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Re: [Sartre] Sartre's atheism

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  • Mario Derksen (Catholic Insight)
    Dear Gary, Your email address indicates you re an atheist, so that gives me a clue as to how to approach this, though of course we want to stay within the
    Message 1 of 9 , Jun 24, 2000
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      Dear Gary,

      Your email address indicates you're an atheist, so that gives me a clue as to how to
      approach this, though of course we want to stay within the topic of Sartre.

      > If we say we cannot talk about God making choices because he is beyond all
      > comprehension, then rationally we have ABSOLUTELY nothing else to talk
      > about. However, if we as philosophers go way, way out on a limb and say "God
      > is good" which one must do if one is to stay in any Western theological
      > tradition, then one by absolute necessity must judge God by human standards
      > of good and evil,

      This problem does not arise if we stick to religious language as being ANALOGOUS, as
      Thomas (and, I believe, Aristotle) recommended. Obviously, one cannot literally predicate
      any human characteristic of God, but at the same time we can only use human language to
      describe a being that is, by definition, beyond us.

      > But this is just according to the Western tradition where God must be
      > good (or is the meaning of "good' to be beyond comprehension also?).

      No, not at all to be beyond comprehension strictly, but rather in a superlative way. If
      "good" can be applied to a human being, then God must be "super-good."
      Now, the question of evil in the world is an old one, but the atheist side always
      suppresses to mention one crucial premise (and one which I would deny), namely that an
      all-good, all-knowing, omnipresent, and all powerful God would eliminate evil. That simply
      does not follow from the definition of all-good.

      > How do you KNOW it will really get you to where you want to go? What
      > if you left something out, some ritual not done, interpreted something
      > wrong? Then according to the Law itself or the ladder of merit, it will all
      > come to nothing.

      I don't know about Hinduism, but in the Christian Tradition, there is no blind legalism.
      Intention counts, too, though not only, as Abelard would insist.

      Pax,
      Mario
    • Meera Ashar
      ... There is, as far as I have understood, no such thing as Hinduism. what you guys are refering to is Vedanta or Brahmanism(brahmanic hinduism). meera
      Message 2 of 9 , Jun 24, 2000
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        >I don't know about Hinduism, but in the Christian Tradition, there is no
        >blind legalism.
        >Intention counts, too, though not only, as Abelard would insist.
        >
        >Pax,
        >Mario

        There is, as far as I have understood, no such thing as Hinduism.
        what you guys are refering to is Vedanta or Brahmanism(brahmanic hinduism).

        meera

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      • Jawwad Noor
        ... I dont think Sartre said taht we must reject God even if there He exists, because he has said two things about the possibilities of His existence: Firstly,
        Message 3 of 9 , Jun 25, 2000
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          >Remember that Sartre once remarked that even if there is a God; we must
          >reject him, because of the way he interferes with the notion of radical
          >freedom granted through existence preceding essence. Given this, it appears
          >that Sartre's atheism rests upon the idea that nothing should be an
          >obstacle
          >to the modicum of freedom granted to us, by virtue of being.
          >
          >
          >Alexander Nevermind

          I dont think Sartre said taht we must reject God even if there He exists,
          because he has said two things about the possibilities of His existence:
          Firstly, given that nothingness cannot precede being and that hence God
          cannot have existed before anything else, he did comment that if God DID
          actually exist prior to being then He was an entity that could not be
          understood by man. Secondly, he said that if God did create man, then He
          cannot determine us,ie just as a book is separated and undetermined by the
          writer AFTER having been written/published.

          J
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        • Sandra Ann Shaw
          Thanks for this information Gary. I didn t know that my argument for atheism was Aristotelian. I was definitely thinking along the line of linguistics and what
          Message 4 of 9 , Jun 26, 2000
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            Thanks for this information Gary.

            I didn't know that my argument for atheism
            was Aristotelian. I was definitely thinking
            along the line of linguistics and what
            Sartre might think about it. I am also reading
            Sartre's biography on Jean Genet in which he
            writes about the Good and Evil Dichotomy in
            Jean Genet's life.

            I also guessed Satre's response (or question) from my own
            experience. I was raised pretty much without religion.
            I turned out fine. I did attend some of my friend's
            churches and I didn't like the rituals and preachings.
            I did see religion as having a somewhat negative
            effect on people - Western religion anyway. I came up
            with religion being only for weak people or for
            people who didn't want to make choices or pay
            consequences - or at least they would pay them - but
            the consequences were imposed upon them from
            "who knows not what (or from whom)". Anyway, this
            is where I am coming from. My views have changed
            somewhat but I can't shake my foundational beginnings.

            I've always had a hard time in philosophy classes
            that talked about god because I had no solid
            foundation about what "gods" they were referring to.
            I've always preferred my logic, linguistics, metaphysics
            type classes over any moral ones and I agreed
            with my philosophy professor that one can never
            prove logically that god exists.

            But one has to admit that most people like to
            talk about god. The information you gave me is
            very enlightening about the various religions
            is enlightening. However, the point you make
            about standing out in a crowd is more interesting
            to me right now because I am reading Satre's biography
            of Genet. Jean Genet is an infamous thief and
            crimminal. I am not finished with the book yet,
            but Satre states that being a criminal makes one
            necessarily stand out in a crowd. If Genet can
            steal and not get caught he is still wondering
            if someone is looking at him, or suspecting him.
            He can't be anonmous(sp?), in other words. He
            can't really walk around freely. He, himself
            gains a certain autonomy after he steals but
            it is the "Other" that is doing it. He is
            also fully aware that this is an Evil Act, while
            at the same time he believes he is a "Saint"
            in the Evil realm. Genet was an orphan and
            live in a French establishment with other orphans.
            Satre points out that Genet always wonders about
            his mother that gave him up because he was illegimate,
            again another societal bad name or judgement imposed
            on someone. So Genet grew up being a criminal somewhat
            in societies eyes anyway. Also, when he was got caught
            stealing by his foster parents at an impressionable age
            then he was caste out again because his foster parents
            could say something like "well, he is not of our genes".
            Whereas, some other child that gets caught stealing
            is dealt with differently when they have their own
            parents. A French philosophy professor also told
            me that this society or institution that Genet was
            brought up in is very bad.

            Sartre also states that Genet couldn't form or
            belong to a society
            of thieves just becasue it was evil (not like
            the Robin Hood thievery). So he is still
            alone with himself and his "other" the one
            who steals.

            This book is very good but very academic also in
            the study of existentialism. I have to reread passages
            several times to try to get the full jest of what
            Satre is trying to say about Genet. I also noticed
            that Satre's characters, Boris and Bobby, in "The Age
            of Reason" seem to
            be a combination of Genet, thief and someone who
            gets thrill out of others misfortunes, respectively.

            Now, given my limited knowledge of Satre and
            existentilism, and given my foundational view about
            god and religion I would like to get
            back to the issue of god, or Satre's atheism.

            Genet's criminalism was, in large part due to
            society's judgement regarding his birth. He
            was also indoctrined very early with a firm belief
            in God - I am not sure about Boris's and Bobby's
            background yet. His criminal activities were, therefore,
            based on society and his own experience (who knows
            about genetics at this point or with Satre).
            I have not felt a desire for a belief in a god or
            gods but most people do. Why do we have them in
            the first place? Why are there so many religions?
            Why do achoholics anoymous say that one must believe
            in a higher power above one's own? So the belief
            in god, seems to be more of a pragmatic issue, where
            for most people, it seems to help them through life.
            Without it, some seem to feel empty or nothingness,
            so they drink or steal to fill themselves up or
            to be counted as an individual. There is something
            to not always having to be in control of oneself
            and either going with the flow - which can mean
            being more authenic or can mean being subservient
            to socieites ways or god's ways - or as Heidegger
            would distinguish between the authentic person
            or someone being what they are not or conforming - to
            someone that is always having to make choices.

            I agree with Satre that you can't really escape
            societies "gaze". But lets pretend that everybody
            grew up without established religion and/or
            a belief in god. I know
            this is a stretch and very hypothetical but what
            do think would happen? Would people start creating
            or inventing a god again assuming that god cannot
            be proved logically? (By the way, abstract mathematics
            can be proved logically) If so, why? Is this a bad
            thing or a good thing? Would more evil or less evil
            exist? Would there be more belief in judical type laws
            that supposedly benefit socieity? Would society
            be more prosecutorial? Is this just a human nature
            thing we have to have a need for a god?

            All I know or think I know
            is that one would not talk about atheism
            because there would not be any theism. And that
            is all I know.

            Would would Satre say? Again, I ask this because
            I am not that interested in god and feel no need
            for it. Maybe I shouldn't be in philosophy if
            I feel this way but I do like trying to get at a truth
            of some sort. I also believe in the
            "go with the flow" attitude
            because for me it is a learning experience - more
            like a Dewyian (John Dewy) concept and I like to
            learn. I do fill the need to be filled up somehow - like
            with my books and meeting different people - but I don't
            feel the need for a god nor to be a criminal and stand
            out, nor to fill myself up with drugs or alchohol, nor
            do I mind someone else being in charge and making
            choices for me.
            I also see that we as humans do have some violent
            tendancies. My 3 year old daughter likes to hit the
            dogs. She stopped hitting the cats when one of our
            cats bit her. I do think that, through experience,
            we learn to treat others as we would have them treat us.
            We therefore do not steal because we do not want
            to be stealed from, similarly with murder, and other
            crimes, etc. Just because this is in the Bible as
            the golden rule doesn't mean it comes from a god though.
            Maybe I am wrong here. A serial killer would
            hate to be called a coward for not wanting to
            be killed themself by some other person(s)
            since that is what society would
            call them - either right or wrong.

            I can see that I am starting to rattle on. But I think
            it would be interesting to see the world without
            a belief in god. Would it be that different? Right
            now we seem to be in a materialistic phase of society -
            in the West anyway. In fact, that is why Satre says
            that Genet steals becasue he can get back at it
            or be a "Saint" regarding stealing because society
            values so much their "things".

            Anyway, these are just my thoughts. If someone
            out there has read Satre's biography of
            Genet I would be interested in hearing from you
            because I am having some difficulty understanding
            some of the more subtle or finer points of Satre's
            writing, while at the same time I am enjoying
            the book tremendously!!

            sas










            > Dear Sandra Ann Shaw,
            > Essentially just a note or two to show that I appreciate the way you
            > think.
            > 1) The quote you wanted to find in THE AGE OF REASON is related to something
            > that has always bothered me, yet seems more true the older I get. Standing
            > out from the crowd makes you a target. Someday someone is going to hit dead
            > center. Nothing at that point in time still justifies taking such a stance,
            > i.e., 'being true to yourself' or 'standing up for the truth' or being
            > 'authentic' or defending 'justice' or whatever. Just as your Aristotelian
            > argument about atheism says theism MUST FIRST make its positive statement
            > and rationally justify it, so also the justification for 'standing out from
            > the crowd in the righteous name of true justice' NEEDS that crowd to pay
            > attention to you. And 1) if they don't pay attention to you, or worse, take
            > your statement of individuality away from you and make it into popular cause
            > (which "of course" you really wanted as you recede into the forgotten
            > shadows), your effort to stand out and be recognized becomes less than
            > trivial, it becomes nothing; or 2) if someone calls on the secular
            > authorities to rid themselves of you, as Thomas Aquinas recommends on the
            > third relapse of the heretic, the devices of torture will quite effectively
            > erase you while still alive and then the stake, after being paraded down the
            > streets of Rome with a double fork propped between chest and chin to keep
            > your mouth closed from speaking heresy, will even more effectively erase you
            > with death. However, I keep opening my stupid mouth.
            > 2) Your argument that atheism is simply a specific stance taken against
            > certain specific propositions of theism accords perfectly with Aristotle's
            > proposition that you can never prove a negative. The prosecution must prove
            > you positively committed the crime. You can never PROVE you did NOT do
            > something, ergo the burden of proof always lies with the prosecutor. And if
            > we say we cannot talk about God making choices because he is beyond all
            > comprehension, then rationally we have ABSOLUTELY nothing else to talk
            > about. However, if we as philosophers go way, way out on a limb and say "God
            > is good" which one must do if one is to stay in any Western theological
            > tradition, then one by absolute necessity must judge God by human standards
            > of good and evil, one of the most reviled judgements being "voyeurism" which
            > can be interpreted also as a refusal to intervene when one in fact can
            > prevent a criminal or evil act. A human being caught in such a position that
            > said, "Well, I was going to do something about that at a later date", i.e.,
            > after death, after the apocalypse, or whatever "and at that time I would
            > have punished the guilty party with intense pain for a very, very long time"
            > (which again gets back to voyeurism as the only comprehensible motive for
            > literally observing a person burn in real pain for eternity whether the fire
            > is "merely" symbolic or not since obviously one is not interested in
            > correcting his character or simply removing him from the scene, existence,
            > permanently) would probably cause the courtroom crowd, the guards, and the
            > judge to tear the defendant into shreds, or that is the way I would react,
            > i.e., in utter outrage at such an obscenity.
            > The obvious points seem to be the least talked about. If one considered
            > the act of belief in God as existent AND good as a matter to be defined by a
            > prosecuting and a defense attorney, the prosecutor would say there was an
            > overwhelming amount of opportunity: prominent people say it is good to do,
            > no one objects and everyone approves, rewards material and spiritual are
            > abundant, you grew up believing and therefore it is the easiest of all
            > things to do.
            > And that essentially also abundantly defines motive. That one might say it
            > is true remains in the public course an irrelevant and inconvenient side
            > issue, which of course means if it is a matter of 'being true to one's self'
            > again, the martyr's course is the ONLY authentic one. This is certainly what
            > the early Christians believed. But there is a problem with that. As
            > Hyppolitus (?) the bishop of Lyon testified when the emperor issued his
            > edict of death for all Christians who refused to renounce their faith, the
            > courtyard of the prosecutor was choked voluntarily with Gnostic heretics
            > sincerely desirous to pursue the aims of their faith.
            > But this is just according to the Western tradition where God must be
            > good (or is the meaning of "good' to be beyond comprehension also?). In
            > Hindu philosophy, the notion of Brahma being 'good' is considered absolutely
            > absurd, especially by Shankara. It is the finite aspect of a finite being,
            > something Heidegger would also say. What Shankara fought in Hinduism is the
            > ladder of merit and demerit which has few of the connotations of 'good and
            > evil' of the religions of murderous and sadistic love of the West. And he
            > says to the Hindu much the same that Paul/Saul says to the Jew who obeys the
            > Torah: How do you KNOW it will really get you to where you want to go? What
            > if you left something out, some ritual not done, interpreted something
            > wrong? Then according to the Law itself or the ladder of merit, it will all
            > come to nothing.
            >
            > Sincerely,
            > nobody in particular
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: Sandra Ann Shaw <sas@...>
            > To: <Sartre@egroups.com>
            > Sent: Friday, June 23, 2000 1:51 PM
            > Subject: Re: [Sartre] Sartre's atheism
            >
            >
            > > Also, on a more whimsical note, I would guess that
            > > Satre would say that for you even to ask about his
            > > reasons for his atheism is because you are taking for
            > > granted that theism exists. He would ask you, what are your
            > > reasons for theism and then ask you to support
            > > your reasons for it without coming up
            > > with a logical contradiction. You would need to do
            > > this first before you can even acknowledge atheism.
            > > If your theism is based on faith with no proof -
            > > then so can his theism.
            > >
            > >
            > > In other words, the only reason atheism exists is
            > > because theism exists, or the only reason Evil
            > > exists is because Good exists, not
            > > necessarily respectively (with atheism/theism).
            > >
            > > sas
            > > > Sartre says that God is defined as "being-in-itself-for-itself," and
            > that is a logical
            > > > contradiction, according to how Sartre defines being-in-itself and
            > being-for-itself.
            > > > Therefore, God does not exist, or so he thinks. Of course, this argument
            > only works if we
            > > > grant Sartre's first premise, namely this interesting definition of
            > "God" as
            > > > "being-in-itself-for-itself," something I personally would not grant.
            > > >
            > > > Mario Derksen
            > > > www.cathinsight.com
            > > >
            > > > Alan Keyes for Vice President!
            > > > www.keyesvp.addr.com
            > > >
            > > >
            > > >
            > > > ----- Original Message -----
            > > > From: Jawwad Noor <exxistentialist@...>
            > > > To: <Sartre@egroups.com>
            > > > Sent: Friday, June 23, 2000 2:29 PM
            > > > Subject: [Sartre] Sartre's atheism
            > > >
            > > >
            > > > > Could anyone tell me what are Sartre's reasons for his atheism?
            > > > >
            > > > > best regards,
            > > > > J
            > > > >
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