An Attack on the Metaphysical McDonalds
I find myself continually discussing and contemplating the phenomenon of religion; most notably Christianity. As stated in previous writings, I do not consider myself a Christian and as an addition I’m not hedging my bets on the findings of the pseudoscientific discipline of ‘intelligent design,’ nor am I going to play the odds provided by the philosopher Blaise Pascal. As I write this piece, in the corner of my eye rests a copy of Josh McDowell’s ‘A Ready Defense’, which to quickly summarize is the attempt to prove Christianity and disprove other religions by appealing to the Bible. A funny comparative statement was made once that by using the Bible to prove God or Jesus or divine revelation is like using comic books to prove the existence of Superman.
From the writings of St. Augustine through the Prussian State ‘influenced’ writings of G.W.F. Hegel, the attempts to prove Christianity, the validity of the Bible, the existence of a personal God have had centuries of existence and support. Now, with the advances of science, pseudoscientific disciplines like ‘creationism’ and ‘intelligent design,’ attempt to provide a more ‘empirical’ or at least deductive validity through something other than mere rational arguments. This is not to say that the opposition is faring that much better in certain respects. The New Atheists; most notably Richard Dawkins (‘The God Delusion’) and Christopher Hitchens (‘God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’) have in many ways attempted to turn atheism and the accompanying neo-Darwinism into a world view- thus showing religion to be harmful and archaic and out of step with the possible advancements of mankind. To a certain point I agree with Hitchens and Dawkins, but only to a certain point.
I firmly believe that ‘religion poisons everything’ to a large degree, but not from an atheistic standpoint, but from a Kierkegaardian perspective. Kierkegaard is most known for saying that ‘truth is subjectivity,’ a line that seems quite paradoxical if not flat out contradictory. When we think of ‘truth’ we think of arithmetic, law of gravity- things that would hold true if we didn’t even exist, postulates that we can demonstrate, duplicate, test, record, analyze in the form of a presentation perhaps. Kierkegaard isn’t saying that basic arithmetic is subjectively validated, nor does he have anything against the empirical and theoretical sciences or mathematics. His ‘truth as subjectivity’ is in response to the continuing pursuit to make Christianity as validated as basic arithmetic. In Kierkegaard’s time this was done through Hegel’s philosophy of the dialectics of history. Quickly stated, Hegel charts history through stages of competing or conflicting ideas to which the resulting idea itself becomes a participant in another ‘squaring off’ and Hegel concludes that Christianity serves as the highest culmination of this historical process. Hegel’s arguments provided just the rationality needed to ‘prove’ Christianity and it was quickly adopted by Lutheran/Protestant churches in Kierkegaard’s Denmark; as well as other places and denominations.
Well, this made being a Christian quite easy; you just attended the lecture, followed the reasoning and just as a young kid is shown that 2 and 2 is 4, the audience has the proof of Christianity demonstrated to them. And just as I am not congratulated at this age in acknowledging basic arithmetic, so does it seem that it would be hard to congratulate a Christian under these circumstances. Kierkegaard noticed that such methods as these, along with the ever self-righteous complacency of bourgeoisie culture desired to make things easier and easier; turning man into Nietzsche’s ‘Last Man.’ (Nietzsche’s Last Man in his work ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra,’ states: ‘We have created happiness,’ and then he blinks). Kierkegaard wanted to make it harder; thus providing more merit to being a Christian. Translated today, Kierkegaard wants to do away with the dominance of ‘WWJD’ bracelets and mega-churches, the statues of the Ten Commandments, bumper stickers, and other ‘external signs of faith’ in favor of the subjective, inward passion of faith. There isn’t really anything inherently wrong in the above list- but it is these things that I argue that turn Christianity into a trendy, ‘fun’ thing. Think of the stories of say….Job or Abraham, or even that of Jesus himself…The angst, the suffering, the pain involved in having such faith. All three experienced these things; they felt abandonment, they felt that they had been forsaken. Now, today, Christianity is just so filled with ‘love’ and ‘fun’ and ‘happiness’ that it has become a lukewarm soma pill for those begging for acceptance in many cases.
I don’t want to blanket all of those that have faith; I am however, blanketing the societal existence of Christianity. The complacent, marketed, profit building aspects of Christianity have turned the faith itself into a metaphysical McDonalds. It is this metaphysical McDonalds that poisons everything. Sectarian violence, xenophobia, irrational hatreds, so on and so forth have created this. This is simply explained due to the metaphysical idea of ‘evil.’ See, the way this works is that you objectify your belief system and subsequently view it as objectively right in every sense of the word. The person who differs in belief then must be objectively wrong right? (2 and 2 is 5) Well, the advocacy of this incorrect ‘basic arithmetic’ is seen as a threat, as an attack on what seems so simple, a threat to the ‘only true faith’ which the term ‘faith’ is itself cancelled out when objectified. There is no merit in accepting objectivity; there is only merit in adhering to the subjective truth that you have arrived at through deep introverted contemplation.
My call is for Christians worldwide to stop trying to prove Christianity, stop trying to use the fallacy of ‘infinite regression’ and the creation of ‘material/immaterial’ existence to make Christianity a basic arithmetic. Stop allowing Christianity to become a metaphysical McDonalds, stop arguing with different sects as if the difference is anything but negligible. The time has come to accept your beliefs and faith on the merit of you and you alone.
I myself, consider myself a Nietzschean existentialist. I can’t prove the validity of this; I can’t even really illustrate the importance that this philosophy has done for me in my life. I hold on to this belief system in the face of perhaps more rational life-views, more profitable outlooks, more rewarding systems of thought- but that’s the point. I am not a Nietzschean existentialist because it’s ‘True’ but because it is ‘true’ for me and me alone. In the face of all the opposing viewpoints, the inability to prove the objective validity of Nietzschean existentialism, my belief then maintains merit for there really is no substantial empirically validating reason to accept this over any other philosophy. Christianity is a philosophy, Jesus was a philosopher. Religion takes the philosophy and turns it into a dry, boring, dangerous code of ethics and laws and practices that takes the flavor and merit out of the philosophy.