28 April, 2001
Author: George Irbe
Back to George's ViewsA Statement of My Faith
For the past five years, or so, I have been engaged, in a rather intensive manner, in examining and striving for a satisfactory understanding (as much as it is possible for us to understand) of the spiritual things which most ordinary people tend to neglect during their younger years, but which start to loom in importance as we approach the end point of biological existence. As the end point nears, it is quite common for a person to become preoccupied with questions of one's faith - God, soul, immortality, etc. There is usually also some sense of uncertainty and unease about how one's life's accounts will be balanced and reconciled when the books are closed. For the so-called "faithful" - the practitioners of one of the Biblical religions - this process can be a relatively simple, uncomplicated, and unthinking affirmation by rote of a set of rigid dogmatic tenets of their religion. For those like myself, who feel that they can be confident in their faith only if they have tested its premises by their own independent and individual means, the quest involves much new learning about philosophical and religious matters which one had neglected during most of one's life.
After five years of sustained attention to the subject and several essays on it, I feel that it is now time to bring together into one place the essential points of my faith and beliefs which have reached a fairly confident and settled stage. During the five years of study, my thoughts have also undergone a certain maturation which has come along with the acquisition of more knowledge. In the course of this comprehensive round-up of my faith and beliefs I will be referring to several of my previous essays, as well as to the writings of several notable authors, most prominent of them being Aristotle. The writings I refer to are listed in the Reference section at the end of this work.
My quest for a substantive justification of my faith and beliefs to myself did not follow a set course. There was a general outline in my mind of how I wanted to go about expressing in words my core beliefs about God. The first draft of the essay in which I attempted to do so - God, His Laws, and Mankind  - was written in the mid-90s, and has undergone several revisions, the last one in 2000. I was also certain that I did not believe in the Christian version of God; I have explained why I never embraced Christianity in the essay Finding God in Three Stages . But, to be sure (and because I love history), I was also engaged for three years in reading a lot of the historical material I could access through our library system about the events and people of the Mediterranean region, and specifically in Palestine, and particularly during the period from 100 years before to 100 years after Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls are providing much new information on that period of Israelite history. I also learned much about the contents and interpretation of the New Testament with the help of the several excellent works on the subject by the theologian and expert scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Barbara Thiering.
I took the trouble to assemble from the different sources I consulted a year-by-year chronology of the historical events during the period of interest. What I had suspected intuitively since childhood was now substantiated by history and - ironically enough - by clues in the Gospels themselves. There is no nice way to say it: the crucifixion and resurrection story is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated in the history of mankind. Now I could be confident that I was on firm ground if I excluded the Christian myth from consideration in my search for an understanding of God.
I had set down my initial, and quite intuitively derived, concepts in the first essay ; those are about a Creator-God who acts within his creation through a set of universal laws, which includes both physical and moral laws. The initial urge to express my intuitive beliefs and faith was followed by a desire to question them, expand them and put some substance into them. This led me to investigate other non-biblical God-ideas and also the philosophical underpinnings of ethics and morals in general. Two men: one ancient (Aristotle), the other living today (Mortimer J. Adler), provided a wealth of knowledge and inspiration that served me well in solidifying my own beliefs. Works by Karl Popper & John Eccles, Gerald L. Schroeder, John Cafferky, and Nathan Aviezer were also of great help.
I will now attempt a somewhat organized outline of my beliefs.
Statement of Tenets
The reason why I call myself a "rational theist" (no doubt incorrectly so, according to some) is because I see myself as taking on faith only as much as cannot be satisfied by a rational conjecture assisted by observed facts. In How to Think About God , Adler cites (p. 154) Pascal as having said that a chasm separates the God of the philosophers from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and says that, "Pascal himself turned his back on the God of the philosophers and . . . crossed to the other side of the chasm not by reason, but by a leap of faith." As I have mentioned in , I see no reason why belief in God should be limited in this kind of either-or fashion. Using the Adler analogy, I prefer to straddle the chasm, or throw a bridge over it, rather than making an "all-or-nothing" leap over it. Thus my first tenet, based partially on faith, partially on the philosophical derivations of Anselm and Adler , but also supported by conjectures based on observed fact, is that God, also referred to as the Creator, Supreme Being, Supreme Intelligence, etc., exists.
2. All Living Things Have a Soul
My second tenet is that all living things have a soul. Already twenty-four centuries ago, Aristotle conjectured that there is something special that makes living things be alive. Aristotle wrote a book - usually called by its Latin title of De Anima  - on the soul, in which he conjectures on the immortality of it: "But nothing is yet clear on the subject of the intellect and the contemplative faculty. However, it seems to be another kind of soul, and this alone admits of being separated, as that which is eternal from that which is perishable . . ." (413b24). I have discussed this in more detail in . I have become convinced that Aristotle recognized (perhaps without fully grasping the significance of it) a very important element in God's creation - the immaterial essence, or as I like to call it - the spark, of life itself. This is usually called the "soul." I have elaborated on the importance of the soul in my beliefs in the two essays: How It All Comes Together: God - Life - Soul , and The Dark Side of Human Nature . As I have proposed in , I take on faith that the Creator exnihilates the soul of every - and I must stress every - living thing. I believe, on the evidence, that this mysterious creative process is what makes a living thing a living thing, that which gives it "life." This rather elusive entity - the immaterial soul - has fascinated serious scientists like Popper & Eccles . Science has tried to produce a living, self-organizing organism by assembling its biochemical components, but without success; John Cafferky explains in , p.134, and Nathan Aviezer in , p.68, why this appears to be an impossible feat from the biochemical standpoint. I maintain that science cannot produce a living organism because science cannot exnihilate the soul which is the essential element for making an assemblage of organic matter into a living thing.
3. God Creates and Manages the Cosmos
My third tenet is an inclusive statement which actually covers several important points of belief which are like the parts that make up the whole.
Creation of the physical cosmos
Science has entertained several hypotheses on the creation of the cosmos, or universe. At present, the "Big Bang" theory holds sway with the majority of scientists, although newly-observed phenomena, mainly by the Hubble telescope, are forcing modifications to the Big Bang hypothesis; there is even talk of reinstituting Einstein's "cosmological constant" which Einstein discarded as a mistake early in his career. I find that it is inconsequential to my belief in the Creator-God which scientific hypothesis is accepted as the most credible; I believe that God did create the cosmos, and is still engaged in creating new portions of it; the process by which he does so is not my main concern. It is also a fact that a majority of scientists, particularly astro-physicists, and irrespective of which hypothesis of creation they subscribe to, believe in a Creator-God.
Two accomplished physicists - Nathan Aviezer , and Gerald L. Schroeder  - have returned to the ancient roots of their religious beliefs and have done an excellent job reconciling the act of creation as told in Genesis 1 of the Bible with modern scientific theories and observations. Although I believe that the biblical God-idea is false, I do, however, find support also for my belief in the Creator-God in the books by Aviezer and Schroeder, because most of the time they are engaged with Genesis 1, which is the only sincere commentary on God in the Bible; with Genesis 2 onwards, the Bible is a self-serving instrument for man.
From my perspective, the cardinal point made by Aviezer and Schroeder is the incredibly narrow and exact tolerances that were imposed, time and again, on the process of creation, in order to establish the physical conditions favorable to life as we know it here on Earth. Things have been custom-made for life on Earth according to an intelligent design. There is a particularly impressive statement to this fact by Schroeder , p.184. Similarly, Aviezer describes the exceptional preparatory steps taken to create a system to sustain life in his chapter on 'The Formation of the Solar System' in , p.19; and John Cafferky discusses the many 'cosmic coincidences' , p.9, that eventually lead to the appearance of life on Earth. The indubitable conclusion to be drawn from the physical evidence presented by these three authors is that creation has been (and I believe that it still is) directed according to an intelligible plan by a Supreme Intelligence. I am particularly impressed by what John Cafferky has to say in :
Our ability to understand so much of the workings of the cosmos is the strongest argument for the existence of an Intelligence behind the workings of the universe. If one posits a Creator, then physical evolution is one of the Creator's tools. But the comprehending mind on this Earth is the product of biological evolution. This leads us to the proposition that biological evolution is also the tool of an intelligent Designer. . . . Just as it takes living things to beget other living things, it also takes Intelligence to beget intelligence. (p. 98)
The statement: "it takes Intelligence to beget intelligence" has great logical significance. The Intelligent Designer has created a cosmos that is intelligible and has created us with the intelligence to understand it. Neither creative act would have a logical purpose without the other.
Creation of the incorporeal souls
I have already stated that I believe with Aristotle that all living things have a soul. But living things have a definite and relatively short span of existence. Living things beget the next generation of their kind and then die. It is my belief that every time a new living thing begins life - when, as John Cafferky puts it, a self-organizing system gets going - an incorporeal soul appropriate to that organism is exnihilated to it by the Creator. Thus, the process of creation of the incorporeal souls, by the billions, is a continuing process. If the proposition that every living thing has a soul is to be sustained, it can only be done by adopting the other proposition that every living thing must be imparted with a soul at the moment of the first cell division. A more detailed explanation of the exnihilation of souls is given in .
The Creator delegates to souls a certain freedom of action
A conclusion that I draw from the conjecture that every living thing is given a soul is that it is the Creator's intention to produce living things which, unlike the great mass of the inanimate universe, decide, on their own volition, to take a certain course of action, to do certain things. For the souls of the vast majority of living things the freedom of voluntary action involves just the basic functions of growing, feeding, and propagating their species. Both the freedom of action granted to a soul and the responsibility delegated to it are species-specific and increase with the complexity of the life form. Let me now quote a passage from , which deals with the human soul:
Another important element in my theory about the soul and human nature is my faith-based reasoning that the Supreme Intelligence or Creator-God is executing an intelligent and purposive plan. There could be no other logical purpose for investing any level of intelligence in the soul of a given life form unless the Investor, having done so, expects the soul of that life form to use the intelligence, within the scope of its given level of comprehension, to evaluate, choose, and then to exercise the correct - and autonomous and free-willed - actions expected of it in order for it to survive within the over-all system. Now, if we grant that the investing of intelligence has also been a part of the blueprint for the evolution for life on Earth, we can proceed further on this premise. It appears, then, that the soul of Homo sapiens is an audacious 'quantum leap in design' from previous models. This soul is invested with a very powerful intelligence. It stands to reason that the Supreme Intelligence who created it also expects from this super-soul a very high level of autonomous, correctly reasoned evaluation of all the complexities in the over-all system in which it exists and to follow up the reasoned evaluation with equally correct choices of action. In other words, it is eminently logical that the Creator-God has charged the human soul with a high degree of responsibility for its own actions that goes along with the great intellectual power; Homo sapiens has great autonomy of action but he must also face the consequences - good or bad - for his actions.
It seems to me that by the investing of the huge intellectual power to the human soul the Supreme Intelligence has invested a little bit of Himself. In some respects it is awesome to contemplate the idea, because then one must also contemplate the awesome responsibility that must go with it. And yet, the thought also brings forth an exhilarating feeling, because I have also likened the Creator-God to the manager of a large enterprise , who has given us humans the privilege to be his assistant-managers in running his enterprise and has delegated certain responsibilities and duties to us. I ask you: if that were not his intention, why invest so much intelligence in us?
The Intelligent Designer has made the cosmos intelligible to us humans by making the system function according to certain laws and then investing in us the intelligence to comprehend them. As I have explained in , and other essays, we humans have been given the intelligence to understand these laws - both physical and moral - and to measure up to the responsibilities that accompany this understanding. That is the challenge. And it is a difficult challenge for the human soul. Here I will quote from my essay on human nature :
Human nature is therefore defined by its ambivalence. In a real sense the human soul is burdened with a heavy responsibility by the Supreme Intelligence in return for the near-limitless power of intelligence it has been granted. It is as if the Supreme Intelligence has decreed: "You are largely on your own. It is very hard to do, but try your utmost to get it right." So far, getting it right has proven to be almost impossible; the human soul carries within it the vestiges, faint as they may be, from other souls of other species, reaching back into the primordial past. The great intelligence of the human soul is a blessing, but it can also be seen as a curse: the God-given innate urge, given to the soul of man, just as it is given to the souls of other species, to excel in the pursuit of status and possession of goods, enables man to excel at what is best, but it also enables him to excel at the worst that can be imagined. The human soul can use the best powers of reason at its command to rationalize the necessity for the most evil acts. That is why envy and greed and other vices show up as very glaring and integral parts of human nature, much more so than in the lower life forms.
At this point it is fitting, I think, to return to the sage Aristotle. He was fully cognizant of the ambivalence of human nature. In the Nicomachean Ethics  he dissected human nature to its core, and pointed out its warts as well as its prettier parts. The Nicomachean Ethics is a presentation of lessons from which men are to gain an understanding of their nature and, having understood it, to try to 'get it right'. At the heart of Aristotle's lessons is the principle of moderation in all the things that we desire, except for knowledge which we can never get too much of. Aristotle advises that we should keep our human nature on an even keel, but he understands that if the door is left wide open for the opportunity to indulge our vices, most of us will rush right through it. That's human nature.
I believe firmly that the Creator-God expects from our highly-intelligent souls nothing more nor less than that they learn the nature of, and comply with, his Laws - both the moral and the physical kind. First and foremost, in order to be of any further use to the Creator, the soul must understand and comply with the moral laws (Again, I ask: why exnihilate a soul and expect it to develop into a free-willed, self-conscious, and moral entity simply for the exercise and without a meaningful purpose in mind?).
In conclusion I will re-state a slightly altered version of the Recapitulation found at the end of :
(1) there is God, the being that which no greater can be thought of, who is the exnihilator of the physical universe and of incorporeal souls ;
(2) life is one of God's most unique creations; its presence in the universe is outside the bounds of ordinary probabilities of mere chance;
(3) another of God's unique creative acts is the exnihilation of all the myriad genetic codes for all the life forms found on earth (past, present, and future) some 530 million years ago;
(4) God has executed the evolution of the many life forms on Earth, including man, according to an intelligent design and in a well-planned sequence;
(5) another of God's unique creative acts is the exnihilation of a soul for every living thing; the soul is the manager of all activities by the living thing;
(6) the ultimate of God's creation here on Earth is the soul of a human being, which has the potential to develop self-consciousness and a conscience;
(7) souls which do not develop a self-consciousness - those of animals and plants - are annihilated when the biological host they inhabit dies;
(8) the Creator has given the human soul a very powerful intelligence, powerful enough to enable it to understand the Creator's Laws, which we know as natural laws and which include moral laws prescribing our own behavior;
(9) given the powerful intelligence of the human soul it is also incumbent on it to develop a self-consciousness and a conscience; the soul is obligated to develop both faculties, because both are essential for the full understanding of, and for complying with, the moral laws;
(10) human souls which do not develop self-consciousness and a conscience have no further use for the Creator and are annihilated upon physical death of their bodily host;
(11) the human souls which develop a self-consciousness and a conscience survive the physical death of their bodily hosts; the subsequent disposition of these souls is within the Creator's logos which is beyond our understanding or imagination.
 God, His Laws, and Mankind; G. Irbe essay (2000); posted at this site.
 Finding God in Three Stages; G. Irbe essay (2000); posted at this site.
 How to Think About God; by Mortimer J. Adler; Macmillan Publ. (1980)
 De Anima; by Aristotle, transl. by Hugh Lawson-Tancred; Penguin Books (1986)
 Aristotle's Spurned Legacy; G. Irbe essay (2000); posted at this site.
 How It All Comes Together: God - Life - Soul; G. Irbe essay (2000); posted at this site.
 The Dark Side of Human Nature; G. Irbe essay (2001); posted at this site.
 The Self and Its Brain; by Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles; Routledge (1977)
 Evolution's Hand: Searching for the Creator in Contemporary Science; by John
Cafferky; East End Books,
 In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science; by Nathan Aviezer; KTAV Publishing House (1990)
 The Science of God; by Gerald L. Schroeder; Free Press (1997)
 Nicomachean Ethics; by Aristotle; several translations and publications
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