Monday 17 June 2019

The incoherent insanity of having forgotten God

Solzhenitsyn famously, and accurately, stated that the root of the problem of our time and culture is that Men Have Forgotten God. This is just a fact - but when Men have indeed forgotten God, then that fact is invisible to them, because their thinking has become incoherent as a consequence.

I know this from both side, because I was an atheist from most of my life; and I know that my thinking was intractably incoherent. I even knew it at the time. Being an honest person, my life was a sequence of attempts to find some kind of basis for morality, art and science - and the sequential discovery that I could not find any such basis.

Socialism, liberalism (social democracy), environmentalism, Small-is-Beautiful distributism, anarchism, conservatism, libertarianism, pragmatism - trying to be apolitical... I was interested by many (non-God) spiritualities at different times. I was sometimes Establishment, other times bohemian. I kept seeking and changing, because - when pushed - nothing made any sense. 

My profoundest intuitions were therefore in continual danger of erosion - because if one's fundamental convictions are false and incoherent, then one becomes a victim of circumstance, and convictions can drift open-endedly - in practice, nearly always in the direction of mainstream social norms; because - why not?

Because Men have forgotten God - are all sorts of incoherent nonsense has become mainstream - and what is mainstream has become mandatory - because why not? Indeed nearly everything pushed by the mass media, politics, the bureaucracy, the churches and charities is not so much wrong as incoherent nonsense.

What can people who have forgotten God do when incoherent nonsense (e.g. feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism) is pushed at them, when they can make no sense of the world and of their lives? When self-contradiction is built-into law and enforced by employers.

When every organisation and institution, everywhere, is corrupting and collapsing; but collapse and corruption is celebrated as a A Good Thing. Destruction and chaos are relabelled creative diversity - because when God is forgotten there is no difference.

Without God there is no purpose, without purpose there is no meaning - so obviously nothing makes sense; obviously nothing ever can make sense.

Yet, as children of God, we cannot help but look for purpose and meaning - we cannot help seeking, but by denying God we have ensured in advance that our search will certainly be fruitless. Any truth, beauty, moral conviction; any meaning or purpose we think we have found in one place - will certainly be contradicted by those we find in other places - because there is nothing to hold it all together.

Modern Man - each and individually, has chosen to assume that God is not and never was, so all is mechanical; and it has both made him mad and unable to detect his own madness.

Every individual is equipped with what he needs to know God, discern purpose and find meaning in Life. When he does not do this, but instead bases his existence upon a denial of coherence, then he has only himself to blame.

Modern Man - one at a time, person by person, each in his freedom and responsibility - is insisting that life is nonsense; and finds confirmation of this assumption everywhere he looks and whatever happens.

If insane incoherent nonsense is what Modern Man wants, that is exactly what he will get. 

Note - What we have is insane incoherent nonsense. Nonsense can be coherent - like the world of Lewis Carroll; insanity can be coherent - with systematic delusions; incoherence can be sane - like that of the unintelligent and uninformed. We have them all together and at once. Because without God - why not? 

Further note: I think that a big problem among modern people is that they expect nihilism passively to be 'solved for them', without activity on their part, without decision, without choice, without the exercise of free agency. Indeed, for modern Man it is a measure of authenticity when life irresisitibly imposes itself upon us - whether we like it or not. But, for modern man - with his high level of self-awareness - that rules-out any answer; thus the path of attempting to extinguish consciousness by numbing with distractions or immersion in virtual reality media; or intoxication with drugs/ sex and other overpowering stimuli. 


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I would love an explanation of how the existence of God solves these problems and makes things meaningful and coherent in a way that they could not otherwise be, because I just don't get it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - I think your question illustrates exactly my point.

In effect, you are asking for an argument for God that would be found convincing by someone who has already decided (metaphysically assumed) that there is no God.

When someone has made the assumption that there is no God - that person falls into a metaphysics of incoherence; and then there cannot be a compelling argument for why God solves that person's subsequent problems; because minus God there cannot be a coherent argument for anything at all.

" how the existence of God solves these problems and makes things meaningful and coherent in a way that they could not otherwise be" is therefore 'shown' (or rather experienced and *known*) by the Difference Between one who knows God and one who denies God.

Anonymous said...

WJT: "If there is no God, then nothing matters." H.G. Wells.

BC: Thanks for advertising/promulgating a link to that speech. That is one of my favorite and oft-referenced essays. Evidence that leftists and atheists are totalitarian, and that we are headed for totalitarianism in the US.

Book Slinger.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce, I'm not asking for an argument for God's existence. What I mean is, taking it for granted that God does exist, how does his existence solve the problem of nihilism.

Bookslinger, I totally understand "if there's no God, nothing matters." What I don't understand is "if there is a God, things do matter."

I accept the existence of God. I do not find that it solves the problem of nihilism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - You are quite correct.

Absence of God causes nihilism. But the mere fact of the reality of God does not solve nihilism.

God is necessary but not sufficient.

This is indeed why Christianity is necessary. If God was sufficient, there would be no need for Jesus - and Judaism/ Islam would be better (being more simply coherent and not having that distraction).

But you already know my explanation for how God is a part of the solution to nihilism - God is the primary creator. And creation is love-in-action.

Nihilism is solved (for God as well as for ourselves) by creation - more exactly by our choice in permanently joining creation as eternal and divine Men. We do this because of love.

The solution to nihilism is participation in loving-creation.

When I state baldly that it is The Solution - more exactly it is the solution for those for whom it is the solution: me for example.

I can understand why it might not be the solution for someone incapable of love (for example) - such a person might not have a solution to nihilism (e.g. a genuine psychopath). Or, a person who deeply and permanently disliked all Men (e.g. perhaps a genuine adherent of ascetic negative Buddhism).

To put it simply, God (the dyad) made creation so that there was a purpose and meaning in the midst of chaos (choas entails nihilism); and it is an opt-in cure for nihilism for those of us who want it.

whitestone said...

The existence of God solves. The problem of nihilism because it shows that there is a correct path,with a worthwhile destination. Otherwise any other road is as pointless as there other.

Anonymous said...

WJT: "What I don't understand is 'if there is a God, things do matter.' I accept the existence of God. I do not find that it solves the problem of nihilism."

Let's define some things. Nihilism essentially means there is no meaning, no purpose, no plan to life/existence, nothing counts.

God means an omniscient/omnipotent Higher Power/Father/Creator, at least in the Judeo/Christian and Western paradigm.

The existence of such a Power/Father/Creator, and us His creation/progeny, logically demands there also be meaning, purpose, and some kind of plan. I'm not sure how to break that down into smaller chunks or smaller logical steps. It is intuitively obvious to me.

The LDS "Plan of Salvation" as presented by missionaries, and in Gospel Principles, is probably the best explanation. (IE, Pre-mortal existence, earth life, Spirit World, 3 Kingdoms.) That plan/purpose is close to where Bruce and his mentor William Arkle arrived via (mainly) intellectual processes.

The LDS Plan of Salvation _is_ the "correct answer." _That_ is "the meaning of Life, the Universe, Everything." And the standard missionary explanation of "how to know it is true" is the correct way to know that it's true: read, ponder, pray, receive answer via Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost can also confirm its truth to the hearer as the missionaries speak/teach it.

Arkle's and Dr. C's journey included a lot of pondering and praying too, but that came after a lot of intellectual exercising and primary thinking, etc. They mainly took the intellectual's journey. It got them to basically the same place where missionaries take investigators in two or three or four lessons.

As most people are not intellectuals along the lines of Dr C and those who have inspired him (Arkle, Barfield, Charles Williams, Steiner), I think the Church's standard missionary lessons would be easier and quicker. But Dr. C has done a great job on this blog for those who need to take, or at least start with, the intellectual approach. I do note that the final steps of both approaches still include personal prayer and personal revelation (answer to prayer.)

Book Slinger.