enlightenment and belief

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By FLÁVIO R. KOTHE*

The believer believes that God made everything so that man could enjoy

There is no freedom of belief. There is only freedom in unbelief. The believer gives up freedom by choosing faith. He also abdicates reason: by promoting himself as a divine creature, he gives up what would distinguish him: the ability to rationally think about the complex. Those who believe bet that they have already reached the object even before leaving. He is sure of what he sees, because he sees before he sees. Uncertainty would lead to a bet on the search for something more exact to happen. Seeking knowledge is a gamble, the result of which is often different from what was expected.

Thanks to previous Enlightenment efforts, we have no exact idea of ​​the hardships that people persecuted for religious beliefs went through – and still go through: not just far from Brazil. Her moans were silenced; the testimonies they could give us, suffocated. History is a long speech to silence those in power who do not want to be heard. The forgotten can return with the strength of the repressed. Destroying the secular state leads to persecution.

The believer feels superior to the “atheist”. He thinks he's a poor bastard, abandoned by God, condemned to hell. This is contained in the word atheist, one who has no God. On the other hand, the believer thinks that God is with him, is on his side: even if it comes with charges, belief seems to guarantee eternity. The 1988 Constitution shows that it is on your side, granting IPTU exemption to all temples: thus breaking with the basic principle of equality, that everyone must pay taxes.

The believer's certainty rests on his faith that there is an afterlife. This certainty stems from uncertainty: it sinks into a certainty on which it is based. The more insecure, the more certain you are. As much as the community reinforces the belief, as much as sermons, homilies and ritual performances say that there is this life after death, there is no one who has come back from the dead to guarantee its existence. They say that Christ would have returned, that Orpheus would have, but that is fake news, miracles are fake oldies. They are fantasy narratives.

Why would there be freedom only in unbelief? Belief is dogmatic, it is not open to other ways of seeing. The mind needs alternative points of view to seek the totalization of the object: it does not have an explanation for everything nor can it see all sides of things. It needs to allow the object to show itself from many sides, it needs to allow itself the freedom to re-examine issues in a way not seen before. There are always dark sides to what is examined. Disbelief loses its freedom if it only wants to oppose belief.

The believer narrows his angle of vision, filters all the data in such a way that he only ends up receiving from them what was already in the spectrum of his belief. He does not reach the other of himself, he only finds in the object the projection of what he already had in himself. He believes he has arrived at the object, but he has only arrived at the phantom that seems to him to confirm his belief. He cannot rescue himself, because he thinks that “The object” is what is subject: he subjects the object to the subject. The dogma pretends to have an explanation, but it is simple-minded, incapable of understanding things more comprehensively, in their contradictions. The “clear and distinct ideas” of the catechism are neither clear nor distinct nor ideas. They are simple falsehoods.

A politician chasing votes cannot question beliefs. He needs to woo them all to get the alms of the vote he needs. He cannot be a public thinker, the thinker cannot be from a political party, as he would have to fit into the party's program.

What mobilizes belief is the fear of death. Almost all of them love themselves so much that they would like to be eternal. It's hard to face your own finitude. If that of the body is undeniable, different forms of perenniality are invented: eternal soul, reincarnation, spirit, etc.

Those who get old are more likely to die. You can fill the house with figurines, amulets, offerings: the reaper goes through everything. In Greece, the difference between gods and men was between being immortal and being mortal. Otherwise, they were almost the same. But those gods are dead too.

As long as we are alive, we are immortal, because we have not yet died: we only have the possibility of, but that is denied as soon as we keep kicking. When we die, then we become quite immortal, because we simply cannot die anymore. For the dead, immortality is not a problem. It is a fact: he can no longer die. He is no longer afraid of dying.

Death is not an evil and it is not even a human privilege. Any living being dies. By the way, if even stars die and stones are crushed, death is also in the nature of things. Our atoms will continue to be around, even though they are not us. Contrary to what Martin Heidegger thought, animals are also afraid of dying. They fight to preserve their existence. We are not special or different because of that. We make up that a god died to save us so we can take more lives.

We die several times throughout our lives. We have to learn to resuscitate, until we can't do it anymore. Death is not evil. Life certainly is, since it survives through the death of other people's lives. It is not moral, as Nietzsche said. We have to accept dying itself as a relief for all the lives we would continue to destroy if we stayed alive.

When you actually die, you no longer have the problem of death. Only those who are alive can die. Death is a problem of life. Whether the living being believes he has an immortal soul or not, he will die anyway, it won't make the slightest difference. It only makes a difference to guide life: living in terms of an everything that is nothing, or admitting that this everything is a compensatory fantasy, which serves the subject to deceive himself and others. Anyone who lies to themselves and others is not to be trusted. He believes himself to be better, being worse.

Since we were little we were trained to believe that Christianity was a civilizing advance. In many ways it was. In others not. When I was in Olympia, Greece, there was a great statue of the god Hermes there. It had been discovered a hundred years ago in a place where it needed to be buried in order to be there. The most plausible explanation is that the priests had buried it around the year 100 so that it would not be destroyed by the advancing Christians.

Each winner of the race at the Olympics was entitled to a statue. Athletes ran naked. In the seven centuries of the games, around 170 statues must have been made. Only the feet of one remain. Everything else was destroyed by Christians, who obeyed the first commandment of the law of Moses.

The Jesuits defamed the Indians as anthropophages, but they did not accept the Indians' answer that they at least did not devour their own god. Catholic schools did not speak of the millions of massacred Indians, of the taking of their lands by the Iberian conquerors. Nor did they value the culture of “slaves”: it was as if being a slave was a destiny imposed by God (and it was! In the curse of Noah). It was not seen that the slave was a slave, that there was a debt to redeem.

In Europe, around 1800, intellectuals thought that at most 5% of the people could be atheists: the vast majority would need to believe in hellfire in order to behave properly and society not fall into disarray. The Netherlands today has about 60% of the population declaring that they do not belong to any religion and it is one of the most orderly countries there is. Around 1995 I visited an elderly Catholic priest in the south of Berlin: he told me that the community was reduced to about 80 faithful, almost all elderly women.

In several countries such as Belgium, Holland, England, France and Germany, thousands of temples have been closed in recent years, not because of religious persecution but because of lack of customers. They were transformed into restaurants, skating rinks, concert halls, etc. The faithful ceased to be faithful. They also don't want to pay tithing to the church they claim to belong to. They rethink the principles that led them to believe. They want to be more enlightened people, to set standards for themselves: autonomous.

The Christian lives in reverential awe before his god: he transforms him into a lord, he reduces himself to a servant. It is a slave relationship sublimated into religious belief. This "Lord" is so powerful that, having created everything out of nothing, he could destroy everything whenever he wanted. It is therefore necessary to beseech him not to exercise his abysmal power. Everything is as it is because “He” wants it to be. Everyone must, therefore, conform to the established power, to the current social organization, to accept their own shortcomings.

The conception that everything could have been created from nothing is illogical, it is not in accordance with the processes that we observe in reality. The God of Thomas Aquinas did not even create from nothing, but first from himself ideas as pure forms and only later would he create things from that model. Martin Heidegger thought that metaphysical theology is a form of atheism.[I]

But why would God have created everything? To their own glory, this is the response I heard from Marists in an era of abuse of the disabled. He would then be a very vain god, in addition to being needy to the point of demanding to be loved above all else. He depended, in that, on the men who depended on him. Every master depends on the servant to remain master.

René Descartes inaugurated modern philosophy with truth as “clear and distinct ideas”. The model of this looks like the arithmetic of 2 + 2 = 4. It looks clear and distinct. Without being. Two nests with two eggs each are not the same as a nest with four eggs or elephants. One cannot even speak of a mathematical model, since its language and way of thinking are of increasing complexity: for the uninitiated, there is nothing clear and distinct there.

The model seems to be before, therefore, the catechism. To a believer in the doctrine, what is formulated about the origin of things, the formation of man, destiny on Earth, and so on, seems clear and distinct, but is absurd and simple-minded to a non-believer. Replicating dogmas is not explaining. That they are repeated for generations and for communities does not constitute proof of truth. It's just a statement of belief.

That this “truth” is “revealed”, as if it were something dictated by God, is part of a belief assumption that still needs to be proven. God would be the source of all being: therefore, he can only be said by what originates from him, therefore it is a self-saying. The premise is contained in the conclusion, but the conclusion only makes the premise explicit. Therefore, assuming that metaphysical theology is atheist by nature is simplistic: the theologian can question many things, but for him the belief that there is an all-powerful god is unshakable. This dictates the limits of what he is willing to think, of his hermeneutics.

Nas Confessions, Saint Augustine makes it quite clear how the slave relationship metamorphoses into a Christian belief system. This is not usually an issue. It would be possible to conclude that, as long as Christianity is maintained, the manorial and slaveholding structure in society must be maintained.

Most of the territory and properties are taken over by a minority, which begins to guide the policy and organization of the State in order to remain favored. Therefore, the smartest and most boastful minority presents itself as the best, with the rest of the population considered worse (and assuming themselves as worse). Large property leads to class struggle and the majority's contempt for the minority, that is, to permanent social immorality. The relation of dispossession is re-established by all as exploitation and destruction of nature.

The point is not to close temples, wanting to impose an enlightened mentality. She would not be enlightened if she did that, for she would be preparing a people who are not as she supposes, assuming that she herself would have a monopoly on knowledge. That would be double ignorance. Most prefer to stay in the regression of belief rather than face the anxieties of knowledge. It is easier to regress than to seek the heights of knowledge. Together they end up joining in an accelerated process of destruction of the conditions of existence on Earth.

The believer believes that God made everything for man to enjoy. He gives himself a right that seems to him given by the God he believes in. Belief becomes opportunism, to take advantage. One has to wonder why this God would have left almost all things out of human reach? Maybe an inconsistency, maybe a wisdom. Only the believer's reading doesn't ask that kind of question.

No one can lend courage to the believer to face the anguish of his own finitude. Each one has to face his own death: it is a very personal, non-transferable right and duty. We die several times in life, until we can no longer resurrect.

At that moment, the believer undergoes his great transfiguration: exactly when he will no longer remain alive, he believes he has passed into eternal life. Whether you believe it or not, it doesn't make any difference: he dies anyway. Not being able to deny the fact of physical death, he invents a spiritual life, which it is not possible to witness, since its necessary condition is to be dead. The dead man cannot collect the land he bought in heaven with donations to his church and many hours of prayer.

That within a community each reinforces the belief of the other and sees himself reinforced in his convictions by all, does not mean that they are with the truth. They consider themselves better for belonging to the religion that seems to assure the path of salvation, but if this is done through a compensatory fiction, a fanciful projection, a lie: those who think they are better end up being morally worse. They are based on a sacred text, but which was organized as a State ideology when, in Nicaea, in 325 AD, the Roman Empire passed into the hands of the Catholic Church.

Os Gospels so-called Apocrypha are as valid as those incorporated into the official text. They contain several valid things, much more logical and less miraculous than texts full of fabrications about what would have happened in Judea two thousand years ago. These texts are not studied in schools, they are not the subject of Literature courses, they are not debated by the so-called philosophical hermeneutics. More is silent about what else should be talked about.

For the believer, the atheist is a poor wretch, abandoned by God and with a certain condemnation to the fifth of hell. A sinner, not to be trusted. The Christian had, in the past, concerns to know whether he was worthy of the grace of belief and divine perfection. Today he sees himself rather as someone who has a winning ticket in his pocket: only, to collect it, he has to die. Through denialism, he does not prepare for his own death. Strangely, atheists seem to be more prepared to die than Christians, according to the testimony of a Catholic chaplain in World War II.

What is Transcendence? Something separate from everything and everyone? Or is it the being that emerges in each entity and links it to other entities? If everything transcends, there is nothing Absolute, something separate from everything. This relates and relativizes everything, maybe it can make us conform to our finitude.

*Flavio R. Kothe is a retired full professor of aesthetics at the University of Brasília (UnB). Author, among other books, of Benjamin and Adorno: clashes (Attica).

Note


[I] HEIDEGGER, Martin. Gesamtausgabe Band 100: Vigiliae und Notturno (Schwarze Hefte 1952/53 – 1957), Frankfurt aM, Klostermann Verlag, 2020, p. 130.

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