Reflections on things that matter.
I’m in the process of introducing myself to controversial issues of faith. I started listening to an audio course on the Philosophy (not the theology) of Thomas Aquinas. One of the first things I noticed about Aquinas is that he is very logical. I am only on the 3rd of a 14-lecture course by Dr. Peter Kreeft, but I am enjoying it. We have come to the portion where we discuss Aquinas’s “5 ways” of knowing God exists. I will not elaborate much on those because they are not what I want to write about, but anyone wishing to have a general idea can see this webpage for an overview. I was very excited about the logical way in which Aquinas states it is possible to know God exists, and being a very inexperienced thinker in some realms, I decided I wanted to know what the opposing side, the atheistic mind, had to say about proofs of God’s non-existence, so I grabbed my courage and borrowed a book from the library: the New York Times Bestseller, The God Delusion .
Needless to say that was rather ambitious. I myself am simply a person who likes to think about what I believe, but I’ve always had a nagging fear, a very real fear, of things that set out to disprove my faith. This fear has been founded in the possibility that I very well could wrong about all of my existence. What if everything I know and have been taught was a lie? One day last year I came to the conclusion while walking around campus that I had to allow myself to encounter those fearsome ideas in order to have reality. If God is real, than surely true reasoning will lead me to him. If God is not real…once again true reasoning will lead me to a void, but I came to the conclusion that I would rather seek truth and all its implications than nurture fantasies.
But back to the book. I opened the book and flipped to the table of contents. Page 100 starts a section entitled “Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Proofs.’” My stomach dropped. After spending the afternoon and much of the evening before musing over the highly logical nature of Aquinas’ proofs, I see them tackled early on by name in a renowned piece of atheist literature. What on Earth? My first impulse was to put the book down and tell myself I had bitten off more than I was ready for. I am not a widely read philosopher by any stretch of the imagination. Who am I to think I have an opinion? Classic thinker problem. I assume that because I don’t have Ph.D. after my name yet and become I’m not yet published that my brain is somehow inferior and therefore I must have nothing to say.
Well, after a few minutes I got over that and started perusing this section. I am not finished, but writing as I go helps me process what I think and how I feel separately as well as together. I am skimming through the work and I believe I see somewhat of a pattern. I have spoken to atheists and agnostic and former atheists and one thing I think I am beginning to see is the dichotomy of identity I am terming “God vs. ‘that guy.’” Of late, it has been very hard for people to separate theology from religious philosophy. What I mean by this is that rather than taking the existence of God as a philosophical concept apart from any reference to “that guy” from the Bible, many agnostics and atheists, and many Christian apologists continue to treat the two together even though they must be treated separately to get anywhere. In this section about Aquinas’ 5 Ways, Dawkins does what Aquinas did not even profess to do: he attaches the identity of the God of the Bible to the philosophical concept of God from the beginning. The problem with this is that it pulls all of the religious-philosophical questions about the character of God and the possibility of miracles and a hundred other issues into the existential question requiring not real answer to those other questions. The first question remains “Is there a God,” and the subsequent questions begin with “If so, than what is he like,” or “If not, then what are we and why are we here.”
I notice the same logical hiccup in Any Rand’s philosophical treatment of “reason” verses “mysticism,” and that is why this installment is a continuation of that essay. In her fiction and in her philosophy, Rand seems to address a theology that is, on the whole, indigestible to the intellectual mind. She argues that there need be no “mystic experiences” and that reason is the highest good, omitting a need for any sort of deity or first cause. When her definition of this deity whom she rejects is examined, it can be concluded by rational Christian and Atheist alike that she is completely justified in rejecting such an illogical being. He, being or purporting an existence full of flaws and contradictions, cannot exist, and therefore I need not believe in him. “That Guy” is the result of rumors and ideas men have pieced together for thousands of years through hundreds of worldviews and conflicting ideologies. Their god is a mess. This does not, however, mean that there is no such being as God and that he cannot be good. Once again, I assert that there is, indeed, such a thing as an appropriate atheist, and I applaud them (all of them throughout history). Those who rejected on the basis of rational conflict the god fed to them by the gentry and the clergy were closer to the true God because of their denial of the pretender. Let it be understood that belief in God is not an ultimatum. It is not “the God of the church or no God at all.” Before the question of God is a religious one, it is an existential philosophical one, and if logic and reason demand that there be a necessary first cause, that is not the same as implying that this cause must be God X from Y religion. I hope I give many atheists by principle leave to be agnostic by saying this.
 Kreeft, Peter. The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2009.
 Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 2006.