The God Postulate

| July 17, 2010

From an interesting post by Maverick Philosopher…

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), The Future of an Illusion:

“It would indeed be very nice if there were a God, who was both creator of the world and a benevolent providence, if there were a moral world order and a future life. But at the same time it is very odd that this is all just as we should wish it for ourselves.”

William James (1842-1910), “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”:

“The capacity of the strenuous mood lies so deep down among our natural human possibilities that even if there were no metaphysical or traditional grounds for believing in a God, men would postulate one simply as a pretext for living hard, and getting out of the game of existence its keenest possibilities of zest.”

Both of these passages support the view that God is a posit, a postulate, a projection. But there is a striking difference. Freud, seeing the origin of the God-projection in weakness, takes this as discrediting the God-idea. Having its genesis in our neediness, the God-idea is false or at least unworthy of belief. James, however, viewing the God-idea as an expression of our robustness, takes this fact as a verification of the idea of God.

Is it merely a question of how you take your God: New or Old Testament? With sugar or without? Or rather, how you take your death of God. Tragically or unfazed. Is this the Janus head of belief? Catching yourself wishing, which aspect of its absurdity do you notice, its self-deception or its god-like power? I see that I fool myself precisely to the extent that I see that I can make my dreams come true!

Belief, it seems, is both an affront to God (omnipotent, yet still subject to the feeblest of whims), and the ultimate genius (It is through the very possibility of non-belief that I am vindicated. Even if I do not exist, I made you look.)

To believe, we must contend with our self-satisfaction, reminding us of the death (through convenience) of the very thing we believe. But not to believe is the very preparation for god-like belief. It is only when god is dead that we can postulate him with the proper zest.

But to distinguish between desperate stridency and zest would we not have to establish their relationship? Are they at opposite ends, or do they live close by?