The God and Us -Second Edition
خدا و ما
Eric Hoffer writes, "... Dostoyevsky puts the following words in Bishop Tihon's
mouth: Outright atheism is more to be respected than worldly indifference ...
the complete atheist stands on the penultimate step to most perfect faith
... but the indifferent person has no faith whatever except a bad fear." Hoffer
continues: "All the true believers [fanatics] of our time-whether Communist,
Nazi, Fascist, Japanese or Catholic-declaimed volubly (and the Communists still
do) [i.e.. 1951] on the decadence of the Western democracies. The burden of
their talk is that in the democracies people are too soft, too pleasure- loving
and too selfish to die for a nation, a God or a holy cause. This lack of a
readiness to die, we are told, is indicative of an inner rot- a moral and
biological decay. The democracies are old, corrupt and decadent. They are no
match for the virile congregations of the faithful who are about to inherit the Earth" (1).
From the 1979 Revolution of Iran till now, many of those who
prefer not to talk much about religious issues, in practice are compelled to
talk more than they wish in these areas. For example, in response to many of the
Islamic intellectuals of Iran, at the time of the Shah, when they mentioned Big
Bang cosmological theory as a proof for their God, not that many people would
challenge them as to how this God whom in their view was the Creator from
Nothingness to Being at the moment of Big Bang, could be equal to the God of
Koran and Islam?
If this God of Big Bang, after the creation of the universe had decided to still be active and to send Holy Books and prophets, why doesn't he initiate a new contact, the same way he contacted Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad in the past, to end all these religious wars, and in this era of information and Internet not to allow His words to be distorted. Are all these like the recent earthquake tsunami God's higher will?
In my opinion, the subject of religion encompasses two issues. The first are discussions dealing with the origin of the universe and whether a God has created it or the ultimate reality of existence should be viewed from a different angle? The second subject is about living right.
All Abrahamic religions see the above two issues to be related, because in their view God is in charge of reward or punishment of right and wrong actions, and the individual will go to heaven or hell depending on his actions. In religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, within the realm of the second subject of religion, the checks and balances are held by Karma, reincarnation, and metamorphosis. Of course, the Hindu religion, in the first subject of religion, believes in God and the Brahman universal soul, but Buddha basically avoided discussions of the origin of the universe and God, and his emphasis was on living honestly thru meditation. To prevent any misunderstanding, let me note that I am not advocating any ideology or religion including Buddhism. In fact, I suggest to readers to see the movie “Anna and the King’ which shows how Buddhist religion was related to some cruelties in history. Also I would suggest to watch a movie called "Water" which shows how Hindu religion too has had its share of some cruelties lasting to this day. It is interesting that the fanatic followers of Buddhism and Hinduism always try to ban those movies. (2)
Can all the discussions of quantum physics and Big bang theory establish the existence or lack of an intelligence, beyond the universe, time and space, as we know it, or even be a reason for creation of the world, for example by something like the Aristotelian Unmoved Mover, and not to have any impact on the day-to-day operation of the created world, so that it not be its responsibility for the hundreds of millions of destitute people dead in the tsunami and earthquakes?
I think this can be possible and it would be like the God of Spinoza which has been extensively discussed (3). And today we can closely study the light that had been emitted 14 billion years ago, at the moment of the start of time and space and as Stephen Hawking said to ask what was before Big Bang is like asking what is south of the South Pole, meaning the the concept of time was meaningless before the Big Bang. Of course, Mr. Hawking has recently announced that he is an atheist. But regardless of the discussion of God, Hawking's beginning of time is debatable (4).
Let's assume we accept Spinoza's God. But does this God have any resemblance to the God of Islam or Christianity? In my opinion the answer is "no", because the God that assigns prophets, and sends holy books, better use His power and stop the fatalities of the tsunami and earthquakes, and also send a new holy book to remove all these contradictory interpretations of His Word.
Nonetheless, is it possible that a God other than the Abrahamic God to exist? The way the deists like Thomas Jefferson believed? In my opinion such a possibility exists. For example, in this regard, I can understand the position of a famous atheist by the name of Professor Anthony Flew which he expressed in the last years of his life (5).
Yet the use of these discussions, by the intellectuals who never could or can cut off from Islam, is to justify their backwardness, and in my opinion is to misuse science. In other words, a religion like Buddhism which has believed in an ultimate reality in the world, and has called on its followers to use meditation for spiritual growth, and has not claimed to have a holy book, has the right to use the results of the scientific research for better understanding of reality, but a religion like Abrahamic religions, that considers God personally involved in the affairs of the world, and considers its prophet and clergy as the representatives of that God, better not to use the deist view of Big Bang and other scientific facts, to justify its retrogressive doctrines.
For example, I see in the writings of some of the political activists of Iran who write about using the new achievements of science to "return to spirituality." I do not understand what they mean by "return!" If they mean the spirituality of the Abrahamic religion like Islam, that are based on the belief in a personal God, it is better that human society not to return to that kind of spirituality, as the weakness of belief in the God of those religions is the reason that many of the fanatic believers of those religions who lose their faith in their religion, throw away their ethics too, the same way that Bertrand Russell has best discussed this issue of the fall of ethical values of the previous religious believers in Christian societies. We are witnessing the same fall of ethical values among many of the previously religious people in Iran who have lost their faith in Islam and nothing stops them from taking part in all kinds of unethical behaviors.
In contrast, those who have not made God the guardian of ethics, and ethics for them has been based on meditations of the individual and personal spiritual evolution, whether believing in a religion like Buddhism or not, have offered a stronger ethics for societies. The experience of Buddhism proves that ethics can go forward separate from the discussion of God and Creation, and as noted by those like Jack Li, spiritual evolutionary process is a personal process (6).
But to equate such evolution to a new interpretation of Islam, is the effort of those who are trying to save Islam, from the bitter experience of the last 36 years, and the reality that the moral decay of the yesterday's Islamic believers, is the result of a system that makes an ethical guardian king out of the God of Abrahamic religions, and not that the meditation of the individual to be the way to achieve personal evolution and higher ethics, and to recognize honesty and right action as the guiding light of human action, and not the fear of Abrahamic God who asks the murder of the son as a test to prove the faithfulness of the father to this God.
Basically the problem of the monotheism of the Abrahamic religion can best be seen in the Ten Commandments of Moses, although those ethical laws were necessary for the society, but the God which is like a tyrant monarch is its guardian, which is the reason for all the decadence that follows after the belief in such a God is lost in this world, and the call for "return" to such spirituality is nothing but retrogression. These are the words of the God of Moses in his second commandment, from the Ten Commandments, which clearly shows the result of such "return to spirituality" is returning to the kind of thinking of the monotheistic religions which were like an absolutist monarchy in the realm of human thought:
"Second Commandment of Moses: You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or the water below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments"(7).
A simple look at the Islamic texts shows that everywhere the human being is referred to as the *slave* of God (8). True that one can see this view in all Abrahamic religions, but its literal meaning is lost even by Evangelists who see a herd and shepherd relationship in the predominantly Christian societies. Whereas the extreme slave and Master, or created and Creator relation, builds the legitimacy of clerics under Islamism, speaking in the name of God Master, to incontestably order fatwa killings, rape of prisoners, and other atrocities.
In "Intelligent Tools: The Cornerstone of a New Civilization," an in-depth look at slavery is presented (9). In the paper it is discussed how tool making nearly made humans as we know them, and how slave society was the best example of a society where the humans were clearly used as *tools*. On one hand tool-making made human civilization possible, on the other hand it made the attitude of controlling nature, and even controlling of humans by humans, possible. The fact is that tool-making made it possible for humans to create new things and thus be *creator* of their *created* objects, and humans extended this view to the universe and human society at large.
Thus humans developed a view of the world as being the work of a "Creator" and regarded themselves as well as everything else in the universe, as the "created." The Gods were Creators and the humans were just the created objects, sometimes just to entertain the Gods, and the priesthood speaking for those Gods, needed little explanation to justify the demands of those Supreme Masters from their subjects. This view of God is present, in various degrees, in all Abrahamic religions. In contrast, one seldom sees such a view in religions like Zoroastrianism of Iran, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, where they do not look at the universe in such anthropocentric ways, and even some traditions within the Abrahamic religions have discarded such ontological views.
The anthropocentric Creator-vs-created view of the universe has been dominant in all societies the same way the material basis of using humans as tools had remained until intelligent tools could be artificially made. The ending of many slave societies was not because of ending the material basis of slavery, and rather it was because the shameful treatment of our kind as a mere tool was no longer acceptable in societies that discarded it, and it is noteworthy that even in the modern U.S., slavery revived centuries after it had been discarded, because the material basis of slavery had not been eradicated.
So until the material basis of slavery which is using the humans as tools is ended, one could not claim that the slavery is totally eradicated and humanity is done with it. In the same way, the basis of anthropocentric view where everything in the universe and society is viewed in a Creator and created model or in a Master and slave relation has not ended.
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
*The first edition of this article was published on January 4, 2005.
1. Eric Hoffer, "The True Believer," 1951, P.147
2. Wakefulness and Enlightenment
بیدار اندیشی و روشن بینی
3. Sufism and Fatalism
صوفیگری و تقدیر گرائی- یک یادداشت کوتاه
4. A Note about Hawking's Beginning of Time
یادداشتی درباره آغاز زمان هاوکینگ
5. Atheist discovers 'the science of God,' Dec 12. 2004
6. jack Li, Zen Meditationm 1989
7. Ten Commandments
8. Slaves of the Islamist God
9. Intelligent Tools: The Cornerstone of a New
ابزار هوشمند: شالوده تمدني نوين
Academic Essays on Secular and Futurist Pluralism
چند رساله آکادمیک در باب پلورالیسمِ سکولار و آینده