Descartes “constructed” the existence of God from the one truth he could completely verify: Cogito, ergo sum. From that he managed to reconstruct the real world that he had earlier discarded as a possible deception of his senses: he said that if he was being deceived, there had to be something to be deceived, and that was him, a mind. He then somehow argued for a benevolent being (“God”) (here may I present the opposite thereof), and since such a benevolent being existed, why would it go about deceiving poor Descartes’ senses? This God would not, therefore what Descartes saw, smelled, touched; in a word, what he experienced, that had to all be true as well. Our professor strongly suggested that we didn’t go around doubting everything we experienced as Descartes did, but it just makes one begin wondering.
Here’s a thought: according to somebody whose name I forget, things we experience only exist because we think they do. We don’t just think so: we think we know so and because of that, unlike Neo in The Matrix, bending the spoon is impossible. Neo could supposedly step outside of that ingrained knowledge, but of course The Matrix is just a movie (a series of movies, the first of which the only one worth philosophizing about). My thought is this, that if such was true and I were typing on this “keyboard” which rests on a “desk” and I look at my words on the “monitor” – well, when everybody leaves this room, would all that vanish? Once all our preconceived notions – this would assume that also everybody subconsciously notices every detail and the room remains approximately the same – were removed, would there be just plain nothing there? For that matter, if there’s nobody in a stretch of forest what would be there? The rub comes when you take the instance of one single person, completely alone, going to a place they’ve never been to before and arrive holding no preconceived notion of what to expect. You could say that what they would see is only what they expected, but supposing they literally expected nothing: they wouldn’t just find a void, would they?
The Analytical Reasoning class focuses on asking critical questions and “purifying” what my professor calls our “web of beliefs.” We all believe too many things to count, and we wouldn’t believe them if we didn’t think they were true (right?); so if we’re honestly critically analysing our beliefs, some of those beliefs may turn out as falacies. Then, of course, the question becomes: “Do I let this belief go, because now it’s definitely false?” Generally you’d hope that would occur, but take my belief in Christianity. I have examined it, questioned it, and still believe it. Why? Perhaps my questioning was too half-hearted and I feel to tightly attached to the idea that though I am evil, Jesus Christ died for my sins; as a result of His sacrifice I will spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God. On the other hand, this is one difficult thing to argue either way, because it involves faith. Knowing something that you cannot verify or sense: sound stupid? No, because Christians say they do sense God moving in their lives. What others call luck or coincidence, Christians call God working. I have not yet encountered a strong enough argument against Christianity to make me seriously reevaluate that particular belief, yet to a non-believer I cannot offer a strong enough argument to support the belief either.
Into this point we must insert this: the difference between “believe” and “know.” To believe something is to think a piece of data true without convincing evidence. To know something is to also have the ability to offer compelling evidence in favor of that datum. Where should any religion or non-religion (agnosticism, atheism) fall on that scale? Can we truly say “I know that God is love,” or on the other side, “I know that God does not exist”? In class she asked us to write three things we believe and three things we know. I wrote:
I believe that God is the center of the universe.
I believe that Jess and I will be friends a long time.
I believe that killing is wrong.
I know that my husband loves me.
I know that the sun will rise tomorrow.
I know that 1 + 1 = 2.
Even now, looking at these two days later, I wonder if they are accurate. DO I know the sun will rise tomorrow? No; it has every morning I’ve lived, and every morning my parents – grandparents – great grandparents – have lived; but does that mean it will tomorrow? And I cannot even vouch for my and Jess’s relationship, because though we parted on good terms Ian and I had a talk last night that is forcing me to seriously consider the value or wisdom of maintaining that relationship as it is now. That’s the topic of a whole ‘nother blog, however. And do I just believe that killing is wrong, or is it confirmably wrong? God says it is, aside from any squeamishness I might have at the idea of murder, but is that my simply being a “sponge” and not “panning for gold” (sponge being not questioning input, while panning for gold is filtering all data to find truth)? The ability to systematically PROVE God or religion has evaded brilliant Christian scholars for centuries. David Hume apparently has said that it isn’t possible to prove religion, so there’s no point in even trying: Believe what you believe but you cannot prove it.
Now, can we fit William Blake into this? A Christian, he set out to rewrite the Bible, but not in the way you’d expect. He wrote poetry to show that in fact God was created by man’s mind: indeed, that humanity – Albion – created the cosmos and our Fall came when we invented God to create the Cosmos. According to Blake, and in complete opposition to Descartes’ method of “discovering” God through completely infallible and proveable truths, Urizen (“your reason”) is the Empire, the Enemy. Blake said through his poems that it was the accusation of sin that brought death to the world, and we had to cast off our “mind-forg’d manacles” (London) through Art. Art could create the New Jerusalem now! He was all against the Church and hierarchy, as you can see:
The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door,
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore,
And saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.
But! I get sidetracked. Time is on my side and you my captive reader wondering: Can she pull it all together? Descartes, Man of Reason in opposition to William Blake, Man of Imagination. Following Descartes’ way of thinking, perhaps through logic one could indeed prove a faith, though it has not yet been done and I haven’t the mind to do it myself; but to Blake all would be better if humanity recognized the deity within themselves and through Art, Imagination, Love, Forgiveness… created the New Jerusalem. In fact, Blake and the guy-whose-name-I-forget both suggest similar things: that humans create the reality we live in. The nameless gentleman and Blake have different ways of coming to this conclusion, but here: could the “I know” and “I believe”, if both just created by the human mind, be the same thing? That, as in The Matrix, Albion/Humanity needs only to wrap its mind around the god-ness in us all and when we believe something it comes to pass, and becomes truth? Blake called himself a Christian but believed that Jesus’s resurrection was actually the reawakening of Man and that Jesus WAS Man, the first Artist. Part of the universe is younger than the stars than inhabit it.
Indeed, no; I believe little of what I have just questioned above. Food for thought, yes; serious reconsideration of any system of belief, no. Christianity has come through much in the last 2,000 years and perhaps has become diluted, poisoned, mangled. But the straight truth remains: God is Love. Blake calls people to love. Descartes “discovered” God through reason. Love through reason – that is what Jesus Christ, deity and man of love, did for us on the cross. Reason says he should have saved himself, but Love died to save us.
I now notice that smoke has begun seeping out my ears, not a good sign for my brain. I will take that as a suggestion to quit for now.
– KF –
43 days to Ian