The following thoughts will start from the uncontested existing reality, from our human nature, that all of us experience. We want to remind the fact that our deepest intentions and longings contain in themselves a final aim that really can fulfil them.
We experience life as a continuous search. Every goal in this world can offer only a temporary satisfaction. This can be explained only if we accept that there is a final goal and without reaching it man can not be satisfied with provisional solutions. Therefore the final goal of our search should be beyond this world.
1 Final Aim of Life, Happiness—Longing for Fulfilment
Every man struggles day by day for things he considers important in his life. Youth struggle for success in studying, adults for earning money for maintaining themselves and their families. Some invest a lot of time and energy in improving science or serving the benefit of society in other areas. These are good things in themselves but what is the final sense of all these? Although people can be satisfied by these claims finding temporal joy nevertheless they can not find final fulfilment and security in them. An earthquake can annihilate everything that a man builds up all his life, a death of a beloved family member can drive somebody into depression. There are many cases when man is forced to be confronted with the finiteness of his life and of the things of this world.
There is also another outlook on life, which proclaims amusement and enjoyment as the real sense of life. Every honest man can recognise that this thinking and manner of life causes people to go empty losing the ability to appreciate the actual values of life. This ideology is the best source of licentiousness, immorality and aggression. Consequently this can not be the real aim of life either.
All the people would like to possess a solid base that they can lean on. What can it be? Jesus Christ said:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal….
Even if someone does not accept him as Son of God, nevertheless can see that His words are true. How many people finding material wealth or great reputation committed suicide? How many of them who put their whole trust in man became human wrecks after getting disappointing in them? What can a man discover in this world at all that could supply absolute security for him? Who could give satisfactory answers to the greatest questions of mankind? Jesus finishes his statement like this:
…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal…. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:20,33)
Each man has a certain claim for finding the aim of his life, joy and love. Though many people try to repress this claim, yet it seems that mankind searches the fulfilment and those who failed to find their aim sink in themselves. Thus longing for fullness is a natural human need but finding it is logically and practically impossible if there is not something or someone possessing that fullness in itself. Since as far as we know man is the being of the highest level in the universe, it can be logically excluded in advance that his longing for fullness could ever be completed merely by material things—which are on lower level. Of course one can find joy in other people or material things, too. This joy, however, derived from its nature, is only provisional and partial and the quest for fullness based on them is a self-cheat and illusion. Man is unable to fulfil another man completely since they stand on the same level and they “struggle” with the same needs. Thus the existence of an absolute being above man able to complete his needs is a prime necessity for life.
2 The Basic Need of Man for Relationship in Love
According to personalistic philosophy ( e.g. Martin Buber), the basic need of man is relationship: openness and mutual love towards others. Love is the deepest manifestation of the essence of our personality. Man, by his nature, is a social being. Therefore all the possibilities of our human nature can be realised not only regarding the individual but braking the frame of our own existence and referring to our place among the others. This means that for the realisation, opening and fulfilling our personal being a relationship between “You and me” is indispensable. Mainly our need for the others and our devotion to them can form in us the sense of responsibility and the right assessment of ourselves and of the others. Only relating ourselves towards other personal beings we can attain self-reflection, self-disposition, self-consciousness and so the sense of responsibility. Because man has the need of being in community, the main obstacle in perfecting his personality is self-contentness, withdrawing in himself. Selfishness can serve only apparently for gaining one’s own interests, because the one who doesn’t take into consideration the other’s needs, who doesn’t know sacrifice (renouncement) for the other one or who is mistrustful towards others, isolates himself from the community and so isolates himself just from what he is looking for: finding fulfilment for his own being. A man who lives for himself or wants to gain power over the others can not be free, only serving others can make one free. Only in devotion one can be satisfied with his life and his realisation.
But man can see always the human limits: he cannot get nor give perfect love. The love we can receive from another man will have an end when we lose him. Therefore the natural need of man for receiving eternal love can be fulfilled only by an eternal perfect being who is the inexhaustible source of love.
Once man’s longing for perfect love is fulfilled he himself will own the source from which he will be able to give love to others. Everybody can experience that he cannot satisfy perfectly the other one by his own power because the other one’s needs go beyond one’s human limits. A right relationship with another man is possible only through taking into consideration his whole nature, all his needs, that often surpass one’s own abilities. This is the way someone has to regard the other one in order to see him not only as a tool for his own happiness but in his complete reality as a being having need for absolute love. In this way man’s natural longing for relationship in love can not be fulfilled perfectly without an absolute source of love that is God.
3 Wish for Righteousness
Everybody has a natural sensation of righteousness. This can be easily seen by the fact that bad deeds of “enemies” are strictly assessed. People are usually much more sensitive towards their “enemies” than towards themselves. We have the wish that people are treated righteously, or at least the wish that they themselves are righteously treated.
Now evolutionists try to explain this phenomenon as a result of common life of human beings because it is advantageous for the collective to be righteous. However, the sense of righteousness cannot simply develop, there is no more or less of it. It does not seem to be a sensible thought that mankind decided at an early stage to be righteous and consequently it was transmitted to the descendants. Such phenomena, abilities cannot be inherited but every individual has to decide to be righteous or not. Secondly, righteousness does not ask for being advantageous for oneself or others. A righteous deed is done independently of its consequences. So how can our longing for righteousness be fulfilled?
Our world has always been full of unrighteousness and it is not realistic to think that this will completely change. Furthermore we are not satisfied with partial righteousness which people struggle for like politicians (sometimes), humanists and religious people. Real all-embracing righteousness that is valid for everyone cannot be found within this world.
So is the longing for righteousness only a senseless character of human being or doesn’t it just hint at a transcendent being who can provide it eternally?
4 Beauty and Harmony
If the reason of the coming into existence of the universe and man is just the sequence of extremely rare events, where are beauty and harmony from? Why does man have abilities that are completely unnecessary from the point of view of survival and race preservation? Where are the artistic gifts, poetry, literature, and music from? If life is just a cruel struggle for survival, where are these values from and why have they survived?
There was a child who liked to paint, and indeed he painted nicely. One day he sat in his room and started to paint a beautiful landscape. After sitting many hours with his utensils, he became tired and went out. He looked up at the sky and at the trees and spontaneously shouted out: “Oh, this is more beautiful than what I painted and I can ever paint ! But who is the one who painted all these?”
Man has a natural wish for beauty, which reflects perfection, the ideal. Beautiful is what approaches the ideal or the perfection of itself. The rhythm of proportions, lines, colours, sounds does not have usually material or biological worth, even if it can be connected, we like it because of other reasons. We have joy when we see beautiful things because they bring us nearer to the infinite beauty we have wish for and we love. We like to see the waving sea, the high mountains because they suggest greatness, infinity, majesty. So the attracting power of beauty leads us to an infinite source, to the perfection which can satisfy our longing for it.
An illustration concerning the love of beauty, belonging to the nature of man:
The expedition led by Ralph Solecki of Columbia University in the rugged Zagros Mountains of northern Iraq excavated in 1960 in the Shanidar Cave the bones of an old Neantherthal man who died 60.000 years ago. His burial was prepared in a special way: He rested in a bed with bundles of woody horsetail branches. Festoons of yarrow, hollyhock, groundsell, grape hyacinth, cornflowers and other flowers were woven among the ramose stems of the woody horsetail. Solecki wrote about this “flower burial”:
We are brought suddenly to the realisation that the universality of mankind and the love of beauty go beyond the boundaries of our own species. …No longer can we deny the early men the full range of human feelings and experience.1
5 Morality (The Argument from Conscience)
Why does morality exist and why is there a basic longing for good in man and why is there conscience?
5.1 There Is an Objective Moral Law
Even if some people are not aware of or consciously do not admit the reality of a universal moral law, generally everybody agrees in some basic moral principles necessary for our life as individuals and as collectivity.
It is true that there always existed differences concerning the moral principles but these differences were always smaller than their consent. If somebody compares the moral teachings of different cultures from different times among different nations, will see the great similarities among them and the great similarity to our moral precepts.
C. S. Lewis proves in his book, The Abolition of Man, that the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans had very similar moral teachings. In no culture were treason, cheat, impostors or selfish men admired. There are differences in different cultures concerning the number of wives in an official marriage, but no culture has ever glorified the act of adultery or shown as a virtue to take away the wife of the other man. In no culture was permitted to murder anybody without any reason, not even among cannibals, who also have their laws and they don’t murder anybody they want either. The fact that Nazis considered their supreme aim to root out some other nations doesn’t show that this can be also part of the natural law. Just the fact that we may criticise them shows that there is a superior truth in this question to which all are submitted and by which all can be judged.
Let’s examine the development of this inner law in the life of the individual. The reality of the development of conscience of the individuals is observable from their childhood on. This change is influenced by several things but the most important influencing aspect is personal decision. Man can deny his conscience and every such a decision affects our inner law. They influence the work of our conscience regarding what things and to what extent it draws our attention to. This is the main reason of the differences that we see in people’s moral assessment. But these influencing personal decisions do not change the reality of the existence of a common starting point and purity of our conscience determined by the objective law of morality.
Everybody experiences the obliging character of the word of this inner law. Even if man does not conform to it, he knows “it should be”, “it would be good” or “it would have been good”. These inner warnings have superior authority because even if I don’t like it, I must face its message. The assessment of the voice of conscience is at work before, during and after our actions, accusing or justifying us. Its unconditioned obliging character is for the purpose of education. Its task is to correct the subjective deviations created by our bad motives and decisions and to direct us back to the purity of the objective and the highest good. It means that even if individual conscience changes in the course of time its origin is shown by its task to lead people to the absolute truth and objectivity superior to them.
5.2 What Can Be the Source of the Objective Moral Law?
Can conscience be only the product of social education or environmental influence? If conscience may be only the product of these outward influences then the strongest influence, namely the parents’ life would always necessarily determine the moral orientation of the child as well. But a child of murderer parents will not necessarily become a murderer. Fortunately, we also often see young people who have not become victims of the various forms of immorality offered by our modern society but try to escape from it. It would not be possible if also their conscience were produced by the contemporary society. That is why we think that although these aspects indeed influence the forming of conscience of people, nevertheless these ways of explanations in themselves must be regarded as simplifications of a complicated question.
Here we don’t intend to deal with the materialists’ proposal for the evolutionary coming into existence of human conscience. Let us only refer to the general opinion of Nobel- scientists regarding the enormous gap between human conscience and forms of spiritual behaviour and the highest manifestations of instinct combinations of the animal kingdom. Since the difference is not just the matter of the level of development of the same features but of unique and new qualities, the answer of the origin of our conscience must be found somewhere else. We have collected some quotations of famous scientists of this field in a separate part, see Scientists concerning spirit.
If the objective moral law can not come only from the material world through evolutionary processes, nor can it be explained by some individual or collective psychical influence of the society, then it must have a source exterior to our world. This superior Lawgiver must be someone whose nature is in perfect accordance with the moral laws he gives. We call this perfect, supreme and personal Lawgiver God.
5.3 Other Arguments Based on Morality
In a later period of his life Kant rejected the traditional proofs and considered that the existence of God and the immortality of soul were matters of faith, not of reason, which, he claimed, is limited to sensation. Out of many arguments he accepted only the moral argument, but not in the form presented above. Kant reasoned that everybody’s aim is perfect happiness and everybody should seek the summum bonum (highest good) by obeying the moral law. But mortal men can not reach a proportionate happiness through striving for morality, therefore there must exist a perfect God who will reward us with perfection after death.
“The argument from damnation” given by Peter Berger in his Rumour of Angels is in fact a negative version of the reasoning with morality. His idea is thought-provoking even if it is not a strong argument because it assumes a positive turn of mind, according to which everybody must receive what he deserves. It starts from the fact that some deeds like slavery, genocide or holocaust are so evil that they deserve not only an earthly punishment but a supernatural condemnation, otherwise there would be no justice.
6 The Freedom of Human Will
The freedom of will means the accomplishment of acts considered the most expedient on the base of one’s own discretion, obeying his own sense of responsibility without any external force. Thus it can be concluded that the freedom of one’s ideas and decisions can not be determined by any moral, biological, chemical or physical law nor can it be described by any formula. Man can always weigh consciously the choice from among numerous possibilities of actions while the matter behaves always according to the qualities by which it is determined. Man is able to form himself by his decisions, he is able to develop his abilities and he has the possibility to decide opposing his instincts, disposition and features. Moreover man is able to make the material world serve him through his mind both in good or bad directions and he is able to interfere into the law of nature though sometimes at the expense of grave consequences. All these show explicitly that the attributes of human intelligence and will are in a radical opposition to the characteristics of matter. So it is obvious that the reason of the coming into existence of volitional freedom cannot be found in matter which is unable to act in a reasonable and purposive way by itself. The originator of intelligence and will has to possess these features as well and to be able to pass them on. It implies that the reason which caused—and so possesses—the intelligence and volitional freedom has to be a person, too, for these attributes presuppose consciousness and can be connected only to a person.
7 The Dynamism of Human Spirit (Longing for the Infinite)
The conscious phenomena in the case of animals are always the product of inward and outward information taking place at the present moment. The human self-awareness is not motivated only by instincts or information coming from outside, which we can see from several spiritual activities. The life and interest of animals are determined and complete in the frame of their existence.
The realisation of human life is characterised by the unlimited openness and freedom of our knowledge and aspirations.
Man is interested and open not only towards his own everyday life, but he asks some basic questions concerning the origin and final reason of his existence: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where do I go? What is my place in the surrounding world?” Furthermore, he has also questions concerning the whole existence: “What is the world? Where did it come from? What is the truth? How can I get to know it? What is the final aim of the whole existence?” Questions like these show that human mind strives to understand the totality of the infinite existence. It surpasses the senses and concepts and wants to grasp the total existence. Man’s personality contains the longing to break out from the limits of space and time. Human spirit does not connect only to the present point of space and time. People can be in spirit (in thoughts) at any point of space and time of the world, which shows that our mind is not dependent only on matter. Man’s spiritual activity and intellectual orientation and motivation go beyond the finite world and are directed towards the infinite and complete reality.
This natural ability and striving of man must have an object that is beyond the sensual experience of reality. Otherwise this longing for the infinite would be baseless. How could man realise the finiteness and imperfection if the infinite and perfection did not exist?
8 Wish for Immortality
Life is a great surprise. I don’t see why death should not be an even greater one. (Vladimir Nabokov)
Man is the only living being who is aware of his death.
The wish for immortality is at least as old as the human civilisation. We can see already in the earliest cultures that people prepared and equipped their dead carefully for their life in the other world. Different tribes and nations had different burial customs but usually all of them reflect some kind of belief in the existence after death. This shows that the belief in life after death is so closely connected with the nature of man that we might consider this fact as having a real base. The fact that many people nowadays accept so easily the idea of annihilation often shows rather the lack of thinking than a deep conviction. If we accept that human spirit is immortal then it can not be the product of evolutionary processes (which lead only to ephemeral things) but supposes an immortal Creator.
9 The Argument of Universal Consent
Religiosity, the idea of the existence of a kind of superior authority has provably accompanied the history of mankind everywhere in the world for millennia, from the earliest ages up to nowadays. People’s belief in God could not be disproved or abolished even by lots of radical social, cultural and ideological changes. How could a supposition have survived in spite of all these changes absolutely baseless and unreal?
It is true that there has always been a large variety of disfigured religious beliefs and superstitions and many people have accepted Polytheism, Dualism, Pantheism or other kinds of erroneous understandings. But this fact does not disprove our argument because by universal consent we do not understand the way people exactly understood deity and what they believed about it, but we speak about the general belief in the existence of a superior being or beings on whom the material world and man himself are dependent. Even if people often distorted their recognition, the common germinal truth from their belief cannot be explained in another way than that it is the result of the natural common sense of man that draws conclusions from the existing evidences.
There are many explanations for the origin and the universality of religion but generally anthropologists and philosophers of religion agree about the above stated consent of mankind. Moreover, there is a good deal of positive evidence for supporting the theory that the first religion of mankind was Monotheism and during the history it degenerated instead of progressing. But even if it became in many cases very obscure, the core of the original truth was not completely abolished.
Concerning atheism, we can not say the same. History proves that atheistic philosophy is a “modern achievement” and it is not characteristic in the normal human society but is a rather abnormal reaction of a relatively few number of people. Its present form is closely connected with the sudden and intense improvement of human knowledge by modern science from the last century on and although science has really developed considerably in this period, it should honestly be acknowledged that the greatest questions of life are still open. From the writings of many ancient so-called atheists we can see that they were rather against the abuse of religion and against the rejection of rationality than against the existence of all kinds of divinity. In some cases it could be considered as an admirable virtue of the nonconformists who do not adhere on the mind of the large mass just because of the fact that they are in the majority, if their contribution has real bases and have a superior aim like uncovering the truth and a better way of life. But this is not the case with atheism where many examples show rather the contrary. Therefore neither the ancient nor the modern opponents of religion can uproot the belief in God which is so deeply implanted in man’s heart.
10 What Do Scientists Say About the Human Spirit? Is the Human Spirit Merely the Result of the Evolution of Matter?
Several materialist scientists try to explain the highest spiritual processes, including self-awareness and consciousness, as being only the result of biochemical reactions. They are called reductionists, because they reduce the whole reality to the level of material processes. But there are many other science experts who do not belong to this category, who are aware of the limits of science, who speak about “the wonder and mystery of the human self with its spiritual values, with its creativity, and with its uniqueness for each of us”, like John C. Eccles, Nobel prize winner neuroscientist.
Back to: Overview
- Science 190/1975 ↩