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!!
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!!!