Zdeněk R. Nešpor
The article shows both the possibilities and the limits of interpretation of the statistical and the sociological research of religiousness and atheism with regard to Czech society. Development of the issue mentioned is analysed in the horizon of censuses from the beginning of the 19th century to the present time. While the censuses up to 1950 examined formal confessional affiliation, and since 1991 recorded a personal “religious belief”, which together with other factors (a high proportion of missing answers, individualization and privatization of religiosity, the emergence of alternative forms of religion) significantly reduces the validity of data. The census in 2011 practically doesn’t offer credible information. Empirical sociological researches provide a deeper look at the current religiosity. They are able to take into account different types of religious non/faith, but these also are not self-salvable. Through these studies, however, can be further defined (various types) of church believers, non-denominational “spiritualists” and atheists and consider the potential development of these groups, as well as social functions (of various forms) of religion. The author presents these options on the selected ISSP 2008 data.
On the one hand atheism is seen as an Aegis in combat against the craving for power of churches, on the other hand it is seen as the emancipation of reason, others perceive it as a condition of knowledge, freedom of mind or being in the world, etc. Post-materialistic perception of the world caused by the disintegration of “grand narratives” of modernism, by unmasking a false legitimacy of ultimate and explicit representatives of political, religious and scientific power, however, puts atheism in the dock as if it were something obviously wrong. Atheism, nevertheless, can also be enriching for Christians themselves.
The German philosopher in his reflection adds to the typology of atheism as a seemingly paradoxical category of a pious atheist. Pious atheist according to the author is not a combative one and will not convince anyone of anything. An objection against him would be that his unbelief is still a belief, an anti-belief, not better than the one he rejects. Then a pious atheist doesn’t pertain to the joyful on the Earth. He cannot say about himself: “I thank dear God a thousand times that I have become an atheist.” For a devout atheist secular joy is suspicious, his unbelief is for him in the first place a monument of loss. The piety of a devout atheist is based upon the fact that he cannot other than take what has been lost seriously in a religious sense, and therefore he is disturbed if the loss is dissolving into a profane daily routine. A pious atheist is also not “against God”, he rejects nothing, denies nothing and does not confess anything contradictory, but doesn’t possess what a pious theist claims to have – a faith in God. He can imagine what it would be like to believe, whether in a theistic way or not, but he is not able to believe.
Does God Exist?
An interview with Cardinal Ratzinger by the atheist Flores d’Arcais, moderated by a Jew, Gade Lerner, shows in the first place the actual possibility of a dialogue, which is beneficial for all parties involved. A number of problematical points emerge, as in the first place a question of the rationality of faith and the subsequent demands on the rationality of its proliferation. According to Ratzinger, the Christian faith was understood by the first Christians as a continuation and completion of the current philosophy, as well as a reference beyond its boundaries. Its reception was therefore a natural solution of the spiritual search. Flores dʼArcais objects, however, with Paul’s emphasis on “foolishness” of faith – which leads to recognition of faith as the right, but faith itself is in contradiction to reason. When, according to him, the Catholic faith claims to be the entirety and consummation of what makes humans human, that is the summa of reason and the human being, then it is understandable that this claim bears in itself a risk that the faith would want to be imposed.
Richard Dawkins is right to say that traditional arguments for the existence of God are flawed; but so is his own disproof of the existence of God, and there are gaps in the neo-Darwinian explanations of the origin of language, of life, and of the universe. The rational response is neither theism nor atheism but agnosticism. Faith in a creed is of no virtue, but mere belief in God may be reasonable even if false.
The Polish professor and priest Andrzej Dragula in his essay deals with the atheist campaign that took place in many countries in the world in 2009, and with various reactions to it by the Christian Churches (from the decisive rejection to the appreciation as an opportunity to open towards the public an issue of faith). The slogans shown within the scope of the campaign very eloquently bear witness of the very uncertain position of atheism, e. g. “There’s probably no God.” “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Dragula analyzes consequences rising from that “probably”; he shows stereotypes in which present atheism blunders, and has a lack of clear arguments in the key moments. It leads the author to balance how much Christians are devoted to missionary work to share with others their happiness, resulting from the certainty of their faith, and how much do “bigoted atheists” take a “prophesy” of disbelief” not to remain alone in their uncertainty.
The German Catholic philosopher in his consideration reflects a number of aspects of the question of the existence of God. The concept of God in our understanding doesn’t refer to something, but to someone; it is therefore necessary to make a clear difference in whether we accept the existence of God, deny it or consider it controversial. The fact that God exists, means that sovereign power and goodness are in their cause and their origin integrated, which makes a question of the theodicy essential. The author then discusses the opinion that the role of religion is to overcome the idea of randomness in the world. The idea that the world could be different is explained to be possible only as a consequence of the idea of the beginning of the world from a free decision, and the related consequences is discussed at length. The author further deals with the joy from the fact that God exists, and with moral implications of faith in him. The considerations are concluded with the statement that arguments for thinking of the absolute as God can only be arguments ad hominem. There is reference to the interdependence of belief in the existence of God and the efficiency of truth, i. e. a man’s personality, “because we cannot stop thinking about ourselves as something real”.
The German theologian Klaus Müller wants to show in his article that Christian belief in the reality of God is not irrational. Though he rejects the traditional proofs of God’s existence, his argument is based on the self-consciousness of the human subject. There are three features: The subject is experiencing himself (1) as a unique, totally irreplaceable being, but also (2) as being one of an infinite number of others, completely irrelevant. This two-dimensionality the subject may experience as antagonism or absurdity. The subject reacts sometimes by accepting this absurdity, sometimes by trying to mediate between the two moments (it is a religious alternative). (3) The third feature of self-consciousness is that self-confidence recognizes not to have itself under command, while its constitutive features cannot be derived from anything the fourth. Self-consciousness then is not without the condition, and requires some ground for itself. The basis of a self-conscious entity is subject to two conditions: (a) it is not external; (b) it is not objective. Self-confidence is not what it is from itself, and yet its basis constitutes its innermost moment – is “more internal than my own heart”. This transcendence is God, pre-ground without the form (not graspable by any specific notions or descriptions). Therefore the significance of the negative theology arises. Klaus Müller presents two more theories indicating the nature of God as the pre-origin of self-consciousness and of all reality. They are based on the fact that the word God is one of the indexical expressions. The authors of these theories are Hector-Neri Castañeda and Ingolf U. Dalferth.
Heinrich Watzka SJ
The German professor of philosophy at the beginning of his study notes that the proofs of God’s existence have traditionally belonged to the mandatory equipment of theologians and philosophers. Referring to Klaus Müller he notes, nevertheless, that the proofs of God cannot replace a previous human decision to understand himself and the world religiously. The use of proof of God’s existence is to be primarily internal, as a mean of certainty of rationality of our own thinking, and only secondarily for the purpose of disputes with non-believers. With reference to the philosophy of language the author further deals with the statements “believe in God” and “believe in the existence of God” – he shows the absurdity of belief in the existence of God without being in relationship with him. In the spirit of Wittgenstein’s thought he develops the analogy between the certainty of faith in God and certainty as a language game, establishing our life in the world. The study is concluded with the question why not to try to testify about God using arguments allowing to regard the rationality of religious way life in its completeness, and why we instead of it focus on epistemologically weakest segment of the testimonial chain – proof of God’s existence.