Sunday, February 21, 2010

infinite comprehensibility

I wrote the following somewhere else originally as a reply to an argument that, since God, if He existed, created everything, including human consciousness, we should know intuitively -- i.e., without anyone telling us -- that God existed. But since we have no such intuition -- since everyone is "born an atheist" (that's what this person said) -- it's obvious that God doesn't exist.

On the contrary, Chesterton said: "If there were no God, there would be no atheists."

Christians never claimed that the human race wasn't flawed; hence the doctrine about Fallen Nature and Original Sin. If humanity were perfect, each human would indeed know of God's existence by direct intuition. If God exists, and if humanity is not what it ought to be, mightn't most of humanity (except for your rare Socrates) completely reject God from the outset, in favor of self? For God, so our parents "indoctrinate" us to believe, wants us to participate in the natural law. Why assume that it is on account of the non-existence of God, rather than the imperfection of Man, that Man does not achieve this perfect intuition of the Divine?

Christians believe that, given the fact of fallenness, God resorted to a more direct means, by revealing Himself in history first to the Jews, and then by the Incarnation of His Word, Christ Himself. To demand that the ways and means of God revealing Himself be limited to something strictly "spiritual" or "immaterial" is to assume alot about The Way God Ought To Be. Whence does anyone derive this assumption? It seems to presuppose that God is merely a human invention, and results in unsound argument; viz., "If God existed, then X would happen," but one must first establish that the existence of God would necessitate the occurrence of X.

In any case, how can one expect that God can be completely known and determined by the finitude of human thought when even such this-worldly sciences as quantum mechanics are considered beyond the pale for most? Something that comes crashing in from outside has to be at least as unlike anything we expected than the most rigorous of the natural sciences. Rather than alot of spiritualist mumbo-jumbo, the records that we have in fact show that it is more than a mere matter of dialectic: it is a matter of history and biography as well. Consequently, once again because of human fallenness, even many Christians (e.g., Evangelical Protestants) do not accept the glories of the material world such as you find in the originary and ancient faiths of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, which believe that God manifests Himself everyday by material means in the Sacraments, and in the very activity of the life of the Church. If God invented matter as a means for humans to communicate with one another, why shouldn't He use matter to communicate with humans?

But such is the Platonico-Cartesio-Kantianism of our epoch...


  1. I wasn't born an atheist. It took quite some time before religion became a topic in my home. Growing up in the majesty of the Boreal forest, it seemed obvious that there was something divine out there, although my early intuitions weren't exactly monotheistic.

    Still, I agree with you that the notion that God has to be intuitive to be real is extremely problematic. There certainly are all sorts of reasons to find faith, but there's always room for doubt, and I'm not sure that's exactly such a bad thing. If He were so obvious, there would be no room for faith, to chose to love Him - we would be compelled, and any disobedience would be as unforgivable as that of the fallen angels.

    And, anyway, it's just silly to assume that God would have a problem using His creations to speak to His creatures.

  2. That whole issue came up on an Amazon book review. It was just one of those things; the guy made the claim that everyone is born atheist, and I had to say something.

    With me it was always the moral thing. There were things I did as a child that, without any adult to telling me otherwise (because these were things I didn't run off advertising) I felt the pang of conscience deep and knew they were wrong. Of course, I am a cradle Catholic, but I don't think that at the time I made the conscious inference of moral failure with The Tenets of the Faith.

  3. Wow I just now looked up "Boreal forest"; I never heard of it before, and somehow it slipped right past me the first time I read this. It's like a real-life Rivendell.