Special to the Mirror. This philosophical piece is written by Michael Jordan of Cape Charles.
I was happy and comfortable in my religious faith before being subjected to the study of philosophy; God was in heaven and I was certain of the disposition of my soul at death. This, dear teacher, is no longer the case. You have, through the simple use of dialectic, shattered the thesis of my previously-held spiritual beliefs.
I am sure the guilt you now feel is overwhelming, but not altogether alien. You, no doubt, have enjoyed this power of iconoclastic destruction for many years, and must have fine-tuned your stealthy system of pillaging unsuspecting individuals of their religious presuppositions to the nth degree.
Were you, as I am now, also the victim of some highly educated scoundrel who, eager to inflict psychological pain on the innocents of the world, absconded with your peace-of-mind? Did he also enjoy, over the course of the semester, seeing the slow elimination of your once concretely held spiritual beliefs? Or are you, a self-made harborer of doubt, forever roaming the countryside, looking for unsuspecting unfortunates upon whom to unleash your Pandora’s Box of debilitating truths?
You, my dear sir, are a rogue. You dared to provide me with the radical views of the most brilliant minds of the world who concerned themselves with the ultimate questions of reality. Now, I can no longer just accept the teachings of those I once held in high regard. Because of you, their premises are no longer valid. I must now, on my own, decide the truths of my own reality… I don’t know how you can bear the responsibility for such influence upon me. But you must not do anything rash. Over time, I may yet recover my psychological balance. Until then, I shall have to console myself with excessive lovemaking and large quantities of wine.
Previous to your exposé of pre-Christian philosophical beliefs, there was, in my mind, only one report of a virgin birth. Now, this miraculous event has been diluted by information that this occurrence was typical throughout Greek and Roman mythological history. Furthermore, the origin of loving thy enemy as well as thy friend, prior to your revelation, was the sole property of Jesus the Christ. I now know that Socrates taught this long before Him. Before my enlightenment by you of the progression of philosophical thought, I would not even have considered that Jesus’ teachings were of Greek origin, but that they were, without doubt, sent directly from God.
I now have a new-found respect for Jesus as a man, a great man, whose philosophy has overshadowed all other philosophical systems, and whose positive effect on the world, to one degree or another, has lasted over two thousand years. I also believe that His beneficial influence on the world will never end, not only because of the close relationship so many believe He has with God, but because of what may be, the independent power of his own philosophy teachings.
Regrettably, my doubt of Him as deity is forever burned into my heart, and I am saddened by this thought. When I was a child, I thought as a child. Now that I am a man, I must think like a man. The certainty of childhood beliefs in me is gone. These beliefs, however, have been replaced by a much greater appreciation for myself as a responsible human being in a world not necessarily directed by a supreme being. Knowing this now, I direct my life in such a way as to do good for its own sake, and not as an avoidance of the possible punishments of God.
The overall impression that I have formed, with your many philosophical arguments, is the belief that we create our own reality. Whatever we believe about the reasons for our lives, and what will become of us after our deaths, is forged by us during our lifetime. What greater gift could God give us than our own personalized version of paradise? (You may YET be able to skip across heavenly clouds and, along with your dogs, pee on your earthbound enemies.) If we desire a benevolent and living God to love us in a place of beauty, then that is what awaits us. If we choose to believe in no existence after death, this too may be our fate. If we choose to create a personalized hell, it may be merely an eternity of comprehending the pain and suffering we inflicted on others during our lifetime.
You have raised my opinion of the atheistic and/or agnostic men and women of earth, who do good works independent of the threat of God’s wrath (they are truly great), over those who do good in order to avoid God’s punishment. Simultaneously, you have created in me greater doubt of the existence of an all-powerful creator of mankind, heretofore, unknown to me. I am now surer of how little I know, how little I shall ever know, and questions more than ever, why I exist in the first place.
Philosophy… I love it!