Why My Proposed Nonexistence Of God Could Have No Impact Upon The Significance Of Christianity In Modern Philosophy
In terms of globalization, technological progression, and conflicts of morality, the 21st century has so far proved an extraordinary age. In the face of incredible scientific advancements and clashes of opinion, our society has grown accustomed to struggling with ethical questions of a pivotal and unprecedented sort. It is within this modern spectrum of development, controversy, and change that religion often ends up caught in a crossfire. Now more than ever, the teachings of religious establishments are being questioned by younger generations of Americans. And with said establishments campaigning actively against what many consider basic human rights (for example, marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose), organized religion is finding itself in near-frequent juxtaposition with modern ethical philosophies and advancing scientific theories. Raised as a Methodist in a heavily religious environment before denouncing my faith just two years ago, my own connection to Christianity is a deeply personal one. I have experienced first-hand the impact that belief in God can have upon one’s life, and this has greatly influenced my perception of humanity. Although Christians believe that Man is created in the image of God, my philosophy relies primarily upon the conviction that God is a creation of Man. It is my personal belief that God does not need to exist in order to retain enormous relevance in the study of human nature— the concept alone embodies our best, worst, and most important characteristics.
In my opinion, the philosophy that most accurately represents the basic nature of Man is Thomas Hobbes’ Bellum omnium contra omnes, or, War Of All Against All. On our most basic, primal level, human beings are primitive and animalistic. Our nature is dominated by self-interest, and our ethical code and altruism only extend so far as to fulfill whatever we perceive as necessary to further our own species (and thereby benefit ourselves). In this most fundamental sense we are no different than animals– which is precisely what makes the concept of God and Kenosis so extraordinary. To empty oneself of all selfish desire and live in utter selflessness is to defy our most primal instincts, and this is no simple task. In fact, the potential to aspire for higher ideals may be what differentiates mankind from all other living creatures on this Earth. As Ivan Karamazov states in Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, “Man has actually invented God. And what’s strange, what would be marvellous, is not that God should really exist; the marvel is that such an idea, the idea of the necessity of God, could enter the head of such a savage, vicious beast as man. So holy it is, so touching, so wise and so great a credit it does to man.” Out of all of the literature we read in class this term, this passage was my favorite because it struck me as intrinsically true. The concept of God, as described in both the New Testament and the writings of St. Augustine, is synonymous with the purest and most unselfish kind of love. What makes God so important in relation to mankind is not His physical existence: it is the human mind’s capacity to create such a transcendent philosophy and follow it faithfully for thousands of years. Throughout conflict, change, and the crumbling of civilizations, human belief in a higher harmony has continued to live on, and this ability to defy our own base instincts in pursuit of ethical purity is in many ways definitive of our species.
Despite the extraordinary nature of the concept of God, however, religion is deteriorating among younger generations. According to a recent study by Ranier Research, 70 percent of youth leave church by the time they are 22 years old. I believe this fading relevance of Christianity in the modern world is primarily a result of a certain reluctance to accept both scientific and social progression, which has been frequently displayed by many wealthy and powerful churches and religious education centers. Bob Jones University of South Carolina, a Protestant university whose official home page describes the school as being, “Committed to the truth of Scripture and to pursuing excellence in all we do,” is a good example of such philosophical resistance. According to Scripture, the Earth was created in seven days and is about 6,000 years old, and although indisputable evidence tells us that the earth is in fact closer to 4.5 billion years old, Bob Jones University continues to advance what they call a “Young Earth” view in all of their scientific classes. A similar, aforementioned bigotry is evident in the Catholic Church’s refusal to recognize either same-sex marriage or a woman’s right to contraceptives and abortion. To deny another human being such basic dignities as the right to the scientific truths, the right marriage legality, or the right to make decisions regarding their own body, should be considered unthinkable in our modern society. Nevertheless, these establishments continue to use a book written some 3,000 years ago in order to justify unparalleled levels of discrimination, denial, and hate. The concept of God, once the single greatest example of the wonderful capabilities of mankind, has been sucked dry by the organizations that most ardently claim to support it. Just as it highlights the most beautiful parts of human nature, our faith in God also emphasizes what could be considered our most deplorable flaw—our ability to corrupt even the purest of beliefs in pursuit of power.
The way that I see it, nature and potential are the two most fundamental attributes of the human being. Our nature is almost identical to the “War Of All Against All.” We are selfish, grasping, and primitive creatures at our biological core. Like all other organisms we are hardwired to pursue sustenance and procreation, and in terms of natural inclination there is very little that allows us to discern human beings from animals. Our potential to love, however, is far more nuanced, and our ability to defy our very natures in pursuit of a higher ideal appears to be a unique trait of humanity. Thus, the ultimate proof of mankind’s potential to be truly compassionate and altruistic is evident in our ability to create the concept of God. He embodies the most exceptional aspect of human nature. Corrupt religious systems, on the other hand, prove that despite mankind’s pursuit of a loving and transcendent existence, we are also capable of voluntarily undermining these noble beliefs in pursuit of material gain. Because of this, God is also symbolic of mankind’s greatest faults. This dual ability to represent both the most brilliant and the most deplorable aspects of human nature ultimately convinces me that God’s relevance in the study of human nature will survive for far longer than belief in His existence.
When the superfluous rituals and restrictions of Christianity are swept away, we are left with a fundamental principle that speaks volumes about human nature. Whether or not there is actually a higher power is entirely irrelevant—what is much more important is the fact that the human mind was capable of dreaming such a pure and altruistic being into existence in the first place. God is essentially a metaphor for all that is truly good in mankind, and it is my hope that society will eventually begin to differentiate between the actual concept of God and the violence, fanaticism, and manipulation of systematic religion. I believe that the first step towards reaching this goal will be to acknowledge that God truly is nothing more than a concept, and that science and common sense both strongly indicate that there is no divine consciousness dictating our world. It is unnecessary to continue to enforce false ideologies within our society in order to avoid spending eternity in a nonexistent Hell, because God is a creation of the human mind and synonymous with all that is pure To act in a loving manner is to act in the name of God, while to hate or discriminate in His name is a contradiction. It could not be simpler. Therefore, although Christians claim that God created Man in his image, it seems far more likely to me that Man created God in our image instead. His nonexistence of does not negate from Christianity’s philosophical significance—in fact, it validates it. Because when it comes to understanding the nature of Man, recognizing that God is a creation of our minds opens infinite doors and allows us to understand both our distinction from animals as well as our greatest assets and flaws. I believe that one of the most critical steps towards gaining a greater understanding of human nature begins with consideration of the idea that God is nothing more than a concept whose creation embodies the distinctions, imperfections, and potential of mankind, and is in this context more relevant to the study of human nature than any divine presence or authoritarian figure ever could be.