GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob,
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
– Pascal’s Memorial (1654)
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists,
not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”
– Albert Einstein
Man, though perhaps not necessarily a logical being, is an ideological being. This need for some form of ideology is based not only on the need to make sense of the universe but also to provide a system by which to order one’s life. In other words, a man’s ideology is his way of relating to the world.
Religion, which is a form of ideology that is based on a belief in a supernatural power or powers, is a particularly potent form of ideology because it satisfies the need for meaning and structure by providing answers to the Big Questions in a way that no other ideological system has been able to. First, it provides an answer to the cosmological question, namely, where did the universe come from and where did we come from? Second, it provides an answer to the ethical question, how should we behave? Third, it provides an answer to profound existential questions such as what’s it all about and why does anything matter if in the end nobody can escape death and oblivion? Finally, religion provides an explanation for the mysterium tremendum, that inexpressible feeling of wonder at life and nature. In short, religion satisfies an intellectual as well as an emotional need while appearing to lift man above the mundaneness (and occasional madness) of human existence.
Though there are several major religious ideologies, here we shall be dealing with Christianity. Though it is one of the most popular religious ideologies, having shaped the worldview of unknown millions down through the centuries, it is my argument that there is a fundamental flaw at the heart of this ideology. While Christianity professes belief in the existence of one god, the careful observer will find that Christianity actually presents us with three gods: the Tribal God, the Cerebral God, and the Absentee Landlord God. It is my argument that each of these three gods corresponds with a different stage in the development of human consciousness or awareness, with each stage representing a different conception of deity and the nature of the world. As a result, these three gods are ultimately irreconcilable, forming what I call an Irreconcilable Trinity.
What are the potential implications of the Three Gods critique to the Christian ideology? If the adequacy of an ideology is to be judged by its ability to provide a philosophy and way of life that is consistent with logic and the known facts, then based on critiques such as the Three Gods, Christianity must be judged an inadequate ideology. Furthermore, thanks to the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, the human race is now treading paths it has never trod before, which is all the more reason for an ideology that can face up to the new opportunities and challenges rather than one that would have us put our trust in ancient texts as infallible guides. This would have to be an ideology that respects knowledge and the search for truth rather than one that tends to belittle human reason, or worse, see it as a sign of hubris, which, if the ancient legends are to be trusted, is an unpardonable sin to the gods.
I recall reading somewhere that when a man tears down a signpost, even one wrongly placed, he assumes a great responsibility. If it is true that man cannot live in an ideological vacuum, then finding a new ideology that can take the place of the old, discredited one must be one of the most important tasks lying before us in this new millennium.
In The Beginning: The Tribal God
Based on biblical accounts, it is possible to trace three distinct movements into Canaan which form the beginning of the history of the Jewish people. The first of these, about the middle of the 18th century BCE, was led by Abraham and originated from the city of Ur, at the time probably the largest city in the world. This movement finally settled in the neighborhood of Hebron. The second movement, somewhat later, consisted of nomadic, or semi-nomadic Aramaeans, under the leadership of Jacob, also called Israel, the eponymous ancestor of the Israelites. This branch ultimately settled around Shechem. A third wave, consisting partly of tribes who had fled from Egypt after a long period of settlement there entered Canaan from the south east towards the end of the 13th century BCE.
The stories of the Old Testament seem to borrow heavily from the myths of the surrounding cultures in Canaan. The story of the Great Flood is very similar to the event related in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The handing down of the laws to Moses on tablets of stone is reminiscent of the handing down of the laws to the Babylonian king Hammurabi by the sun-god Shamash. The ancient obsession with death (the Egypt of the Pharaohs with its great pyramids was arguably nothing more than an extravagant death cult) also seems to be a central part of the creation myth of Adam and Eve. More often than not in the ancient myths, man is denied the gift of immortality due to the jealousy of one or the other of the gods. In the creation myth in the Book of Genesis Adam and Eve are banished from Paradise lest they should eat of the tree of life and become immortal like the gods (Genesis 3:22-24).
The god of the Jews, Yahweh, is himself no different from the gods of the surrounding peoples. Like the other gods he probably began his career as a weather or mountain god, a personification of the fearful and uncontrollable forces of nature, and his main concern is the welfare of his people. In return his people have to obey him and appease him with sacrifices (this might include the occasional human sacrifice: Judges 11:28-40).
The concept of the tribal god conveniently brings us to what theologians refer to as the “scandal of particularity.” This is the very pertinent question of why the One True God chose to reveal himself to an obscure people in an obscure corner of the Mediterranean above all others. But if one is talking about a tribal god, and considering that there may be as many tribal gods as there are tribes, how can there be a scandal of particularity when clearly it is man who chooses his god and not the other way round? To put it another way, as a tribal god, Yahweh is no more unique than the Moabite Chemosh, the Assyrian Ashur, the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, or the Kikuyu Ngai wa Kirinyaga. Nevertheless, to the extent that a “scandal of particularity” is still claimed, then one must look for the answers not in the machinations of some supreme being, but in the intricate twists and turns of human history, as the discussion on Paul in the next section will hopefully demonstrate.
With the passage of time the parochial tribal god of the Jews became a universal god of the world, at least in the eyes of the Jews. This transformation, which began with the great prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), achieved its culmination with Deutero-Isaiah, the name given to the unknown author of the last 26 chapters of the Book of Isaiah. As Deutero-Isaiah writes:
Turn to me now and be saved, people all over the world! I am the only God there is … Everyone will come and kneel before me and vow to be loyal to me. (Isaiah 45:22-23)
However, given that the Jews were still Yahweh’s Chosen People (though to see the way he allowed other people to walk all over them you wouldn’t think it), and the Temple in Jerusalem still his abode, Yahweh could still be considered a tribal god, albeit one with a serious case of megalomania.
The Cerebral God: From Jerusalem to Athens
The life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are an enigma. Was he just an inspired but misunderstood rabbi, a dangerous political agitator, or a loony with a messianic complex and delusions of grandeur (after all, I believe it was the British psychologist Henry Havelock Ellis who suggested that the whole religious character of the modern world may be attributable to the absence in Jerusalem of a mental asylum)? Since Jesus, rather unhelpfully, did not put anything down on paper (that we know of) and with the authorship and accuracy of many of the New Testament documents in doubt, we can only make educated guesses about what he really believed and taught. For their part the first century Romans seemed to regard him as a minor political rebel who, according to the Roman historian Tacitus, “was crucified under Emperor Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate.” Jesus and his followers would eventually have disappeared into obscurity, but for a short, slightly bow-legged man who came trudging down the road to Damascus in 36 C.E. That man was Paul of Tarsus.
A zealous Pharisee before his conversion to Christianity, Paul was a tireless proselytizer sparing no effort to spread the “good news” just as he had once spared no effort in hunting down the followers of Jesus who he now numbered amongst. He spread the message far and wide, founding Christian communities in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), Greece, and Cyprus.
It was one of Paul’s main goals to open up what was still essentially a Jewish sect to non-Jews. Paul even proudly declared himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” One way to make it easier for gentiles to join was by freeing Christianity from the constraints of its Jewish heredity. It was with this in mind that Paul proclaimed that to join the Christian way of life it was no longer necessary to observe Jewish customs such as circumcision.
While removing the need to adhere to Jewish customs was an important move, it was not enough in itself to draw in converts by the cartload. After all, what interest would non-Jews have in a Jewish political and military messiah?–which is where Paul’s revolutionary, new theology of Jesus comes into play. In Paul’s new theology no longer is Jesus just a local messiah sent to rescue the Jews from under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire. Instead, he becomes a divine figure at the centre of God’s plan of salvation for all of humanity. Paul’s theology, which he expounded in his Letter to the Romans, can be summarized as follows.
In the beginning God created the world as portrayed in the Book of Genesis, with Adam as the progenitor of the human race. Adam was given the ability either to obey or disobey God’s commands. Under the temptation of the Devil he chose to disobey thus bringing death into the world. As descendants of Adam we all inherited his disobedient and sinful nature and we all fell under the bondage of death. However, God in his abundant mercy prepared a way of salvation for mankind. He sent Jesus Christ, a divine being who assumed human form, died on the cross as atonement for our sins, and then rose from the dead, signifying that death no longer ruled over mankind and that immortal life was available to all who surrendered themselves to God through Jesus Christ. God’s plan of salvation therefore was not only for the Jews. It was for all humanity.
In arriving at this new conception of Jesus, it is quite possible that Paul was influenced by the popular mystery cults of the day which promised immortality to their converts through mystic union with a savior-god who had died and then triumphed over death by resurrection to a renewed divine life. Nevertheless, whether or not Paul’s theology was inspired by the mystery cults, we find in it, in essential form, the central doctrines of Christianity, namely, Original Sin (Adam’s sin) and man’s Redemption from sin and its wages, death, through Christ’s vicarious death and resurrection. With this new theology, Paul had managed to turn a sect within Judaism into a potential world religion. In the process, he had also replaced the Tribal God with a new kind of god: the Cerebral God. The age of the prophet was over and we were now in the age of the theologian.
From fairly early on, Pauline Christianity employed the tools of Greek philosophy. True there were those who were suspicious of this approach: Tertullian, one of the great Church Fathers, famously protested, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What has the Academy to do with the Church?” But despite opposition, philosophy proved to be a valuable ally to the Church, not only in establishing the (supposed) reasonableness of Christian belief, but also in fighting paganism and the heresies, as we are about to see.
The first major heresy to confront the Church was Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that the present physical world was basically evil, the creation of a demiurge or inferior god, and that a divine savior would come from above to rescue man’s soul and return it to its home. To Gnostics, Yahweh, the God of Israel, was the demiurge, the creator of the evil physical world, while the Jesus of Pauline theology was the savior. Gnostics rejected the idea that Jesus had actually suffered and died because a divine being could not suffer or die. It appears that they also believed that as a divine being, Jesus had no need for the toilet either. According to Valentinus, the best-known and most-influential of the Gnostics, “Jesus ate and drank in a peculiar manner, not evacuating his food. So much power of continence was in him that in him his food was not corrupted, since he himself had no corruptibility.”
Notwithstanding such curious observations, Gnostic thought had a powerful influence not only on heretical Christians but also on mainstream Christians, leading many to question accepted beliefs. The debate about the nature of Jesus would eventually come to a head in the early 4th century in the so-called Arian Controversy. Arius (250-336), a theologian who lived and taught in Alexandria, Egypt, the centre of Gnosticism, held that while Jesus was a divine being he was nonetheless created by God and was therefore subordinate and not equal to God. Arius’s opponents on the orthodox side countered that Jesus was of one essence, nature, or substance with God and was therefore equal to God. Emperor Constantine, who had at first considered the whole debate as nothing more than a harmless if futile argument over words, eventually realized that the controversy was becoming a threat to the harmony of the Church and consequently to the harmony of the empire given the size of the Christian population. He therefore decided to take a hand in the matter by calling a conference of all the Christian bishops. And so in May 325 the Council of Nicea was convened. The upshot of this conference was that Arius’s doctrine was rejected and it was declared that while Jesus of Nazareth was cosubstantial (of one substance) with us and was like us in all respects (presumably including the need to evacuate his bowels), he was also cosubstantial and therefore of equal status with God the Father. Later, in the year 381, a second conference of bishops held in Constantinople (the First Council of Constantinople) would declare that the Holy Spirit was also one and the same thing with the Father and the Son (Jesus). And so it was through theological debate rather than divine revelation that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was established as dogma.
But Christian philosophy was not only engaged in fighting heresy. It was also engaged in proving the reasonableness of Christian belief. Which brings us to St. Anselm and St. Thomas, two of the most prominent Christian philosophers of the Middle Ages. Impressed by the fact that the Greek philosophers had “worked out” the idea of God, that is, a supreme and perfect intelligence, based solely on reason, Anselm and Aquinas set out to prove that the methods of philosophy could also be used to vindicate belief in the existence of the Christian God.
Anselm’s contribution to this project was his Ontological Argument for the existence of God. Basically, what the Ontological Argument comes down to is this: God is that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived, and since, according to Anselm, that than which nothing greater can be conceived exists by definition, therefore God exists! God for Anselm is not an object but a concept. He is a concept that is more easily grasped through intuition. Yet, at the same time, one need only clearly conceive of the idea of God (that thing than which nothing greater can be thought) to see that he exists.
Two hundred years after Anselm, Thomas Aquinas presented his famous Five Proofs for the existence of God. Amongst other things, Aquinas demonstrated that God is the prime mover of all things which causes movement in everything without itself being moved, and the uncaused cause which causes everything to happen without itself being caused by anything else.
As it happens, in the 18th century the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in his greatest work, the Critique of Pure Reason, made short work of Aquinas’s Five Proofs, and Anselm’s Ontological Argument has long since been discredited (in fact, Aquinas was one of its critics).
However, the point we wish to make here is not in regard to the intellectual merits (or lack thereof) of the apologia devised by the Christian philosophers. Rather, the point that we wish to make is that the Cerebral God of the philosophers is a distinctly different animal from the Tribal God of the patriarchs and the prophets. The Cerebral God is not the kind of god who appears in burning bushes. He is not the kind of god who goes around parting seas and incinerating wayward cities, nor is he the kind of god who can be swayed with sacrifices, whether animal or human. The Cerebral God is not a capricious, anthropomorphic, ethnocentric god. Instead, he is a sublime, cosmic, ivory-tower god, the product of a totally different mentality from that which produced the Tribal God. He is more Athens than Jerusalem. But just as the Tribal God had to give way to the Cerebral God, the Cerebral God would also have to give way to a new god, the Absentee Landlord God.
The Absentee Landlord God: From Metaphysics to Physics
The 16th and 17th centuries were a period of unprecedented social, political, and intellectual development in Europe. The voyages of discovery, the rise of commercial urban society, and the ascendancy of science, all gave rise to a new conception of man and nature. Under the inspiration of geniuses like Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Bacon, and Locke, medieval metaphysics increasingly gave way to experience and observation as the accepted methods for acquiring knowledge. “Nature is commanded only by being obeyed!” was the somewhat incongruous-sounding dictum of one of the luminaries (Bacon) of this new age.
This new age also gave rise to Deism. Now, deism is not atheism. Rather it is more of an attempt to bring religion into conformity with reason and science. Many of the pioneers of the scientific revolution were deists and only a few were atheists. But with each new discovery it seemed that there was less and less of a role for God in the universe. Increasingly, it seemed that the universe ran like a self-regulating machine. To the deist scientists, who were loath to abandon the idea of God, God became more of an absentee landlord who created the world and then left it to run on its own without intervening in its workings.
But there were those who saw in a mechanical universe the chance to get rid of God once and for all. Given a complete knowledge of the universe at any given instant, claimed Pierre-Simon Laplace the great French astronomer, a mathematician should theoretically be able to predict all future states of the machine and all future events. It was also Laplace who when asked by Napoleon why he had not mentioned God in his explanation of how the solar system was formed, calmly replied, “I had no need of this hypothesis.” And so it would appear that with Laplace God had become obsolete.
But a deist would argue that this is not actually the case. Science, he would say, deals with “efficient” causes while religion deals with “final” causes. How the solar system was formed is an example of an efficient cause. Efficient causes are merely a description of physical phenomena, not an explanation for them. It is one thing to describe how the world works. It is another to explain why it exists at all.
Additionally, to the deist, the laws of the universe are “contingent” rather then “necessary.” In other words, scientific laws might be other than they are and if one were to ask, “Why do Newton’s laws of motion assume that particular form?” it would be perfectly reasonable for the deist to answer, “Because God has ordained it so.” The laws of nature are therefore derived from God, and even though he does not interfere in the regular workings of the universe, say in the form of miracles, he is still the supreme architect of all that exists.
Hence, the Absentee Landlord God, unlike the Tribal God and the Cerebral God, cannot be dismissed so easily. After all, Einstein did ask, “Did God have a choice when he created the universe?”
But before the deist breaks out the champagne, since Einstein’s question appears susceptible to scientific investigation, there is no reason to assume that we will not find a naturalistic explanation for why the universe is the way it is. As a matter of fact, physicists are already hard at work on a so-called Theory of Everything which is an attempt to explain…well, everything, from the earliest moments of the Big Bang to what goes on inside an atom’s nucleus.
Naturally, questions such as “But what came before the Big Bang?” will arise. However, to argue that God must exist in order to account for the gaps in our knowledge is to be guilty of the God of the Gaps fallacy and this is one of the reasons why the religious establishment has lost much of its credibility in the last few centuries. “Our ignorance,” as someone once said (once again I am unable to trace the source), “is no reason for believing anything except perhaps that we ought to undertake greater investigation in order to reduce our ignorance and replace it with reliable information.”
Evolution And The Three Gods
The Christian god is a chimera. He is a chimera composed of three inherently incompatible ideas of deity and the nature of the world. Nothing exposes this contradiction better than the Catholic Church’s position on the theory of evolution.
To its credit, the Catholic Church is not officially opposed to the theory of evolution. Perhaps having suffered a black eye from its confrontation with Galileo in the 17th century, the Church does not wish to put itself in a compromising situation again. On the other hand, the Church’s acceptance of the theory of evolution is ruined by its peculiar version of the origin of humankind.
In a nutshell, this is the Catholic Church’s version of the origin of man.
Adam, the first man, descended (presumably as a child and not a full-grown man) from highly developed apes, the hominids, but unlike his ancestors he possessed a soul which was given to him by God. Unfortunately, Adam, and his companion Eve, committed some unspecified act of disobedience and they became outcasts.
However, given the amount of genetic diversity evident in the human population, it is doubtful that there are many biologists who take monogenism, the proposition that one couple could be the source of the entire human race, seriously. (Actually, if one wishes to press the point further, it may be noted that according to Genesis 2:21-22 Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib, so she is in fact a clone, and we are all miraculously descended from a very limited set of genes, Adam’s). But given that the doctrines of Original Sin and the Redemption are central to Christian theology, one can see why the Church must insist that humans are descended from Adam and Eve. To quote at length from the encyclical Humani Generis, which for over half a century has represented the Church’s position on the subject:
The Church does not forbid that the doctrine of evolutionism, in so far as it inquires into the origins of the human body from already existing and living matter, be, according to the present state of human disciplines and sacred theology, treated in research and discussion by experts on both sides; as to the souls, the catholic faith demands us to hold that they are created immediately by God.
As regards the other conjecture, what is called polygenism, the sons of the Church do not at all have the same freedom … For, it is not at all apparent how such a view can be reconciled with the data which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Church propose concerning original sin, namely, that it originates from a sin truly committed by one Adam, is transmitted to all through generation [inheritance] and is in each, proper to him.
In recent years there have been attempts to show that polygenism (the hypothesis that mankind descended from several couples or many Adams and Eves) is not incompatible with Church dogma. One can’t help a wry smile at this radical departure from Humani Generis which states unequivocally that the sons of the church DO NOT have the liberty of even considering polygenism. However, for the time being, “theological polygenism” remains only a “hypothesis.”
In the end, evolutionary theory puts the Church in the tricky position of having to reconcile the Tribal God (the creation myth of Adam and Eve), with the Cerebral God (Original Sin and the Redemption), and the Absentee Landlord God (the scientific theory of evolution). It will be interesting to see how the Church pulls this off. If the Church does choose to declare polygenism “more than a hypothesis,” it will certainly help to solve some serious contradictions, though at the risk of diluting the Genesis story even further. In fact, I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say that without finding a clever way to reconcile the creation myth of Adam and Eve with evolution, the whole edifice of Christian theology could well disappear in a puff of incense-scented smoke. The whole Christian religion, said St. Augustine, may be summed up in the intervention of two men, Adam and Jesus: the one to ruin us, the other to save us. Essentially, by basing so much on an ancient creation myth, the Church couldn’t have made it easier to bring its whole theological system into question!
The Escape From Religion
A likely response to the Three Gods claim made in this essay is not to deny that there are three gods but rather to assert that the three gods represent the revelation of God’s will more and more fully in step with man’s growing consciousness, from primitive savagery and chauvinistic tribalism to civilization. In other words, God is revealing himself in a manner which corresponds with the stage of development of human consciousness, from the coarse to the more refined. But by the same token, it could be argued that the current stage of human consciousness, which is based on a rational, scientific outlook, is just the latest opportunity for God to reveal himself, even though there is the danger that in the process he might be refined out of existence like “the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat,” in the quotable words of Sir Julian Sorell Huxley
However, even in this supposedly rational and scientific age, we find that religion is still very much a going concern. Why is this? I suspect that this is because religion is able to satisfy man’s hunger for meaning and structure by providing quick and dirty answers to the Big Questions (who are we, where did we come from, how should we behave, what’s it all about) and by accounting for the mysterium tremendum, that indefinable feeling of wonder at life and nature.
But religion is only one interpretation of reality, and increasingly, it appears to be an unreliable one. Many people cling to religion because it provides them with a sense of comfort and security. But where is the morality in believing in something or recommending others to believe in something not because it is true but because it provides a sense of comfort and security? And what of the everyday problems that the principle of preferring comfort to truth raises? Why, for instance, is it all right to believe that human beings are descended from Adam and Eve, yet no one would ever give that as an answer in their biology exam? Surely, this kind of situation must give rise to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the state of tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time. One should perhaps give the creationists some credit for trying to resolve the problem by going straight to the heart of the matter and trying to have creationism accepted as an alternative to orthodox evolutionary theory!
Still on the subject of the everyday problems that the principle of preferring comfort to truth raises, seeing this life as merely a preparation for something else is likely to devalue this life by making it seem more of a means to an end rather than an end in itself. The devaluation of this life may be manifested in a disregard for the environment or political and social apathy (after all, why bother to vote when Christ could come galloping out of the clouds at any moment?). People who prefer comfort to truth are also more likely to fall prey to religious charlatans and sociopaths (the two quite often being one and the same person) who will not hesitate to exploit people’s need for meaning and structure to achieve their own less-than-noble ambitions.
The principle of preferring comfort to truth also has implications for morality. When people derive their moral principles from some holy book, they might feel less of a duty to examine these principles critically. Unfortunately, there is no necessary connection between religion and morality, and religion can, and often does, furnish justifications for the most abominable acts, ranging from the persecution and exploitation of those that one fears, dislikes, or considers different or inferior, to the perpetration of atrocities, such as terrorism. What is more, as Blaise Pascal noted, men never do evil so completely and gleefully as when they do it out of religious conviction.
Though Georg Hegel might have said it first, the notorious phrase “God is dead” is normally associated with that other Teutonic thought-spinner, Friedrich Nietzsche. In his The Gay Science, Nietzsche tells the story of a madman who, like Diogenes, lights a lamp in broad daylight and goes to the marketplace to look, not for an honest man, but for God. This provides much amusement to the many atheists who happen to be standing around just then. “Why are you searching for God? Did he get lost?” says one. “Did he lose his way like a child?” says another. “Is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Or emigrated?” At this point the madman jumps into their midst and cries, “Where is God? I shall tell you. We have killed him, you and I. All of us are his murderers … God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”
Contrary to popular belief, Nietzsche is not gloating over the death of God. Instead, he is considering the potentially profound consequences of a world without God or religion. If God is dead, are all things permissible? Will the end of religion plunge mankind into a state of existential despair and moral nihilism? Is man incapable of living without religion? Is man hardwired for religion?
I would prefer to think that man is not hardwired for religion, that he can probably live without religion but not without ideology, and that it is therefore time for us to adopt an ideology more suited to an age of science and reason. Our motto would be, “only the truth is sacred, not tradition, not ancient books, and not religion.” Because this new ideology places truth over comfort, it would demand that we recognize that there are no magical shortcuts to salvation. The universe is not an open book. It does not surrender its secrets without a fight. The apple might have fallen on Newton’s head, but the law of gravitation did not. That he had to figure out painstakingly.
Because this new ideology places truth over comfort, it would demand the spiritual courage, intellectual honesty, and emotional maturity to live without the certain, absolute knowledge that religion claims to provide. Science cannot provide the same reassurances as religion because science is grounded in reality and must back its claims with evidence. Moreover, these claims, and the evidence for them, are constantly under review. Religion, on the other hand, by professing to represent knowledge of an unchanging, otherworldly “higher” reality can make bold statements without fear of being contradicted. However, without providing any evidence for the existence of this supposed “higher reality,” the intellectual justifications for the privileged status claimed for religion are likely to remain weak at best and dishonest at worst.
Though this might sound a bit hyperbolic, in this writer’s opinion, before the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment we were like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, mistaking the shadows on the cave wall for the real thing, blissfully unaware of our own ignorance. But now, unchained and free to leave the cave, we may at last begin to see that the shapes on the cave wall were nothing but a trick of the light. For us there will be no going back to the cave, for it is only natural to prefer light to darkness, freedom to imprisonment, reality to illusion, and enlightenment to unenlightenment. Or is it? Let us not sell ourselves short. Let us strive to fulfill our potential as conscious, intelligent beings. For only then can we truly say that we gave it our best shot.
Catholic Encyclopedia. “Original Sin.” www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm#I.
Hooke, S.H., 1976. Middle Eastern Mythology. United Kingdom: Penguin Books.
Johnson, P., 1977. A History of Christianity. London: Wiedenfeld and Nicolson.
Jones, D., 1991. “Can Catholics Believe In Evolution?” London: Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.
Pope Pius X11, 1950. Humani Generis. www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html
Roberto, M., 17 April 1969. The Credo of Paul VI: Theology of Original Sin and the Scientific Theory of Evolution. L’Osservatore Romano. www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/SINEVOL.HTM
The Nietzsche Channel. Excerpts from Walter Kaufmann’s translation (Vintage Books, 1974) of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science. www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/diefrohl7b.htm
Tobin, P.N., 2000. “The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager.” www.geocities.com/paulntobin/index.html