Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I just came across a reference from Steven Colbert to St. Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God. I found a lot more about that argument here (http://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/anselm.shtml).
While anyone who wants to can poke holes in it, I do find it charming and sweet in its earnestness. He makes a pretty good case -- which I find often applies in real life -- that anyone who makes a point of stating that there is no God is actually revealing much more clearly (than their intended point) that their own idea of "God" is too small.
His argument emphasizes in different ways that the only way to know there is no God is to never have given thought to the topic enough to refute it. He says that otherwise if you can conceive of the level of perfection we call "God" enough to articulate that it doesn't exist, that implies that it could exist.
I think the problem a lot of the time, when someone is inclined to refute God's existence, is indeed that they have had deep and painful experience with the smallness of a thing which is not really God but society and its rigidity and lack of love...and out of that it causes them too much pain if they consider that there could be a God (being open to that implies to them that someone or something may be standing in harsh judgment of them for things that they know are outside their control, etc. etc. and the sheer inhumanity and indecency of believing that leads them to say "there is no God".)
I went through such a period after studying about a lot of terrible things society has done in the name of religion. Broke through it one day when canoeing out on a natural spring.... I had never seen this before: Cypress trees along the banks... they braid their trunks together... real braids, all the complexity of an extended braid pattern, and tree after tree had done this... I have no idea the scientific explanation for this. I experienced this moment as: I am looking at divine intelligence.... there must be Divine intelligence because I am looking right at it and can't refute that.
While it isn't a logically valid argument -- I end up believing that it's true none the less. Unless there's' someThing' that by its very nature 'has' to exist, it is very difficult to 'explain' the fact that anything whatsoever at all does exist.
There's also the quibble that nothing can exist without Spirit -- That is, if I imagine a world of physical objects and energies, no matter how intricately interacting, no matter how creatively life-forms in that world process data and generate adaptive responses to it -- There is simply nobody 'there' to experience all this. It doesn't make sense to say such a place might exist, because who could verify if it did?
So this 'someThing' that must exist must be spiritual, must be at least able to serve as a medium for consciousness -- because after all, here are we being conscious. This isn't a matter of 'how much consciousness' or 'conscious of what' -- The fact that it's possible at all is literally miraculous.
The innate goodness of God, of What Is -- isn't something I can prove, anymore than I can logically prove what Olivia is like. But it's something you can "Know' in the same sense that you 'know' any human being, only more deeply.
I like these comments, Forrest. You are pointing to how deeply one can "know" the unprovable....In fact the type of Knowing that you speak of I think is a deeper level of awareness than the consciousness level that generates thoughts like "can this be proven?" or "it's real if I can see it."
We are also very good at doing a more shallow thing: "knowing" that which is in fact wrong just because it serves our biases. So people who are not comfortable with discovering God in their own way may find it easier to assume that "knowing God" is just this bias-based belief in what we wish were true. However, there is always that which is beyond bias and is ultimate reality, and is yes...Perfection and Spiritual and Knowing....and the fact that we have the spectrum of Perfection-Imperfection, Knowing-notknowing, etc. suggests that the ideal version exists at least as an energy of some sort!
I like too that you are kind of re-offering the argument in terms of what "must be":
"...That is, if I imagine a world of physical objects and energies, no matter how intricately interacting, no matter how creatively life-forms in that world process data and generate adaptive responses to it -- There is simply nobody 'there' to experience all this. It doesn't make sense to say such a place might exist, because who could verify if it did? So this 'someThing' that must exist must be spiritual, must be at least able to serve as a medium for consciousness -- because after all, here are we being conscious."
Spirit, uniquely at work within each one of us, is not operating on the "prove it" level....
I suspect and currently believe that our own energy is the key to whatever that Divine relationship is doing with us: when we are filled with (conscious or subconscious) fear of "what if something's in judgment of me?" or anger such as "there had better not be anything but the physical world because if there's an overall Spirit then i'm mad at it beyond words"... when we do those things and occupy our spirit in that way, our own energy / our own spirit is then spending those moments being all about sending out judgment, anger, fear, blockages left and right...stopping that flow...
An alternative prayer to the Divine (instead of this "i hate you, whoever you are" energy) must be on some level like saying "I accept and love you and you don't have to prove yourself to me" or "I sing the body electric" ha ha....that sort of joyful generosity and "just be" toward "The Divine" must generate some Divine back-at-ya. I'm not sure you can read evidence of this as theology in the Bible but it's something I find must be true.
You know, our society as a whole has emphasized the separateness between ourselves and "God" but perhaps it would help us Know (in that mystical, overall way) if we would stop seeing so much of that separateness between us and "God"/God...then we would realize in many cases that we are simply generating the junk and blocks and limited Divine access ourselves!
I DO sometimes get confused for a moron (or perhaps am one) because I think there's a lot more value in not-knowing than in knowing. That said, yes I confess that St. Anselm's argument was "charming and sweet in its earnestness" if not iron-clad. I almost wish he could make it iron-clad at least enough to help me feel self-righteous (it's a good feeling!! ha)... but the mystic in me thinks there would be more of God left on the outside of his equation, even if he could manage to rope enough proof into it.
Hi Olivia and Forrest,
I am enjoying your thoughts on this. Much to think about here. At times I wonder if I exist. I can't prove it but I think I do, those who know me believe I do,,,So,,, I must. I believe that I existed before. I read of a tribe somewhere who did not believe anyone existed until they saw them. In other words their thought was, you just now exist because I just now met you.
I kind of think of all us out in this ocean of life and God the life-guard on a beautiful beach. All of us out different distance from the beach. I believe if I am 200 ft out God will throw a 200 ft rope, If I am 500 ft out, God will throw out a 500 ft rope. I can't see him throwing a 150 ft rope if im 200 ft out then saying he went over half way.
Olivia, I too have found great value in not knowing. As a younger man, I had a lot more answers,, I have learned that most were wrong but there were more of them. Now I simply believe God exists Sooo BIG that I just see him. Too big to see or prove.
I've always believed that any god whose existence can be logically proved is not a god worth worshipping.
Thank you, Rick! Nice point about all the divine wisdom that goes into making the rope just the right length. I have had so many near misses just being a (non-metal-like-the-cars-around-me) pedestrian trying to cross the busy intersection near my home... sometimes I have to think "what's at work here? This is certainly plenty of examples of danger that must be trying to tell me something" -- maybe something like "olivia, being a moron again?" -- and yet more saving me from danger than i could be due for by any stretch. Perhaps the right amount of rope and not a bit more?
Amen, Chris! "I've always believed that any god whose existence can be logically proved is not a god worth worshipping."