A good number of us are well acquainted with the etymology of atheism. An origin which comes from the Greek “atheos” (without God or gods). It is often addressed to those who reject any belief in God, gods or any form of supreme being. Beginning from the age of enlightenment down to the French Revolution and to our day, the concept of atheism has consistently reared its ugly head. One interesting fact though unadmitted by atheist is that, if God had not existed, there would not have been so much fight and struggle to prove his non-existence. But then, one pressing question remains for the atheist, does believing in God take away our true freedom? Why are they so bent on proving his non existence as if his existence depersonalizes our being. Die hard atheists like Satre thinks otherwise when he says “man is free but his freedom does not look like the glorious liberty of the enlightenment. It is no longer the gift of God. Once again, man stands alone in the universe.” Now, if we fast forward time from the period of enlightenment, we see that the idea and concept of atheism has gradually shifted from just rejecting any belief in God down to the non-tolerance of religion and the countering of religion through the use of the so called rational arguments. This is what is called in some quarters as The New Atheism. A movement commonly associated with the likes of Sam Harris, Daniel Denett, Richard Dawkins , Christopher Hitchens and other disciples of the New Atheist bent. The new atheists I must say are emerging with a more fierce and dangerous approach than it has been in former times. There is what is known today as the politics of new atheism where campaigns are made to reduce the influence of religion in the public sphere and efforts are made to project the idea of God as a delusion to use the words of Dawkins. Perhaps, Watson was right in saying that, the modern man has seen a theological understanding of the humankind being replaced by a psychological nature. What this movement is quickly forgetting is that, the experience of God is real and can be tried. If it were an illusion or delusion , it would not inspire the sacrifice, the purity of morals, the humility, the sublimity of learning that it has inspired for the past 21 centuries. I return again to the questioning mode, what really makes us afraid of God? If he is love, should we not embrace him? This is why Atheism is of the will. It gives room for the permissibility of actions and inactions. It is under this ambience that one can fully understand the new atheist who are bent on destroying God and refusing anything that might put God in action. I was in a recent chat with someone on the internet who made the following statement about God that captures the spirit of the new atheism, he says “I don’t believe in God. God is just a kind of phrase” phraseology is exactly what today’s atheists want God to be. A roless God amidst men. One interesting and puzzling fact amidst these is that God being a relentless lover continues to be in search of the souls of even the worst of Atheists. We may not be surprised to see in heaven the likes of Henry Bergson. Despite the fact of turning God into an endless becoming, he later sought the assistance of a priest before breathing his Last. This points to the fact that we can never exhaust the possibilities of choice. We are free. My final word to this movement is that, there is no escaping God, we cannot keep him out of our lives. We can only greet him with hate instead of love. His pervasive presence will continue to be felt by all. For Godlessness is nothing unless one admits a God. Happy new week! God loves us!!
As the polls get set for the forthcoming USA presidential election come November 8, I am quite concerned about the outcome of this election. Being the 58 quadrennial USA election, I have a conviction that it will go a long way to shape the history and future of not just the US but the world at large. I am not an American either by citizenship or by naturalization. But of course, what ever affects America will either directly or indirectly affect other countries not necessarily because of their wealth or technology but rather due to the complementary nature of the world we live in. We can’t pretend not to have noticed that. A lot of proximate and remote preparations have been made by both parties in the form of debates, campaigns, conferences, talks, internet sensations and more. I don’t intend to be partisan here( of course I am not even voting) or to dogmatically endorse any candidate. My task here rather is to rouse minds who might be voting or be in a position to advise voters. This is to enable them to vote aright. It is no longer news that our civilization is decaying and a great part of humanity is unconscious of this tragedy. In some countries today (including our dear America), there is the liquidation of the economic man or the assumption that man who is a highly developed animal has no function in life other than to produce and acquire wealth and then like the cattle be filled with years and die. We also see the liquidation of the idea of the natural goodness of man who has no need of God to give him rights, no need of a redeemer to salvage him from guilt because we live in an age of automatic progress, thanks to education and science. What we see today greatly reflects the philosophy of Comte, Darwin and Spencer. The third idea is extreme rationalism that shows itself in the false sense that the supreme purpose of life is not the discovery of the meaning and goal of life but solely to devise new technical advances to make this world a city of man(civitas homo) so as to displace the city of God (civitas dei). The fruits of such a city can be guessed, an anti-God and an anti-sin civilization. One of the ways in which the Americans choose candidates to represent them in government is on the basis of parties. But this is gradually loosing its meaning. There is one standard that has not been universally maximized and that is, “choosing candidates on moral grounds”. When the moral stand is different, then the legislation will be different. As long as we refuse to believe that morality has a role to play in politics, then we can’t meet up with the contemporary challenges. Modern political leaders devoid of moral inspiration and relying solely on mere mass opinion will prove deficienct in the time of crisis. If there is a time when the American will suffer under a totalitarian state denying them the right to worship God, it will be because, for years they thought it made no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress. Woe to us if morality cannot seep into the polling booths! Woe again to us again if we subscribe to a party that is anti-God! This is America’s finest moment to get it right. She must realize that above all the schemes and political propaganda, there is nothing more fundamental to the revival of true democracy than the restoration of the family. The family greatly signifies that there is another wealth other than just paper wealth. By family, I think of the unbreakable bonds between the husband and wife, the wealth and future of the unborn child. The voters must bear these in mind. Let them remember that the danger is always from the inside not outside. When a nation ceases to place value on the home, then the value of a person will diminish. Soonest man will begin to be valued because of what he can do for a revolutionary class and this will eventually lead to communism. We must learn from history! Finally my dear Americans, my prayers go with you as you proceed to the polls, so that, the right choice can be made and the future of your country will be truly secured. May the Virgin Mary continue to Shield the USA with her Mantle.
Events of last week, had me feeling nostalgic about my days in the philosophy department. These events are actually the catalysts for this little reflection on the nature and role of Philosophy in the face of our contemporary world. In the first place, philosophers are not merely the sort of people who impersonally work with a set of select tools in the quiet seclusion of their minds or classrooms. They are humans whose tools consist of their languages and whose work shops are chiefly their minds. They are known for distancing their passion from their position so as to enable them stand out as gadflies of the society. To use the words of one of my lecturers in those good old days, “philosophers are constructors of a world”. They are not just mere lovers of wisdom as the etymology makes us understand. How is this construction of the world possible? This can be achieved by challenging erroneous beliefs and assumptions. No position is sacrosanct in philosophy except it is truth itself . the philosopher must not necessarily be a scholar. Even though, being one gives him an edge over others and thus, more responsibility. The philosopher does not usually see things from the usual lenses. He is always in the maze of critical questionings, deconstructions and reconstructions. This is to avoid undue absolutism and dogmatism. This is why, the philosopher is in a better position to give honest answers or opinions to the questions, why is there so much suffering in a world sustained by a necessary Being?, why is life worth living? Can we know the truth in its entirety? In the face of the unsatisfactory nature of leadership, we expect philosophers to reflect over the nature of good government and governance in general. In all these, we see that philosophy is not just an abstract activity but a very practical one. To acquire this “philosophical temperament”, we must avoid pure ideological exercises in the form of religious fanaticism, ethnic chauvinism, political extremism and the likes. These are enemies of the philosophical attitude. Of course we know that philosophy thrives across the length and breadth of our daily activities. It is active in history as philosophy of history, in law as jurisprudence, in politics as political philosophy, the list continues. When Ayer says philosophy studies reality as a whole, we see that the subject matter of philosophy agitates the mind of one who raises the philosophical question. For philosophy to be properly done, we must approach it with the proper mindset. A mindset that is not hegemonic or exclusivit but rather one that is complementary(to borrow the word of prof Asouzu). Complementary here implies that, every link of reality is very Important. This leads to mutual dependence that is very absent in philosophy today. It does seem that our philosophy is lacking a more humane face that is attuned to the problems of our time. The Epicurean Metaphysics captures it vividly, “empty is the argument of the philosopher by which no soul is healed”. We tend to hold on to the subject-object divide in philosophy. Rejecting this does not negate the systematic thinking we ascribe to ourselves. Diversity is strength. This is what philosophers in a postmodern era must realize. Our thinking and being is enriched when we learn from one another and complement one another. Thus, wither philosophy is a clarion call on all lovers of wisdom to expunge and exorcise if necessary all the ghosts that keep on reappearing in the philosophical enterprise to hinder progress. These Ghosts are present in all cultures that form the seeds of philosophy. We must not let them thrive in their thought trajectories. The philosopher must seek to reclaim his true autonomy. This is one of the arduous task facing Philosophy. GOD BLESS THE PHILOSOPHICAL ENTERPRISE!
In order for us to discover more the meaning and essence of our existence, it is necessary that we must drift away and rediscover anew the power of silence. Silence here does not just imply keeping mute neither does it imply remaining cold, indifferent and timid in the face of evils. Our concept of silence here implies carving out a considerable amount of time for self reflection and interior conversation with our being. Our modern world marked with technological mastery seems to downplay this attitude. Most of us find it difficult to keep still even while sleeping. We tend to relish one form of noise at one point or the other. Silence is not our enemy. It is in fact a great teacher. By allowing stillness to unfold, we come very close to our true self. The contemporary man faces many problems today as a result of his inability to break out of his noisy environment. Cardinal Robert Sarah reflecting on this points at “the dictatorship of noise” which is very pervasive today. Noise of course has its negative effects. Today in the hospitals and houses of psychologists people constantly complain of increase in stress levels. These are not just due to the nature of our work places or family problems but also fruits of excessive noise. In addition to stress levels, we have reduced mental energy, daily unexamined lives and consciences. No one sees the need for stock taking and sober reflection. This might actually pose the question, are we afraid of what we will discover when we come face to face with ourselves? From the moment when we are awake, we are already confronted with some inner noise, our stream of thoughts, memories, day dreams and fantasies, fears. One with no interior silence will continue navigating between the past and the uncertain future without learning how to live in the present. This is because, he has lost touch with the “teacher within”, the peace of soul. We can also loose our authenticity. Just like a sponge, our minds unknowingly pick up all kinds of behaviours, perceptions from the world around us, our TVs internet, videos. That is why the wise man must return to silence again. Today, the topic of meditation is not widely discussed except within the religious setting. People tend to see meditation as a prerogative of those who wish to embrace a religious vocation. This is quite erroneous. Every man needs some alone time and moments of introspection devoid of any religion or not. With interior silence, we can rebalance our value system. When people focus their attention on frivolities and shadows, we can always turn our gaze to the question of a meaningful existence. Silence can be the catalyst. We are in constant need of Deegotizing ourselves so that the I can emerge. A gregarious civilization and the rationalizing slogans of the crowd must be avoided. The man who desires to excel in character must retire to himself. Through this, new windows are opened, new lights shine in and one sees a strong resolution to be better emerging from the Soul. Have a blissful week!
Against all odds, I join my voice to that of other good spirited Nigerians to wish our beloved country a happy independence. Wow! 56 years has passed on since we struggled to break free from the shackles of colonialism. But at 56,it seems we are still held bondage by another form of “colonial masters”. At this critical period in Nigerian history we have become our own colonial masters who like the proverbial dog has eaten the bone hung on his neck. It is true that we are free from colonial masters with white skin colours but our fellow black skins continue to torment us more and soak us in abject poverty and penury. It is not an exaggeration that ever since we gained our independence on a platter of gold, it has been from one problem to another. We have not enjoyed genuine freedom or national prosperity. A quick glance at our daillies will reveal gory stories of tribalism, political instabilities, ethnic hatred, poor leadership, religious ignorance to mention but a few. These I must humbly submit is a failure on the path of both the so called military and democratic governments. Talking about religion, I dare say that the issue of prosperity Gospel is also taking a devastating turn in our country. Thanks to the so called economic inactivity (recession). While our neighbours are tapping into the next frontiers of technological innovations and advancements, some religious leaders fuel the problem more by encouraging their members to look up to “heaven” where God will continue raining down manna. What an insult to the African mind and intelligence! This sense of mediocrity and false religiosity has crept into our educational sector. A visit to most university campuses will show cases of immorality, strikes, poor and inefficient lecturers. This is why the issue of brain drain is increasingly sky rocketing even to our neighbouring countries like Ghana and South Africa. Whither NIGERIA at 56? Is thus a clarion call not just for celebration but more for stock taking. A call to use our compass to cross check whether we are on course or if we have lost our way as a nation. More than ever we are running late in our work of nation building. As we continue to wait for the transformation promised by the presence administration, we as a nation must not fail to play our own paths well. Everything must not be done by the government, the wealthy amongst us can use a little portion of their wealth to help the masses, we can also do better by shunning negative habits, disordeliness and fraud which does not necessarily come from the government. Ours is not to sit down and judge history. Yes, we must realize the mistakes of the past but we must strive earnestly to improve the present in order to better our tomorrow. We must not give up in our search for a healthy nation. We can disprove those who think that we are an utter disappointment or a light that refused to shine. Some analysts are of the view that at 56 we are the locus classicus of an injury not properly managed. But I Still believe that we have not defiled “pathological Genius”. There is still some potency. Hope still abounds despite our present state. Some years past, a dire prediction was made that Nigeria will soon disintegrate. The events that took place during the just concluded elections could have necessitated that. But here we are today still in one piece. We are not just victims of neo-colonialists/colonialists influences as some scholars would want us to believe. We are also victims of poverty of good leadership emanating from ourselves. The Apc’s mantra of change must note that we do not want any type of change except that which will reshape the future of our beloved country. The present administration has a lot to catch up with albeit there is no time. She must not loose sight of a proper articulation of a grand vision for the country so as to give her a deserving place in the global arena. At this age we are tired of pseudo promises and empty arguments. We cannot continue to apportion blames on the past regimes. Enough on emphasis on secondary issues and trivialities. One whose house is on fire does not chase rats! Let us take the bull at the horn to see how Nigeria with its rich and pluralistic nature can become a source and means of unification instead of division. May the labours of our heroes past never be in vain! Happy birthday Nigeria! God loves us!
This reflection is a fruit of a mutual discussion i had with an online friend of mine last week. The crux of our conversation was on the current crisis bedevilling our modern world and what actually was the place of those who wish to steer the virtuous paddle. As the discussion progressed, he said to me “actually Stan, I quite agree with those who say that, virtue is a dangerous career.” At first, i kept silent allowing the words to sink in then, we continued with our chat. But after then, i sank into deep reflection, pondering what it actually meant for virtue to be a danger to the one who decides to wear her mantle.
I do not intend in this work to thread the path of an exhaustive lecture towards philosophical virtues. i reserve that exclusively to scholars in Philosophical Ethics and Moral Theology. My interest here is simple. To reflect on how and why virtue can be a danger and the hope of those who still maintain this life or aspire towards it. is it possible that they can find a light at the end of the tunnel?
Virtue from the Latin “virtus” and the ancient Greek “arete” simply means moral excellence. it is a trait or a quality deemed to be morally good and this is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral well being. Following the above definition, any trait or quality that promotes good moral well being can be called virtues. There are however different kinds of virtues but i think the four classical platonian cardinal virtues encapsulates most of the virtuous acts; (prudence, temperance, courage and justice). virtue then is a good habit(habitus). The Catechism calls it “a firm disposition that allows the person not only to perform good acts but also to give the best of himself”. The question now is, can adapting this habitual and firm disposition to do good pose a threat to the agent? how is this possible? why must this be so? well i think that if it is not actually a dangerous career, Perfect Goodness would not have been crucified like a thief. Saint Paul once said in his letter to the Galatians “Have I made enemies because i tell you the truth?(4:16). Here we see the courage to be truthful (Virtue) being an avenue to acquire more enemies. (we know that enemies may pose dangers to one’s life).
Virtue can be hated for so many reasons which makes it possible to attract dangers. The first reason is pride which refuses to admit that a position, statement or action once taken can be a false one. Here we observe that some of us do not like to be contradicted or proven false. All their acts are good and so when you come with an action that gears at correcting them, Beware! you could be threading a dangerous path! you could loose your head like John the Baptist!
Virtue can also pose a dangerous path because accepting the message of the virtuous man might require the “giving up” of our evil ways. An instance, if i post on my facebook wall or in my blog the following “ALL THOSE WHO COMMIT FORNICATION IN THE NAME OF DATING ARE DESTROYING THEIR BODIES WHICH IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD”, do not be surprised then at the number of criticisms, verbal attacks and over rationalization that will thrall my blog or wall. A keen observer will notice that, part of the reason for such comments will be that, accepting the truth of the above message will imply giving up fornication during dating. Very few people can boast of that.
Virtue can also arouse hatred if it implies that another agent has come to discover the truth of our sins and is not convinced by our false face of immorality that has permeated our world. This is why the virtuous man may be threading a dangerous path because, he is swimming against the current. In our world today, the above three examples are clearly metamorphosing into a Residual Escapism. This escapism sheds its light today in the various acts of indifference, ridicule and persecution of the truth. i guess it did not actually begin with us. After all, Pilate asked Jesus the vexing question “what is truth?” in other words Pilate was asking what is virtue? what does the good life actually consist of?
Virtue is not just a mere academic and abstract theory. It has some element of witnessing that goes with it. Witnessing to a good and a habitual disposition that is already innate in man. This is why the martyrs are usually respected for their excellence in one heroic act or another. Since we have seen that virtue can sometimes pose a threat, those who wish to thread this path must be disposed to fish in dangerous waters if need be. They must know that the can sometimes ;live in an atmosphere of coldness to their deepest beliefs, this is more true because of the pervasive ideological currents, human deceptions and trickery that seem to entice people into error. However this makes the task of witnessing to virtues more urgent. As the igbos say “Anaghi aso mgbagbu hara iga ogu( one does not avoid going to war because of being shot). Those wishing to thread this path are like those who want to pass through the proverbial narrow gate or undertake the Igbo Proverbial concept of war.
Thus, this is my little way of encouraging all of us not to be afraid of taking this path because i strongly believe that it is through this path that the spirit of God can recreate the face of the earth. Once this recreation takes place, then just like Gandhi spoke about in the year 1925 we can think of a society where people will value work so as to acquire wealth, to enjoy pleasure with a conscience, to acquire knowledge alongside characterstan ijeoma memoir, to engage in business carrying the spirit of ethics, to practice science with a humane heart and to participate in politics with principles.
HAVE A BLISSFUL WEEK!!!