Why we prefer theism


CSH: Zora was saying that we demand that ultimate reality be irrational. According to survival-oriented reason, a religion that promoted suicide is a failure and a bad choice. But the picture of ultimate reality in atheistic science is not as comfortable as the picture of reality that has a god, where the foundational basement stuff of existence is a self. We want ultimate reality to be a self. And selves do irrational things. In fact, gods …

Back in the old days, gods did a lot of irrational shit. They were passion-ruled. Now we have a rational calculator god. That’s great. But back in the olden times, in Greek and especially Jewish mythology, God does some irrational shit.

We want ultimate reality to be irrational because we want ultimate reality to be a person. And we want ultimate reality to be irrational because then it won’t be dissolved away into the void of the nothingness that is the result of mathematical or logical analysis. You can take solids and then melt them away into nothing through the power of analysis, because every whole is really made of parts. But the parts have parts! And it goes all the way down.

So the world that is rational is the world that cannot exist. It cannot have fundamental existence because it is analyzable away by reason. If reason can take it apart, that means it’s not really together. The object that reason can take apart doesn’t have real integrity. It doesn’t have a real basic unity in its core. So we want ultimate reality not to be digestible by reason because if it is it will just fly away and disappear. So there needs to be a not at the end of the thread that keeps it from being digested away by rationality, through power of analysis.

We can call the thing that prevents the system from being digested away through the power of analysis a knot. And the knot that prevents elimination by analysis is paradox. This is Kierkegaard’s idea. The fundamental nature of reality can only be real if it is a paradox. If it’s not a paradox, then it’s not real.

Zora: Was he the guy who said, “It’s OK to kill yourself, that’s fine.”

CSH: No.

Zora: I’m thinking of a different K.

Our need for meaning in a meaningless universe

Three ways of handling the mismatch between our need for meaning in a meaningless universe:

  1. Suicide (escaping existence): Both Kierkegaard and Camus dismiss this option. Camus states that it does not counter the Absurd, but only makes one’s existence more absurd.
  2. Religious, spiritual, or abstract belief in the transcendent: a solution in which one believes in the existence of a reality that is beyond the Absurd. Kierkegaard stated that a belief in anything beyond the Absurd requires a non-rational “leap of faith.” Camus regarded this solution, and others, as “philosophical suicide.”
  3. Acceptance of the Absurd: a solution in which one accepts the Absurd and continues to live in spite of it. Camus endorsed this solution, believing that by accepting the Absurd, one can achieve absolute freedom, and that by recognizing no religious or other moral constraints and by revolting against the Absurd while simultaneously accepting it as unstoppable, one could possibly be content from the personal meaning constructed in the process. Kierkegaard, on the other hand, regarded this solution as “demoniac madness”—the perpetual rejection of salvation from suffering.