Monday, January 26, 2015



 
182. God as a goal?

In earlier work[i] I defined religion as a connection with something higher than the self.[ii] That can be the other human being, or humanity, instead of God.

Here I consider an alternative, prompted by John Caputo[iii], inspired by Kierkegaard. According to the latter, God is not ontological, does not refer to any thing that exists, but is a deed of faith, and an act of existence. Faith in God entails the recognition that we are never more true to ourselves than when we lack the truth of who we are (Caputo, p. 93).

There is a connection, further back in the history of thought, with the church father Augustine’s notion of the human being ‘on the way’ (homo viator) to God.

Here, religion is a passion for the impossible, for what we reach for but will never reach, and that we call God.

Could this be connected with my thesis of ‘imperfection on the move’?  Could we call the horizon that we strive for, with passion, but will never reach, God?

What pleads for this is the consideration that to engage in the gamble of imperfection on the move we need to believe, to have faith in its value, or its truth, here taken as fidelity to our humanity or human potential. We cannot know this for certain. It is indeed a matter of faith in something beyond us and hidden. Compare this to the Augustinian notion of the hidden God (deus absconditus).

Here we reconnect with the notion of religion as connection, or dedication, to something higher, beyond ourselves.

I proposed that we engage in imperfection on the move to make the best use, according to our imperfect insight, of our talents.

I added that the creative challenge involved is part, perhaps the essence, of a flourishing life, for which we need to accept the suffering that it is likely to entail. Here I approach Nietzsche.

I also added that we need the other to oppose our views and to try and correct our prejudice in what we strive for and how we do it.

However, and here I deviate from established notions of God, the aim of the endeavour is to contribute not to a personal hereafter but to the hereafter of what we leave behind at our death.

So, if I were to call the horizon, forever shifting as we proceed, of the endeavour of imperfection on the move God, it would be far from traditional conceptions of God as an existing thing, a supreme being, let alone a personal being. Not a providential God. No life after death, no heaven. No theodicy; no divine justice. One could, however, pray to this non-existent God, as an expression of doubt, hope or faith that we are doing the right thing, and perhaps as a consolation for the suffering we incur in it.

Would all this still make me an atheist?


[i] Bart Nooteboom, 2012, Beyond humanism: The flourishing of life, self and other, Palgrave-McMillan.
[ii] As according to the (contested) etymology of ‘religion’ as ‘connection’.
[iii] John D. Caputo, 2013, Truth; Philosophy in transition, Penguin.