The Faith of a Philosopher-2/09
When a friend asks what
do I believe in? The reply is eudemonia, right action through right character; what Plato[i] called the love of the good.
The Greeks have the word philo; philosophy
is the love of wisdom. To love good one must love wisdom, for as Plato repeatedly
wrote, we all love the good, but most people are very confused about what good is. Hitler stated, for example, that he was pursing god’s will by exterminating the Jews, and Martin Luther’s recommendations were though less extreme, similar. So what is the love of good things?
Let me being with a story. In Brahms’ home is a marble bust of Beethoven which looks down upon the table where he composed music. Brahms was given to chronically revising his works; thus delaying their publications often for years. Many of his early works he destroyed. When
Johannes Brahms (1833-97) late in life was asked why he took so many years before he wrote his 4 symphonies (1876-1881), he
replied: “I heard Beethoven thundering behind me.”
I hear Christ thundering behind me. It is not the Christ of the gospel
fictions or the stern Christ of the orthodox Jew, Paul’s Epistles, but the Christ of the loving god[ii]. This is the god who commends us to be of good character, to act
from eudemonia. This concept comes not from the New or Old Testaments, for there
is much in them that would be offensive to such a god, or gods[iii]. It comes from asking what qualities could not be ascribed to the
gods: anger, vengeful, vain, proud, cruel, bloody, demanding the performance
of ancient rituals, upholding cruel laws, and the supporting a religious burea ucracy.
And what certainly could: wise, kind, moral, loving, non-violent, generous,
fair, and just, the qualities justified under the system of utilitarian ethics. As is the god, so too would he wish that of us. Other than this, there is nothing that I would ascribe to the gods--not even existence
To argue that there is salvation through faith is sophistry; it is set against
the godly utilitarian essence. The Christian gods and demigods (father, son,
devils, saints, angels, archangels plus the heavenly beastly deities who guard his throne) are parochial, vain, and cruel. As James Mill holds Yahweh is the cruelest of gods: “think of a god who would create the human
race with the infallible foreknowledge, and therefore with the intention-that the great majority of them were to be consigned
to horrible and everlasting torment.” To suggest that we know the
reward and punishment, this too is born of a chain of sophistries. As David Hume
said: “The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this
day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one."[iv] Moreover, the very argument is one of bribery: it has the god telling us that if we genuflect often he will reward us with salvation. Taking Pascal’s argument, I come to the opposite: that the god is more
likely to reward a skeptic with eudemonia than a Christian of similar character.
The love of wisdom (philosophy) is set against religion, but not against godly standard of eudemonia. Does it matter what
god is? Being worthy as possible of them is all that matters. The philosopher doesn’t need a promise of salvation, for eudemonia has its reward—ataraxia.
The Greek philosophers
of the 4th centuries came to consensus concerning the intrinsic value of the love of wisdom. Giving oneself to the quest of wisdom not only brings us closer to the gods through eudemonia, but also
the inner, enduring happiness of ataraxia.[v] If we are measured, we are measured by the good in our hearts. Among the good things is both a love of wisdom and the exposure of the foolishness that is dressed the
clergy cloth. I hear Christ thundering behind me dressed as 4th century
BC philosophers Epicurus, Plato, and Aristotle. And as Aristotle said: “A person is not a citizen unless he is counted.” Let
us all be counted by our oneness with wisdom. Let us all pray: “Gods let me know what good is and that I have the ability to pursue it.”
[i] Plato wrote the dialogue top which Socrates his teacher was a character therein.
Socrates didn’t leave written lessons.
[ii] There is the Christ of the Epistles and Christ of the Gospels, and the difference between the two is the most
compelling of several arguments as to why there is no historical Christ.
[iii] I cannot find a sound argument against the philosopher David Hume quip, “If there is one god, why not many.” I have found
[iv] David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748
[v] They held that we are rational animals, and that through the study of philosophy and science we would thereby
strengthen our rational nature so that it could better guide our animal nature.
that deep down I believe there are god-like aliens of another dimension overlook our actions.
I give this under a 5% probability; thus that such gods would install a faith based reward system has an even lower
probability. That there is an incorporeal creator of the universe about one chance
in a million, and zero probability if you add to the proposition omniscience, omnipotent, and perfect beneficent. Moreover,
if there are gods of some sort, I consider it about a 5% chance that they want us to pray to them, and less than 1% that any
one of the major world religions have been molded by such super beings. Moreover,
it is much more likely that they would reward an enlightened skeptic such as Bertrand Russell than a Martin Luther. The analytic side concludes that religion is a human, social phenomenon,
like the belief in alternative medicines, ghosts, and how wonderful our political-economic system is.
a skeptic, I still cling to a set of imaginary deities, for such thoughts are pleasing.
I was raised without religion and the gods whom I have had the greatest exposure to are the Greco-Roman group. I studied
Latin in junior high school, and first read the bible when I was eighteen. I
spent 10 years in studies at 3 universities. I had completed 2 years of graduate
school, 10 courses in science. Moreover, I have a strong background in psychology
and history, and I love to immerse myself in the classical world. Given this
background, I imagine the gods to be like the idealized Jesus, free of the hell and devotional demands. The gods simply want us to promote the good—in the enlightened utilitarian sense of that word. Now instead of just an abstract system of ethics (utilitarianism for me), I also have
imaginary, anthropomorphic buddies; ones who chide me when I fall below the standards of beneficence, good example, and inner
peace that their favorite humans have obtained. Such am imaginary friend helps me towards a good goals.
Foremost is the goal—again leaning on the Greek wisdom--that of the good life,
which in Greek is eudemonia. Central to such life is ataraxia (another Greek
term that is part of the English language). It is an inner calmness free of fears and unbridled passions, for they would reduce
the ability to obtain the purer pleasures. Purer pleasures are those which have minimal associated discomforts, such as those obtained through studies and the association
with friends having a similar view of the good life. There are negative passions
that are to be avoided include those associated with anger, loss of temper, cruel thoughts, and delight harm befalling others: A loving heart is happier. Thus it is essential to maximize the ability of the rational
side to control the animal side, but not to deny it. Reason is the guide for
obtaining the purer pleasures. The other major piece eudemonia is that of honor. This
conception of the good life I imbued my imaginary gods with. This combination
of ideals: of reason, of calmness, of inner peace, of pleasant thoughts, of honor,
of delighting in promoting the good, The gods are full of love. I strive towards
striving for god-consciousness is my religious quest. I enjoy such thoughts and
have written at length on this. The love of all things is a central part of that path.
is another part of that goal. As Socrates said, know thyself. Thus I ought to reduce the conflict between belief and action. This website is part of my effort to live my faith. Thanks for visiting.
Steven Allen wrote is his autobiography that there should be a fourth R, reason, taught in school. It was the Greek philosophers who stressed that the purpose of education was to give their students (since
the philosophers were the teachers of young men) the ability to reason. We would
do well to follow their example and add a fourth R.
I would add one more subject, the vision of utopia. To understand how far we can evolve we would study the many ways in which harm is done. I am sickened when I hear news of deaths and suffering. I
am saddened when I see a person limited by a wheel chair or gross obesity. And
I want to cry out THINK!!! when I observe how our people support the old apple cart of our political system. I think about how much better our nation would be if our people would demand of our elected officials the
assiduous promotion of the public weal. I want to shout at the common herd concerning
all their foolish beliefs. This website is that shout.
FAITH (first statement thereof)
Often I feel religious. It is a feeling of the gods presence, a warm, peaceful feeling. Often
my intellectual side kicks whisper in my ear, “do good.” I know that
this is how I can best serve the gods. Being requires being aware; viz., being
a skeptic in the sense of forming beliefs according to the weight of the evidence there for.
Such a person would be the most pleasing to the gods--see The Rinker. At the top of the list of good things is—because of my training in
science and philosophy--to promote the evolution of man to a higher state of enlightenment.
I feel a calling similar to Socrates’. In so doing, using foggy
thought is instructive. The best well-known example is that related to religions. I thus scoop us the bullshit that the common-herd leaves in their process of venerating
the gods. (Yes, gods, for as David Hume pointed out if a process brought about
a god, then why not many gods? Moreover the Christians and Jews in calling the
deities of other faiths "gods", they have through usage established the meaning of god, and so established their angles, devils,
and saints qualify). I find much in religion that offends reason.
But it is much more. In my life as a guiding principle is utilitarianism, which states that we are to promote the public weal. Being that I have some skill due to years of university training in the communication
of ideas, I have chosen this method to promote the publics good. I, like Bertrand
Russell, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine and others feel that much harm has been done in promoting the fictions (including
its misguided morality). As John Stuart Mill in his autobiography said of his
father (and by intent applied to himself): He [James] looked upon it as the greatest
enemy of morality; by setting up factitious excellencies beliefs in creeds, devotional feelings, and ceremonies, not connected
with the good of human kind and causing these to be accepted as substitutes for genuine virtue; but above all, by radical
vitiating the standard of morals, making it consist in doing the will of a being, on whom it lavishes indeed all the phrases
of adulation, but whom in sober truth it depicts as eminently hateful. The popular
examples of religion not violate the principles of ethics and reason.
Of course religion is not the only great
evil that the masses ought to perceive with clarity. On the podium of awards
beside religion stands our political-economic system. Like athletes on a team,
there are numerous connections and similarities. Both are more concerned about
their own ends that truth. Both know that careful, analytic analysis turns people
way from their folds. And both care squat little—other than lip service—for
the public weal.
On the positive side, I argue--as indicated
above—for the promotion of the public weal and mastering the use of logical analysis.
Personal happiness is an essential element in the promotion of the public weal.
Three keys (besides mastering the art of logical analysis with all that it entails) has been presented: The Love of all Things, selflessness, and understanding scientific psychology. All this is done not for the sake of pleasing the gods, but rather for the
sake of happiness. If there are gods and they do reward the good and wise the
most, then those with the spirit of philosophy will fare the best. If however
what the evidence favors is true; well, than not living in the future is no worse than not living before birth.