tirsdag 27. september 2011

God and the Meaning of Life.

I det siste har jeg bare så vidt holdt min egen blogg gående. Jeg har lest, men ikke kommentert på andre blogger. Jeg skulle vie meg fullt og helt til arbeidet med Natur-spørsmålet. Men utsettelse kan føre godt med seg. Takket være nettsufing har jeg denne uken oppdaget et par nye Wittgenstein-blogger som virker interessante, Philosophical Investigations og  Understanding Wittgenstein. På A Piece of Coffee skriver Toby Simmons under overskriften "The Absurdity of Life without God" et tankevekkende innlegg om ateisme og troen på gud. Her er en noe bearbeidet versjon av min kommentar fra tidligere i dag.


Simmons writes that life without God is absurd. I’m sure that many atheists proudly would reply that they much prefer the absurdity of their godless life to a life of lies. Consider the objection: "What good does the belief in God do? Surely, the real question is whether this belief is true or not!" Now, let me be clear, I’m not making this objection myself. I just wonder if perhaps his post lends itself to this kind of demands for empirical evidence of God’s existence, that Richard Dawkins and his ilk never fail to bring up.

I’m no believer. I do not believe in God, nor do I believe that He doesn’t exist. I'm no atheist in that sense. Nor am I an agnostic -- hesitating to commit myself either way until the matter has been settled by reason and evidence. This way of framing the God-question, frankly, doesn't appeal much to me. It sounds, strangely enough, too similar to the dogma of the Roman Church. Wittgenstein once wrote that this dogma -- that the existence of God can be proven by natural reason -- would make it impossible for him to be a Roman Catholic: "If I thought of God as another being like myself, outside myself, only infinitely more powerful, then I would regard it as my duty to defy him." As far as I understand it, I think I share this view. So, when I say that I don't believe in God, the explanation isn't that I see no reason for belief; the explanation is rather that I'm not sure I understand the question. I don't know what believing in God is, much less whether I believe it or not. I don’t see what difference this belief makes. How does a life with God differ from a life without, for instance? I wouldn't know. In short, when asked whether I believe or not, I have no idea what an answer (whether positive or negative) would look like. If I found God today, let us say, could my life go on just as it did yesterday, only with this slight change, that I now believe that something called "God" exists? I guess not. (If it could, I don't see the point. I would be tempted to claim, in such a case, that nothing of importance had happened.) But looking at friends and relatives who claim to believe, doesn’t help my understanding much. On the surface their lives seem quite similar to mine. Many of them don’t even go to church. Were I ever to find God, my life would be radically changed (or so 
I imagine), but I am utterly unable to imagine what that life would be like.

The world would look differently to me, no doubt, but how? I freely admit that life does strike me as pointless and absurd at times. I’m not convinced, though, that this is because I have no good answer to the question of why there is something rather than nothing. It may be. On the other hand: is a Christian life -- provided with such an answer -- entirely free from this sentiment? Surely that's not right. It may be that a Christian's feeling of pointlessness has a different shape and intensity than a non-believer's, maybe it has the extra dimension of being a sin, for instance? And maybe this difference shows itself in the way a believer and a non-believer solves this problem? A Christian might perhaps shake off her discomfort with the conviction that God has made this world for a purpose, how bleak and pointless things may appear to mortal eyes. Whereas I find other things to occupy my thoughts with -- caring for my kids, for instance, which, by the way, is a source of great joy to me, and serves me with a relatively robust feeling that my life is worthwhile after all.

Finally. Is God really necessary for there to be a life after death? Toby Simmons seems to suggest that, but I don’t see it. Couldn’t we just imagine death as a door between two adjacent rooms, and that this could go on for ever and ever? I grant that there wouldn’t be much purpose, in the Christian sense, in this, but there wouldn't be death either. A skeptic like Dawkins would perhaps say: “I don’t see any reason why I should believe there is any life after death. But if I were to believe it, why on earth should I choose or trust your Christian version over, say, the Buddhist one?” That's not what I would say, but I think I know where this question comes from. I guess my attitude towards this issue, again, is similar to that of Wittgenstein: "The real question of life after death isn’t whether or not it exists, but even if it does, what problem this really solves." And I honestly do not see the answer. With or without God.

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