Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World

Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World
Red Roses for You, My Sweet Friends ... Total Love.

My Sweet Friends

My sweet friends,

We grow closer to each other;

When we interact together and share ideas;

The common faith that we share,

Binds our hearts in one accord.

For sweet friendships last a life time,

When built on mutual respect, humility and understanding;

Throughout each different season,

We find we are one in life.

Sweet friends are there through times of grief;

And times when hope is gone;

Always there with encouragement;

So we can carry on.

I thank the Lord for you,

My true and faithful friends;

To fondly speak with you, whether we agree or not,

On this, our beloved blog;

For sweet friends will stay, no matter what;

Giving support.

Together, our hearts and minds truly unite;

With the amazing love of sweet friends.

In the spirit of true friendship,

Best wishes, my sweet friends;

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

I remain, yours truly,

B.B. Bakampa.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is The Existence Of God A Reality Or Fiction?

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
bsaint3@gmail.com


Introduction

The existence of God is undoubtedly the most controversial topic ever in philosophy. Nobody on planet earth has ever successfully convinced all people, beyond reasonable doubt, that there exists such a supernatural being––not even Jesus, who claimed to be His son.

There are three dominant schools of thought in this field: atheism, theism and deism.
The advocates of atheism (atheists) believe that there is no God.
Those of theism (theists) believe in the existence of one God, creator and ruler of the universe.
The deists (supporters of deism), simply believe in the existence of a “Divine Being”.

Now, you realize that theists and deists have something in common i.e. the belief in a supernatural being. Nevertheless, one thing distinguishes these two schools of thought. Whereas the deists do not accept revelation, the theists do accept it. Revelation refers to religious dogma. Dogma itself is a belief or system of beliefs put forward by some authority (especially the Church) to be accepted as true without question. Whereas the theists believe that there are some truths which man knows only directly from God, operating through earthly emissaries, deists believe that there is a Divine Being reigning over the world but without directing human activities, as man was fully equipped with all that was necessary for the management of his affairs.

Many people paid dearly with their lives for opposing the official Church position; prominent among whom was Galileo, who opposed the Pope. Unlike the Pope who said that it is the sun which rotates around the earth, Galileo argued that it was the earth which rotated around the sun. For this, he was killed and denied an honourable burial until five hundred years later when it emerged that he was right and duly accorded a state burial.

Personally, I have always wondered and asked myself whether God really exists. Other than speculation, I have neither come up with concrete answers of my own nor received any from whoever I engaged in this kind of debate. In fact, most people I ask instead express total disinterestedness; considering it to be something overly beyond human understanding.

Having found some free time, I decided to look up and study some available literature on this subject––and I did find quite a great deal of it. But bearing in mind the Philosopher’s wise counsel in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes 1:18 that, “The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts” and further in chapter 12:12 that, “My son, there is something else to watch out for. There is no end to the writing of books, and too much study will wear you out,” I only concentrated on reading what I considered to be the leading published opinions. Therefore, I dedicated my time and energy to Saint Thomas Aquinas’ essay, The Existence of God and Emma Goldman’s The Philosophy of Atheism.

The philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

This famous historical figure, who lived from 1225-1274, is hailed as one of the intellectual pillars of the Catholic Church, having attempted to reconcile the spiritual and other worldly aspects of Catholic thinking with the more secular of the great pre-Christian philosopher, Aristotle. In, The Existence of God, He presents an attractive argument on this controversial issue stating that God’s existence can be proved in five ways:-

That the first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. He rightly notes that, “It is certain and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion” and reasons that whatever moves is moved by another towards itself. He fortifies his argument by submitting that it is impossible for a thing to be both mover and moved. Aquinas says that there is a sequence of things that move one another although this isn’t infinite, “because then there would be no first mover,” with the result that “it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other” whom, in his opinion, everyone understands to be God.

I understand St. Thomas’s theory as in the following illustration:
Assuming that there are two objects (or things), A and Z, where A is the ‘moved’ and Z is the ‘mover’. Z moves or pulls A towards itself (Z) such that Z represents God and A represents any other thing say, mankind. The sequence of things moving one another, as envisaged here, would arise if there existed other objects say, B to Y, successively moving or pulling one another, in a chain-like form, towards the supreme mover, Z.

That the second way is from the nature of efficient cause for which he argues that “In the world of sensible things we find there is an order of efficient causes” and submits that there is neither any case known, nor is there any possibility of it happening, in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself. In his reasoning, if this were to happen, then it would mean that that thing existed before itself “which is impossible.” Again he says that, “in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only.”

This means that the intermediate and ultimate causes are the effects of the first cause and in his judgment, “To take away the cause is to take away the effect” with the result that “if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate, cause.” The man of God states that had it been possible to go on to infinity in efficient causes, there would be no first causes among them, no ultimate effects and certainly no intermediate causes, “all of which is plainly false.” In his view therefore, “it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.”

Drawing from the above illustration, in this case Z is the first efficient cause which is responsible for the actions or behaviour of all the other objects in the chain. The terms “intermediate” and “ultimate” denote the sequence through which the rest drift or move to Z. It is kind of a magnetic force that attracts all other objects (A-Y) towards Z, such that this force is the cause while the drifting is its effect. In other words, St. Thomas is saying that it is God who causes all things in this world to behave and act the way they do.

The third way concerns possibility and necessity. St. Thomas submits that, “We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to be corrupted, and consequently, it is possible for them to be and not to be.” He however notes that, “it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which cannot be at some time is not” and that, “Therefore, if everything cannot be, then at one time there was nothing in existence” which if it were true, “even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist begins to exist only through something already existing.”

He reasons that, “if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence––which is absurd” and further that, “Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary” averring that, “every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not.” As before, he says that, “it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has already been proved in regard to efficient causes” and concludes thus, “Therefore, we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.”

My understanding of this not-so-easy, argument is that all things are rendered possible or impossible, by the power of a certain being that precedes everything else, which Thomas calls God. He submits that the existence of this being is “necessary” before everything else is possible. From our example above, Z would be this “necessary being” which causes the other beings to, for instance, move from one place to another.

The fourth way is found in the gradation of things. St. Thomas Aquinas believes that it isn’t by accident that things in this world aren’t the same or equal; rather it is by the design of a “maximum” or “most being.” He says that, “Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble, and the like” but that “…more and less are predicted of different things according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest.”

It is this thing at the maximum or topmost of everything else which he calls “most being” among them. By way of illustration, he says that, “…the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus, as fire, which is the maximum of heat, is the cause of all hot things….” He drives his point home, somewhat speculatively, saying that, “Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.”

So if Z is the maximum letter on the Greek alphabet, then it would be God of the other letters, where it has power to determine their destiny.

“The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world,” he says. In a brief discussion, he states that, “We see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result” such that they achieve their purpose or end, not by chance but by design. In his wisdom, “…whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is directed by the archer.” Therefore, it is his considered opinion that, “some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”

Here, I take it that Aquinas was referring to all other things other than mankind because of his reference to “things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies”. Remember also that in the second test (the nature of efficient cause), he referred to “the world of sensible things” which I surmise was used in reference to human beings.

As I said earlier, this sage puts up a very attractive argument that is as good as it is eloquent. I commend St. Thomas Aquinas for making a good attempt at scientifically proving the existence of God. But like any other theory, St. Thomas Aquinas’ theory is also amenable to criticism for it doesn’t explain some issues as highlighted below;

1. How and why it becomes necessary to arrive at God as the first mover of everything.
When he talks of something that moves other things towards it, in the belief that it is none other than God, St. Thomas doesn’t reconcile his argument with the effect of gravity which also moves objects towards the surface of the earth. Should we therefore take it that this force is God, dwelling on earth? May be not, because the Bible tells us that upon resurrection, Jesus ascended (not descended) to heaven to sit on the right hand side of His father, God. Refer to, Mark 16: 19; Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9. I say this in the belief that God moved His son towards Himself.

2. How and why he admits that God is the first efficient cause is also unclear.
When he says that, “There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible,” one cannot help but wonder whether God is His own efficient cause.

3. How and where God gets his necessity.
It is unfathomable how God gets His own necessity without having to receive it from anywhere else.

4. Where does God originate from to become the cause of all beings.
To inquisitive minds, the question regarding the origin of God subsists because it is difficult to imagine that He comes out of nothing. In any case, what assurance is there that it is really God, not some other being, that does all this?

5. Lastly but not least, God’s source of knowledge and intelligence remains an unresolved mystery.

Being a smart fellow, St. Thomas concludes his well presented arguments with simple general statements that are hardly supported by cogent evidence. He exploits the “infinity” doctrine to his advantage by demonstrating that it is utterly futile for finite human intelligence to get beyond the all-powerful infinite will of God. By so doing, he gets himself off the hook and overcomes the burden of proving to his audience that God truly exists.

I also take note of the special style in which he summarizes his submissions; suggesting that “everyone”, “all men” and “we” recognize the existence of God, which definitely isn’t true. But this is no surprise because it is characteristic of most religious authors to present their literature dogmatically. Certainly there are atheists who don’t believe God exists.

The philosophy of Emma Goldman

In contrast to St. Thomas, Emma Goldman totally rubbishes any talk of the existence of God. In his essay, The Philosophy of Atheism, he calls theism “the theory of speculation” that is being replaced by atheism, which he calls “the science of demonstration”; the former hanging “in the metaphysical clouds of the Beyond” while the latter “has its roots firmly in the soil.” Emma reduces God to a mere idea, whose conception “originated in fear and curiosity” of primitive man, unable to understand the phenomena of nature and harassed by them. This essay was first published in February 1916, in the Mother Earth journal.

In a fascinating speech, he says “in passing, that the concept God, Supernatural Power, Spirit, Deity, or in whatever other term the essence of Theism may have found expression, has become more indefinite and obscure in the course of time and progress. In other words, the God idea is growing more impersonal and nebulous in proportion as the human mind is learning to understand natural phenomena and in the degree that science progressively correlates human and social events.” Emma believes that it is human knowledge, not God as alleged by theists, that moderates worldly events.

In protest, he says that, “God, today, no longer represents the same forces as in the beginning of His existence; neither does He direct human destiny with the same Iron hand as of yore. Rather does the God idea express a sort of spiritualistic stimulus to satisfy the fads and fancies of every shade of human weakness. In the course of human development the God idea has been forced to adapt itself to every phase of human affairs, which is perfectly consistent with the origin of the idea itself.”

Quoting at length his fellow atheist, Michael Bakunin in his work, God and the State, Goldman scorns “the idea of God” thus:
“All religions, with their gods, their demi-gods, and their prophets, their messiahs and their saints, were created by the prejudiced fancy of men who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties. Consequently, the religious heaven is nothing but the mirage in which man, exalted by ignorance and faith, discovered his own image, but enlarged and reversed – that is divinised. The history of religions, of the birth, grandeur, and the decline of the gods who had succeeded one another in human belief, is nothing, therefore, but the development of the collective intelligence and conscience of mankind. As fast as they discovered, in the course of their historically progressive advance, either in themselves or in external nature, a quality, or even any great defect whatever, they attributed it to their gods, after having exaggerated and enlarged it beyond measure, after the manner of children, by an act of their religious fancy. . . . With all due respect, then, to the metaphysicians and religious idealists, philosophers, politicians or poets: the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, both in theory and practice."

He says that the God idea “has dominated humanity and will continue to do so until man will raise his head to the sunlit day, unafraid and with an awakened will to himself.” He criticizes religion for “befogging the human mind and stifling the human heart” through reliance on rewards and punishments as its trademark and predicts its fall since “the masses are becoming engrossed in the problems of their immediate existence” choosing to leave “the hundred and one brands of God” and His “heavenly domain to the angels and sparrows.”

As if this isn’t enough, he calls religion “the most corrupt and pernicious, the most powerful and lucrative industry in the world”; only comparable to that “of manufacturing guns and munitions”; which survives on “the crudest and vulgarest methods” finding “approval and support from the earthly powers; from the Russian despot to the American President; from Rockefeller and Wanamaker down to the pettiest business man” all of whom he refers to as “subdued, tamed, and dull masses” after being lashed “into obedience, meekness and contentment” with a whip.

In his opinion, the world’s trenches and battlefields demonstrate the bankruptcy of religion and he questions the gospel that God is “love and goodness” stating that, “Yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race. Confucius cares not for the poverty, squalor and misery of people of China. Buddha remains undisturbed in his philosophical indifference to the famine and starvation of outraged Hindoos; Jahve continues deaf to the bitter cry of Israel; while Jesus refuses to rise from the dead against his Christians who are butchering each other.”

Emma Goldman also doubts the assertion that God stands for justice and mercy yet the reverse is ever on the increase among men. Embittered by the indifference of the gods, he asks, “But where are the gods to make an end to all these horrors, these wrongs, this inhumanity to man?” Without anybody answering him, he declares that only mankind can save himself. “No, not the gods, but MAN must rise in his mighty wrath. He, deceived by all the deities, betrayed by their emissaries, he, himself, must undertake to usher in justice upon the earth,” he says.

While accusing theism of being “static and fixed” he praises atheism as being an expression of the “expansion and growth of the human mind.” That “Even the mere attempt to pierce these mysteries represents, from the theistic point of view, non-belief in the all-embracing omnipotence, and even a denial of the wisdom of the divine powers outside of man.” Does this ring a bell? Yes, it should, especially for Islam. Most followers of that religion say that whoever doesn’t believe in Allah is an “infidel”.

“Fortunately, however,” says Goldman, “the human mind never was, and never can be, bound by fixities. Hence it is forging ahead in its restless march towards knowledge and life. The human mind is realizing "that the universe is not the result of a creative fiat by some divine intelligence, out of nothing, producing a masterpiece chaotic in perfect operation," but that it is the product of chaotic forces operating through aeons of time, of clashes and cataclysms, of repulsion and attraction crystallizing through the principle of selection into what the theists call, "the universe guided into order and beauty."”

That “The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.”

He castigates the fact that this world has “been so long under the influence of metaphysical speculation, rather than of physical demonstrable forces” resulting into its serving “no other purpose than as a temporary station to test man's capacity for immolation to the will of God.” That “Under the terrific weight of this omnipotence, man has been bowed into the dust––a will-less creature, broken and sweating in the dark.” As if to give relief his readers, he says that the triumph of atheism “is to free man from the nightmare of gods; it means the dissolution of the phantoms of the beyond” and blames “poverty, misery and fear” for recreating these nightmares.

According to him, the aim of atheism “…is the emancipation of the human race from all God-heads, be they Judaic, Christian, Mohammedan, Buddhistic, Brahministic, or what not.” He asserts that, “It is the absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralyzing effect upon thought and action, which Atheism is fighting with all its power” because “in its philosophic aspect [atheism] refuses allegiance not merely to a definite concept of God, but it refuses all servitude to the God idea, and opposes the theistic principle as such.”

The Daniel in him declares that “Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man's lot since gods began. There is but one way out of this blunder: Man must break his fetters which have chained him to the gates of heaven and hell, so that he can begin to fashion out of his reawakened and illumined consciousness a new world upon earth.

Only after the triumph of the Atheistic philosophy in the minds and hearts of man will freedom and beauty be realized. Beauty as a gift from heaven has proved useless. It will, however, become the essence and impetus of life when man learns to see in the earth the only heaven fit for man. Atheism is already helping to free man from his dependence upon punishment and reward as the heavenly bargain-counter for the poor in spirit.”

That although all theists insist “that there can be no morality, no justice, honesty or fidelity without the belief in a Divine Power”, it is nearly always the godless ones “who have been their brave exponents and daring proclaimers” having “lived, fought, and died for them.” “They knew that justice, truth, and fidelity are not, conditioned in heaven, but that they are related to and interwoven with the tremendous changes going on in the social and material life of the human race; not fixed and eternal, but fluctuating, even as life itself,” he avers.

In conclusion, Emma Goldman, states confidently that, “Atheism in its negation of gods is at the same time the strongest affirmation of man, and through man, the eternal yea to life, purpose, and beauty.”

Believe it or not, Emma Goldman, puts up a brave argument. I am sure very few people would dare say or write this much. His opinion on this rather ‘dreaded’ and ‘shunned’ subject is as impressive as it is eloquent.

Having said this, I must state that, for all its eloquence, impressiveness and brevity, this theory like all others before it, is also marred with loopholes. In his adoration of man’s ability, Goldman does not tell us his origin; just like Darwin doesn’t tell us the origin of the ape and the atom before they transformed into a person. Whereas he may be excused for not telling us God’s origin, whose existence he unshakably disputes in the first place and considers “not within the scope of” his paper, he ought to tell us the origin or historical changes of mankind, if not from God, as alleged by theists.

Most, if not all, of what he does is express the need for man to “get back to himself” and protest “his dependence upon God.” But this isn’t enough because the point of concern here is the existence or none of it, of the supernatural being today widely known as “God”. Emma Goldman’s virulent anger with the supernatural is, however, understandable. He asks, “Have not all theists painted their Deity as the god of love and goodness?” and charges that, “Yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race.” Indeed very terrible things have happened and continue unabated in this world under the close watch of the Deity so that one wonders where His alleged love, mercy, justice, comfort, goodness and so on are.

Take for example, the recent deadly monsoon floods of Pakistan that killed one thousand one hundred and one people and leaving one million others homeless; Uganda’s Joseph Kibwetere who, in 1999, locked up and burnt one thousand people in Kanungu District, promising to take them to heaven at the clock of the year 2000; what about the suicide bombers who murder very innocent people (both young and old), why doesn’t He liberate us from them by taking them away? The list is endless. Is this the widely preached love and mercy? I don’t think so. Where is religion in all these misfortunes which, Karl Heinrich Marx, believed “is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.” (See his, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right).

My philosophy

The Bible, in Matthew 16:13-20, reports an account of Jesus’ journey to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, together with his apostles, when he asked them, who people said he was, to which they answered several names. Then he asked, “What about you? Who do you say I am?” to which Simon Peter gave his opinion. Now suppose a question of the like, but related to the topic under discussion here, were put to me, the following would be my response.

I believe there is a supernatural being that controls and is responsible for whatever happens on earth. The name could be debatable but certainly not its existence. It could be “God”, “Divine Being”, “Almighty”, “Most High” or St. Thomas Aquinas’ “first cause”, “first mover”; or even Emma’s “Great Beyond.” Anything. Look no further than the physical environment around us and you will understand what I am saying. First of all, take a critical look at say, the rivers, mountains, plants, animals, people and so on. Then consider their behaviour and relationship with one another. I tell you, it’s all too wonderful to be “the product of chaotic forces operating through aeons of time” as advanced by Emma Goldman. A good observer gets the impression that it’s the product of the careful design of, in Goldman’s words, “a creative fiat by some divine intelligence,” guiding everything “into order and beauty.” Consider, for example, the great river Nile; ever since its discovery, it’s known to flow northwards to Egypt and never vice versa. Or take man, for another example. We all know that it’s our destiny to die sometime; but who knows when? NOBODY! There must be someone out there, determining our fate, just like we determine that of so many other animals and fowls we rear in our homes without their knowledge and consent.