“I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really. "
I think ideology has 3 big pillars of psychological construction:
1. Explanation: The Story. Stories and patterns are important in navigating existence for humans
2. Justification: The Purpose. The purpose driven life, self esteem, identity ego
3. Sanctification: The Sacred. Protection and security in hostile nature
Whether it is secular humanistic beliefs in human superiority or religious beliefs of human sacredness they are like ballons of self aggrandizement that can easily be popped by the sharp point of reality.
To deal with the jagged edge ideology serves a purpose to anchor the human mind in something solid in a fluid reality.
““Call me Ishmael“…different ways of seeing the world…outcast…wandering. Ishmael is the character who is friendly not only with all the niceties but also all the horrors the world has to offer. “Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it.” Leaves the certainties of one’s own civilization. Queequeg tells Ishmael that the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked, infinitely more so, than all his father’s heathens…Thought he, it’s a wicked world in all meridians; I’ll die a pagan.
-All Things Shining
"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
"Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!"
― Herman Melville, Moby Dick
"the sea's only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong."
The Problem of Evil (Theodicy) carries within it some degree of emotion because it is responding to the rather explicit theological and emotional claims of Christianity.
For most ideologies the axiomatic roots are in grow in the soil emotive experience.
Christian Apologists like William Lane Craig will assert that those who bring up the problem of evil or other such problems with this Cosmic Drama are engaging in emotion and therefor it is not relevant to his Theology or God concept. But that would only be the case if his God concept was rather abstract and without any specific claims of its own. The moment you move from the Unknown God to the Known God then these claims of the known God can be looked at with a critical eye.
A quick reminder of the revealed God of the Bible:
Matthew 10:29-31 New International Version (NIV)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
This verse alone carries within it specific claims and claims that have an emotional weight with human beings. God is called Father. This Father cares for even birds. This Father knows the very hairs on your head. Be comforted for human beings are worth more than birds.
What specific claims with so much emotional appeal! God as Father is in itself an emotional and theological claim with huge implications to human psychology.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
Again the Father loves the world! What we know of human history and natural history is this love? And everything has been placed in the Son’s hands. These are huge specific theological claims that are inherently emotional and are problematic when it comes to how human history and natural history have played out. Loving the world and having the world in your hands cannot be ignored if a person really wants to know whether this God makes sense in this world and Universe.
If God is to be understood through nature it is hard to see the Christian God as being conducive with that God construct. Charles Darwin used one family of parasitic wasps as evidence for natural selection, writing to a colleague:
“I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.”
“That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Which is more likely, that pain and evil are the result of an all-powerful and good God, or the product of uncaring natural forces? The presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection.”
When these specific attributes of the Creator are brought up then a person should question whether the knowledge of the natural world works well the description of this being. You can call that emotional but it is a rational response to emotional theological claims. It is intellectually dishonest to assert that those who reject these Christian claims are simply being emotional when those who accept these claims are also frail human beings with all the same emotional make up.
Many people are Christians not for Vulcan like logic but because of provincial social reasons that have much to do with psychological and emotional sources. Family bonds, parents, spouses, children, and the community have a great deal of influence on a persons emotional attachment to certain ideologies including Christianity.
Religion takes advantage of our emotions: our guilt, our fear, our solipsism, our shame, and our need for purpose and meaning in this life. The pillars of a human social life are covered with the vines of religious justification: Marriage, birth of a child, and the death of a loved one are infused with religious ceremony…how is this not an emotional advantage for the religious meme.
What could be more comforting to a highly evolved conscious decaying human than security in sex, children, and death? Religion has the emotional advantage par excellence.
In fact the God of the Bible is quite emotional as well. God is loving, merciful, angry, jealous, and gets emotional with the people of Israel many times in the Old Testament. If William Lane Craig is to be critical of all this perceived emotional reaction perhaps he should start with the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is from the imagination of emotional human beings and it shows.
“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” – Jesus according to Matthew 23:24
A Christian Apologist is a defense attorney for the Christian concept of God. And the Christian God certainly needs a good defense attorney with the capricious criminal behavior in the Old Testament and the contradictory perjurious behavior in the New Testament. Not to mention the all good powerful God allowing such immense suffering on this earth for millions upon millions of years. These Lawyers for God try to get him off on theological technicalities. As the saying goes-”If you have the facts. Hammer the facts. If you have the law. Hammer the law. If you have neither then hammer the table!” Hammering the table with theological technicalities will not get God off when a skeptical and informed jury are in the box. Now if you are appealing to a jury on what is popular, comfortable, and tribal then that is different. Who wants the truth when sophistry keeps one in a comfortable bubble of dogma? Theistic apologists have answers but the answers never rise to the challenge of the question. Their concern is not the truth but getting their client off by means of sophistry and special pleading.
“The Excessive importance attached to ‘apologetics’ is therefore an undeniable proof of the decline of the religious spirit…such apologists themselves furnish the proof of their complete ignorance of the real character of the doctrine whose more or less authorized representatives they believe themselves to be.” René Guénon (The Crisis of the Modern World)
A Christian Apologist like William Lane Craig does not study Science or philosophy because he wants to understand and know more for the sake of curiosity but instead he uses knowledge as a will to ideological power. A means of intimidation and manipulation. Craig is the Christian Orientalist and Colonialist in the manner of the critique of Edward Said. Edward Said noted that Western Colonial powers studied a culture not to genuinely understand it but rather to dominate and control it. Craig uses science and philosophy when it is convenient to his ideology. Craig uses knowledge instead of truly seeking knowledge. William Lane Craig for that reason is a corrupt philosopher. Knowledge as a will to power not as a will to truth. He seeks to win not to be wise.
There is a high degree of smugness with William Lane Craig. Ernest Becker noted that dogma gives the human the ability to be smug about death and terror. Voltaire stated that doubt is uncomfortable but certainty ridiculous. Craig’s ability to be smug when he believes in Biblical miracles is surely a sign the Enlightenment never really took to American Society. William Lane Craig’s apologetic presentations may be organized and disciplined in his delivery but it lacks the meat and weight of the burden of the philosopher. Craig is a suppressed philosopher who has never wrestled with despair and never allowed for the release of the Titans in his mind. Michel de Montaigne said that “Philosophy is Doubt” but for WLC it is his faith. Faith in his credentials even more than his God.
He attacked Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins for being philosophical lightweights compared to his credentials and yet most of the Christian community he swims in are full of people much less educated than Christopher Hitchens or Dawkins. And what about his own weaknesses including his lack of credentials in Biology or Astronomy? Dr. Craig speaks of Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists lack of command of philosophy and theology and yet I wonder if his lack of scientific specialization ever gives him any pause? WLC lacks the education Dawkins has in Biology. Should WLC get a doctorate in Biology before he discusses anything to do with Science? WLC does not chastise the lack of scholarly knowledge in the faith community that he swims in as long as they agree to his vision of God. For William Lane Craig it is not the pursuit of knowledge that matters but instead that you submit to his ideology. Craig does not want people to study more he wants an Amen from the credulous crowd. For Craig there is no pressing need for Christians to study more just trust in his scholarship and pay him to go up against those troublesome skeptics. If there was a true scholarly revolution in the American Church there would be less faith and more doubts in the fundamentalism that Craig champions. If more Christians were sophisticated Bible Scholars there would be more Crossans, Borgs and Ehrmans and less fundamentalism like Craigs brand. Craig does not give good reasons for faith in Jesus but he gives good reasons for faith in himself! Craig gives believers less educated than Hitchens reasons to feel good about themselves being credulous. If an educated man like Craig is a believer then I am ok. Craig shows contempt for the layman and yet he expects the layman to follow him without question. Again this points to his desire for the layman to submit more to his scholarship not to study more for themselves.
In his debate with Victor Stenger the topic of Christianity coming late in evolution and human history was brought up. Craig actually got into the numbers game of how many humans suffered and died before Jesus showed up in human history. Something Adolf Eichmann would surely appreciate. The lack of empathy and imagination is there to see-(it was only millions of Jews who perished in the holocaust not billions?) what empathy! -if this is where Christian Apologists want to make their stand the only thing to do is underline it. Mary Jo Sharp has a blog called “Confident Christianity” with the type of followers of William Lane Craig it should be called “Cocky Christianity.” WLC followers are so enamored with his presentation, organization and discipline that they forget what really matters is if he is speaking for the truth or not. What matters to them is that he gets his God concept off on a theological technicality instead of caring for the reality of whether God does exist or whether Jesus is God. What matters to them is that he wins a point or two in debate tactic comparisons versus the unadulterated truth. This insecure juvenile reaction of cocky Christianity lacks the humility of the Nazarene and the faith of the early Christians. It is American Christianity with an emphasis on winning a game instead of sincere faith in the man of sorrow in early Christianity. Christian apologetics as entertainment value not a way to wrestle with knowledge and God. No matter how many philosophical cliffs WLC takes you to he still has no bridge to build to his Christian God. In the end it takes a leap of faith. But the prideful Craig has a hard time admitting that leap.
Mark 10:15 (New King James Version)
Where is the humility, kindness, justice and genuine faith in William Lane Craig’s Christian Apologetics? It lacks these but it has plenty of pride, sophistry, smugness and indifference.
William Lane Craig is a human mortal with all the limitation, baggage and bias that we all carry. His knowledge is incomplete. He needs faith to get to the Christian God. Can he even admit what the Apostle Paul stated? Or is he so invested in protecting his pride and his tribe that he fails to see his own weakness and fragility?
The irony of this argument from Christian apologists who say that there needs to be a higher degree of biblical scholarship before commenting is that most of the Christian beliefs they defend are believed by people who have no such scholarship. IF more Christians studied the Bible at a higher level I think there would be more doubt and less fundamentalism. Is this what christian apologists want? More likely they use it to bully people into silence and obfuscation.
“They muddy the water, to make it seem deep.” Nietzsche
He once argued that the linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein—one of the most terrifying thinkers who ever lived—was an artist because " he realized that no conclusion could be more horrible than solipsism."
(David Gates on David Foster Wallace)
"We each have our own view of the world shaped by our state of mind. We each have our own myopia, leaving us wondering how others feel so differently to ourselves. But where it really goes down in flames is when this myopia shapes the way we act towards others, the way we judge them as ignorant for not sharing our outlook."
The Axiomatic roots are often in the soil of emotive experience and then the flower of reason is shown to the public.
"The role of luck in our lives appears decisive...this poses a problem"[for the way humans traditionally speak and think about social structure]
Is Free Will a necessary fiction to organize human society even if it ignores the multitude of deterministic variables that many people are unaware of? Even if the will is free it is limited and restricted. It is as free as a prisoner in a prison cell. You can be free to some extent in your cell but only within that room. Determinism is the prison and the cage one is condemned to be "free" in. There are too many wires and cross connections between what one calls the self and the causal events that make up that self for there to be a clear free will. Hume said reason is the slave of the passions one could say free will is the slave of determinism.
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
HP Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu"
This makes me think of Ernest Becker's thought that modern humans have been disinherited by their own intellectual strength. For some nothing less than a transhumanistic utopia or a final solution will do. For others retreating to the illusions of our ancestors is the answer. Could there be a middle way... a path that avoids hubristic utopias and self destruction.
The Philosopher John Gray directly challenges the value and purpose of the Enlightenment in "Straw Dogs":
"I should liken Kant to a man at a ball, who all evening has been carrying on a love affair with a masked beauty in the vain hope of making a conquest, when at last she throws off her mask and reveals herself to be his wife." In Schopenhauer's fable the wife masquerading as an unknown beauty was Christianity. Today it is humanism.What Schopenhauer wrote of Kant is no less true today. As commonly practised, philosophy is the attempt to find good reasons for conventional beliefs. In Kant's time the creed of conventional people was Christian, now it is humanist. Nor are these two faiths so different from one another.
Over the past 200 years, philosophy has shaken off Christian faith. It has not given up Christianity's cardinal error – the belief that humans are radically different from all other animals. Our lives are more like fragmentary dreams than the enactments of conscious selves.
We control very little of what we most care about; many of our most fateful decisions are made unbeknownst to ourselves. Yet we insist that mankind can achieve what we cannot: conscious mastery of its existence. This is the creed of those who have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind.
But what if we give up the empty hopes of Christianity and humanism? Once we switch off the soundtrack – the babble of God and immortality, progress and humanity – what sense can we make of our lives?"
“Have you suffered for knowledge’s sake?” - Nietzsche
"Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter"