Chapter 4: Equal Love for Self and Other, All-Love for the All-Loving

Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes
by Charles Hartshorne

Chapter 4: Equal Love for Self and Other, All-Love for the All-Loving

The Moral Argument against Heaven and Hell

[...] the ethical aspects of classical theology and its newly worked out alternative are to be considered. The traditional idea (though not the one that prevails in the Old Testament) is that good behavior in this life must be motivated by concern for one's welfare after death. People, it was thought, are not to be trusted to love their neighbors in this life unless they have something for themselves to hope for or fear after they die. We are to gamble with God about rewards or punishments in a later life earned by how we respond to divine commands in this life. How much sin can we commit and still, upon dying, find ourselves, if not in heaven, then at least not in hell but in purgatory? Berdyaev called this Dantesque scheme "the most disgusting morality ever conceived." If it were possible to startle thosemillions, presumablywho still today accept this scheme, Berdyaev's words ought to do it. But probably it is not possible. James Joyce, in an early novel, expressed an attitude somewhat similar to Berdyaev's. Joyce also wrote a limerick to make the point, which ends: ". . . the smell / Of a horrible hell / That a Hottentot wouldn't believe in." (I owe this information to my learned friend Robert Palter.)

A more gentle response than Berdyaev's to the idea of rewards and punishments after death can be read in a pleasantly readable mystery story by a contemporary Jewish writer:


I'd like to ask the rabbi what he meant when he said that punishment and reward after death deprived man of free will?

The rabbi paused and said, "Well, I suppose it depends on what you mean by free will."

Why freedom of choice, of course. The right to choose

Between bread and toast?" the rabbi challenged. "Between turning right or left at a crossing? The lower animals have that kind of free will. For man, free will means the freedom to choose to do something he knows is wrong, wicked, evil, for some immediate material advantage. But that calls for a fair chance of not being discovered and punished. Would anyone steal if he were surrounded by policemen and certain of arrest and punishment? And on the other hand, what virtue is there in a good deed if the reward is certain? Since God is presumably all-seeing and all-knowing, no transgression goes undetected, and no good deed fails to be noted. So what kind of free will is that? How does it differ from the free will of the laboratory rat that is rewarded by food if he goes down one path of a maze and is given an electric shock if he goes down another?

Then what happens after death according to your people?

We don't pretend to know. 1

This is one way of spelling out what Berdyaev meant.

It is a conviction of mine that a test of antisemitism is in the way one answers the question: "Can I take seriously the idea that it just might be that the Jews, in their differences from Christians, have been more right all along on some issues?" If the answer is "Yes," then perhaps there is no antisemitism. If "No," then I have my suspicions. (I am in no sense whatever Jewish.)

Is it really necessary, in order to induce good behavior in people, to convince them that they will be rewarded or punished after death for the way they have lived? The ancient Jews did not think so. Many modern Jews do not. Is Jewish behavior less law-abiding than gentile behavior, are Jews the murderers and thieves in our society? The abusers of wives or of children? I am not aware that this is so. How about Japan, where Christians are a tiny minority? There the religious picture is complex and subtle; but we know that the Japanese population has a vastly smaller proportion than


ours of those who kill or rob others. I suspect in fact that the Japanese are today surpassed by no other people and equaled by few in their good behavior, as judged by fairly reasonable standards (other than the admitted fact that male chauvinism is still rather marked in them). Yet I doubt if you could show that hopes of heaven or fears of hell loom very large in that country, granting that one branch of Japanese Buddhism does have recognizable duplicates of the Western ideas of heaven and hell.

How well did the heaven and hell idea ever work in influencing behavior? Frank Knight, the philosophical economist of the midcentury, once said that the relation between religious beliefs and behavior is "one of the deepest sociological mysteries." There is some influence, but it is hard to pin down factually. In any case the unfreedom of behavior controlled by threats and promises, the reliance on naked self-interest, is repellent once one sees it for what it is, a confession of disbelief in love as the principle of principles, and a glorification of egocentricity. If to be good is to be loving, how can we motivate good behavior by rewards and threats? What have they to do with love of neighbors? If we love people we want to help them. How can doing what we want to do require a reward, beyond the satisfaction of having a rational aim and capacity to realize it? Unless being loving is its own reward it is not really loving.

Abortion and the Nonabsoluteness of Personal Identity

In a previous chapter (chapter 2, section B) I remarked that it is clearly false to say that a fetus, infant, or child is strictly identical with an adult, even though the adult grew out of the child. It is also clearly false to say, as "prolifers" seem to say, or imply, that because the fetus or infant came from two persons and can (with much help from persons) grow into a person, therefore, it already is a person. The fallacy tries to hide under the vague terms 'life' and 'human': "When does human life begin?" As I write this, the president of this country, in a public address, implies that if the human fetus is alive abortion must be prohibited. But the ethical and legal question is, "When does an individual human animal


become a person in the full sense?" For it is persons who are more valuable, intrinsically of a higher order, than mere animals. And persons are more valuable because they think on a level of which even the chimpanzees are, so far as we know, incapable. The Greek word 'logos' ('word,' also, 'reason') points to this distinctiveness of the human being as such. There is zero evidence that any newborn infant reasons in any sense beyond or equal to the capacity of dogs, apes, or porpoises.

In order to justify strongly qualifying any legal or moral right to put an end to so important a natural process as a human pregnancy, it is not necessary to deny or attempt to conceal plain facts such as those just cited. It is not a mere opinion that there are enormous (I am using words carefully) differences between a fetus and an adult human being, differences that are similar to those by which we judge ourselves to be more valuable than even the apes. To argue on the assumption that these differences are irrelevant to the question of abortion is to beg that question so patently and grossly that it is somewhat hard to believe in the good faith of those who do this. And the "pro-life" literature is full of such question-begging.

I give an extreme example to illustrate this. Jesus said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." This has actually been quoted to imply that Jesus meant, "Suffer even little fetuses to come unto me." Not only did Jesus not say or reasonably mean that, he did not even say or mean, "Suffer infants to come unto me." At any rate, it is a wild guess to suppose that he meant that. A child such as Jesus had before him, showing fondness for him, was much more than a newborn infant. It was beginning to show the unique human power of speech and to enjoy personal relations in a manner beyond the nonhuman creatures. Physiologists know that its brain cells must have been matured definitely beyond the state of the newly born, or of a fetus, which some physiologist has compared to the brain cells of a pig. Yet "pro-lifers" like to appeal to science to support their contentions. Of course the fetus is alive! So are puppies and kittens. Of course it is human (who ever in this controversy has denied this?) if ''human" here means that its origin is in the union, in a human womb, of a human sperm and a human egg cell. To pretend that this settles the question of value is to grossly beg the question.


The aliveness and humanity of a fetus, meaning its origin in, and (given sufficient help) likely development into, human adulthood is admitted by all parties. The question, however, concerns, not the value of the origin, or the possible eventual stage of develoment, of the fetus, but the value of the actual stage. Not everything that can be is, and the "equal value of the actual and the possible" is not an axiom that anybody lives by or could live by. Many things in an early stage of development would have an importance in a later stage which they lack in their earliest stages. In nearly every society until recent centuries it was taken for granted that killing of human adults is a vastly more serious matter than even infanticide (if the latter is done by the parent or parents). This is enough to show that the idea of a fetus as a person in the full sense is not so plainly true that it can be used as a noncontroversial premise for political or moral conclusions. Nor is there anything in the Constitution to justify it. Did the makers of that Constitutionwho brought themselves to make partial exception of women and blacks and even, in some respects, of half-grown children, all of whom, beyond controversy, have the unique human capacities of fluent speech and reasoning which no fetus has and which alone justify, if they do, killing other animals for fooddid these men have fetuses in mind when they wrote about the rights of persons or citizens? To equate treatment of women or blacks with treatment of fetuses is a gross insult to members of those two groups of undoubted persons.

If being a typical member of the Kingdom of Heaven were really like being a fetus, the saying of Jesus would scarcely be an appealingif even an intelligibleinvitation to membership in that Kingdom.

Would it not be well if some of the rhetorical tears shed over the dying of fetuses were saved for the tragic sufferings, in many cases the deep misery, of women, many of them very young, who against their intentions and wishes, have become pregnant? Their unwillingness to be mothers may have various grounds, by no means necessarily selfish or unreasonable. We are in a society that does a miserable job of teaching the truth about sex, also about love and friendship. Parents with the courage, tact, and knowledge to impart that truth effectively are apparently uncommon; and yet


some of the others, one surmises, are the very ones who wish to prevent schools from doing what they themselves cannot or will not do.

We should all be "for life," especially for the lives of those who quite certainly are persons. Unless that is given a clear priority, the whole pro-personal-life idea looks like a contradiction. And that contradiction is to be put into the Constitutionor the law of the land?! On the chance that what seems to most of us, and has seemed to most societies, to be far from a person is really a person, one is to demand that what we all agree is a person is to have at most only equal claims. So weak is human judgment in many among us that it can offer such a proposal seriously.

It is only too true that birth control, and the availability of abortion when the former fails (and only abstinence is infallible), may encourage some to live frivolously and miss the very real values that fidelity to a single mate can give. I have had fifty-four years of experiencing these values. I have not sought or accepted sexual relationships on any other basis. I do not need to be told what many are missing by following a different life-style. But in oldfashioned civilized societies there have always been many who also missed them. These are very difficult problems. I wish I knew all the answers to the relevant questions. But I think I know that some of the most emphatic pronouncements come from those who do not know the answers. They want to take a sad situation, huge numbers of women, many still little more than children, pregnant at the wrong time and in the wrong way, and make it even worse. If the Supreme Court is our last bastion against their endeavors, then how fortunate we are that the court exists!

The resourcefulness of one-issue fanatics in obscuring issues is almost inexhaustible. Consider the endlessly reiterated adjective "innocent" used of fetuses. If, and only if, the defenders of a right to abort (in certain cases) had ever used, or were likely ever to use, as argument the contention that fetuses are wicked and ought to be punished, only then would the innocence of the fetus be a relevant consideration. Of course the assumption is totally false and therefore the consideration as used is irrelevant.

The innocence of the fetus is indeed somewhat relevant if used on the other side of the argument. The fetal innocence is like the


innocence of the other animals, a total incapacity to distinguish right from wrong and therefore to be wicked. This

supports the view that in value qualities the fetus is drastically inferior to a person (normally and responsibly so- called).

Another irrelevant yet actually used argument is to ask the defender, not of abortion but of a limited right to abort, how would you have liked it if your mother had decided to abort you in the early fetus stage so that you would never have enjoyed the career you have enjoyed or any out-of-the-womb career? The answer is that, using pronouns responsibly, I would neither have liked nor disliked this, for there simply would not have been what "I" refers to when the author of this book employs the word. In an early-stage fetus there is no conscious selfhood, much less, if possible, than there is in a gibbon ape. Ask any psychologist.

The term "pro-life" seems to imply (another red herring) that those who grant a limited right to abortions are against "life." It is a statistical fact that properly done abortions in early fetus stages are far safer for the mother than ordinary childbirth. Even this fact seems to get pushed under the rug. It may not be decisive but it is relevant. Moreover, it does not begin to exhaust the ways in which the "pro-life" politicians are cheerfully endangering the lives of undoubted persons. By putting many very personal matters into the hands of the police and magistrates, they may greatly increase the number of badly done abortions, and do harm to members of families in which an additional birth may be a catastrophe. I could go on.

To attempt to legislate a total cessation of abortions comes close to threatening civil war. What consensus there is concerning the topic is strongly against such legislation. It would be a classic case of bad lawmaking. The controversy is also a classic case of the way we human beings can be entangled in our own language and by verbal ambiguities deceive one another and, above all, ourselves, unless by good luck and good will we have been taught and have learned how to use words responsibly. We are all only too likely to take advantage of such ambiguities when so doing promises to increase our political power. And the "pro-life" movement is definitely political. It is quite other than a group of saints acting out their saintliness.


Identity, Nonidentity, and the Primacy of Love

Our concern here is only incidentally with abortion, important in a practical way as that subject is. Our concern with the meaning of personal identity, however, is far more than incidental. I hold that every major mistake about God involves a mistake about human nature, and (generally speaking) vice versa. And I regard it as a fact about the history of religions that only one of the great religions has been at all clear and correct about the sense in which a person is the same reality through change. This religion is not Christianity, which until very recently has, in its philosophy, nearly always analyzed personal identity partly wrongly. It has supposed that a person is simply one reality from birth (or before) until death (or after), although this one reality has partly different (indeed very different) qualities at different times. Various logicians and a few philosophers in the West have pointed out the confusion in this account (H. Scholz in Germany, Bertrand Russell in England, Carnap, Whitehead, and William James in this country, David Hume long ago in England), but philosophers and theologians have tended to ignore or weakly answer their criticisms. The example of Aristotle has been somewhat unhelpful in this regard. As with a good many other questions, Plato's philosophy, carefully considered, tends to correct Aristotle's mistake, but Aristotle came later and his wonderfully versatile genius gave him enormous influence. His "substances" still stroll the world.

A Spanish philosopher of our time, Juli n Mar as, has pointed to the truth by saying: "A person [probably Mar as did not have fetuses or infants in mind] is the same person through change, but not the same thing." Or, as I said above, with each change we have a new concrete reality, not simply the identical reality with new qualities. There is numerical, not merely qualitative, alteration. That John Smith (born of parents A and B at time t) is "the same person" day after day and year after year means that John Smith does not become Henry Jones (born of two parents other than A and B or at another time than t) nor does John Smith become an elephant or a mountain or (after infancy) anything other than a human person through the changes in question. But John Smith on Monday and John Smith on Tuesday are two realities, numer -


ically as well as qualitatively distinguished. This, I submit, is plain fact. The two are in different loci in space-time, they are concrete realities that can be or have been observed as such. What is not fully concrete is the "identity" of the two. This is the abstraction that both are human persons and that between the two was a series of intermediaries, with no definitely observable break between them. Thus the one reality "turned into" the other. None of this is clearly and correctly stated by saying that the two are simply identical. Identity in the strict sense first defined by Leibniz means: with all properties the same. With strict identity, differences are not in what is referred to but only in the referring expressions. Genetic identity, as of persons, is a nonstrict identity. By insisting on treating the facts otherwise, one is, knowingly or not, playing fast and loose with language; and it is foolish to suppose that this can be done in a serious and difficult question of religion, ethics, or metaphysics without misleading others and/or oneself.

A nonstrict identity is one in which there are two or more concrete actualities with partly differing qualities. The actualities may be partly identical. For instance, A may include B, which is then strictly identical with a part or constituent of A but not with A as a whole. There is a case for the view that a person in a later state includes thatnperson in an earlier state, though not vice versa. So far as memory is involved, A-now includes A-then, for A- now-remembering-A-then is not complete without A-then. This is the Bergson-Whitehead doctrine that memory is somehow literal embracing of the past in the present. In whatever sense this is correct, there is genuinethough only partial and nonstrict, yet numericalidentity of a person through change. Only I remember my very past in the inward way in which I remember it. I remember it mostly vaguely and partially, but still I- now cannot be fully described without mentioning that past of mine. So genetic personal identity is not mere similarity plus the mere continuity of Hume's or Russell's analysis (and some Buddhist analyses) of genetic identity. They overstated the nonstrictness of genetic identity. But this does not justify pretending that it is really strict identity. It is, in many glaringly obvious ways, very far from that. For instance, in deep sleep one is not even a conscious individual. One's body is there, but where are one's thoughts or feelings? If this is a small difference,


what is a large one? It is like the general difference between a tree and a higher animal. In fact, Aristotle well said, "A tree is like a man sleeping [and not dreaming] who never wakes up."

The importance of the distinction between complete or strict and only partial identity is seen when we take into account that it is not only in memory that we seem to have the past in the present. This happens in perception also. Events we see happening actually happened before we saw themlong before, if the happenings were far off in the starry sky. It is arguable, and I believe true, that no account of the present is complete without referring to past events as perceptually embraced in that present. If this is so, then I-now may be partly identical with you as a moment ago. Coming closer still to the heart of the problem, if I-now feels a physical pain, then I-now embraces intuitively what is either just now happening, or has just already happened, in some of my cells. There are reasons for preferring the second interpretation. But either way I am partly identical with those cells, and with perceived neighbors, and not merely with my previous remembered states of consciousness.

We are now ready to look at the theological and ethical importance of our analysis of genetic identity. The great preacher of love or "charity," Paul, wrote, "We are members one of another." I once (in a class taught by Rufus Jones at Haverford College) had my life changed by this text, plus the philosopher Royce's discussion of it as llustrative of what he called "community." It started me on a path that led far beyond Royce's own philosophy and also beyond classical theology. Paul was right, in a reasonable sense literally right, in the text quoted. And his eloquent poem in praise of ''charity" or love shows how wonderfully he knew the religious significance of his words. But still he stopped short of full understanding.

What Jesus termed "the law and the prophets," in other words, the essentials of religious ethics, were the two "great commandments": love God with all your being (heart, mind, strength) and your neighbor as yourself. It is not said, "nearly as yourself." Love for self and the other are in principle to be on the same footing; the ideal is their strict equality. How few are the Western philosophers or theologians who have really accepted this proposition!


Nearly all have tended to say, love your neighbor because that is the way to promote your own future welfare, if not in this life then in the next. The justification of altruism was sought in enlightened self-interest. Self-interest, however, was taken as its own justification. Self-love stands on its own feet, but love of others is indirect selflove. I submit, this betrays the Gospel ideal. And it does this in two ways.

If personal identity is strict or unqualified, is the nonidentity between persons similarly unqualified, so that "We are members one of another" is simply false? How can A love B as A loves A, if the point of "A loves A" is that A simply is A, whereas B is simply not A? Sheer identity is to explain the one love, sheer nonidentity to explain the other love. What can the two loves have in common? How can they be equals? This is one way in which the traditional interpretation of "person" betrays the Gospel ideal.

The other way is equally manifest. We are told that love for God is to be the all-in-all of our motivation. This contradicts the idea that self-love needs no justification, stands on its own feet as entirely rational in itself. On the contrary, it stands under the strict injunction that it is to count for nothing except as it is somehow included in love for God, which love is to be the inclusive motivation. We are to love ourselves as valuable to God. This is exactly how we are to love the neighbor. "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these, ye have done it unto me." The justification for love of others is as direct as that for love of self. The only detour (if it is that) is to bring in God, and it is the same for self-love. Thus the two great commandments, properly understood, are entirely in harmony with each other, and neither is in harmony with the traditional Western doctrine of motivation.

After Rufus Jones, the philosophical mystic of the Society of Friends, had started me on the consideration of the meaning of Christian or Judaeo-Christian love, I began to move toward a view which differed somewhat both from classical and from Royce's theology, but which, I gradually discovered, had some elements in common, not only with various modern or recent Western philosophies, but also with some views of ancient and modern Buddhism.

It is Buddhists who really went the limit in qualifying personal identity to allow for partial identity with others. This was called


the 'no soul, no substance' doctrine. They really believed that we are members one of another. Personal identity, personal nonidentity, are alike partial. There is no absolute and direct justification for self-love in contrast to a merely roundabout one for love of others. Both are on much the same footing and neither makes much sense merely by itself. Apart from our interest in others, what are we? Start with those others that are our bodily cells, and go on to our sympathy with characters in history and fiction, our love for relatives and friends, other lesser animals, plants. Apart from all this, we have no self. It is our loves that make us anything worth mentioning. In a generalized sense of the word, it is "altruism" that explains self-love, not the other way. I-now sympathizes with my probable future and remembered past selves, and that is my self-love. It is no mere identity. And I, as ordinary language puts it, (partially) "identify myself with," "sympathize with," other people's past and future selves. Sympathy, the root of altruism, is the common principle of all love and all senses of identity as applied to individuals.

What the Buddhists chiefly lacked, though in some sects they came close to it, was an idea of God adequate to express their insight into human motivation. In this, the West, at long last, did them one betterafter nearly two thousand years of wandering in the wilderness of an extreme pluralism of persons and other "substances," each perfectly self-identical and perfectly nonidentical with one another. Similarly, God was a supreme person or substance, in a quasi-absolute fashion nonidentical with the creatures. Gradually, with increasing clarity, in various parts of the world, a new way of qualifying the plurality of persons, things, and God, capable of interpreting the belief in the ultimacy of love, is being worked out. A branch of Hinduism has for several centuries represented some such view (the Bengali school, founded by Sri Jiva Goswami); Whitehead and other process theologians, Cobb, Ogden, and others are recent or contemporary Western examples. This view has had representatives or enthusiasts in many branches of Christianity, some in Judaism, and at least one (Iqbal) in Islam.

If we reject the Buddhist-Whiteheadian view (that a human career, for example, is not a strictly single reality with differing qualities but an apparently continuous succession of realities each as


a whole new), then we are not only supposing that for over twenty centuries the Buddhists, who thought with care about the matter all this time, were simply mistaken, but we are also supposing that Hume, Russell, a number of accomplished logicians besides Russell and Whitehead (one of whom, Scholz, was a trained theologian who wrote a fine book on Christian love)and, besides all this, that even contemporary physicists, who keep telling us that they have been forced to the conclusion that reality consists of "events not things" (meaning self- identical yet changing things)are also in this simply mistaken. You can suppose all this, but still, what consensus could be more impressive than that between one of the great religious traditions, much modern philosophy, and the most exact natural science? We shall see in the next section that the biblical doctrine of divine love is most readily interpretable in the Buddhist-Whiteheadian way.

It does not help here to appeal to ordinary language. The assertion of strict or complete rather than partial identity is not a piece of ordinary language. It is a highly technical, but as such manifestly paradoxical, assertion. Ordinary uses of pronouns and proper nouns are quite consistent with the theory of only-partial identity with self and only-partial nonidentity with others.

Self-Identity as Attribute of God

If, in ordinary cases, the identity of an individual through change is a highly qualified or relative matter, and if God, as maintained in Chapter 1, is to be conceived as in some respect changeable, then is the identity of Deity analogously qualified or relative? I answer, Yesbut, as with all analogies, and especially the one between a creature as such, or the human being as such, and Godthere is difference as well as similarity. It is easy to see that the relativity involved in the passage from unconsciousness in dreamless sleep to waking consciousness, or between nonrational infantilism and adult rationality, or vicious hatred and kindly love, are not to be attributed to Deity. Indeed, God must have something almost like the strict identity many seem to think they find in each of us. The divine integrity through change must be ideally perfect. Divine


action as righteous, principled, or loving must be infallibly constant. The only change must be in increase in whatever aspects of value are incapable of an absolute maximum, these being summed up in the idea of enjoying the beauty, the aesthetic harmony and richness, of creation. Only in this aspect is there any "shadow of turning" in God.

There is also the question of the relativity of nonidentity with others as applied to Deity. Are we and God members one of another? Again the answer is, Yes, but with a difference in principle in this supreme case, as contrasted to ordinary ones. Deity is the highest possible form of the inclusion of others in the self and the highest possible form of the self being included in others. Infallibly and with unrivaled adequacy aware of all others, God includes othersnot, as we do, in a mostly indistinct or largely unconscious manner, but with full clarity and consciousness. Another statement of Paul's is relevant here too: "In God we live and move and have our being." Since God forgets nothing, loses no value once acquired, our entire worth is imperishable in the divine life. This is the Whiteheadian "objective immortality in the consequent nature of God." It is the non-Pauline version of "O death, where is thy sting?" Also God, being ubiquitous, universally relevant to all creatures, is present to every creature, included in it in whatever manner the nature of the particular creature is capable of experiencing God, in most cases without anything like distinct consciousness. In this extremely generalized sense, God is universal object as well as universal subject. No creature is universal in either role.

The Present Condition of Humankind

In a worldthat is to say, on a planet of fear and violence (which now seems potentially unlimited), what can a religion of universal love contribute? It can at least relieve us of fears of evils which, so far as real knowledge goes, are imaginary, such as the fear of a God who loves creatures so little as to threaten them with some supernatural hell. After Hiroshima we know that there can be hell enough on earth. Such a God would love us, not for what we are, unusually complex and unusually free and conscious


animals with limited life spans, but for what there is no clear evidence we are, creatures with supernatural, unending careers, only a vanishingly small fraction of which are to be lived on earth.

A religion of love can encourage us to look upon nature as a realm of love and freedom, whose members, in an extended sense fellow creatures, are in their humbler way also "images of God," testaments to the divine nature. Thus it can express and enlighten the current concern for the environment as no mere platform for our strutting about, or set of exploitable resources for our survival and luxurious living, but rather as a vast system of embodiments of and suitable objects for sympathetic participation. We thus become citizens of the universal society, the old Stoic idea, but without the Stoic reduction of freedom to mere preprogrammed voluntariness.

It is important to realize that some of our current problems are radically different from those which confronted our species in the days of the founding of the major religions and that the differences result chiefly from science, pure and applied. We can either try to content ourselves with applied science (technology), refusing to open our minds to the essential spirit of science, the most intensive, constructive, cooperative form of curiosity about the concrete world around us, or we can open our minds to that spirit. We cannot do this while holding tenaciously to the letter of religious texts as definitive in all the matters with which, taking their words at face value, they seem to deal. In science no book settles once for all what is to be believed. The God whose "images" we are is supremely intelligent and (we may presume) bids us be intelligent, is supremely creative or free and bids us be creative and free in our own appropriate ways. Science is a principal form of this creativity. It is really an intellectual form of love, a search for the hidden beauties of nature which are expressions of and contributions to the supreme Artist and Appreciator of art. Scientists, especially the greatest among them, have often used the word 'beauty,' and often, too, the word 'God,' to communicate their feelings about their work.

If the religion of love, freedom, and beauty cannot be content with traditional theology in those aspects of it which are criticized in this book, it also cannot be content with a merely atheistic or materialistic view. We have no reason to be uncritically impressed


by present-day China or Russia. The consequences of a world-view blind to the great "sun" of love (the concern of life for life, experience for experience, feeling for feeling, consciousness for consciousness, freedom for freedom) are not hard to see in the dark sides of communist activities. But this does not mean that we must substitute mere fear or hatred for the sense that communists, too, are our human fellows, as are the literal- minded traditionalists in religion. All are expressions of and contributions to the divine life. And our society, too, has its dark side. Both great powers threaten humankind.

A Requirement for Ethical Judgments

On one point there might be a rather general consensus among theologians and philosophers: Any ethical judgment should be capable of defence without telling falsehoods, misstating facts, arguing from ambiguity, or playing fast and loose with language. The "pro-life" literature is mostly a string of verbally implied identifications of fertilized egg cell with fetus, of fetus with infant, infant with child, child with youth, youth with adult. I repeat, any cause is suspect which ignores or denies distinctions so great as that between even a child and an animal form (say a three- or four-month- old fetus) in actual functioning far below the higher mammalian level, or which collapses the contrast between 'actually valuable' and 'potentially valuable,' as though 'capable of becoming such and such' were no different from 'actually being such and such.'

A child speaking with some fluency, say three years old, is already, for all we yet know, beyond the mental level even of an ape. But a fetus or newborn infant is well below that level. And a two-month- old fetus is vastly below it. Indeed, this is, as differences in the world go, one of the really great ones. Our lives are enormous journeys from less than nothing of rational personhood to the fullness of personhood. It is one of the wonders of the world that this journey is possible. But the journey is the progressive creation of value, with no fixed value there from the start.


Suppose the fetus really is the beginning of an endless career and hence infinitely important. Its destruction cannot, on the hypothesis, cut short that career, and might for all we know go on better in the supposed supernatural state after death. Thus the infinitizing of human lives is of no help in determining how their finite careers on earth are to be viewed. Rather it destroys any reasonable perspective on those careers. It is in this life that we are to achieve happiness and do good. Of no other life have we usable knowledge.

Arguments have been offered based on reports by those who have "come back from death (so-called) to life" remembering remarkable experiences of how it was after their hearts stopped beating and their lungs stopped inhaling and they were in that sense dead. But the fact that these persons did retain or regain consciousness is sufficient evidence for the uninterrupted aliveness of their brain cells, upon which, and not directly upon heart or lungs, consciousness depends. This tells us nothing at all about what it will be like when our brain cells are dead.

Religion and Philosophy

Not only do religious people need to open their minds to science, in its basic spiritual vision or attitude, but they also need to have some appreciation for the role of philosophy, with all the latter's manifest limitations and inability to reach anything like a stable consensus. For as science is the cooperative, public-spirited, intellectual search for the hidden beauties of nature, which believers in God must take as manifestations of the divine, or as the really superhuman "word of God," so philosophy is the cooperative (though facing greater difficulties of communication), public-spirited, intellectual search for principles so fundamental that they can mediate between science and religion, or between one religion and another. It can help us to decide what to do about the stubborn fact attested to by all history that in civilized societies consensus in religion, otherwise than by brute force (and then only through hypocrisy and the stifling of individual curiosity or inquiry) is not a practical goal, at least for any future that we can foresee. I regard the lack


of philosophical literacy in some circles in this country as a danger to our democracy. The one-issue fanatics in politics are insufficiently disciplined philosophically, and they are a danger to the democratic process as such.

In a televised discussion of "creation biology" versus evolution, a Louisiana man explained candidly his need to accept creation biology by the statements that he needed an anchor in life, that he found it in the Bible, but that, if God "lies to him" in part of the Bible, he cannot trust God to be telling the truth in other parts. The following implications of this defence are remarkable.

It is implied that reading the Bible is fully equivalent to having a conversation with God, or at least to reading letters in the divine handwriting. It is implied that this man has no knowledge of life, of nature, of the varied thoughts of great minds about life and nature, no experience of good and evil, sufficient to give him norms by which to discriminate degrees of truth or levels of meaning in the Bible. It is also implied that every mistake in the Bible must mean that someone is lying, or indeed that God is lying. Yet this very man, thus innocent of any sense that he can rely upon of value or importance, or of how to interpret documents written in a very different culture from ours (devoid of our science and technology, our philosophy, and much else), claims to be able to know or to reasonably believe that one book is the book, all of which must be absolutely true, or else of no religious help at all. There are many books for which similar claims are made. For Islam it is the Koran, for Hindus the Bhagavad Gita, for multitudes of Chinese the I Ching or the Analects of Confucius, for Christian Scientists the book by Mary Baker Eddy. For Jews the Old Testament is the entire Bible. Our Louisiana citizen is disagreeing with all of these and countless others as well, including millions of nonfundamentalist Christians. How, without criteria which would enable him to see more truth in some parts of the Bible than in others, can he possibly form a reasonable judgment as to whether the Bible, or even whether any possible human book, could be the infallible God addressing us in human words in such fashion that we could not be mistaken as to the meaning, or as to the lesson we could wisely draw from the words?


I have some fear of that Louisiana man (for whom I also feel compassion) and others like him. For they would be willing to have certain aspects of their view enacted into law, backed by the powers of the police. The only justification I can see for this attitude is that our all-too-government-controlled educational system has already used that same police power to tax people to pay for education in public schools, whether or not parents or pupils like what is taught in those schools. This is a rather baffling political dilemma we have drifted into, thanks to our insufficient belief in freedom. If we had more freedom than we have in education I would see no excuse whatever for the government's doing anything to help along such an intellectually unimpressive cause as that of trying to derive knowledge of nature from a book written by those who had incomparably less of that knowledge than we have. But the dilemma spoken of is real.

Compare the text that Eve was made from Adam's rib with the texts that announce the two commandments of how and what to love as summing up the essence of religion. Everything some of us feel we have learned from life and literature seems to support the commandments, nothing of it supports one of the two Genesis accounts of the origin of the female half of the species. The other account simply says, "Male and female created he them." True, we are not God, not infallible. But then how could anyone, not infallible, have much confidence in his or her ability to know that a certain book must be either infallible (something it is close to meaningless to say of a book) or else have no wisdom to give us? An educational system that does not enable people to think in a more informed and disciplined way than that Louisiana man evidences is perhaps not good enough to be supported by general taxation.

Our Constitution rightly separates church and state. But can education and religion be equally separated? We need more consideration of that side of the question. I am not happy with the currently available answers. And I write as an emeritus professor of a state university. However, I am grateful that my own higher education was all private.

Since there is no clear consensus either in philosophy or in religion, it behooves teachers (writers, lawmakers) to be careful


about presuming to narrow the options that individuals face in choosing basic beliefs. To try to bully readers or hearers into a choice between just the two possibilities, a Godless belief in evolution, or a belief in God that excludes evolution, is to mistreat people. There is no support in philosophy for the exclusion of a third option, belief in God that includes belief in evolution. And there is no consensus in theology for this exclusion either. To suppose otherwise is to be unaware of the actual state of knowledge in our time.

A religion and philosophy of freedom must try to teach people to keep asking the question,''Does this or that procedure unduly narrow the options for individual choice?" "Creation biology or else a Godless biology" is a cruel, as well as an ignorant, dilemma. Nor is there any consensus for the view that a fetus has all the value of a person, and that its destruction is thus murder in the same sense as any other homicide. Even if a bare majority in Congress or state legislatures could be attained, it would be tyranny to impose this view by the police power. There are many of us who deeply believe this. The fetus is "human" biologically; but the issue is one of ethics and law, not of mere biology: it transcends natural science.

Pollsters are telling us that a substantial majority of the citizens of this country believe in God. As a believer, I find this encouraging. In Europe it seems that believers are perhaps a minority. But, alas, I strongly suspect that in Europe literal-minded fundamentalists are a much smaller proportion of believers than is the case here. As a non-literal-minded believer I find this fact discouraging, almost frightening. Given enough political power to fundamentalists, how close might we come to a new Inquisition, that great monstrosity which disfigured traditional Christianity? Religious fanaticism is still with us, and it has had an ugly history.

A friend, a theologian, had a phrase that has stuck with me, "the acidity of orthodoxy." Orthodoxy can be worse than acid. It can be lethal. I have encountered a "pro-lifer" who gave me little sense of being pro my life or the life of adults generally. Pro-fetuslife is a very special form of enthusiasm for life. I have respect for the fetus as, like all animals, a wondrous creation, and a suitable object of sympathy. In addition it is capable of eventually, with


much help from relatively adult persons, of becoming first an infant (and then a child), beginning to learn from its elders, and finally an adult human person. We are all human individuals long before we are persons in the value sense of actually thinking and reasoning in the human fashion. Even in dreamless sleep as adults, we are not actually functioning as persons; but this does not abolish the obviously crucial difference between a fetus whose potentiality for rational personhood requires at least many months of help by actual persons to be actualized even slightly, and a sleeping adult who has already functioned as a person for many years and who has made many plans for what it will do in its waking moments, perhaps for years to come.

The spell of tradition, taking over part of the function of instinct, is the wall that staves off chaos in human behavior. It may be that many simply must go on believing in survival in the rather naive form, as it seems to the rest of us, that we are all familiar with. But it cannot be right to try to prevent individuals who feel no need for this belief from nevertheless believing in God as the only immortal beingsave as the objective immortality of the past in God makes us and all creatures permanent divine possessions. Accepting the two commandments said to sum up Biblical religion is one thing, belief in tall tales about human careers after death is another and, in my judgment, incomparably less important one. It is hard enough, though I find it personally not too hard, to believe firmly in God, without having also to believe in those tales. The arguments for theistic belief that I have carefully formulated (with so far scarcely a word of rebuttal) in my book Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method do not support infinite careers for human animals. That is a radically different belief from any reasonable point of view. It requires us to add to our observational knowledge of our species and its place among the animals on this planet an infinite addition making our species not only radically more intelligent than the others but, in one respect, as different in status from the others as God is believed to be to creatures generally. This not only does not follow from belief in God but tends to make God a mere means to our everlasting happiness and to make each of us a rival to God in endurance and ability to preserve


personal individuality through an infinity of experiences without monotony or loss of integrity.

The central question of religion cannot be, "What about heaven and hell?" but must be, "What about God, cosmic mind and love, exalted in principle above all else, the only indestructible, all-inclusive, yet individual, being?"

The belief that God does not simply and completely make things, but brings it about that they partly make themselves and one another, does not mean that the divine creating is just one more case of creating. In principle, the divine action has unrivaled superiority. Most obviously it is divine decision which determines the form of the statistical or approximate cosmic orderliness, leaving the details for the creatures to settle. What physicists are trying to discover are, as some of them have said, divine thoughts by which the creatures are, not (we are learning to say) determined, but so influenced that abstract regularities or laws apply to the results. Finally, it is divine decision which determines how creaturely experiences are to be objectively immortalized and so achieve the only importance they will ultimately have. Thus, to quote from a Jewish ritual, God "gives to our fleeting days abiding significance." Our value to posterity extends this significance, but without God it would ultimately fade away toward nothingness, so far as human wit has been able to grasp this problem. The species cannot be known to forever escape destruction from cosmic forces and its own folly, and posterity's ability to use our lives for its own welfare or enjoyment is unpredictable and certainly limited. Only God can be guaranteed to make ideally wise use of what we have been.

Several objections to the foregoing are foreseeable. One is that if all God is doing is giving the world an orderliness by which creaturely freedom (and hence chance) have their limited place and to immortalize creaturely experiences in and for His-Her own life, this is too little to do for the creatures. Also, it makes God ultimately selfish. Finally, it is God who receives all rewards, not any creatures. These objections imply a somewhat complex defence, if defence is possible.

First, I wish to insist that it is no small thing to give the world sufficient orderliness to make it possible for free creatures (that is, creatures) to adapt to one another essentially harmoniously. Every


organism is an internal harmony, proportional to its health, while it lives, and healthy organisms are bound to predominate in nature. The cosmic harmony is an infinite good, at least in the sense that without it there would be no good worth mentioning, and that, if the creative advance is beginningless and endless (as I hold), there is no upper limit to the value produced. It is not to be supposed a simple, slight thing that a being, by its own influence, orders all other things so that the opportunities for good expressions of freedom justify the risks of more-or-less evil or unfortunate expressions. How such ordering is possible exceeds our human imagination to grasp. It is a mystery in the best sense of that word. And belief in it gives meaning to our lives.

Second, I know of no proof that God's influence upon the creatures is only that expressed by the natural laws giving order to worldly happenings. From the unsurpassable power and wisdom of God I deduce that if the divine influence would produce better results for the beauty of the world by going beyond the mere ordering in question, then the influence does go farther. But I doubt our human wisdom to know if this further limiting of freedom would produce better results. All I do think I know is that the opportunities involved in a given degree of freedom tend to increase only with a corresponding increase in risks. Primitive man had more freedom, more opportunity, with more risks of doing harm than other animals; we, with our science and technology, have still more scope for our decision-making, and we can do much more harm and much more good. This is what I see clearly. Whether, or how far, miracles happen, as recorded in every religion, I do not know and see no way to decide. I cannot live and die for their having occurred or their having not occurred. The meaning of life for me is independent of that question.

Is God Selfish?

The charge that a being is selfish unless it can do good to others without this good being of use to itself is a curious confusion, almost comical when looked at calmly and analytically. Save me from a friend who says to me, "The good that results to you from


my being and acting is nothing in my life. I am totally unmoved and ungratified by the benefits my action brings to you. Whether you live or die, enjoy or suffer, is all one to me. My own possession of good is in every respect totally independent of any good in you. I am like the sun, bestowing benefits without the results giving me anything I would otherwise lack. I am absolutely unselfish, that is, I do not rejoice in your joy, or sorrow in your sorrow."

The situation, looked at carefully, seems as follows. It is human beings who do not, and could not possibly, get the full value of the good they bring to others. By the time a good deed reaches its result in the other, the benefactor may be dead or far away and know nothing about it. At best, no human being can fully share in the experiences he or she helps others to enjoy. Nor can we fully share in the sufferings we cause others. Our limited power to perceive and understand guarantees that. Hence there is need for us to be willing to furnish others with values we are ourselves unable to fully profit from. Every parent or teacher experiences this. Accordingly, we will, if we are ethical, try to bring good to others some of which can never become our good. But quite obviously all of this arises from our limitations, none of which is applicable to God. God cannot possibly miss the enjoyment of any beauty divinely given to others. The final harvest from every seed sown is reaped by God. And this is the meaning of divine cognitive-perceptive perfection. In that sense Deity is indeed absolute perfection. So the traditional version of the divine unselfishness is the attribution to God of an absolute form of the relative defects which distinguish the creatures from God!

God is neither selfish nor unselfish as we exhibit these traits. Rather, God is unsurpassably loving, and that means fully grasping the good of others as therefore also divine good. God's satisfaction includes all the satisfactions of others, integrated on a higher level into the satisfaction which surpasses that of any conceivable other but perpetually exceeds itself as new others arise to enrich it.

Note, too, that if God participates more fully in our happiness than we can in that of one another, it also follows that God participates more fully in our suffering. Vicarious suffering is the only meaning of divine unselfishness, and process theology (Berdyaev, Whitehead) fully accepts this. The cross is Christianity's


sublime symbol. Would that, in its doctrine of the divine perfection, it had made more use of what is thus symbolized!

A further objection to the concept of creaturely good as finally contributory to divine good (and only therewith immortal) is that it does not give us a sufficient rational aim to say that we can contribute to a divine good when our lives are over. We shall not be there, still conscious of God's enjoyment of our having lived. Here, too, I see confusion. Our consciousness, so far as there ever has been such a thing as our consciousness, will still be there in God. It will be such consciousness as we had before dying, but all of it will be imperishable in God. If we are now aware of ourselves as contributing to the divine consciousness, that very awareness of God's awareness of us will not perish but "live forevermore" (Whitehead). What will not be there are new, additional states of awareness belonging to us, other than those we had before dying.

Divine Love as the Meaning of Life

If I am told that it is asking too much freedom from egocentricity to expect human beings to accept the imperishable divine enjoyment of our earthly lives as a sufficient aim for human endeavor, I can only reply, "What then did you have in mind when you accepted, if you did, the great commandment to love God with all your being? Did you then hold back with the proviso, 'Assuming that God forever keeps on giving me new joys and blessingsotherwise I refuse to play'?" Just as people have not taken seriously the second commandment, to love the neighbor as the self, so they have not taken really seriously the first commandment. My proposal is that we accept both as meaning what they say and as among the most exact expressions of an idea to be found outside of pure and applied mathematics.

God is not to be bargained with. We are contingent beings. We might not have existed, and so long as we live it is our will to live that keeps us alive. "The universe," as Stephen Crane implied in a poem, is not in debt to us. The reward for living is the living itself. Anything more is a bonus. It is other creatures who may owe us things, and with whom we may bargain. There was a man


who said, "I am willing to be damned for the glory of God." Would this excellent fellow have been willing, for the divine glory, to admit that there might be no such things as damnation or as being assigned to purgatory or heaven? The glory of God is everything or nothing. It is the absolute measure of value.

What then does God do for us? Divine action makes our existence possible, with all its moments of joy and tolerable sorrow (the intolerable deprives us of consciousness), and in addition gives us a rational aim and possibility of making wise, caring decisions in such fashion that, in the long run and on the whole, those we love, including ourselves and our human posterity, will probably (because the world is ordered) have better lives than if we decide carelessly or selfishly. Also, and in any case, whatever good qualities of experience we enjoy, or help others to enjoy, will be indestructible elements in the Life, love for which is, so far as we understand ourselves, our inclusive concern. If there is any serious rival to this as an aim I do not know of it.

The wise and almost unbelievedly neglected Fechner said it over a century ago: "To find one's satisfaction in satisfying God, as that one who finds greatest satisfaction in the utmost possible satisfaction of allhigher than this no feeling of satisfaction can go." 2

I do not recall Fechner referring to Plato, but I think Plato would have been keenly interested in the following:

However high any being (other than God) stands, it still has an external world; other beings, similar to it, limit it; only as it rises higher does it contain more within itself, exist more purely within itself.

But God, as the totality of being . . . has no external environment, no beings outside himself; . . . is one and unique; all spirits move in the inner world of his spirit; all bodies in the inner world of his body.3

These passages from Fechner show that Plato's vision of the World Soul, God as the cosmic, ideal animal, was not lost forever. Spinoza, following the Stoics, had a version of it; but Spinoza's version was ruined by determinism, the denial of freedom in either God or creatures. Spinoza talked of creation, but he emptied the


concept of meaning by likening it to the way a triangle has three angles. Recently Strawson, widely influential British philosopher, has suggested that what philosophy can regard as worthy of the veneration formerly directed to God is "the universe." If that means simply "the inclusive reality," well and good. But much depends upon how one conceives the inclusive reality. A few among modern theologians (the saintly D. C. McIntosh, for one) have used the mind-body analogy. There is really no substitute for it. But any basic misconception of the human or higher-animal basis of the analogy will cause trouble in the theological use of it. To this extent there was some ground for the medieval suspicion of it.

Some will say that identifying God with the inclusive reality is "pantheism." Once more, it depends on how "the inclusive reality" is conceived. Conceived deterministically, with no freedom allowed to the included constituents or members, the analogy ruins theology. But it also prevents any real understanding of the ordinary animal case. Allow some freedom to the bodily members (cells or other micro-elements) and the theory begins to work. Allow, further, at least minimal sentience to the members, so that the relationship can be one of sympathy, feeling of others' feelings, and it works better still. Allow, as freedom implies, that the members create something of themselves, one another, and the soul of the whole, and vice versa, and it works best of all. So much for the ambiguous charge of "pantheism."

Some readers will be worried about the question, "Is not the injunction 'Love the other as oneself' utterly beyond human capacity to obey?" I answer, "It is the absolute ideal, and therefore not a literal description of how people behave." Only divine decisions literally express an absolute idea. This is why it is unbecoming to boast of one's unselfishness or charity. We can all see in others the rationalizations of selfishness of which human ingenuity is capable. But the ideal, however transcendent of our capacities, is relevant as showing us exactly what it would be like to be ethically infallible. It is also relevant as showing us what it would be like to be completely rational about conflicting interests. It is not rational to value oneself for various personal qualities rated by norms of value which, applied accurately and fairly, would show the other equally or more valuable, and yet put a higher value on oneself


simply because one is oneself and the other is the other. Self-love is natural enough, but it is not reason or the principle of rationality.

By animal feeling one is the center of the universe: I here, everyone else there. Reason tells another story. The other is as much the center as the self. This contrast is the human condition. Egocentricity is an illusion pervading our lives, but we know that it is an illusion. The idea of God is the idea of a being that really is the seat of all value. Nothing is valuable unless valuable to God. As Niebuhr was so brilliant in pointing out, we are tempted to put ourselves in the place we know belongs properly only to God.

The value equality of self as such and other as such does not mean that we do not for practical reasons have special responsibilities for our own welfare. There are many benefits which no one can give to us unless we give them to ourselves. Kant was very right in talking about a duty to make oneself happy. Those who neglect their own health or other conditions of happiness will end up being a nuisance or worse for others. Who wants an unhappy spouse, unhappy neighbor or friend, least of all if the unhappiness is largely the individual's own fault? There is also the need to bear in mind the difficulty of knowing what really will benefit another whose tastes or wishes we may not understand. That "do-gooders" are sometimes nuisances or tyrants is only too true. But there are, nevertheless, times and circumstances when altruistic behavior is a blessing and inspiration to those it intends to help and to others who behold it. Sometimes it saves a drowning person at real risk. Sometimes it transforms the character of a previously lost soul, as in Victor Hugo's story about the thief and the bishop.

Charles Peirce, considering what the ideal of good behavior is like, suggested that a mother of several children, with a good attitude toward those children, is a fair model to think about. I had such a mother and I agree with him. I argued often with my mother and even grieved her sometimes by this. But I recall no instance when I thought her selfish toward any of us. I know of no one needlessly offended by her, no instance of even the slightest tinge of cruelty. Yet she had no morbid idea that her own happiness was to be neglected. After, as an old lady, she was widowed and had inherited most of her husband's money, at her own initiative, in consultation with a financially shrewd son, she divided some of


the money among the rest of us. She would always pay our fare to travel to her place of retirement. As she put it, with a smile, "My money is for my own pleasure and it is my pleasure to have you visit me . . ." But if for a good long time we did not come there were no complaints. She really did approximate living by the second as well as the first great commandment. Even in marked senility, no sign of greed or resentment appeared. Her kindness went all through. True, she did, in imagination kill off a younger sister who was very much alive a thousand miles away"I'm the only one left [of the seven Haughton children]." But this only showed that she was human, after all. She also confessed, "I never liked my mother," something she would not have said when in better health. But her mother was less kind and gentle than she wasalso less humorousand the incompatibility between the two was intelligible and hardly her fault.

The memory of my mother is one of many which make it impossible for me to respond positively to the suggestion heard so often that, apart from the account of the life of Jesus, or even, apart from the Bible as a whole, we would know nothing about God. "Speak for yourself," is what I feelI must say to this. The Hymns of Ikhnaton, naive in some ways as they are, would almost convince me, and in some respects they make points I miss in the Bible (the idea of self-creation is there, for instance, as it is in a pre-Columbian Mexican poet of long ago, "The creator of all is self-created.") The idea of a God of love has dawned on many in many lands and at many times. There is no book the absence of which would leave us helpless to arrive at this idea. It was found in China, India, pre-Christian Palestine; an approach to it was known by the Amerindians, some of them at least. Plato almost had it: in certain respects he came closer to it than the medieval theologians.

On the other hand, I am in no position to say what would have happened to my religious development had my parents and several teachers at school not been Christians well trained in relatively orthodox ways. And the parables of Jesus seem to me full of wisdom; incidents like the washing of the disciples' feet, or the forgiveness from the cross, seem full of symbolic power to convey religious insight.


On a less positive note, I believewith Peirce, Whitehead, D. H. Lawrence (three rather different persons) and my father (different still)that the Book of Revelation is a poor expression of a religion of love, for the very reasons these four agreed upon: that it expresses hate, arrogance, resentment, and superstition run riot. It ought, as they held, to have been omitted from the Canon. So there we have itconsensus in religion is out of our reach. We have to agree to disagree.

Consensus in politics is also difficult to attain, but without a minimum of it our species is doomed. The development of nuclear explosives, perhaps even the possession of poisons (in present stocks, it is said, capable of poisoning the entire population of the world), has brought us to this degree of danger. Thus the perilous ''experiment of nature," a species as free from instinctive guidance as ours, is approaching its critical stage. Was the experiment too dangerous? As theist I accept on faith the infallible wisdom and ideal power of God. But if I play at criticizing God it is at this point.

Why There is Human Wickedness

To the question, "Why is there so much wickedness in human beings?" our culture knows two answers. One is the biblical Garden of Eden story, interpreted as an account of how sinfulness became innate in us all, the theory of Original Sin. The other is the scientific and evolutionary account, including psychiatry as a part of sciencethough not necessarily the psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung. The Garden of Eden account has all the marks of a very tall tale, with its highly unnatural serpent and much else. Moreover, there is no evidence whatever that its author or authors had the slightest knowledge of the possibility of an evolutionary account of the origin of species, including ours. It is an axiom of intellectual procedure that to have a fully rational right to adopt a philosophical or scientific belief one must have considered what other explanations (taken in their strongest not their weakest form) could be offered to solve the same problem. Biblical authors did not reject evolution. There is no sign that they knew of it as a possible theory.


In their ignorance they did what they could to understand human nature. Today we have not their excuse for the result.

According to evolution, animals are enabled to serve the needs of their species and to take their place in nature without needless damage to other species (definitely including those whose members they prey on) by two factors: instinct, or physically inherited modes of behavior, and culture, or psychically inherited modes of behavior. In the lower animals the instinctive or physical inheritance predominates, in the higher animals the cultural or psychical more and more takes over as one ascends the hierarchy toward the human species. On all levels there is an aspect of freedom with its chance combinations of decisions. This aspect implies that neither laws of nature nor the decision of any agent can make all of these combinations fortunate ones, exactly conforming to some ideal plan or arrangement for the good of the whole. What fits the needs of one organism may not fit the needs of another. Conflict and suffering cannot be wholly excluded; there will be good luck as well as bad luck for particular individuals. On the lower levels such conflicts involve no wickedness, for the creatures are essentially instinctive; their individual decisions, though not wholly determined by either instinct or culture, are too naive, too little conscious, to involve any comparison of their action with an ethical principle of right and wrong. On higher levels, perhaps only on the highest (the human), there is such comparison. Now either/or: the individuals on this high level are ethically infallible (capable of acting rightly, knowing that they are doing so, but incapable of acting wrongly, knowing that they are doing so) or all animals capable of being ethical are capable of lapsing from their ethical norms. Not only is it the fact that human beings are fallible ethically, but it seems infinitely unlikely that they should be othewise. Infallibility is a property of deity. Only God is either cognitively infallible or incapable of unwise or unrighteous behavior. Does not ethical or practical infallibility belong with cognitive infallibility? Unsurpassable power, unsurpassable wisdom, unsurpassable goodnessthese define God, not any mere creature.

In the foregoing I have transcended the merely biological and introduced theological considerations. Let us return to the biological problem. Chance, or good and bad luck, occurs on all levels


of life, for reasons already explained. This implies suffering and frustration in varying degrees. At their births, and often thereafter, human beings suffer. With good luck the sufferings of birth are slight, with bad luck, severe. There are evolutionary reasons why totally painless birth is unlikely, perhaps impossible. There are similar evolutionary reasons why there will be infectious diseases, which are the good luck of bacteria or virus organisms causing the bad luck of the host organism. To wholly prevent these things would impose further limitations on the freedom of creatures to make themselves (and in part their descendants, thus causing evolutionary change).

What sort of world, far from ours in structure, if even a coherent world at all, this further limitation on freedom would imply takes perhaps more insight into world possibilities than we possess. We are, then, a species of animal whose members must at times suffer. This is true of all species, but the members of our species are peculiarly sensitive and capable of suffering in a far greater variety of ways than other sorts of animals, with complex mental as well as merely physical forms of suffering or frustration. Moreover, in this species (for good reasons) the young are born radically helpless and immature, devoid of the sense of right and wrong they will later acquire. If their parents or caretakers are themselves suffering severe frustrations, their nervous systems irritated to the breaking point, or if they have escaped the cultural inheritance without which the human deficiency of physical inheritance, or lack of instinctive wisdom, means incompetent treatment of offspring, then the offspring are likely to be badly treated. Remember, the parents are mere creatures and hence fallible. How then will the offspring react to the bad treatment they receive? Because of their immaturity, their pre-ethical stage, they cannot react in an ethically noble way, with forgiveness and compassion for the parents' deficiency or the parents' suffering. To bad treatment they can only react more or less badly, either by violent rebellion and active hatred, orprobably even worseby sullen apathy, passive hatred. Thus their emotional development begins badly.

One can often, alas, on public vehicles, such as trains or planes, see parents obviously engaged in ruining their offspring (by treating them with hatred and cruelty). It is not only Freud who has taught


us how important these early misfortunes are in the formation of human characters. Harry Stack Sullivan, whom I have read, and another American psychiatrist, whom I have heard lecture, have been my teachers in this matter. I think they give a far better explanation, not indeed of original sin, but of what tends to produce wicked behavior, than any tall story written long ago.

There is, however, a theological aspect which can be taken to complete the merely biological account. As Reinhold Niebuhr, in his inimitable way, has pointed out, our unique human capacity to form general ideas, including the extremely general idea of the Creator of all, opens us to a form of temptation unique to our species. So far as we know what it would be like to be God, we also know what we lack by not being God. The other animals, we may surmise, share with us the status of creaturehood but, unlike us, do not at all know what it would be like to be the universal Creator. Butand here the plot thickensNiebuhr sees that we can to some extent deceive ourselves and imagine that we are not quite mere creatures, that somehow we are ourselves infallible, all-wise, or all-powerful: if not without qualification, then still sufficiently so for whatever it is we have set our hearts upon. We can try to play at being more than in truth we possibly can be.

"Playing God" is a phrase that can be sadly misused. Example: if a surgeon operates, some religious groups complain that he is not accepting an individual as God made that individual. If a doctor helps a patient with a terminal disease to die, he is said to be taking God's role. This charge makes sense only on the assumption that it is God who normally completely determines what happens to us (for example when we die), not our own decisions or those of other creatures.

Those so talking do not, by my standards, know what they are talking about. They are less well informed than they think they are as to what the role of God really is. If they are not playing God, they are certainly to a questionable extent playing at being "in the know" about God. At any rate, Niebuhr may well be right in his view that one form of wickedness arises from not fully accepting our creaturehood, our not being God. Politically powerful individuals are exposed to this temptation. But so is a father in an old-fashioned male-dominated family.


I submit that a theologically interpreted evolutionism can do a better job than anything written over two thousand years ago to explain human wickedness. It can even adopt one element of the Eden story: what made Adam's "fall" possible was his "knowledge of good and evil." This is inherent in his ability to conceive deity. It also is inherent in his symbolic power, his ability for speech, including maps, diagrams, graphs, musical notations, sign posts, and representative drawings and paintings. Other animals on this planet (there may be billions of planets) lack these capacities in any remotely comparable degree. But with this symbolic power goes a partial freedom from physical inheritance of behavior, and with this a danger of social chaos and failure to serve the needs of the species or to take our place in nature without needless damage to other species, all of which functions instincts admirably serve.

When wolves or coyotes kill many sheep at a time, far more than they can eat, this is not because their natures or instincts are wrong as such, but because instinct cannot adapt to conditions which until quite recently did not obtain in the part of the earth where the instinct developed. Herds of sheep, weakened and made helpless by domestication for many generations, are a novelty for North American animals. In their natural environment, wolves do not decimate quantities of sheep or any other kind of animal. The wild sheep of the Rockies did quite well, thank you, for thousands of years, until civilized human beings came along. Among animals it is only the human species that makes ugly gaps and desolations in nature. Albert Schweitzer (who respected animal life but, as a biologist friend has pointed out, failed to understand it) was morally indignant at a leopard that slaughtered the chickens in the coop he had constructed so badly that, though the leopard could get in, the chickens could not get out. It would be a fortunate leopard that could catch even two chickens or other large birds in the open forest as easily as that leopard caught many almost at once. Incidentally, it was like a human being to blame the leopard, or nature, for what was primarily his own doing.

If we cannot hope to see wickedness as God sees it, we can nevertheless have some partial grasp of the truth that, being a creature (in the fashion in which each of us is that, localized in


space-time, having to acquire personality, beginning with merely animal individuality, taught how to behave as a person by fallible elders, themselves taught by fallible elders, and so on), we cannot have the infallible rightness of behavior that is a defining characteristic of deity.

I add a thought that, so far as I know, I am the first philosopher to say clearly and definitely: To describe our difference from God as infinite by calling us "finite" is far too little. We are much less than simply finite. The entire vast cosmos may be (and I believe is) spatially finite, as relativity physics has made clear it may be. We, however, are the merest fragments of finite reality. Fragmentariness, not simply finitude, distinguishes us from deity. With this fragmentariness goes radical dependence upon our surroundings, by which we can be destroyed at any time. True, "destruction" here does not mean that our careers up to the moment of death are nullified, made into nothing, for that is nonsense. But our careers can have in each case a last member, as a book a last word; whereas the real divine book reaches no last word, just as it has had no first one, and is in that respect infinite. And in that infinite book our finite ones are imperishable.

Is God in every sense infinite? According to dual transcendence this cannot be. God has a spatial aspect; the divine "ubiquity" is God's presence everywhere in space; but if space is finite, then so is the divine ubiquity. Moreover, if the spatial expansion of the cosmos is possible, God's spatial finitude can also expand. But what canot be is that God should be a mere fragment of the spatial whole, as each of us is.

Nuclear Arms

In the present situation the greatest practical threat of all is possibility of nuclear war. Since there is no way now known (if you question this, do a little research in the subject) that promises to prevent nuclear war from being nuclear annihilation of at least most of our population, and much else besides around the world, the aim of nuclear arms is not to enable us to win in nuclear war but to enable us to prevent there being any such war. As the


Russian Khrushchev said years ago, if country A can and in a nuclear war would destroy country B twice over, and country B can (and would) destroy A once over, neither country has a rational reason to use nuclear arms. So all talk about parity in numbers of nuclear weapons is absurd. We could reduce the world largely to rubble and death. So could the Russians.

Is it sensible to ask the Russians to give up what we (wrongly) tell the world is an advantage in nuclear armaments? If they are so unwise as to believe what we thus unwisely tell them, then of course they will not agree to reduce armaments to come down to parity with us. Mutual ability to destroy is the only relevant parity in the matter, if the aim is deterrence.

It seems foolish diplomacy to expect to accomplish anything by threatening to catch up to the Russians in excessive armaments unless they agree to reduce numbers down to ours. If superiority in numbers really is an advantage, and they have that advantage (as some of us assert), what can we offer the Russians to give it up? We should tell them we think it no advantage, and we should prove that we mean what we say by unilateral reduction, not down to less than is needed for deterrencemeaning ability to destroy the enemy were he so mad as to provoke usbut with the sole purpose of giving him no motive for doing so.

We should stop letting what Russia is doing militarily dictate our military budget and further ruin our economy with the inflation that goes with such a policy. We should free our policy from slavish dependence on what Russia is doing in armaments, and encourage the Russians to follow our example as we try to attend to the economic needs of our people, also to free our society, as Eisenhower warned us we should do, from excessive dependence on the industrial-military complex, which today threatens our economy and makes the Reagan policy partly selfcontradictory. Militarism is anti-economical. Japan and Germany show what a blessing it can be if a country controls its military caste or military-industrial complex. Our best hope may be that Russia will begin to see the point and will do more for its nonmilitary industries and agriculture than its present militarism allows it to do.

Whether or not Theodore Draper is right in regarding a "no first use" of nuclear arms declaration as of questionable value, the


overwhelmingly important point, for which Draper argues so persuasively, is that they should not be used at all. 4 If we had been more civilized than we are, we might have done better not to have used them twice ourselves. We set an ominous example.

A nuclear freeze would be better than nothing. But the only significant aim is reduction. We should try to lead the world in this, without looking over our shoulder too anxiously to see what others are doing. We should show that we know our own minds and have our own convictions, above all the conviction that explosives with virtually unlimited destructive powers have no sane use except to prevent others from using them. There is only one planet, and if we incinerate and poison much of it, all our hopes are doomed, not just our hopes of victory. The Russians must, it seems, know all this; we should show enough respect for them as not complete fools to act as if we knew that they know it. If they don't know it, negotiations will not help. If they do, negotiations should be about matters other than who has the most nuclear weapons.

The foregoing is, of course, an amateur's view; but I have read a good many discussions by experts, including many issues of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and listened to a number of speeches by authorities on the medical aspects of nuclear warfare, than which a more dismal, horrible topic of contemplation can scarcely be imagined. In comparison, talk of a supernatural hell seems childish folly.

God and the Universe Once More

For Plato, the universe was the divine body, for Goethe it was the "living garment of deity." If the divine body, or garment, is spatially finite, this does not do away with its radical superiority to our bodies or garments. There is nothing outside it by which it could be injured or disturbed. As for what is inside it, this cannot threaten it either, as cancer cells threaten us. For the divine-human analogy assumes a difference in principle between the ideal animal and all others, or between the nonfragmentary organism and the fragmentary organisms. The human infant begins to impose a


secondary life-style expressive of its feelings (and thoughts, as fast as it becomes able to think) upon a system which already had a basic order in its cells and their inherited and acquired patterns, all of this expressive of the general laws of nature. But these laws themselves express the World Soul and its unsurpassable mode of awareness and feeling. The World Soul does not begin to exist on a foundation otherwise established.

When an animal dies and its individual life-style no longer controls its members, the result is not chaos, but simply a return to the more pervasive types of order expressive of the cosmic mind-body. The World Soul, being aware of what occurs in the Divine Body, can vicariously suffer with its suffering members (Plato did not say so, but we can say it). But it cannot suffer in the sense of having fear of an alien force. This Soul's power is the unrivaled, eminent power. Any individual can influence it, none can threaten it. Its life-style is the supreme law of the whole.

There must, it seems, be readers who have been thinking: a World Soul implies a world brain, and there is no such thing. I have in principle givenindeed, Plato gavethe answer to this objection. A central nervous system, with its brain, is, as already remarked, the quintessential body of an ordinary or human vertebrate animal. But the contrast between that and less essential bodily parts arises from the animal's having an external environment. Our awareness is most directly conditioned by our nerve cells. The rest is but means to the functioning of those cells, so far as the possibility of our awareness is concerned. Plato began his analysis by pointing out that the cosmos needs no limbs to enable it to move about, for it is its own place (space being merely the order among its parts); it needs no digestive system to transform materials taken in from without into bodily tissue and no lungs to enable it to utilize air from without; for nothing is without. So with all organs outside the central nervous system. Plato did not understand that system; but we can see that is is not only the seat of consciousness, but is also the means of adapting internal activities to external stimuli. This function cannot apply to the inclusive organism.

Thinking out the question of the role of a body for its soul, we realize that, with no external environment, the sole function of


the supreme Body for the supreme Soul is to furnish it with awareness of and power over its bodily members. Thus there can be no special parts, such as brain cells, in contrast to other parts; for all have the same function of directly communicating with the Soul. Thus every physical individual in the Body becomes as a nerve or brain cell to the Soul. There can therefore be no special part of the cosmos recognizable as a nervous system. The whole cosmos must everywhere directly communicate with God, each member furnishing its own psychical content (its feelings or thoughts) to the Soul. In turn, the member, in whatever way its own type of individuality makes possible, and across the two-way bridge of sympathy or feeling of feeling, receives influences from divine feeling or thought.

Such is my attempt to indicate and profit by the way various thinkersFechner, Whitehead, and some othershave tried to go further along the path first blazed by Plato.

The great theoretical physicist Hermann Weyl once wrote, "If the space-time whole is not divine it is certainly superhuman." I think he understated the case.

In the foregoing discussion, I have not mentioned the Big Bang account of current physics. I am little competent to discuss it. But I do hold the considered conviction that it is not a proper role for physics to attempt to deal with really ultimate questions. I doubt, on principle, the possibility of knowledge by empirical, observational science to the effect that, for instance, the Big Bang and its consequences constitute the whole of created reality, before which there was not anything (or only God); or that there could never have been and could never be other laws of nature than those now obtaining. We cannot, with any cogency, extrapolate our stretch of observed cosmic happenings to infinity, nor can we know that a Big Bang beyond which we cannot extrapolate can have had no predecessor. With Berdyaev, I believe in a divine time, our access to which is not unlimited, to say the least. Time as we know it best may indeed have begun with the Big Bang, but not all time, creaturely or divine. The integration of physics into a comprehensive system inclusive of philosophical principles is an achievement for the future. I envy those who, if the species endures in spite of its present hazards, will some day manage to work out


and understand such a system. What a splendid achievement that will be!


1. Harry Kemelman, Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1978), pp. 22930.

2. See Hartshorne and Reese, Philosophers Speak of God (University of Chicago Press, 1953), p. 251, 1st column.

3. Ibid., pp. 24950.

4. Theodore Draper, ''How Not to Think about Nuclear War," New York Review of Books, 29, no. 12 (15 July, 1982). For critical comments by R. Peierls and others and Draper's replies, see ibid., no. 14 (23 Sept., 1982), pp. 5861.