Freitag, 19. Oktober 2012

Does God Exist?


Peter Hart (GB)

There is a certain sense in which this question of questions — which inevitably admits of no certain answer — has become frayed at the edges. Or at least we may say that a considerable degree of boredom sets in as soon as we realise that the only certainty is that there is no certainty, and that not    a single proof exists. I mean, you might as well tell a child that God lives in the attic. And, when she consistently reports to her mother that every time she has climbed into the attic and looked around it is empty, what will her mother say? ‘Ah, my dear, you must believe in God.’ Well, it will hardly wash. The attic will remain as empty as any church in the small hours, and the girl may well begin to think that her mother has taken leave of her senses. Worse, she too may take up worship of the ‘God of the attic’. Does that sound frivolous? Well, ‘Staggering and terrible is the power of the human mind to invent the supernatural: still more startling its power to believe in what it has invented.’ (John Cowper Powys, In Spite of.)

Well, we have had enough of the super–subtle arguments of the philosophers and the theologians: they play by the rules, and for the most part ignore the highly inconvenient questions that children tend to ask in the playground, (and why should we not start from ground level?).  ‘Well, where’s ’e [God] live then? I ain’t never seen ‘im.’ ‘What’s ‘e do all day?’ And then, at sixth form college: ‘So you say that God watches us all day. That’s so not cool — what a pervert and voyeur!’ A few months ago there was a bright yellow poster on a full–sized hoarding on the north side of Hills Road Railway Bridge. The wording was something along the lines of Jesus came to save us from our sins. I happened one day to be on the top of a bus, sitting next to some students from Hills Road Sixth Form College. They looked at this poster with bemusement — as something quite irrelevant to their lives, and strictly beyond their comprehension. I drily remarked to them that I ‘hadn’t seen him [Jesus] around for some time.’ They cracked up with healthy laughter...
 
But, in all seriousness, we should ask ourselves: ‘Quite what the point was in creating a planet — such as the earth — and then populating it with humans simply [sic] to see how they behaved towards one another in the somewhat bizarre conditions in which they find themselves placed?’ Even had it pleased such a supernatural being to create a world devoid of evil and suffering, we might still put it to ourselves: ‘What exactly would be His/Her/Its purpose in doing so?’ Admittedly, this would be a very considerable improvement on the prevailing conditions — to put it mildly — yet it would still seem to be the strangest possible exercise. And then to go to such immense trouble: some 4.6 thousand million years of development, before the appearance of humans sufficiently intelligent to praise Him/Her/It for the original act of creation! I begin to think that the signal inefficiency of this process   is perhaps the cause of the eternal shtoom that God keeps. On the other hand, I ask myself, could it be that He/She/It has died of the sheer boredom of omniscience: the indescribable ennui of living a life    in which there is not a single aspect of drama or wonder. Not to mention the sheer drudgery of monitoring the every act and thought of millions of humans (logically impossible, even for God, by the way), most of which — by comparison to the supernatural vision of God — must seem unendurably petty and monotonous. God, what a life! Situation Vacant, most likely…  

 Endnote from Xenophanes of Colophon, flourished circa 530 BCE

Indeed, there never has been nor will there ever be a man
Who knows the truth about the gods and all the matters of which I speak.
For even if one should happen to speak what is the case especially well,
Still he would not know it…

 Xenophanes Translation by Robin Waterfield, from his book The first Philosophers, Oxford (2000)

NOTE Apparently Xenophanes was essentially a believer in a single god. However, he seems to have envisaged a kind of irreducible ‘one’: something along the line of Plotinus’ beliefs. Whatever that might precisely mean, it is a decided rejection of polytheism and of gods with human characteristics.

We are not made in God’s image; we have made God in our own (idealised) image. And try as any of us might we cannot shift this image from our minds: Michelangelo’s mighty father figure — whose will is inscrutable, and from whom we have never heard a single word.

***

Thanks to Contemporary Literary Horizon, Bucharest, Romania. 

Peter Hart about himself:
I’m not sure I can write anything that will give anybody the remotest idea of what I am like! For example, I went to Hastings School of Art in 1959 at the age of 15, but this fact tells you nothing about the atmosphere of that institution. Like most people who go to art schools, I never did anything professionally related to the subject. After working as a security guard, a hospital porter, and a hospital floor cleaner, I started working in a bookshop. I then worked as a bookseller until retirement, and now work two days a week on the computer records of the Children’s Intensive Care Unit at Addenbrookes, Cambridge, UK. In other words, back to hospital work!


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