away after?
Wouldn’t this be the essential question, and the proof of God being Monstrous?
But since an Atheist do not believe in the Existence of God, the question is rhetorical, our Existence would not depend on God and therefore as Humans we bear on our own shoulders the burden of responsibility for our actions, therefore we couldn’t blame God for our own actions, or our eventual demise, could we?
Jean-Paul Sartre main idea is that we are, as humans, “condemned to be free.” This theory relies upon his belief that there is no creator, and is formed using the example of the paper knife. Sartre says that if one considered a paper knife, one would assume that the creator would have had a plan for it: an essence. Sartre said that human beings have no essence before their existence because there is no Creator. Thus: “existence precedes essence”. This forms the basis for his assertion that since one cannot explain their own actions and behavior by referencing any specific human nature, they are necessarily fully responsible for those actions. “We are left alone, without excuse”. I respect Sartre and agree with personal responsibility for our actions, but excuse me, the paper knife has a creator, and a plan! And further more try to find an analogy that fit his existence precedes essence!
Only in the premise of God Existence we could blame God of anything we want, but of course this question, it is very old, and it has been answered by Religions through Genesis, Qur’an, and different Religious books pertaining to particular Religions, and Beliefs.
This Religions provide Men with an answer to complicated Ontological, Theological, and Metaphysical issues, that include an Eschatology.(A belief or a doctrine concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment. This of course vary according to a particular Religion)
In the other hand Atheist lack any reason for Existence whatsoever since the existence of Men it is just a product of casualty, same as the Universe we live in, with no particular future design, a happenstance, the mere product of chance, with no meaning period, this of course throws overboard any notion of Morality, good or evil, turn to be just a mere subjective perception, granted, based on life lessons, and Empirical experience, but nevertheless with no ultimate meaning, if this sounds bad enough, add to that the inevitable death, and with it not a whiff of a promise of a future life, then we got nothing! Nonexistence period!
No wonder a lot of Atheist seem to be rabid, or at least in a mean mood at the slight mention of God, and death! This of course defending their truth. This so called truth, will not provide a consolation, not even a Pyrrhic triumph of right thinking Vs the wrongheadedness of those Theists, after all, once death how would you know you were right? In fact if there is any consciousness after death, that only would demonstrate you were wrong all along!
To an Atheist to be right posthumously is not even an unhappy prospect, but no prospect at all! It is a sad state of affairs being an Atheist, of course some Atheist in the Renaissance and during the Enlightenment were great Humanist, unlike those bloody Theist, I am afraid a virtue not shared by fellows Atheists Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, Mao Tse Dong, Pol Pot etc. However it is just to point out a believer should have moral reasons not to do evil, even if some do not follow their Religion well, and do wrong, on the other hand there is nice and Moral Atheist, who do not commit mayhem, and crime just because they can, even if there is no belief that oblige them, unlike their fellow Twenty Century Atheist mass murders. Now I do not want to throw decent law abiding Atheist with the likes of Hitler, or Stalin, but why so many of them figure Religion is evil and should be abolished because some misguided Religious individuals misused Religion as well? Should we abolish Free Thinking because the likes of Stalin and Mao? Belief or unbelief never has being a proof of Moral behavior, regardless, live, and let live!
Milan Kundera the great Czech novelist and essayist, and possibly an Atheist, speaking of Husserl wondering if European civilization would be able to survive at all wrote: (European Civilization understood as Western Thought in general)
“The roots of the crisis lay for him at the beginning of the Modern Era, in Galileo and Descartes, in the one sided nature of the European Sciences, which reduced the world to a mere object of technical and mechanical investigation and put the concrete world of life, die Lebenswelt as he called it, beyond their horizon.
The rise of the sciences propelled man into the tunnels of the specialized disciplines. The more he advanced in knowledge, the less clearly could he see either the world as a whole or his own self, and he plunged further into what Husserl’s pupil Heidegger called in a beautiful and almost a magical phrase “The forgetting of being”
Once elevated by Descartes to “Master and proprietor of nature” man has become a mere thing to the forces (of technology, of politics, of history) that bypass him, surpass him, posses him, To those forces, man’s concrete being, his “world of life” (die Lebenswelt), has no value nor interest: it is eclipsed, forgotten from the start.”
The Necessary Being: Suppose a causal chain of infinite contingent beings. If one asks the question, “Why are there any contingent beings at all?”, it won’t help to be told that “There are contingent beings because other contingent beings caused them.” For that answer presupposes that there are contingent beings. But that is exactly what we wanted an explanation of (we wanted an explanation of why there are contingent beings). Any adequate explanation of why there are some contingent beings will have to invoke a different sort of being —an uncaused, necessary being. In response one can say that each individual being is caused but if we suppose the infinite chain as a whole it may be uncaused. i.e. it may be an uncaused being as a whole. In this case so far as we have gone through the chain, it is caused; The undiscovered remaining chain as a whole would be uncaused, the Necessary Being. (Check my post: Eternal or Cyclical Time Vs The Big Bang and Linear Time)
The need to Know, and the desire for Meaning it is a given in Men, Atheism is a brake for this natural tendency in men, since with a single stroke mutilate the realm of possibilities latent in Men and a future Existence, accepting the end by itself of a simple act like eating, not to talk about the whole of life, with no further design that the pleasure it bring us, it is a Hedonistic position, a reductionist view of Existence that renders life, and the Universe meaningless! We want to know the why, and what for? So we are not easily satisfied with and end of itself idea. After all as much we enjoy food as a pleasure, there is also many other functions food provides, like nutrition, health, sustain life, etc. Schools of Hedonist with their many variants, had existed through the ages, and once in a while they sprout here, and there, but the nature of their short time goals, based in their Atheistic views gives them also a short life span. In my view they die for lack of Transcendental views, a serious lack of curiosity, and above all Imagination!
The Atheist it is a tragic hero figure in the classic Greek style, he stands alone, burdening his shoulders with the responsibility of living a life he didn’t choose, devoid of any other consolation himself can’t produce, therefore he should love life and attach himself to it with tooth, and nail, because once existence is over, it is over for good. Of course the opposite is true too, he can hate it and reap vengeance on his fellow creatures, with no moral qualms whatsoever, evil it is not the sole province of the Theist. At least the Greek heroes had Hades, not much according to them it is true, but even that is something versus Nonexistence…
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary Atheism is defined as unbelief, but also as ungodliness, wickedness, and to top it all a doctrine…In all true it has been noticed by some that Atheism for many can become of just another belief as a substitute for Religion, a doctrine that went in fashion with the rise of Modernity, unfortunately like Modernity a creature of it’s times, it has become old news in this Post-Modern age were discourse it is no proof of anything because the limitations of Language to convey Truth, words being a hard thing to define, so Atheist has become just another doctrine like the exclusively male Clubs that were populated by white, misogynist, humorless, and easily irritated, know it all elderly gentlemen, well those clubs are gone and nobody seem to care!
Enough of diddling around in the Western intellectual way, let’s go to the heart of the matter!
My late Aikido Sensei, and Zen priest Kensho Furuya who loathed explanations, used to complaint:
“How does it works, explain me that?” As to the the question of his Western neophyte students.
“It is not even a good question!” He exclaimed.
“What about how does it feel?”
“You don’t ask, you do it, let your body not your mind find the answer!”
“Please when you come to the Dojo, seat, put your head on the tatami, and in this way we can begin our practice!”
“No questions, do not speak, do not think, you watch my initial demonstration, you do!”
Well, my Sensei wasn’t a post-Modernist, who had found out Language it is not a reliable tool to convey Truth, but like a good Traditional Zen practitioner since Bodhidharma, knew there is no point in talking, and that large winded explanations are useless, and not a substitute for EXPERIENCE.
In our Western Scholastic tradition we have worked mind and intellect in to a high degree of sophistication, and have achieved great things, however it also has lead us stray in to a point were common sense it is no longer so common. Trying to debate the existence of God, based in an intellectual idea of God as a separate entity outside of us who may, or not exist it is one example of how deep we have walked in such nonsense!
To the modern man, and here I include many believers, and as well as unbelievers, God has become not an experience a human being can live in his Being, experiencing with his body and soul, to the point it is not a matter of belief, versus unbelief based on so named reason, a word construct of his mind, the chatter box of his head, the representation of God as the other, usually a white old man, all this, it is easy to take as nonsense, but to render God to a simple idea in our heads, such subjective conception it is naive, to dismiss God in such base speaks of a reductionist, limited point of view, sort like the egg of Columbus all over again, it shouldn’t be possible because we can’t imagine it!
God is a Verb not a subjective idea, it require from us action, unfortunately most old established Religions had become institutions, fossilized, a mere ritual with no meaning, rather than a Living Thing, I will suggest for those skeptics, do not expect God coming to you and tell you: Here I am! To God you seek, get off your comfortable self and go look for it! Do not debate about it, “Oh my, who is right, should I believe, or not?” Go find by yourself if He is God or not! After all Moses didn’t have a need of battling Pharaoh, or climb Mount Sinai, searching for God, he was a prince in the land of Egypt, the favorite of Pharaoh, he could easily remain at the palace in a lazy divan eating dates until doomsday, Siddhartha Gautama also a prince could have done the same, and forget about Enlightenment and becoming a Buddha, and a Bodhisattva!
Do whatever, go help the poor, but by this I mean do not write a check, and put it on the mail, get up! Go and hold with your own arms somebody who is about to die, and bring consolation to him, feed the hungry with your hands, build a house for the homeless, etc. You got the idea, do something! That involves physical, and above all emotional effort to help the needy, the desperate, if this is not enough to find Him, become a Charismatic, or a Pentecostal, and if that even fails, go to Africa and participate in an Iboga Ceremony, or to the Amazon basin, and have a shot of Ayahuasca!
Fortunately, unlike the old sailor Columbus, Mystics of all ages don’t need the intellectual, or the economic approval of his contemporaries, neither they are in need of a passport to sail in to the Ocean of Self-Discovery, since the only requirements are a Will, and a Heart.
More often than not, Fate may deal us bad cards, life can be capricious, we may not find shelter against Nature, or Human cruelty, or it’s indifference, we may feel there is no God’s Mercy, or logic to our Human condition. But there is kindness, and goodness in us, life may seem like a random happenstance, but we can overcome Nature, and misfortune. When we have a need to be close to somebody, or someone may need us, we can look in to each other eyes, and bridge that distance, and find consolation to our sorrows. Sometimes when for a moment the deep darkness that surround us remain silent, we can like God extend an arm and with a finger create something wonderful, a melody, a poem, a painting, a concrete thing like a building, or a an act of kindness, that would outlive us, and surpass our finite existence, and will delight future generations with it’s beauty, or wisdom, that would defy adversity, if for a time. We can live with God in our Hearts, and when full of Him, He may look through our eyes, and speak with our lips, and address those who do not know Him, or refuse to meet Him. We can’t subtract our hearts to life, but we can fill and educate our hearts with goodness, and kindness, so it can rise above randomness, and misfortune, and face without breaking the most painful calamities, as One with God.