Revisiting “Does Yahwe Exist?”
He wrote it in 2003.
I read again Jaco Gericke’s doctoral thesis Does Yahwe Exist these holidays.
I am reluctantly revising my decision to shut the hell up about religion – because it just ain’t worth any trouble – because Gericke’s dissertation is so damn good.
I rate it with that thing Epicurus said… the thing no-one ever did answer yet:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
I wrote a review of Does Yahwe Exist? many years ago.
Here it is again:
Having accepted Gericke’s vantage and his acknowledgement of particular possible objections from conservative, critical and radical scholars, I take issue with “Does Yahweh Exist” on two counts: approach and epistemological desirability, if not validity.
The Devil’s Advocate (a somewhat dubious position given that “God” is being argued) is someone who takes the worse side just for the sake of argument. The Devil’s Advocate, specifically in Roman Catholic cant, is the ultimate defender. I cannot but object to this approach.
Gericke apologises profusely for any crisis of belief on account of reading the thesis (of a third party Devil’s Advocate). He warns against erroneous deductions regarding personal attitude towards his third personae’s “acerbic atheism”. He hopes and prays (to the god that does not exist?) that someone might refute the third party’s case against realism. He is forever trapped between the burning bush and the burning bridge.
It was, I think, the “Ugly”, he of the Hollywood Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, who shot a man from a tub, and quipped over the dead body, “If you want to talk, talk; if you want to shoot, shoot.” Indeed. If you want to criticize, criticize, and don’t be mealy-mouthed or contrite about it.
Richard Dawkins once were supremely offended when he learned that the opposing speaker in an Evolution/Creation debate was in fact an evolutionist hoping to clarify her own position by speaking to Creationism. Dawkins could not abide that such an important issue as scientific integrity be negated to an exercise in debating technique. That theologians appear at ease with such food fights is perhaps a supreme indication of theology’s folly.
I think this analogy apposite: A senior sales executive at Acme Inc. discovers by meticulous market research that the corporation’s supreme product, the Silver Bullet MRK IV, is but a placebo – not a single werewolf kill has ever been confirmed. The executive is discomfited and reports comprehensively to his superiors. A loyal team member of irreproachable standing, the executive endeavours not to offend sensibilities and even expresses the almost certain hope that some peer might soon be able to indicate, by more market research, that the devastating report is erroneous.
Acme continues unabatedly to ship the MRK IV, and to guarantee werewolf kills. And an unsuspecting public continues to entrust their very lives to Acme’s product. Acme continues as if nothing of any importance has happened.
The Business World, and the Scientific World, will not abide such atrocious behaviour. But then again, theology probably does not matter much, as is indicated by its own champions. This indifference, more than conclusive argument and creative writing, confirms the nullity of “Yahweh”.
The futility of the arrant amalgam of ontological philosophy and biblical criticism may well be platitudinously obvious, but I remain concerned with the question of whether a literary construct can be subjected to some distorted griotic verisimilitude. Can story characters, cartoons, be subjected to falsification? It can. But should it?
The conclusion, “… therefore Yahweh does not exist” necessarily imparts subsistence to “Yahweh” in order that “Yahweh” can be referred to and his existence denied. This offends against a sense of reality which is to be preserved even in the most abstract disciplines. The “subsistence” notion creates a menagerie of ontological monsters.
All knowledge is but an inference from personal sensation, and philosophy, the love of wisdom, exists foremost to discipline thought, to reflect reality as accurately as possible – making philosophy and science natural allies.
It is a moot point, for example, whether Shakespeare has an “impossible narrator’s perspective” when his Horatio addresses the royal phantasma of Elsinore, “Stay, illusion. If thou hast any sound or use of voice, Speak to me.”
My affinity for the Bard compels me to press my point by indicating that the prick-eared child with crooked grin, one Puck, never could, and never did, “put a girdle round the earth… in forty minutes.”
No treatise concluding “… therefore Lady Mac Beth does not exist” will curtail, for even a moment, my relish of Her Ladyship’s bloody pun: “Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures; t’is the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil. If he do bleed, I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal, for it must seem their guilt.”
Why, o why, can not the Bible simply be savoured for the acme of literature that it is – a select compilation of pre-scientific documents depicting warts and all human traits: loyalty and prejudice; belief and disbelief; despair and expectation; hope and desperation; joy and sorrow – regaled from the distant past, vested with the knowledge and insight of particular times, without espying the Draconian, the Gordian, and the Permian behind each and every inflection?!
Frankly, even a perfunctory scan of the Old Testament identifies Yahweh as a jealous, vindictive and homicidal ogre of quite stupendous obstinacy. Spawned of the noisome agglomeration of ignorance, mental faineance and irrational fear, Yahweh has the manners and the morals of a mollycoddled minor. No measure of exegetical contortion and hermeneutical prevarication can deny that Yahweh is an embarrassment to rational people. Yahweh has no standing in the 21st Century.
This ideogenous Yahweh, like his multitudinous localised peers over the breadth of time immemorial, was spawned of the early human terror of origin, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic from the fault line of existence. Human ignorance raised god, evolving human understanding can raze god.
It is outrageous to impart subsistence to this utilitarian conception created by fear and nourished by ignorance, clothed in the vestiges of fanatic deceit, worshiped by weakness, preserved by credulity; supported by custom and tyranny – a bespoke chimera in service of psychedelic human experience: a cheap analgesic; a ready hallucinogenic.
Clothing the most elaborate Cartoon of all time, beyond even the constructs of a Rube Goldberg, with subsistence, confirms theology’s mortifying position on the eitchen midden of Academe.
Having stated my objection to the very provenance of this well authored and well argued tome, I shall now invoke my almost uncanny, and most regrettable instinct for intellectual suicide and assert that Gericke’s postulate is of extreme importance to theology.
By constructing a cumulative argument against realism out of the arguments from theological pluralism, unorthodox theology, polymorphic projection, mythology and syncretism, fictitious cosmography, fictitious history and meta-textual history, Gericke engages a traditionalist, fundamentalist (behoudende; verkrampte in deference to Wimpie de Klerk) mentality, inasmuch as such individuals are exposed to the text, by their own rules of engagement, and secures, by, an admittedly terpsichorean, analogy, the cup in an away match. For this, Gericke deserves praise abundant. In fact, Gericke eliminates “God” on two counts – by committed research; by indifference to the conclusion.
The foremost business philosopher and infotainer, Tom Peters, in whose company I find myself more naturally at home, says in his unique hellfire way, “Change? Change! Yes, we’ve almost all, finally, embraced the notion that ‘change is the only constant.’ Well, sorry. Forget change! The word is feeble. Keep saying ‘revolution.’ If it doesn’t roll easily off your tongue, then I suggest you have a perception problem – and, more to the point, a business or a career problem. What we do. What we make. How we work. Each is the subject of nothing less than revolution.”
Our world needs Voltaire’s theologian: “The more he became truly wise, the more he distrusted everything he knew.”
In epistemology propositions which seem to breed paradoxes are to be cleaned up by being shown to be misleadingly expressed.
The object of philosophy is to respond to the intellectual bewitchment of the bewildered self by establishing contextual atpeacement, maturing contentment through linguistic expression of an afferent empirical model of “being”: ataraxis by evolving insight affords peace of mind even under conditions of anxiety.
A “cognitive ontogenesis” is demanded, triggered by a non-intuitive, anti-metaphysical temper; developed by observation (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting), expression (making statements describing observations) and evaluation (subjecting comparative expressions to falsification); matured by a preparedness, a qui vive, to calibrate insight continuously because observation is limited by physical imperfection, expression by linguistic lacunae and evaluation by prejudice.
Evaluation is ultimately an exercise in comparing expressions, the plural initially indicating that different models of understanding can coexist when they cannot be translated one into the other until elimination by falsification, or rejection through the impossibility of falsification, reduce parallel models to a single best fit approximation of exactitude – the quality of being marked by strict and particular and complete accordance with the speciating falsification remnant.
Without god, theology can raise its chagrined head. Without god, theology can become relevant. Without god, theology can contribute to an ordered community. Without god, theology can take its place as an academic discipline in its own right.
Without god believers can face up to the crucial question: Why do I believe? What is faith? And what makes a life of faith meaningful? What value does faith add to life in the 21st century?
Science does not address this question. Philosophy can at best evaluate this question. Theology, if it is to remain relevant in this age, will have to find a legitimate response to the reality that ordinary people face in this day and age.
A non-existent god makes theology a misnomer, to be sure. Perhaps Homology – for lack of an immediately appropriate alternative noun – should rise to take a place among the great knowledge systems of the world.
As theology becomes Homology, as theologians become homologians, a groundswell of positive energy shall emerge from the logic of a new morality – born of Nature itself, shaped by evolving human excellence.
Religion. A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. We can hardly hope for a community where religion becomes extinct, but we can stop behaving as if religion deserves respect.
Said another cartoon character, Lt. Commander Worf, of the Starship Enterprise, “We killed all our Klingon gods centuries ago. They were more trouble than they were worth.”
Get your copy of Does Yahwe Exist? here.