Sunday, March 9, 2008

THERE IS NO GOD - talk at Oxfringe Festival


On 3rd April, I am giving a talk at The Corner Club | 01865 261 500 | 16 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DH.

Title: THERE IS NO GOD.

Time: 7:30pm
Price: £6.50
BOOKING: Call Joe on 01865 261 507 or email: joe@thecornerclub.co.uk

More details here. Venue is number 13 on this map.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Haven't you sort of given the punchline away?

Matt M said...

It'll be a short talk, surely?

"After millennia of searching there's still no decent evidence for God. Thank you and goodnight."

The Celtic Chimp said...

Stephen,

Whats the talk about?

No seriously though, I would love to attend a talk like this but unfortunately I live on the emerald Isle. Fancy coming over to Dublin sometime? Trinity maybe?

jeremy said...

Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday.
- Woody Allen

anticant said...

"There is no God". How do you know? You're as bad as Ibrahim! I'm not advocating Pascals wager, but God may have the last laugh.

the repressed one said...

Oh, sure... just keep rubbing it in that we Yanks - absent a 7-hour flight, of course - get no shot at hearing you give a lecture.

Seriously, Stephen, when are you gonna make the leap across the pond and visit with us over here, hmmm...? :)

Steven Carr said...

It won't be so short, once you have listed all the gods which don't exist.

Do you have any idea how many gods the human race has created?

Stephen Law said...

Well I would love to visit Dublin and the States, but need someone to invite me to speak - so if you have any influence, do please use it!

Concerned occasional glancer-at said...

Basically all religions (Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Chinese, Taoist, Hindu, Islamic) do not deny that there are spiritual energies and powers 'out there' which certain people may construe as 'gods'. Formalization of the conception (and perception) of these beings may even, in some religions, result in an 'official' pantheon being constructed- but the religions are, and were, agreed on the fact that these energies are contingent on the Ultimate Reality ontologically 'behind them' i.e. the Absolute God. As such these 'gods' whether being portrayed as life-giving, psychotic, or whatever, were merely further additions to the Ultimate Existence's creation, and so had no genuine primacy over anything else, being merely further dimensions of the appearance of self-contained volition and cause and effect in creation, whereas everything, in reality, is derived from and dependent on the single Ultimate Reality beyond forms.

So where's the proof? Well, if you hadn't noticed, in the religion that people tend to presume is the most blatantly polytheistic, Hinduism, the highest caste of believers, the Brahmin's, do not worship a multiplicity of gods at all. Rather, "Brahmins adhere to the principles of Brahmanism or Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, such as acceptance of the Vedas with reverence, adherence to the position that the means or ways to salvation and realization of the ultimate truth are diverse, that God is one, but has innumerable names and forms to chant and worship due to our varied perceptions, cultures and languages. Brahmins believe in Sarvejanāssukhinobhavaṃtu — Let the entire society be happy and prosperous and Vasudhaika kuṭuṃbakaṃ — the whole world is one family." (Yes, it's from the Wikipedia article, but the Brahmin and their beliefs are so well known it scarcely matters.) Furthermore, it is a basic tenet of Hinduism, even for those who do worship a multitude of gods that:

'Hindus believe in one God, one humanity and one world. People with different language, different cultures have understood this one God in their own way. This is why we are very tolerant of all religions, as each has its own path to this one God. One of the unique understandings in Hinduism is that God is not just far away, living in a remote heaven, but is also inside of each and every soul in the heart and consciousness, waiting for you and me to discover. Knowing the One Great God in this intimate and experiential way is the goal of Hindu spirituality.'

And: 'We Hindus believe that there is one all-pervasive God that energizes the entire universe. We can see Him in the life shining out of the eyes of humans and all creatures. This concept of God as existing in and giving life to all things is called "panentheism." It is different from pantheism, which is the belief that God is the natural universe and nothing more. It is also different from theism that says God is only above the world. Panentheism is a beautiful concept. It says that God is both in the world and beyond it, both immanent and transcendent. That is the Hindu view. Hindus also believe in many devas who perform various kinds of functions, like executives in a large corporation. These should not be confused with God. There is one Supreme God only. What is sometimes confusing to non-Hindus is that we may call this one God by many different names, according to our tradition. Truth for the Hindu has many names, but that does not make for many truths.' [All the above Prepared for the July 4th, 1990 meeting of the youth of the Hindu Temple of greater Chicago, by Gurudeva, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami]

One of the most popular Hindu movements in the West, the Hare Krishna, have an article on their website entitled 'Allah and Krishna are the same God' http://religion.krishna.org/Articles/2000/10/00184.html . They also accept the Qur'an as a genuine revelation from God.

The most famous Hindu mystic of recent times, Ramakrishna, 'recognized differences among religions but realized that in spite of these differences, all religions lead to the same ultimate goal, and hence they are all valid and true. Regarding this, the distinguished British historian Arnold J. Toynbee has written: “… Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions: here we have the attitude and the spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family – and in the Atomic Age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves.” Ramakrishna also practiced both Christianity and Islam for a time, just to prove the point.

The doctrine of the essential unity of religions is true of virtually every other Hindu mystic. Have a look for yourselves.

The Sikh answer to the question, 'What is the Sikh view of other religions’: "The essence of all great religions is considered the same...becoming a universal being by overcoming a self-centered lifestyle. This is reflected in the Christian principal of love for all, in Muslim principles of universal brotherhood, in the Jewish view of one God, and so on. Sikhism does, however, reject literal interpretations of myths and legends that are associated with many ancient religions. These myths and stories of miracles are to be interpreted as a high level of communication between humans and the Creator."
And: Q: How does the Sikh faith view other great men like Gautam, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, etc.?
Sikhs have utmost respect for these great men. They have enlightened humanity. The Sikh Gurus have shown their respect for Universal Truth by including works of other enlightened souls (Kabir, Namder, etc.) in the Guru Granth Sahib. Of course, the Sikhs cannot accept any human as a Savior or the only intermediary to the Creator.

And so indignant atheists tend to deny that all this is the case, and yet even a cursory glance at the deeper religious doctrine of these religions (and others) demonstrates that most of them, at their core, do not deny that ultimately, the Absolute God experienced and worshipped by adherents of all these great religions, is one and the same God.

The Qur'an states: And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which God hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a law and a way. Had God willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you, [He hath made you as ye are]. So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:48)

Though Islam sees itself as confirming, and ultimately superseding other faiths, all humanity are saved, regardless of whether they are Muslim or not, as long as they do not have the Islamic revelation presented to them in its genuine form (i.e. undistorted by, for example, a wrongly-practicing Muslim presenting the faith) and reject it.

Furthermore, by consensus in Classical Islam, mystics of other faiths are capable, by their innate human disposition, of having genuine experiences of God. See this article by a well-known contemporary Muslim scholar and mystic, entitled, Truth, Other Religions, and Mysticism: http://shadhilitariqa.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=41&Itemid=20

Dr. Umar Abdullah, a polymath theologian, sociologist, and linguist, in his profound article on the etymology of the words used by major religions for the Ultimate Reality, says:
"Elohim, Allaha, and Allah [the three terms used to denote 'God' in Judaism, Jesus' language, Aramaic, and Islam] are all cognates—sister words—deriving from a common
proto-Semitic root, which, according to one standard view, was the root ’LH, conveying the primary sense of “to worship.” The fundamental linguistic meaning of the three Abrahamic cognates for God—Elohim Allaha, and Allah—is “the one who is worshipped.” Read the article here: and have your doubts swept away: http://www.nawawi.org/downloads/article2.pdf



Even Christianity, with its traditional doctrine of soteriological exclusivity, recognizes, in its Eastern Orthodox dimension at least, that Islam and many other religions are legitimate, though inferior paths to God. Even Catholicism, traditionally desperately antagonistic towards other faiths, now accepts doctrinally that Muslims worship the same God as them (although of course the poor Muslims can't seem to grasp the 'mystery' of the Trinity). When the last pope, John Paul II, visited Damascus in May 2001, he famously kissed the Qur'an. At a general assembly in 1999, he said, "We Christians joyfully recognize the religious values we have in common with Islam. Today I would like to repeat what I said to young Muslims some years ago in Casablanca: "We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection" (Insegnamenti, VIII/2, [1985], p. 497).

Meister Eckhart, one of the most celebrated of Christian mystics, experienced that the trinity was a lower level of manifestation of the Deity than the undifferentiated 'Godhead'.

So it is always saddening (and perhaps amusing in a slightly bitter way) to see atheists, confidently riding the wave of their conformity to the currently dominant Northern European academic weltanschauung, speaking with great authority on the 'incompatibility', and 'mutual contradiction' of the world's religions. It is a pathetic argument worthy of Dawkins himself (perhaps its recent prominence among these self-proclaimed 'brights' is in fact due to him)

Through moral action and self-transformation, and the purging away of selfishness, and then through mediation and prayer, Mystics of all faiths can reach unto the experiential knowledge of the Ultimate Reality, God, who is the giver of form, meaning, and semblance of solid existence to the relative, confusing, beautiful, and tragic world of '"down" here. He (exalted is "He" beyond gender [the English language's problem, not religions]) reveals Himself to His servants, where they perceive Him as an undifferentiated, ultimate unity, beyond time and space, and of transcendent beauty and power - the Ultimate Reality from which all contingency derives. As a result of these experiences, they often come away with a knowledge of the mysteries of the ontological relation of creation to God, and perceive a deep unity of Being. They are also often granted gifts of 'breaking norms' - i.e. being connected with preternatural events, "miracles" if you like, which of course are sheer fantasy to those whose hearts are closed, and which cause much 'laughing up sleeves' to those who have experienced them, when confronted by denial, as they can see fully the wretchedness of those who deny based on 'not having seen anything like that happen' in their mundane, limitary conceptions of the parameters of possibility and ultimately, Existence.

So, atheists say that the religions all worship mutually exclusive gods, and hate each other etc. whereas the religious themselves tell us the opposite is the case. Who to believe? Hmm... Well, I'll leave it to you.

Sorry if the above is a bit patchwork and rushed. I did it in a rush. I just couldn't overlook this particularly profound misunderstanding on your part.

anticant said...

concerned occasional glancer-at: Just because you capitalise Ultimate Reality doesn't make It [whatever It is] any more probable as a First Cause than any other human concept of God.

Why do we need to postulate a First Cause or 'ultimate' reality? Reality - the universe - simply IS.

occasional said...

Nope anticant, it is not a postulation. It is experience and knowledge of the nature of reality. If you're afraid of capital letters, I'm terribly sorry - but, if you had actually read what I said, you would have realized that I was not suggesting a new 'god-concept' - I was highlighting, with clear proof, the fact that all the classical religions believe in this Ultimate Reality (call it what you like, it is simply a convenient term), and at their doctrinal core, do not believe that their experience and the experience of other religionists are mutually exclusive - perhaps on a creedal level they can seem to be so to some extent - yet on the level of the Absolute they are not.

No, the universe is not simply 'there'. This is terribly crude. You cannot even say it exists without taking into account metaphysics. The universe, as experienced and specified by us, is dependent utterly on the perceiver for its form and nature.

You will think I am a solipsist. No. The universe being the way we perceive it to be, is specified utterly by the observation statements of a perceiver - i.e a human being - and so there is a unity of the perceiver and the perceived, the immanent and transitive perceptional objects are really one - and then, when you realise that calling reality 'matter' is just a human specification, abstracted based on our inner landscape from meaning, you will be left with the realization - this reality is not 'matter' or some other meaningless and crude reduction - it is no less than meanings, set up in images.

Primordial man, real man, through following the moral law, and in line with that law, through following the instinct to discover the nature of reality and the instinct to worship naturally inside him, finds God. He always has, and he always will. Reality as it is is not the reductionist specification of people concerned only with the (selfish) instrumental-relational value of objects - people who, through denial, cannot even begin to imagine how great a thing the human being is. And what he is capable of.

anticant said...

Occasional,I am not entirely ignorant about mysticism, and have read Meister Eckhart among other mystics [and not only Christian ones].

I entirely agree with you that the universe is experienced subjectively, uniquely, and necessarily partially, by each one of us; and that this does not imply solipsism. I am pretty sure that the universe will continue to exist even when I am unaware of it, and of myself.

And I never equated reality with matter. You do make rather a lot of unwarranted assumptions about other people's views, setting up verbal aunt sallies that are easy for you to knock down, don't you?

Occasional said...

ok, Anticant, we agree that reality is not matter. What do you think it is then?

anticant said...

Ah - I knew you'd ask that! When someone asked Disraeli what his religion was, he replied "The religion of all sensible men". "And what is that?" "Sensible men never tell."

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