Does God only exist to inspire us?

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Few weeks ago, a friend of mine who happens to be a colleague arrived at work at a strange time. At least, strange for me, since he usually arrives for work at around ten in the morning. But on that day, something different happened – he arrived at nine.

Our work will last only for eight hours. In other words, if you start by ten in the morning, you’ll end by seven in the evening (because an hour for lunch is not counted). So, if you start by nine, you’ll be then out by six, having to experience the eye-catching twilight.

“He must be apt for something,” I thought of myself.

Shortly after my surprise, in the afternoon, he bragged about the reason why he arrived early in the morning. That is, he arrived before the clock ticks nine. He was going to attend a Catholic mass, perhaps if I remembered it well, with his girlfriend. In response to his concession, our CFO teased him by saying that most of their priests are far from trustworthy. That is, they are only self-concerned people with a mouthful of lies deceiving their listeners.

Being caught off-guard, my friend anxiously conceded that he also does not believe what their priests are saying. And then concludes that the belief in God only exists for the sake of inspiration to do good and nothing more.

Clarification

The story, as far as I can recall it, is overloaded with several objective truth claims. And some of which are pretty bold and condescending. However, this blog will not attempt to address all, but only to the conclusion drawn, that is, the belief in God only exists for the sake of inspiration to do good[1] and nothing more. What it also means is that there’s no need for justification for whether our belief is true or warranted. There’s no need to ask whether God exist and holds us accountable for what we do or not. So long as the feeling of inspiration or motivation is involved, perhaps that is enough.

Evaluation

Well the truth is, inspiration or motivation is not enough. Though this blog does not aim to be exhaustive, nonetheless, there are several reasons that can be thought about.

First, inspiration or motivation is not necessarily a reflection of truth, but a condition of the mind. That is, I can be inspired or motivated by wrong things thinking they are right things. In that case, my feeling of inspiration or motivation does not make things right. Jihad is never justified because its core beliefs were never justified, regardless of how inspired or motivated our Muslim friends are. In the same way, my apathy does not make right or true things wrong. In philosophy, this is equivalent in saying that truth is a mind-independent reality. We don’t create it. We only recognize it. And being rational creatures, it is imperative that we don’t settle for mere feelings of inspiration or motivation alone – we must know the truth.

Second, the belief in God is not necessary to do good. I know a lot of skeptics who live as decent people. Some of whom are even much more generous. For example, they help build orphanages and schools, and protect the rights of the oppressed. To contrast it, it’s also true that a lot of people do nasty things in the name of God. For example, the Inquisition, where a lot of people were tortured and murdered.

Third, the consequences of living such a self-deluded worldview is never inconsequential – it leads to moral relativism. “The individual is left to his own desires,” states the Austrian-born American sociologist Peter Berger, in everything “from expressing his religious preference to settling on a sexual lifestyle.”[2] Just like “those days [when] there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). The result? Anarchy. Because we no longer care whether God exists or not, and whether He holds us accountable for what we do or not. Since what is most important is our feelings of inspiration or motivation, which may also be conflicting.

Fourth, objective good and evil are not God-independent. Objective evil does not exist without objective good. And objective good does not exist without a justifiable moral source, i.e., God. Or as John Adams once said,

“There is no such thing [as morality] without the supposition of God. There is no right and wrong in the universe without the supposition of a moral government and an in intellectual and moral governor.”[3]

Fifth, the conclusion, namely thatthe belief in God only exists for the sake of inspiration to do good and nothing more”was merely asserted but was never argued. That is, to have its warrant, the claim must go beyond mere assertion. It must have sound arguments. Or else it will only stay within the level of opinions.

Finally, there are arguments for the existence of God that will show us that our belief in Him is the most rational thing we can ever do. Since we are, as I’ve said above, rational creatures who are wired to know the truth. That is, there’s a warrant for the belief in God independent of our feelings of inspiration or motivation. In other words, our feelings don’t establish or diminish His existence. In short, feelings don’t dictate reality.

Conclusion

My friend’s conclusion, therefore, that the belief in God only exists for the sake of inspiration to do good and nothing more, is nothing short of being valid. In other words, it doesn’t pass under a careful scrutiny.

And as a people who claim to love the truth, it is imperative that we should involve ourselves into dialogues, and spend more time assessing what we believe in light of what has been proposed to undermine our deeply-held views.


[1] To go even further, not just an inspiration to do good, but an inspiration not to give up but press forward.

[2] Quoted in Faith & Culture, Kullberg & Arrington, 137.

[3] Zoltan Haraszti, “John Adams Flays a Philosopher: Annotations on Condorcet’s Progress of the Human Mind,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., vol. 7, no. 2 (April 1950), 244.

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