Monday, June 2, 2008

Naturalist? Atheist? Beer?

"There is room to wonder whether any philosophy ever has been purely secular, that is, had no religious roots. Socrates, whose work shaped philosophy as we know it, understood his life in philosophy as a religious mission. Even Epicurus sought to give mortals an analogue of the tranquility he saw in the gods. Tillich argued powerfully that such apparently secular philosophies as Marxism and Nazism actually rest on and express "ultimate concern," an attitude indistinguishable from religious devotion. Perhaps at some level, philosophy is always the theology of some ultimate concern. For all philosophy is written in the service of a particular world view and set of values. Almost always, something in a thinker's world picture or values calls forth a nearly religious awe or attracts a supreme, quasi-religious loyalty. This is true even of the naturalism, materialism, or scientism that are the self-proclaimed orthodoxy of today's academic philosophy. For these too have beliefs about what deserves awe or devotion, though they are rarely articulated. Catch the naturalist in a reflective mood, feed the naturalist some beer if necessary and you may hear sentiments like these:

"Humanity matters most, and philosophy ought to just help make our sorry years a bit more bearable."

"Justice matters most, and what gives our brief lives worth is devoting ourselves to realizing it in a classless society."

"Truth matters most, and we redeem ourselves from our utter insignificance by serving it."

"The universe dwarfs us, and the best thing we can hope for is to understand and accept our place in it and feel (as we are) a part of nature."

Naturalists do have such thoughts, though they rarely utter them. They draw them from Stoics, Epicureans, Spinoza or Marx. These arguably are propositions of the atheist theologies that naturalists live by."

-Brian Leftow, from "God and the Philosophers"

If I occasionally have these thoughts myself, with or without the beer, does that necessarily make me a Naturalist? an Atheist? I don't exactly know what I believe with conviction as far as organized religion goes. Maybe there is a God; maybe there isn't. There are times when I can look around me, even when I'm troubled, and I think to myself, 'there is an infinite amount of beauty all around me. This could not come from nothing. The design of the world we live in is too intricate and fits together so simply perfectly for there to be no God.' I suppose if put on the spot today, I'd probably call myself a theist, and use a combination of the Teleological & Cosmological arguments for the existence of God to back up my 'belief'. But, who can really call that a belief anyway? This is a problem that I am constantly trying to work out, and changing my mind about. I could be wrong, and I acknowledge that I might be wrong, and that there is some alternative that my limited human understanding cannot grasp. Maybe there is no God. Then again, maybe there is. Who's to say which is "right" or "wrong"?

No comments: