Sunday, September 24, 2006

God knot



This review, Scientists on Religion, has mention of "two ways of looking at science". It seems one more possible way to unlock fiction readers from their readmill. Or, maybe not. Weaning them off novels by experiencing good science writing, I mean.

Part of the reason it caught my eye was the 'blurb' in the Arts and Letters link:

Richard Dawkins is dismissed as a bully, but he only puts theology to the same scrutiny that science must withstand...
Another was an atheist's 'Road to Damascus' experience watching the Two part 9/11 drama last week. Mohammed Atta is made to say he spoke to a Protestant pastor in Hamburg, where he was furthering his studies in urban planning or some such, who told him about Love and turning the other cheek, to which Atta said he replied (paraphrased):" I am fighting a war for God".

In a flash I realised, or, if not quite realised, had an image of the mindset of someone saying and believing such a thing: a deep sense of how far down the road to irrationality, if not insanity, a person could have gone when he said such a thing and obviously meant it. Such a person - any believer - will never 'know' God except in his ideas on Him or his belief that He has spoken to him, or performed miraculous works for him or others - nor will he be able to convince many in the secular part of the modern world that he is anything by a deluded fool.

God is either a fact or a fantasy. In the present world, few in that in-between position, toggling between doubt and certainty - a tradition in Christianity - are rash enough to make statements such as Atta's. Indeed, most people don't say they are fighting or will fight wars for God - except perhaps those like the Salvation Army who have extended the metaphor, but who do so in peace - because God is currenty not seen predominantly as a warrior God, in
Unamuno's {2} ('My aim is to agitate & disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast.') sense of :


Like monarchy, monotheism had a martial origin. "It is only on the march and in time of war," says Robertson Smith in The prophets of Israel, "that a nomad people feels any need of a central authority, so it came about that in the first beginnings of national organisation, centred in the sanctuary of the ark, Israel was thought mainly as the host of Jehovah. The very name of Israel is martial, and means 'God (El) fighteth, and Jehovah in the Old Testament is Iahwè Çebãôth - the Jehovah of the armies of Israel. It was on the battlefield that Jehovah's presence was most clearly recognised; but in primitive nations the leader in time of war is also the natural judge in time of peace.


The next paragraph in The Tragic Sense of Life :

God, the only God, issued, therefore, from man's sense of divinity as a warlike, monarchical and social God. He revealed himself to the people as a whole, not to the individual. He was the God of a people and he jelously exacted that worship sholud be rendered to him alone. The transition from this moncultism to montheism was effected largely by the individual action, more philosophical perhaps than theological, of the prophets. It was, in fact, the individual activity of the prophets that individualised divinity. And above all by making the divinity ethical.

The primitive, atavisitic, nihilisitic - immature, senseless, pointless - response of an Atta to his God, who created the world and everything in it, is to take unto himself - as one individual of the many of God's children - the duty to put right what He must therefore have put wrong.







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