SOREN KIERKEGAARD AND THE MILITANT THEISM OF OUR TIMES
Atheism has been existing from ages past. Right from the beginning there are people who have been denying or doubting the existence of God. However atheism in the past times was not as aggressive as it is now. Now it seems to appear as if it is a kind of faith which is practiced by some; not only practiced but also fiercely propagated. Richard Dawkins feels that people can live in a much better life without God. He goes saying that religious faith in many ways makes human beings behave worse than what they usually do. They become cruel and insensitive to the others pain and suffering. Christopher Hitchens is of the view that human beings have created religion and have established it as an institution that offers false promises. Speaking like Dawkins he too affirms that religion has caused great misery to man and made a cruel beast out of him. Finally, he states that religion is not only a menace to civilization but also a threat to human survival.
Kierkegaard’s father Michael passed on the picture of a revengeful God to his son, due to which he grew up with a sense of guilt. His dad instilled an unhealthy anxiety in him. As he grew older, he felt that his childhood was cruel and crazy. He placed the truth of God’s infinite and unconditional love at the centre of his Christian faith experience. According to him holding such a view would make one free from the two extremes of pride and despair.
His experience with Regine Olsen brought him to the awareness that his insufficient faith made him doubt whether all things were possible for God and that he had a sense of guilt within him. Later he began criticizing the Church of Denmark especially the bishop, describing him as a “self- serving hypocrite, worldly-wise and pleasure-mad.”
1. Personal commitment and the first hand experience
According to him ‘Faith is discipleship‘ and that faith is not just a matter of knowing prayers but rather it is a personal relationship which we seek to have with Jesus Christ. He was firm in his belief that having second hand faith is of very little value and that personal relationship and experience with Jesus gives one first hand faith.
2. To be Christian is to be Human
He says that only after learning to be good human beings can we be good Christians. He opined that the decline of faith was mainly because Christians didn’t care about the right things in the right way. At one moment he says that man is the most blessed of all creatures and he is made in God’s image and likeness and it is towards God that his whole being tends. He also says that an authentic Christian is one who is ready to reject and die to all that is human.
3. The leap of faith
He believed in the power of reflection but he held that reflection alone could not help one in making a choice. He speaks of a movement from possibility to actuality which he terms as ‘a leap’. This leap he spoke about was a sign of faith and relationship. He continues saying that commitments help us to view our life in a particular manner and live a transforming life.
4. Witnessing and the Gift of Faith
Kierkegaard dwells on the point that one who has had an experience of faith in turn becomes a witness of the faith. He holds the view that faith is a free gift of God and that the faith of a believer can help others who have not had a faith experience. He feels that Christian faith becomes untruth when it falls into the hands of a priest. Finally he says that the Christianity which is preached is designed to make people comfortable in their mediocrity.
5. Becoming Who we are- Standing before God
Kierkegaard valued the ‘self’ and said that it is a being which is in process. The most important or vital relationships we have is with God. We human beings who are blessed with freedom are dependent on God because He created us. Being human means being dedicated to a task which eventually shapes us towards to the greatest ideal that we can’t reach i.e. God.
6. Suffering, pleasure and a sense of purpose in life
He is of the view that suffering is redemptive; it opens our hearts and makes us ready for challenges. Those who live by the principles of pleasure end up with boredom and suicidal tendencies. He says that Christians must truly live according to the Gospel values.
The 5th and the 6th point caught my attention for a longer duration of time than the other points. I feel that I should be who I truly am before God because there is nothing He doesn’t know. Another point that struck me was that suffering and pleasure is only a passing phase in life. All that matters in life is love of God and love of neighbor.