Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Belief in God is a Moral Matter

The world has gone mad over the last four or five decades but, because it has happened bit by bit, relatively few have noticed. You might say there was always been an element of madness about humanity but at least the West, under the influence of Christianity, attempted to move in the right direction most of the time. Now, however, many people believe things unquestioningly that not a few generations ago only a small minority of people were promoting, and they weren't visionaries but, for the most part, troublemakers and egotists, heirs to Rousseau and Marx and other rebels against truth.  But we have gradually abandoned common sense and our natural instincts, and allowed ourselves to be dragooned into a world of lies and deceit. This is what happens when God is chased from the world.

I know a man who is highly intelligent but a rigid materialist and atheist. In a rightly ordered society these two things would not be possible together but in our contemporary world, it is not uncommon. Of course, this form of intelligence is limited. It is a mechanical thing that lacks insight. It is like the analytical intelligence of the computer, but then we are increasingly being educated into that sort of mentality and cut off from access to higher modes of awareness such as true imagination, vision and intuition.

This person, in my estimation, suffers from a spiritual sickness which, at root, is a question of morality. He has deliberately denied the reality of God to himself because he does not like the implications of that reality. He wants to be completely independent, answerable to no one. He genuinely believes that he has come to an objective decision, based on the evidence, but it is clear to an outsider that his decision was made as a result of certain character defects and unresolved psychological problems, and that he has suppressed evidence that does not coincide with his preconceived notions and desires.

What are these character defects? They are chiefly located in the will. Many people in the modern world are non-believers because that is the default position in the world today. They follow the norm, and though they are responsible for their non-belief, they are less at fault than someone like this person who has reacted to the question of spiritual truth not with a mere lack of interest but with an active antipathy. For people like him it is not a question of not believing in God because you are too taken up with the things of this world, but a deliberate and fully conscious rejection of God.

This is why I say that belief in God is a moral matter. A truly objective person of normal intelligence who genuinely studies the evidence must come to the conclusion that there is the strong probability this world has, at the very least, a spiritual background. But often materially clever people are intellectually arrogant and this causes them to deny the fact of a Creator. It's the 'better to reign in hell than serve in heaven' scenario. But also I find that with many confirmed atheists there is an underlying resentment and hatred of truth. Perhaps there is an anger against their idea of God, possibly due to experiences they may have had in their youth. But the point is that their atheism is not rationally based. It is what they want to think and they want to think it because of a malformation in the soul.

A person with a pure heart will believe in God. A person who does not have a pure heart may believe in God but very often, if this is combined with intellectual arrogance, he will not do so. At the same time this person, to prove to himself and others the objective rationality of his position and his personal superiority, will frequently adopt a highly moral approach to the world but it will, of course, be a morality based on the leftist idea of one humanity with equality to the fore. It will be a morality of the head rather than the heart and therefore a fundamentally artificial thing that does not have love at its core, though it will frequently claim that it does. But scratch the surface and the anger and resentments will come out. Love is not possible without God.

If you discuss spiritual matters with a person like this, as I have, you will get to the position where you are more or less forced to point out that his opinions are based on his character failings. They are not just reasonable positions which have just as much right to exist as those of a religious person. They are the outcome of a perversion of the will. This, of course, is not really possible. How can you tell someone that fundamentally he is not a good person and his attitude to life is based on a moral defect rather than an intellectually justifiable analysis? But the fact is there is truth and there is anti-truth. Anti-truth, the dismissing of God from the equation of life, cannot be given the same status as truth. They are not equivalent in any sense. An atheist cannot accept this because he denies truth. Nor can he accept that his position is based on a moral failing. For him it's all opinion and he has as much right to his as you do to yours. But then, because he denies transcendence, he denies himself and all other people too so there is no truth anyway. He has embraced nihilistic meaninglessness and yet still he likes to claim the moral high ground!

But the good news for this person and others like him, indeed for us all since we all share these failings to a degree, is that the chance of repentance is always there, and that would wipe out all the stains of atheism in one go. There would still remain a lot of spiritual work to be done but the corner would have been turned and he would be facing in the right direction. Then he could put his undoubted talents to good use in the service of God.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I was an atheist for many years, and none of this really hits home and makes me think, "Yes, that's exactly what I was like!" The idea of "hating truth" doesn't make any sense, nor does the idea of hating a God whom you believe to be a fictional character. My transition from theism to atheism was marked by an overwhelming feeling of sadness and distress; there was certainly no feeling of wanting atheism to be true! Certainly I did (and do) have plenty of character defects, as everyone does, but not (I think) the ones you identify, and not to any unusual degree.
I suppose you might assume that, on some subconscious level, I did hate truth and hate God and want him not to exist, and of course there's no way to prove or disprove the hypothesis that people are motivated by Freudian-style subconscious motivations of which they themselves are ignorant.

One flaw I do have, which seems relevant to your analysis, is that I'm not a very loving or love-oriented person; deeply attached to a handful of people, casually benevolent towards others, but nothing deeper than that. I suppose that might cause the Christian message to resonate less with me, and that that lack of resonance (rather than any active antipathy) might have subconsciously biased my approach to the evidence.

As far as I know, William, you have no direct experience of being an atheist, but are trying to understand, from the outside, something which, as a "natural" theist, you perhaps just cannot understand. I wonder if any other former (or current!) atheists who read this posts see themselves in your description.

William Wildblood said...

What I am talking about here is similar to what St Paul talks about
in Romans 1:20-22 when he says (basically) that the knowledge of God is inscribed on every human heart.

"For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.”

But actually I’m talking more about anti-theists than atheists so not so much non-believers or people who have genuinely struggled to believe, but are not (for the time being) able to, as people who actively reject God.

In the modern world the cards are stacked against belief so I don’t blame anyone for taking an agnostic position but I do think there are people who actively do not want to believe in God for the old non serviam reasons, and it is them I am taking about here. There are people who don’t or can’t believe for genuine reasons (though I think they could if they listened to their heart more) and there are also people who have this spiritual sickness of the will I spoke of in the post. The two are quite different and I may not have differentiated sufficiently between them here though I did say this “Many people in the modern world are non-believers because that is the default position in the world today. They follow the norm, and though they are responsible for their non-belief, they are less at fault than someone like this person who has reacted to the question of spiritual truth not with a mere lack of interest but with an active antipathy.”

But I admit that I wrote this in polemical mode and would not be sonconfrontational in conversation!

William Wildblood said...

Also I would say that you seem to me to be someone who is genuinely trying to understand (which I would say is God moving in you) but there are also people who try not to understand and that's what I mean by it being a moral matter. Quite different sets of people.

William Wildblood said...

One final comment just in case anyone is interested! I would distinguish between a passive atheism and an active, more assertive one and it is only the latter I am talking about here.

Eric - said...

This post resonates heavily with me, as do much of what you write. I recognize the kind of "partial intelligence" you point out, and the personality often tied to it. I believe I'm a person of roughly normal intelligence, but heavily tilted to the visionary/artistic side, at the expense of the rigidly analytical one. For example, I think very vividly and almost exclusively in pictures - and always had a very hard time with numbers (to my own detriment). So while I'm inept at that "left-leaning" sort of thing, I suspect I have a heightened aptitude for spiritual perception (which might of course be wishful thinking). This would entail spirit is percieved from the right brain and "spelled out" in the left. I have observed so many stereotypical "math types" with the mechanical intelligence you describe, coupled with emotional immaturity and spiritual ignorance, that there might be something to it. They seem to be able to assess the world very well from a certain mode of operation, yet are not able to assess the bigger picture as a more nuanced mind would be prone to.

So for me as a highly aesthetic (but perhaps not conventionally intelligent) person, accepting God/spirit just came naturally. Although, it is a process I am still growing into, as true belief certainly is not as easy as buying a pair of pants and stepping into them the next moment. The downside of being a poetic nature is of course also never being able to quite feel at home in this world.