THE FOLLOWING ESSAY IS AN INTRODUCTION TO MY ARTWORK, AND ITS UNDERLYING PHILOSOPHY
(TO SEE THE ART: vakras.com)
ABOUT THE SERIES
My αποκάλυψης apokalypse series of paintings was intended as an exposé on humanity's collective delusion that our species is possessed of some form of 'divine' worth. It was an attempt at articulating, via visual means, the impermanence of life and subjectivity of the value we place on human (as distinct from non-human) life. Ultimately we are mere cadavers in waiting - anatomical constructs that in the main propagate our our own species whilst convincing ourselves that delusions such as god exist to provide us with a transcendent meaning to our existence, and come to believe that a human blastocyst is of divine importance yet any non-human animal exists solely for our use. Most of my writings were arrived at from the context of a secular cultural perspective in which Roman and Judaeo-Christian beliefs (which I reject) were the ones I was most completely aware of. (For info re: meaning.html) In critiquing religion, in-so-far as debunking the existence of god, it makes no difference whether it is the god referred to as Jehovah, by Jews/Christians, or Allah by Muslims. The idea of god fails profoundly. It is staggering to think that to Muslims the idea of atheism is seen as a Christian manifestation*, that the debunking of god is merely a debunking only of the Christian god. Nothing could be further from the truth. Allah does not exist as equally as god does not exist by whatever other name he goes by.
|*In Islam the questioning of whether or not god exists is deemed an apostasy. Islamic law, the Sharia, imposes the death sentence on any abandonment of faith. You can neither question god, or abandon faith (declare oneself an atheist), or convert, say, to Zoroastrianism. Thus any questioning of god only comes from outside of Islamic societies.
It is claimed by theists that a transcendent power is necessary to exist to have created the world. But why pose the question that a transcendent power has to exist in the very first place? And that question leads to the next one: who created our transcendent power? Rather than an infinite regress, the theist posits that this god is an infinite uncreate. But even if that might be so why cannot not the universe itself be infinite and uncreate*?
|*It was the position of Aristotle that the world was eternal. It was something that John Philoponus was determined to demonstrate was untrue. Aristotle's logic was, despite his position on the world's eternity, adopted by Eastern (Greek) Christianity (and then in turn by Islam and Latin Christians). It is ironic that once the Biblical proofs failed it was Aristotle's arguments - his COSMOLOGICAL and TELEOLOGICAL arguments - which were adopted to prove the same Biblical god that felt so threatened by Aristotle's eternal world!
When the theist posits the question "who put you here?", they are begging the question. The answer could be anything from an infinite-uncreate toothfairy, to the Big Bang. Asking the question does not posit that God is the answer! It merely shows (or purports to show) that there is (or might be) a question to be answered.
It is bewildering that this purported god needed to create humanity at all! Why? To prove he existed? Was his existence lessened without a witness? Did his existence require he create humanity to prove his existence? Was his own self-awareness inadequate? (However, this line of argument does not constitute a rebuttal to the question of the existence of god, just as begging the question only indicates that there is a question to be asked but which does not constitute proof of god's existence. But the idea that an infinite uncreate god who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient would create the universe and humanity just to test them when he already knows the outcome is probably as stupid a contention as they get.)
It is suggested with enough constancy, that atheism is arrogant dogmatism... A 4 sided triangle is by definition a square, not an arrogant dogmatism that fails to appreciate that a four-sided triangle might exist. By defining what god might be, you can argue why He fails (just like defining that a triangle has 3 sides means any claim that it can have 4 sides automatically fails).
Atheism, is by definition an absence of belief in god. It is not a belief in god not existing.
The philosophical arguments against the existence of god are conclusive.
Briefly, there are a number of arguments used to postulate the existence of "god" - apart from what religious texts say*
| *The assertions made in either the Old Testament/Septuagint, New Testament or Koran do not in themselves constitute any proof what-so-ever. Their use as proofs in themselves basically constitute the "argument of authority". However, any assertions made by an authority still have to demonstrate why this authority's say so should be accepted. That the authority (Old Testament/Septuagint, New Testament, Koran) says it should be accepted unconditionally and without question does not constitute a reason for automatic acceptance.
In the Old Testament, among the 'proofs' posited for the existence of god is that god's existence explains the "storehouses" from where the rain, hail and snow originate. For both Jews and Christians god created everything in 6 days, and then in a fit of rage flooded the world & preserved all species in a giant boat.
The Koran offers its own 'proofs':
"It was Allah who raised the heavens without visible pillars... " Thunder 13.2-3; & "Do they not see the birds that wing their flight in heaven's vault? None sustains them but Allah." The Bee 16.79.The Mohammedan Koran insists that there are 7 heavens - a principle taken from the cosmology of the Greeks predicated on a geocentric model of the cosmos consisting of concentric spheres, each heaven being the space between the planets which move along these spheres.
The problem Judaists/Christians and Mohammedans have is that the 'proofs' proffered in their religious texts fail. What are presented as 'proofs' are assertions without proof. It is astounding that for the Judaist/Christian and Mohammedan that the demolition of what their religious texts posit as 'proofs' does not convince them that their god has no basis. Contrary to the Biblical account there are no storehouses that store the rain and hail; and geology and palaeontology incontrovertibly demonstrate Genesis to be a fantasy. Contrary to the Koran there are no pillars to hold up the sky, aerodynamics explain the flight of birds, and, the heliocentric model has since rendered the geocentric model obsolete, rendering Mohammed's claim that 7 heavens exist and therefore constitute proof of god's existence to be a profound absurdity.
Ultimately these faiths have had to look for 'proofs' outside their own religious writings with an appeal made to philosophy. However, even if the philosophical 'proofs' did prove that god exists, that does not and can never mean that it is the god of the Bible or Koran who is proven to exist for the 'proofs' for these gods' existence is made in their religious texts and has already been shown to be void.
Ultimately though, by attempting to use the proofs of the Greek philosophers like those of Aristotle, all a Christian or Mohammedan can ever hope to achieve is to prove the existence of Aristotle's "unmoved mover", Zeus, not the omniscient god of the Bible who created man in the garden of Eden not knowing that he would eat from the forbidden tree (Genesis), or the god of the Koran who created man out of clay so that angels made of fire would have someone to worship (The Heights)...
Therefore the philosophical 'proofs' that follow in this essay, even if they had not failed, can never furnish any 'proof' of the existence of YHWH or Allah.
There is for example Aristotle's teleological argument (everything has an end state, which god has designated); his cosmological
(since the universe is causal, the cause for the universe coming to exist is that god created it); and the ontological (basically: god is a
being greater than can be conceived, thus he exists because he is beyond our ability to conceive him and as such
beyond our abilities to prove/disprove his existence) which was postulated by Saint (sic) Anselem * (yes, lame, but it bamboozled
thinkers for a few centuries). It was first debunked 1781 by Immanual Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason on the
grounds that it was an a priori argument (that is it started from a conclusion and argued backward). Later, Bertrand
Russell debunked it independently after almost being seduced by the absurdity of the argument.
|*Although it has become accepted lore that Anselem posited this argument, he was not nearly so original to come up with the idea himself. This argument was first posited by Aristotle in his lost "De Philosophia". It was an argument adopted by the Stoic Chrysippus whose version it was that was restated by Cicero in his De natura deorum, "The Nature of the Gods". Cicero quotes Chrysippus thus:
"If there is anything in the universe which man's mind and his reason and his human thrust and capacity cannot achieve, that which creates it is inevitably superior to man...[the planets, as gods are superior to man]. Therefore that by which they are created is superior to man, and what better name can be ascribed to this than God? Indeed, if gods do not exist, there can surely be nothing in creation better than man... But that a man should exist believing that nothing in the universe is superior to himself would be insanely arrogant. Therefore something superior does exist, so God certainly exists." "The Nature of the Gods" book 2.16 from the OUP translation by P.G.Walsh Amazon Link.
Another more contemporary argument is the Anthropic Cosmological Argument, which posits that since we can understand
the universe it can be concluded that it has been created for us to understand (!), and we have been created to understand it. The argument here is very close to another of the arguments: the argument of design. These arguments too fail. The simple criticism is that they beg the question. The arguments against the "argument of design" apply equally against the "anthropic cosmological principle". (It is recommended that the interested reader consult the books referred to below for a comprehensive debunking).
The brief Vakras position: The Anthropic Cosmological Principle posits that the existence of man is a necessary prerequisite in the universe, otherwise there would be no proof that the universe exists. The argument itself begs this question. For it supposes that if humanity did not exist then universe cannot be known to exist and therefore may well not exist. Therefore god needs humanity to exist so that he can prove to someone independent of himself that he does indeed exist. Which takes us back to the rather strange and insipid god who needs us and then tests us to punish us when he already knows the outcome, simply so that he can prove he exists!
The arguments purporting the existence of a transcendent power - god - fail profoundly. There are numerous philosophical texts on the subject: (the existence of God by Wallace I Matson, Atheism the case against God by George H. Smith). It is not the purpose of this essay to cover a subject that has been so comprehensively dealt with in philosophy texts.
Lutheran theologian, Hans Kung, in his book The Existence of God concludes (after one thousand pages) that although god fails in philosophical arguments, god's existence has to be accepted ... on faith..... ! Basically, if you have faith that you are are frog, that frogs are immortal, are resurrected or reincarnated; or that frogs came down to earth to recite the Koran to Mohammed, or whatever other absurd belief you might hold, it is true - if you genuinely believe it to be so.... In this desperate mode of 'reasoning' anything you believe is automatically true if you believe it to be so!
A friend of mine (a Mensan who should have known better) argued that you cannot disprove a negative. ... (well, it might be harder, but not impossible). This means that everything from the Tooth Fairy to Santa Claus, to vampires exist (they are all negatives). The problem here (in part) is that there has to be some reason that has led to the positing of "god", which itself can be analysed; and that there must be some idea of what the attributes/definition of this god is, so that he might be defined (and consequently "proven" or debunked. Without such basis, then anything can be posited, like an "ugeritit", which I just invented, which can be anything to whomever it is that imagines it might exist... That does not mean an "ugeritit" exists, simply because I might posit it to exist or believe it to exist (unless I am Hans Kung?). I still have to provide some reasoning on why I have concluded that one exists.
|The idea that one must first possess a reason, before any proposition is made, is not a new one. It was central to Greek religion which was backed by philosophers such as Plato and Plotinus. A central criticism made by the philosophers who came to be called "neo"-Platonists (by Germans) against the Christians (specifically the "gnostics") was that the Christians inverted this principle and placed faith first. It is this Christian principle of faith before reason which presupposes that a negative can exist (because it can be proposed without reason) that guides those who maintain that god is a negative and can thus not be disproven. It's bad logic.
There seems to be a chasm between scientists who make observations and collate data, and philosophy, which is about deducing from what is known something else which is unknown (e.g.. if water seeps out of skin, but water cannot do so unless skin has holes, means you can conclude that skin has holes). Science is simply about making the observation and collating the data that may either prove or disprove the position arrived at by philosophical means .... Science needs philosophers like A. J. Ayer, "philosophical empiricists" who combined philosophy and scientific observation.
This essay is hardly comprehensive (nor was that its intention) in the presentation of arguments against god, and it is suggested that the interested reader refer to the books below:
ATHEISM: The Case Against God by George H Smith [ Amazon link ] [ Barnes & Noble link ] [ publisher link ]
The Existence of God by Wallace I Matson [ Barnes & Noble link ]