Submitted by Terence Blackett
In 1972, Beatle – John Lennon released the most famous song ever recorded by any human being with words that ominously ask us to -“Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people, living for today…”
4 decades later, on Monday May 16th 2011, (reported in Reuters) ahead of the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London where speakers included British finance minister George Osborne and Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz found imminent physicist Stephen Hawking hogging the limelight ahead of an all-important speech. Before the meeting, Hawking was asked to address the question – “Why are we here?”
Hawking argued that “tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe sowed the seeds of human life.” He suggested that – “Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” He said “I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” When asked how we should live he said: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”
What a thought-provoking statement by Hawking but more so his comment that – “We should seek the greatest value of our action” which presupposes that life is utilitarian in its ethos yet it is somehow peppered with Aristotelian philosophical strands. One wonders at time if Horgan’s words do have a merit of truth where he says that guys like Hawking are a kind of “cosmic comic performance artist who loves goofing on his fellow physicists and the rest of us.” But is he goofing around or is he positing a serious philosophical slant which has its roots in classical literature? Or is Hawking indirectly admitting that there is an epistemological conundrum which for 1000’s of years remains unresolved as to why we are really here on this planet?
Let’s attempt to answer Hawking & Co. by looking at what ancient philosophy has taught us and how has science helped to undermine or bolster those positions?
As early as the 1820’s the Universe was thought to be 6000 years old. It is now thought to be some 14 billions years old with dimensions of some 150 billion trillion miles across at it nearest point and ad infinitum at its farthest. In our own galaxy, if one were to travel across it at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) it would take over 100,000 years from one end to another. And if according to astrophysicists, in the universe every 88 gallons of space contains one atom and the furthest back into the universe you look – the more the past emerges into the future, is it even possible to explain life at the subatomic level where we enter the nexus of the Divine? These are some of the questions which science is incapable of answering.
So what about the age-old question that has baffled philosophers, scientists and even sceptics since time immemorial? Why are we here? What is the role of man in the grand schema? And how does the pervasive logic of zeitgeist in an age of moral relativism infringe on Biblical truth, where men laud this idea that there is no distinct or Absolute Truth, underpinned by this notion that all roads lead to home and that “truth” is whatever we individually conceive it to be?
Today, most of our philosophical strands of ideas have emerged out of classical, modernists and postmodernist theory. However, these philosophical perspectives on the meaning of life find their ideological basis in terms of ideals or abstractions defined by fallible human beings.
Classical philosophy for example, was shaped by the narrative of the Batman & Robin of their time (Plato & Aristotle) who believed that the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge, which is the Idea (Form) of the Good, from which all good and just things derive utility and value (sounding much like Hawking’s position).
Human beings are duty-bound to pursue the good, but no one can succeed in that pursuit without philosophical reasoning, which allows for true knowledge. Aristotle arrived at this philosophical slant called being “virtuous” where – “Every skill and every inquiry, and similarly, every action and choice of action, is thought to have some good as its object. This is why the good has rightly been defined as the object of all endeavours… Everything is done with a goal, and that goal is ‘good'”.
And so classical philosophy took on many myriad forms moving from Aristotelian to the era of the Cynic philosophers to the Socratic school of Cyrenaics, to the Epicureans and to the Stoics who occupied Mars Hills in the days of Paul the Apostle when he confronted them about their statute to the Unknown God (Acts 17:16-34).
With the advent of the Enlightenment Period, science and philosophy entered a new frontier of discovery, with each discipline fighting over inch of pre-modernist terrain. Classical liberalism during these centuries became a harbinger for the clash of civilizations which would continue for another 200 years where the tensions between devotion and subservience to God were largely replaced by notions of empirical science, inalienable natural rights and the potentialities of reason, and universal ideals of love and compassion which gave way to civic notions of freedom, equality, and citizenship.
The Enlightenment ideals were borne out of conflicts between a growing, wealthy, propertied bourgeois class and the established aristocratic and religious orders that dominated Europe and the then known world. Subsequent philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Adam Smith were to be overshadowed by Kant’s Categorical Imperative and to finally give rise to the 19th century paradigms of the Utilitarianism of Bentham & Stuart-Mills et al.
These classical forms of Zeitgeist hardly lacked spokespersons – merely for the simple fact that there have always been those who do not believe. Science continued to trumpet the fact that the Church has always been on the wrong side of the debate. Case in point, when Galileo began to explore and explain the theories of Copernicus about space and planetary orbits and that the sun was the center of our solar system with the earth travelling around it – the Roman Church was angered. This went against the contraventions of 15th century interpretation of the Bible by the Roman Catholic priesthood. Galileo was harshly treated and placed under house arrest. Galileo died in 1642 and it took  years for the Vatican to pardon and expunge his name as a “HERETIC”. Science has never let the church forget the Galileo blunder! So astrophysicists, theoretical scientists and others have concluded that religion is the adversary of reason and have expelled the church from the halls of academic credibility.
During the 18th century, a young French philosopher named Francois-Marie Arouet writings reached the king of France and in his anger had him committed to the Bastille. That 21 year old young man while locked away for no crime other than for the crime of positing another form of philosophical reasoning chose the pen name VOLTAIRE* and as Will Durant in his book – The Story of Philosophy quotes Victor Hugo: “To name Voltaire is to characterize the entire 18th century. Italy had a Renaissance, and Germany had a Reformation, but France had Voltaire; he was for his country both Renaissance and Reformation, and half the Revolution. With Voltaire, France began to think.”
Voltaire eventually escaped the Bastille and amongst his most famous writing was a play called “Candide” based on a fictionally inspired scholar called “Pangloss”* (a professor of Metaphysico-theologico-cosmologico-panology or more simply described as “OPTIMISM”) – a play which caused most of France to start to question their faith.
Voltaire was an admirer of Isaac Newton (a devout Christian) but his dialectic thinking resulted in him questioning miracles, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection – consequently ruling out these Biblical principles. His denunciation of organized religion and the clergy was to set the stage after his death in 1778 for the mayhem of the French Revolution –  years later. The Reign of Terror and the guillotine murdered thousands; Bibles were burned and the ominous words of Voltaire rang out across France that belief in God was useless. Three and a half years of disowning God proved that “ATHEISM” in France was to be the path to ruin and abysmal destruction.
Atheism was further bolstered by Friedrich Nietzsche’s characteristic nihilism – as emptying the world, and especially human existence, of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, and essential value. This was the century where the final bulwarks were erected against God and the possibilities of any hope of Heaven. Hence German philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche assertion that “God is dead” and the ensuing epoch where human reasoning and philosophy became the pre-eminent “gospel” of truth for men who sought an excuse to debunk God. In his book titled “Antichrist” he write: “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are too venomous, too underhand, too underground, and too petty.”
This was the son of Lutheran ministers on both sides of his family. The dark zeitgeist of Satanic infiltration met Nietzsche at his Waterloo. In the crushing crescendo of such “genius” Nietzsche fell off the wagon and spent the last  years of his life completely insane where the statement was coined “God is dead” but before the door of his life closed he made one ominous prediction that “the 20th century would be the bloodiest in human history”. Sure enough, historians recount the 180 million souls who perished through war, disease and displacement.
“Nietzsche had a final look at the kingdom erected by his own theories and it frankly terrified him” His disciple Sigmund Freud studied his theories and created vast psychological models based on Nietzsche’s atheism and so did Carl Jung. What’s even more diabolical is the fact that the  most tyrannical political leaders of the 20th century (Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler) devoured his writings with rabid fascination and malevolent zeal. And so the fruits of atheism created a pretty sober menu for the inhabitants of Europe during the last apocalyptic century.
“Then as the world took a final destabilizing lurch toward the abyss with the arrival of Charles Darwin”, with his “theories of evolution and survival of the fittest” – we witnessed the frontal assaults on the very existence of God as CREATOR*. Darwin quietly confesses with some anxiety how he slowly shed his belief in the Bible and in God. First to go was miracles because if something could not be verified by science it had to be abandoned. “Disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete,” he admits. Karl Marx, a disciple of Darwin, found clarity and symmetry in the theories of evolution. Marx saw “religion as the opiate of the masses”. Marx even asked Darwin if he could dedicate his most prolific work “DAS KAPITAL” to the British scientist and so he did.
The 20th century arrived with serious advances in science – a quantum leap into the beyond where in the last  years we have gone from sailing galleons to nuclear submarines; from Orville Wright to the possibilities of time-travel; from the alchemy of herbal concotions, shrubs and Hippocratic medicine to nanotechnology and space-age biotech discoveries. Mankind has finally emerged from the shores of early 20th century pragmatism, existentialism, absurdism, secular humanism, logical positivism, postmodernism, naturalistic pantheism and evolutionary psychology to a meaningless world of MORAL RELATIVISM* where there are no absolutes especially when it comes to Divine Truth, a Divine Designer or a primordial world tucked away in the 3rd Heavens where God The Creator exist in a place called Eternity – to many an “imaginary” world brought on by delusionary Christian thinking.
In conclusion, 1950’s Communist atheistic Russia were the 1st in space with their Sputnik rockets. In 1961 cosmonaut Gheman Titov while speaking to reporters, journalists and admirers at the World Fair that year boasted that: “I never saw God up there.” A young comedian in the crowd shouted back: “If you’d just stepped out of your capsule for a closer look, you would have seen Him!”
Then in 1968, the United States Apollo 8 space program mission made the ultimate step for humanity by landing a man on the moon. While the world stayed gripped to their TV screens, in the words of Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias opined: “They saw Earth rise above the horizon of the moon, draped in a beauteous mixture of white and out of, bordered by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space” – and in the throes of that awe-inspiring moment those astronauts opened the pages of Genesis and read for the world to hear: “IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH…”
Here are the polarized opposites which we face in our world. Here are  groups of extremely bright, well-educated, scientifically-minded persons hurtling through the dark matter of space – one group sees nothing but a vacuum; the other sees the CREATIVE HAND of GOD*!
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on Heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendents may live.” (Deut.30:19)