by Douglas Anele
I am not surprised that Aribisala considers my atheism “foolish” or feels “…very sorry for people like Douglas Anele who maintain that God does not exist”. He is a Pastor of one of the new-fangled Pentecostal groups that arrogantly flaunt their noisy and self-indulgent righteousness.
In his essay entitled “The God Who Does Not Exist”, published in Sunday Vanguard of March 31st, Pastor Femi Aribisala responded to an article I wrote several months ago in which I declared arguments for the existence of an intelligent divine creator or First Cause invalid. More pointedly, I defended my conviction that God does not exist, and cited briefly the views of some philosophers and scientists to back my claim.
I would have ignored Aribisala’s opinionated response, but doing so might create the erroneous impression in the minds of readers that probably he is right or that I find his arguments (insofar as he marshalled any) so compelling that I decided, as the old idiom says, “to let the sleeping dogs lie”.
Again, because of serious dangers inherent in the intellectually lazy, mercantilist, and spiritually hollow religiosity preached by swanky Pentecostal pastors nowadays and the extremely important task of promoting a critical attitude towards religion among Nigerians, it is imperative that one should react to the arrogant and intellectually toxic proclamation that certain propositions and beliefs, because they are contained in some ancient text labelled “holy book”, are beyond the crucible of ratiocinative scrutiny.
The provenance of religious intoxication in Nigeria is so far-reaching and intolerant of criticism, to the extent that if care is not taken the critical or scientific attitude, the attitude of dispassionate reasonableness, the idea that the best way to acquire knowledge of the world is through rigorous scientific investigation and, more importantly, the notion that the only way we can meaningfully overcome our existential problems on a sustainable basis is by co-operative human effort rather than by dependence on an imaginary deity, will soon be considered a blasphemous sin by a vast majority of Nigerians.
Therefore, since the future of our country is at stake, sceptics and unbelievers should step out and speak up now against the assault on rationality and scientific reasonableness by loquacious religious bigots before it is too late. Femi Aribisala claims that in a discussion about the existence of God “Douglas Anele tries to dazzle me by dropping the names of philosophers like David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell. But I need no such shenanigans to confound Douglas’ atheism”.
This remark strikes me as completely ridiculous – Aribisala thinks so highly of himself that I would be interested in “dazzling him”! But why would I want to dazzle anyone by referring to thinkers who have debated seriously the existential status of the entity denoted by the word ‘God’?
Intellectual honesty and integrity demand that one should always acknowledge and make appropriate reference to the source of one’s ideas. Certainly, it would have been dishonest to pretend that the arguments I marshalled against belief in God are new, knowing full well that our ideas and knowledge, including the languages we speak, were made possible by others; which implies that no one is an epistemological Robinson Crusoe.
In fact Aribisala is the one name-dropping to demonstrate his acquaintance with philosophy. But it is very doubtful whether he read and digested the relevant works on the question of God’s ontological status by the philosophers he mentioned, because if he did he would not have grossly misconstrued my intention in referring to their views. I am not surprised that Aribisala considers my atheism “foolish” or feels “…very sorry for people like Douglas Anele who maintain that God does not exist”. He is a Pastor of one of the new-fangled Pentecostal groups that arrogantly flaunt their noisy and self-indulgent righteousness.
One of the major failings of Pastors like Femi Aribisala is haughty and indecorous dismissal of views critical of their narrow-minded religiosity. No one who dispassionately reads the essay he was alluding to would consider the author foolish or feel very sorry for him. Aribisala breached one of the fundamentals of rational discussion which requires interlocutors to be civil to one another and avoid emotionally-loaded denigrating expressions that might detract from the substance of the debate.
Oftentimes he presents his views ex cathedra, with an overconfident take-it-or-leave-it attitude that reflects a man cocksure that his opinion is always right since it is based on The Holy Bible. At any rate, since I do not accept the idea of a divinely revealed authoritative text, I always endeavour to support my positions with well-articulated arguments, and there is nothing wrong if someone disagrees with them.
As a matter of fact given my training in philosophy and my keen interest in logic, I welcome criticisms especially when they are based on sound reasoning and facts, not on name-calling or mischief. Well-reasoned criticism is the lifeblood of the intellect; every genuine intellectual cherishes it because epistemological progress is not possible without criticism, given that humans are incurably fallible and the quest for truth demands constant reexamination of what we claim to know.
However religion, which is Aribisala’s forte, thrives more on faith than criticism. Well, foolish or not, I maintain that the arguments presented thus far for the existence of God are fallacious, and that the theory of evolution and contemporary cosmology provide the best explanation for the origin of the universe and of living things.
The problem with Aribisala and dogmatic religious apologists generally, especially in scientifically backward countries like Nigeria, is that they are unwilling (and, frankly, sometimes unable, because of intellectual incapacity) to study and appreciate with open mind the latest amazing discoveries in molecular biology, cosmology, physics and information technology (including artificial intelligence).
They are still living in the cognitive prison built from ancient literature containing the activities, dreams, fears, hopes, aspirations and hallucinatory experiences of superstitious peoples of bygone age proclaimed as the word of God. Now, even a cursory examination of what Aribisala presented as a token of his relationship with God throws into bold relief the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary religious apologetics in Nigeria.
All Aribisala offered as evidence for the existence of God is an invisible errand boy generated by his subconscious mind very suitable for children’s television programmes such as “Tales by Moonlight” or “Sesame Street”. Very likely he embellished his story to make it appear impressive so that he can attribute them to his errand boy God. Even so, assuming his cloud cuckoo land story is completely true, it can be better interpreted non-theologically, that is, naturalistically. People all over the world have received fantastic help from total strangers without bringing God into the picture.
Consequently, Aribiasla’s hallucinatory theology deluded him into thinking that his little God who spends time on petty matters like securing a building and a car for him is enough for belief, but my standards are far higher than that. As Richard Dawkins remarked in his masterful critique of God, The God Delusion, believers must provide better arguments that would fatally undermine the established infrastructure of science, particularly biology and cosmology, which very strongly indicates a universe without a divine, human-like, creator before they can be taken seriously.
Read this article in the Vanguard Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.