In this world, there are some fools living amongst us. On both sides of the theist/atheist divide, they reside foolhardy. For now, I have two fools in mind here.
The first fool is the fool who says in his heart “this is no god”. His faith is on reason and reason alone. For him, reason is the alpha and omega of all things. He feverishly digs the existential foxhole with his bare hands of reason to the exclusion of everything else. He refuses to explore the values of myths, wonders and marvels of religious tradition past and present as revealing the essence of our nature, our hopes and our yearnings. He refuses to see beyond reason to the heart of humanity, one which seeks far more than what reason can ever hope to offer.
He is the one who shouts out at the self-glorifying summit of science to proclaim to the world that the basis and means of all discoveries to the origin and meaning of life is reason and reason alone. Nothing else explains it better, or more credibly or convincingly. No reality exists apart from what reason can unearth. The unseen is therefore the figment of one’s febrile imagination while all that is seen is by virtue of reason’s exploits. There are just no fairies in the bottom of the garden.
While the late notorious atheist-turned-theist Professor Antony Flew proclaimed, “I am open to omnipotence,” this first group of fools nevertheless choose to remain open only to reason and reason only.
And while Professor Flew declared this: “In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” this same group denounces that statement as misguided reason disguised as mindless faith.
So, for this reason, religion for them is neither the cradle of civilization nor her nurturer. Instead, she is the orphan child waiting in vain for adoption as potential adoptive parents walk on by convinced that there is nothing of value for them to stop and consider.
Alas, this group takes self-ignorance to a whole new level of daily application and servings. To them, religion, philosophy and art are all dead. Their incarnation in whatever institutionalized and aesthetic forms over the ages only serve to perpetuate the illusion, and dead they have always been.
To them, ethics is a mental calisthenics of personal preferences and choices; just so long as no harm is done to others (as for harm to oneself…this personal advice reign supreme: “Bugger off, my house, my rules”).
There is, I suspect, more than personal hubris in this class of halfwits. Their ceaseless inspiration comes from something far deeper than the arrogance they unabashedly project to one and all.
Maybe, if one had paid more attention, one would have noticed that the force of their mull-headedness is betrayed by that chilling tingle in their spine, that familiar quivering in their lips, and that tics-like squinting in their eyes as they confront their own mortality. And it is the indignant resistance to the possibility that they may be wrong, and for that matter, dead wrong, that ironically breathes more fire into the bowels of their endless rebellion. Go figure…
Let’s just hope that at some point in their life, they will take the time to wander out of their own inscrutable fortress of self-smugness to discover that there has always been a much larger picture to the world they operate in and the universe they quietly marvel at.
And to have but a glimpse of that whole picture, or eternity uncovered, so as to be deeply enlightened and forever transformed by the beauty beyond reason, one is required to courageously venture beyond the boundaries of science and into the realm of faith and hope.
For isn't that why we are called homo sapiens, the "wise human" – and not homo ignoramus?
Let go for the second group…
The second group representing the other side of idiocy is the fool who claims that faith and faith alone defines the world and universe. To some extent, they are on the right track.
However, even when they are on the right track, believing that our existential uniqueness goes beyond reason and into the realm of faith and hope, they are still fools no less. Why?
Because they are right for the wrong reasons. And because the fool in them makes sure that they conduct themselves in a way that only a fool would conduct themselves.
This group is usually the self-defining religious purveyors of the faith, that is, pulpit firebrands and prosperity preachers hankering after fame, fortune and adoration on a worldwide scale.
The hallmark of this peculiar group of nincompoops is again arrogance and obstinacy. This is ironically the common bond shared between the first and the second fools here. Two sides of the same coin - so to speak. And ignorance and obstinacy are their trademark which, when unraveled, is nothing more than self-conceited knowledge.
For what could be more foolish than to know that you are right (that is, subscribing to faith and hope as an inseparable part of reality) and then go about screwing that up by rubbishing reason altogether and ignoring good counsel and appeal of common sense?
It is not hard to identify someone who epitomizes that kind of wrongness in his trekking to be right. We have the religious stage-performers who strut their controversial messages every Sunday to a mindless chorus of mass adulation.
They no doubt believe the original Redeemer and even got their theology correct at first instance. But then, along the way, the right and narrow road gets a little too familiar to them, and they couldn’t resist the temptation to spruce things up just that tad bit to make what is already original even more original (so to speak) only to wow the sight-and-wonders crowd.
They are what Galatians 3:3 would classify as the foolishness of beginning in the Spirit and then finishing by means of the flesh, human effort and human understanding.
Here are some examples as a sour foretaste of this second class of inanity.
They turn bloody Calvary into a self-glamorizing carnival, make the nailing to self less about their Savior and more about themselves, and steal the limelight from under the Redeemer’s nose by showcasing their scriptural creativity (if not shameless audacity) over the pulpit under the veneer of charisma, originality, and popularity. It is more about the twisting of the word than the expounding of it.
Worse still, they gradually, and even unknowingly, claim full ownership of sanctified materials in the Book authored by their Redeemer through self-serving alterations which I’d call ala carte religiosity. The obvious may be staring at them in their faces, but they will never be the first to wink. Somehow, stubbornness is the prize of such self-serving religiosity.
To them, nothing in theology is unanswerable - the answers however come in neat, pre-canned, and well-packaged answers in either 5 simple, easy-to-follow steps or 12 cut-and-dry lessons. They have effectively embodied the mind of their creator, and even boast to become one themselves.
If knowing the truth sets them free, then this particular class of simpletons is indeed set free, but free only to do what they wilt and doing what they wilt is, to them, the whole of the law, that is, a law unto thyself as a self-referential measure.
And what about the so-called fruits of their delusion?
Well, it comes in various forms: Belief without repentance, love without discipline, faith without works, earthly hope without eternal perspective, material success without sacrifice, and prosperity without bearing one’s cross or counting the cost.
Alas, I will leave this class of fool to their own devices and hopefully, with enough idiocy, imbecility and inanity sloshing around and colliding at breakneck speed in the self-centered universe of their own making, they might just come to their senses and, who knows, make a decisive switch to being right for the right reasons this time…and thereafter return to the narrow road they first started with, that is, the way, will and walk of the faith emboldened by reason, and not relying on human effort and the works of the flesh. Cheerz.
* Image taken from The Visitorium