The Problem Of Evil And The Eastern Model of God
In fact my father had been a devout Christian in his youth, and had at one time even considered the priesthood as a career. Later he abandoned Christianity, as so many intellectuals do, because of the problem of evil.
Indeed, the presence of evil, pain and suffering in our world is the most persistent argument raised against Christianity. The argument runs as follows:
1. If God is perfectly loving, He must wish to abolish evil
2. If He is all powerful, He must be able to abolish evil
3. But evil exists. Therefore, an all powerful, loving God does not exist
The conventional Christian response is:
1. God created a world of free will
2. Although God therefore made evil possible, man makes evil actual
3. Eventually God will defeat evil
Nevertheless, although these points about free will and the future have some value, these arguments fail to explain why a loving parent would create (or allow into existence) a Darwinian world, which, in its very essence, is about selfishness, competition and the survival of fittest rather than the most loving. Arguing that evil is the result of man’s free will alone is just not enough, a Darwinian world of flesh eating animals, disease, disability, earthquakes, inequality and heartless competition demands a better explanation.
As Schopenhauer puts it: “A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten.”
This horrifying picture is not a consequence of human free will, rather biology, organisms have to kill and eat each other to survive, pain and competition are the very foundation stones of our world – undermining the ‘man makes evil actual’ argument. In fact even the opening statement of the Christian response – ‘God created a world of free will’ – also clearly fails. Does the African child born to starve really have free will in any meaningful sense? Even the lambs we breed for slaughter have more freedom than these unfortunates. Yet how much free will do any of us have? Choose not to breathe and see how long your freedom lasts.
Christianity also says: (1) God is love. (2) God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. (3) Every individual is special and sacred in his own way. Yet these sentiments are clearly completely incompatible with the cold hard realities of human life. God, if he exists, is not attached to individual human life. If God exists, he has clearly brought about an outrageously cruel world in which human life is deeply expendable and inequitable. Does God care when hundreds of thousands die in a Tsunami, or tens of millions die in a War, or hundreds of millions die of AIDS? Clearly not.
Does that mean that every intellectual must therefore be an atheist? No, it simply means that every intellectual must reject Christianity’s description of God. So what alternative theories of God exist?
During The Age Of Enlightenment the philosopher Spinoza described an impersonal God resembling a logical scientific principle rather than a moral principle. Spinoza also rejected the notion of free will as largely illusionary. Albert Einstein said: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” Today we describe Spinoza’s ideas as an example of “Deism” – the philosophical belief that a supreme being created the universe and religious truth can determined using reason and observation of the natural world without the need for faith or organized religion. Deism became the religion of choice for Age Of Enlightenment philosophers in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Spinoza was certainly not the first philosopher to conceive of a non-loving God. In fact the idea of both a loving God, and of human free will, do not really exist in Judaism, the religion Christianity grew out of. These two ideas, which have become an integral component of modern Western religion and morality, were largely introduced by the Christians.
Consider the Ancient Greek poet Homer’s cosmology. Homer’s Gods remind us of Nietzschean Übermensch; their divinity revolved around their power, their self confidence, their psychological intensity – in stark contrast to their human subjects, who lived in a state of blandness, blindness and slavery. For Homer free will is something that Gods have, and human do not have.
Today Homer’s cosmology strikes us as both primitive and absurd. Nevertheless, one can see that his system is at least untroubled by the problem of evil. In fact his model fits the horrors of our Darwinian world perfectly, because his divinity revolves around power rather than love.
Pythagoras was a critic of Homer’s cosmology. Although his precise beliefs are shrouded in mystery, we do know that he associated reason with divinity and therefore rejected Homer’s colourful picture of Gods sometimes exhibiting irrational human personality traits. Pythagoras was also an ascetic, he rejected Homer’s frequently violent and lustful Gods, he associated self discipline and intellectual idealism with divinity. Pythagoras also conceived divinity as an ideal unitary consciousness, something infinitely greater than individualised human personality, so he moved from multiple psychological human looking Gods to a single ideal dehumanised God principle. His divine principle was rational, even mathematical, and stood in contrast to the irrationality of mortal men.
This Pythagorean vision of divinity I have described remains untroubled by the problem of evil because his God is not loving and human life is not sacred. Although this vision is far more advanced and that Homer’s, something still feels as if it is missing.
Teleology is the philosophical study of purpose and/or design in nature. Sophisticated descriptions of divinity invariably involve teleological positivism – a reason why, a sense of direction, a purpose. Hegel is the philosopher who famously attempted to integrate teleological positivism into Christianity. Hegel believed that human beings can escape from the painful immediacy of human life by the raising up of their consciousness in religion, and that human history is the story of evolving religious consciousness, consequently releasing mankind from suffering.
Plato and Aristotle not only built on the rational Pythagorean cosmology, they added teleological positivism by spades. Hegel said “Anthropology has for its subject matter the soul in its uncultivated natural condition”. Plato’s equivalent runs: Anthropology has for its subject matter the soul in its unthinking natural condition. Primitive human soul, like that of an animal, acts by instinct without intelligence. The blood soaked earth then becomes the mother of all perfection. In their struggle for survival and mastery, humans develop intelligence. For Hegel the endpoint is the spiritual escape from nature, for Plato, the endpoint is the rational conquest of nature.
For Plato, spiritual growth is the process of opening the mind, of abandoning tradition and dogma, of learning to pragmatically solve life’s challenges. What separates a good carpenter and a bad carpenter? Skill in carpentry. How does this skill relate to dogma? Dogma is in essence the precise opposite of skill, it is an assumption of how carpentry should be done, not the intelligent calculation of optimal execution. Dogma enslaves mankind in ideology, it’s opposites are intelligence and creativity. So Plato said that what distinguishes a spiritually evolved man is his ability to make optimal decisions, coming out of his talent for objective analysis.
Even today Plato’s ideas are radical, indeed very few people have even heard of the idea that spiritual growth is connected with reason. Every religions revolves around love and faith is the common, but utterly misguided, Western refrain. Despite our technological advances, the world is still utterly steeped in ideology, still revels in ideology, still rejects rationality as evil. The idealization of rationality during the Age Of Enlightenment has all but vanished, even amongst the worlds premiere philosphers. Even the smartest 20th Century scientist, Albert Einstein, demonstrated profound irrationality concerning his own area of specialist expertise. Einstein disliked the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, not because the scientific arguments were poor, but because he disliked the idea of God “playing dice with the universe”. What Einstein was doing was projecting an ideological assumption onto nature and refusing to open his mind to contradictory evidence. Yet Einstein was the smartest man in Physics, and Heisenberg uncertainty principle was an area he specialised in – imagine how irrational the masses are! Essentially they are robots, animals, completely devoid of intelligence, complete steeped in ideology, whose only experience of creativity is the production of new life by sexual reproduction.
How does one achieve rationality? Plato encouraged people to question their assumptions, to expose their sacred beliefs and values systems to the cold light of reason. Socrates was the Guru who opened the minds of the blind by questioning subjects, demonstrating their complete irrationality, revealing their ideological programming, tearing apart their ethical assumptions. Christianity teaches the precise opposite, instead of tearing apart sacred assumptions we should have faith in them. So although Plato and Socrates believed in God, they rejected all dogma and all faith, both in religion, in ethics and other areas. How did democratic Athens take to Socrates’ radical advice? By executing him! For those seeped in ideology Plato is the anti-christ.
Under the Platonic model, we can imagine God bringing this terrible world into existence in order to educate the souls who inhabit it. God created this primitive world of Darwinian competition as a school. Like the child who can not understand why his parents would cast him from the loving home into a competitive school, man can not understand why God has created this world to educate him. Also, like the child who lives entirely in the moment and has little concept of time, man can not understand that what he feels is a lifetime is not even a blink of God’s eye. Like the child who does not understand that the bruises he takes will heal, man does not understand that death is an illusion. A perfect world, like a school without hardship, can not educate. One day man will learn to conquer Earth completely, to cure all disease and fashion the planet in any way he pleases. Man will become all powerful, all wise and all virtuous, man will become God. So although the world God initially created is the precise antithesis of divinity, it evolves into divinity.
Plato’s rational and teleological positive cosmology is also untroubled is the problem of evil. Summarizing the differences between the Platonic and Christian models: Instead of detached pragmatic intelligence, we have love, traditionalism and faith. The concept of good & evil reverses: In one case ideology is evil and pragmatism is good, in the other case the precise opposite is true. Instead of a loving shepherd who cares for his sheep, God is infinitely detached from finite humanitarianism and only concerned with evolutionary idealism. Instead of egalitarian Christian utopia, we have evolutionary struggle, we have worms and supermen. Instead of being born into free will, we are born into slavery. Instead of evolving into servitude, we evolve into freedom. Instead of a single lifetime on Earth, there is reincarnation. Death is meaningless, human life is not sacred. The black death was not a tragedy, it was just a moment in man’s evolution. Just as St Matthew’s Passion is a mixture of harmony and discord, plague is an integral part of the celestial music.
Christians will object to the apparent heartlessness of the Platonic model I have described, yet love is not missing if we examine the concept correctly. Picture a mother and a father caring for a child. The nurturing mother cares about her child in the here and now, the more challenging father is concerned with the child’s evolution. The mothers worries when the child hurts himself, the father encourages the child to climb trees and take risks, his motto is “no pain, no gain”. The mother is happiest with the baby, who needs the greatest care. The father prefers the older child, who is ready to begin falling down and hurting himself. Take that masculine principle to the extreme, to infinity, and we end up with Plato’s Divinity. To the feminine viewpoint this ultra masculine viewpoint is completely lacking compassion, so it is pure tyranny, pure evil. But from the masculine perspective, the feminine viewpoint is completely lacking idealism, so it is pure materialism, pure evil.
Confucius spoke of a yin/yang duality underlying all philosophy and psychology. Plato spoke of the Mortal-Immortal duality. The yin/mortal viewpoint is egalitarian and nurturing, the yang/immortal viewpoint is competitive and detached. In other words there are two essentially different ways of seeing God, one is yin, and Christianity is an example; one is yang, and the Platonic model is an example. The two visions are totally opposites, even their concepts of good and evil reverse. No wonder the Western masses seeped in Christianity find the Platonic model shocking, and would rather believe in nothing at all.
Max Muller picked up on this when he described two religious visions, the Aryan and the Semitic. One believes in utopian equality, one in struggling inequality. We have the infamous idea of the Semitic perversion of civilization which runs as follows: Because the exulted viewpoint of Socrates is far beyond the masses, the Jewish Religion taught a single lifetime of passive sufferance followed by eternal utopian bliss in the hereafter (Christianity added nurturing love). As this perversion spread beyond the lower classes, the truth was completely lost to Western Society. The rot goes way beyond the technical details of the Western conception of God, it includes the moral system, the concept of enlightenment, the purpose of life.
The most famous Neo-Confucian philosopher, Zhu Xi, espoused the same ideas as Plato. He called his enlightening principle “gewu”, which is the “investigation of things”, the “paying attention to books and affairs”, he was also anti-traditionalist, also pragmatic, and he described God as a rational principle. It must be quickly added that one of the reasons people find the concept of ‘rationality’ so offensive is that the word carries excessively linear connotations, what we are really talking about is an objectivity described by Buddhists as “detachment”.
Yet Christianity has its uses, Confucius realized that not every member of society could follow in Socrates’ footsteps, consequently he created two parallel paths, one philosophical and rational, one traditional and moral. Confucius: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” When reading Confucius, it is vital to keep this in mind, he frequently mixes the two approaches, so in one line he might recommend piety, and in the next radicalism.
If you, the reader, have followed me to this point, you will now understand that there is another conception God, the Eastern Model, which is the polar opposite of Christianity, which is not invalidated by the problem of evil, and which is deeply rational.
In my opinion, China’s economic rise is not unconnected with mankind’s philosophical progress. I believe that we are living though a seminal moment in history, a sort of Age Of Enlightenment Part II. Involved in this is the rise of worthy China, and the decline of the unworthy West. This rotation of power is connected with the rise of a new pragmatic rational conception of God which is the antithesis of Christian theology and morality. During the Age of Enlightenment Western Philosophers, unable to detach from feminized Christian morality, failed to appreciate either the evolutionary or collectivist idealism key to the theological positivism of the Eastern model.
Further Reading: www.theoligarch.com
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