Conclusion of yesterday’s column.
In a strange way, the subjectivist view could be considered on the route to reason and rationality. A rational outlook, unlike the subjectivist one, insists that the facts of reality are what they are, and they exist ‘out there’ in objective reality.
At the same time, those facts of reality can only be grasped, understood and benefited from in practice; through survival, innovation, creativity and taking action, via the interaction of one’s reasoning mind with reality.
Objectivity is the interaction between mind and reality. Reality is meaningless without an active, thinking mind to perceive it, form concepts about it, and interact intelligently with it.
In that sense, the mind is the engine from which all value flows. That’s what I think one is getting at when one speaks of ‘God’ as one’s highest conceptual self. I once knew a woman who agreed with me about reason over supernaturalism or subjectivism. She decided to go to a Twelve Step-oriented meeting because she wanted some personal support from others who were experiencing similar problems. Most of the people at the meeting, as expected, talked about their Higher Power. When she declared she was an atheist, someone asked her, ‘Then who or what is your Higher Power?’ She replied, ‘My mind.’
And that’s true; not in a subjective, random, arbitrary sense, but in a context where reason is the tool one uses to operate his or her mind and know reality in that way.
Think about what most people are doing when they believe fervently in a God. They pray to God, generally for two purposes. One, for guidance, to know what to do. I know a woman who says, ‘I’m waiting for a sign from God to tell me what to do in my career.’ She prays about it regularly.
The second thing that people use God for is to get things done for them. ‘I pray to God that I get the job I want.’ Or, ‘I pray to God to make this man love me’ — or to win the lottery, etc. In rational terms, these two things can only be accomplished through reason and rational effort.
You can only figure out what to do by utilizing your own reasoning, and perhaps that of others’ in the case of more complex matters related to business or technology. You count on the ongoing reasoning of others in an advanced society where there are a vast number of things relating to specialized professions and functions.
The same applies to making things happen in your life. You do this through rational action. You do everything in your power to get the job you want, pursue the career you desire, make the most money you can, and win over the friends or romantic partners.
There is no supernatural force making it all happen. If you stayed home all day and didn’t lift a finger to achieve anything, then nothing would happen. Eventually, what you do have would collapse around you.
At the same time, everything you do is the result of your own thinking, effort and choices, as well as any willing others who help you. None of it is due to a ‘God,’ whether you believe in a God or not.
Of course, none of this will convince a fervent religious believer. A religious person will point to everything good in your life and, regardless of your own efforts in creating it, will refer to it as a ‘blessing from God.’
What about anything bad? Could that be due to a failure in reasoning on your part? Or an absence of scientific knowledge not yet available to human beings, for which reason and science will ultimately provide an answer? No, the religious person will claim. These are bad things that happened because God meant them to happen.
The reader is entirely right that a concept of ‘God,’ left undefined over time, is destructive and is simply an extension of the fact that the entire concept is destructive, as are all irrational or arbitrary concepts. When you leave an important concept ill-defined, you’re subject to the psychological and emotional factors that give rise to the concept, i.e., fear. In a nutshell, most people are afraid of facing existence alone, armed with nothing but their reason.
In reality, reason is man’s best friend. If you’re looking for an invisible friend whose effects are visible every day, count on reason. Under political-social freedom, especially, everyone is free to reason and the vast majority can benefit from the discoveries, innovations, or advances made possible by the reasoning of particularly bright and motivated others.
You’re not alone with reason. As long as all humans are left free to think, the world is going to become a better and safer place with each passing year. We’ll get to a Star Trek level of technology and beyond, if and only if we allow reason to flourish and survive throughout society and in our own minds.
Over the centuries, human progress has been a combinaton of massive progress followed by setbacks or stagnation. The more powerful reason and freedom were at certain points in time (ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the Renaissance, America), the more human progress went forward; the less powerful reason and freedom became (the Middle Ages, the declining period of Rome), the more human progress took a nosedive and either stagnation or even regression dominated.
The saying goes that ‘God is dead.’ But in fact, He never existed.
And you never even needed Him.
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