Socratic Discourse 3
In which the concept of God is not so much questioned as being defined. The location consists of a table, chairs, and a beverage amenable to philosophical deliberation.
S. Have you ever wondered why there should be such a thing as religion amongst the human species? -- It is a rather universal concept; I would say that a religion is the moral arbiter of a society, defining as it does the socially accepted norm.
S. Do you need to be religious to accept a certain standard? If this was so, why do we have secular laws at all, they really would be quite unnecessary.
-- Many societies do align their social rules with their spiritual perceptions, and going back into history you could say that religion is in fact the originator of a social and moral framework.
S. This is true. Would you not agree however that our mode of living has changed considerably over, say the last hundred years or so, and is very likely to continue changing?
-- Of course.
S. But what is the age of religions? Surely they all are more than a hundred years old - in fact their existence should be measured rather in millennia!
-- I agree. But is it not equally true that there are certain laws in human existence which are immutable? Which provide the basis for cooperation and indeed survival? That are as relevant today as they have been thousands of years ago?
S. Undoubtedly, there are such laws. At the same time, is the spelling out of rules and regulations the only purpose of religion, or is it not also doing something else?
-- It attempts to tell us something about our origins as well, and as such is dependent on the particular culture it belongs to.
S. Exactly. And I would go so far as to say this is the real reason why we have religions at all. God, as this ultimate being, used to provide the ultimate answer for our existence, is the product of our inability to go beyond our
immediate framework of cause-and-effect relationships.
-- Does that mean you are denying there is anything outside our own experience?
S. No, not at all. I do acknowledge the reality of something, even if it is not currently accessible to our senses and/or perception. Naturally, I would not enter into any conjecture about it either, since I lack the power of
definition. But a religious person does not hesitate: whatever cannot be analytically determined is explained anyway, with or without justification. In this case there is a misuse of causality.
-- I do not understand.
S. I shall explain. The fact that I am doing this or that has the cause in something that happened before?
S. And this particular action alluded to is the effect of something that went on before again?
S. Similarly, anything you did at this moment was also prompted by a certain cause, just like in my example?
-- Of course.
S. A cross-interference of these causes, culminating in, in this instance, us sitting together in the present notwithstanding?
S. Do you confirm then that such a cause-and-effect relationship could be established for every action, for every event that ever happened, throughout history?
-- I suppose so.
S. And, on a larger scale, that various causes, emanating at various points on the globe, have at some time or other combined to produce results perceived somewhere else?
-- That follows.
S. Consider the body. Is it not subject to the same laws and considerations which abound in our surroundings, whether we understand them or not, simply because the underlying notion is so universal?
-- I think you can say that.
S. What about our thinking processes? In what way do they differ from other body functions?
-- Essentially, you could say that the organic processes giving rise to thinking are based on the same principles that underlie the functions of organs, etc.
S. Exactly. Then, given that the organic processes are in essence similar, to produce a certain result, such as the movement of an arm, or the digestion of a particular substance taken, these actions are once again subject to
this cause-and-effect relationship mentioned above.
-- That would be the case.
S. Then, once again, the nature of our thought processes depends on the same causal continuance?
-- Yes, logically.
S. Therefore, if the organic conditions which eventuate thought are subject to the same law, then one must assume that autonomously, that is without guidance and diversion, only those thoughts are possible which incorporate
this notion that one thing follows another by its inherent effect on the same.
-- That one would have to assume.
S. Now let us turn to our universe. It has been established that before our world came into being there was a state of existence very unlike ours. But since everything existing now must in some form have been existing then, one
could say that the essence of being, however expressed in the present, was already established.
S. But going that far back in time (as we understand it), and considering the original state of being of everything we can imagine - such as objects, materials, configurations, etc. - would the idea not suggest itself that at
this stage the concept of cause/effect as we are wont to entertain it is no longer valid?
-- At that stage, yes, it would.
S. And seeing that we, as human beings, having a mind which only operates on certain principles, can therefore perceive such a cause/effect-less state as something simply impossible, and because of this are not capable of
describing it properly?
-- No doubt we can't.
S. Then, seeing that in this regard the human race labours under the same restrictions universally, we need an idea that replaces what otherwise cannot be described and/or explained?
-- Then there is such a universal idea?
S. It is the notion of 'god' - a creator, expressed in different forms and shapes, according to the particular culture and interpretation of surroundings. And there lies the danger.
-- In what way?
S. By providing answers to a problem for which the facts are not wholly accessible, we deny ourselves the future prospects of enlightenment by having side-tracked our train of thought into areas sometimes totally irrelevant and useless. From such a dead-end position it is very difficult if not impossible to regain the proper perspective without retracting one's steps in an objective and open-minded manner. This requires honesty and humility, not easily found amongst religionists.