More Evil, Less Good

John Zande, a colleague blogger has authored a book titled “On The Problem of Good.” It’s a bold and an eloquent exposition premised on the hypothesis that “there is no good, everything degenerates into evil” according to the author. It’s hardly a book for the regular reader because it’s highly philosophical or abstract and it’s backed by scientific facts. Many of you already know my position on Science.

The founder of Christianity asserts that there is none that is good except God (Mathew 19:17), so the author may not be far from truth except that he claims evil is the basis of existence, good is illusionary, hence there is nothing wrong with the world. Here I disagree. There is everything wrong with the world. When we speak of life or existence, we speak of living things and how they percieve their environment. I believe humans, in spite of all the evil in this world, gravitate towards good. No sane person dreams of war, violence, hate, death etc.

How could such virtues as peace, unity, love, compassion, genuine altruism etc be evil? What about people who devote their lives to taking care of orphaned children, the homeless, the sick, victims of abuse, the vulnerable etc. This acts appear good to me and contradict the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest”. The instinct to help eachother when in trouble, to form and maintain social ties, to strive for morality and fairness etc that’s one tiny way us humans are different.

I have personally witnessed good. I have seen mothers risk their lives to save their children from harm. I have seen fathers sacrifice their future so that their children could have one. I have seen strangers offer refuge to the afflicted. I have seen people donate all their wealth to the needy after their death. I have seen strangers pull out a trapped person from under a rubble without asking to be paid. I have seen a crowd carry an accident victim to a hospital without requesting anything material. What is responsible for such altruistic acts if all there is is evil? These acts tell me humans are equally capable of good. However, agreeably, there is more evil and less good.

Now I have two questions for the Author concerning his hypothesis of a maximally evil, omnimalevolent universe.

1. Is the world a case study for testing his hypothesis?
2. If the world is his case study, then his hypothesis cannot be proved.

Reason:
1. There is both good and evil in this world according to the experiences of the vast majority of people. This is irreducible to an all evil world. So John, if you are reading this how did you prove your hypothesis to be true? Forgive me but was it through confirmation bias?

God’s Boredom After the Sixth Day

I had argued with myself on several occasions as to why an almighty being will need rest at all. It was only six days, and he had created man, his finest handiwork and had retired the next day. I suspect he must have created the ape earlier, either to keep himself company or to mock man especially fearing that man, his finest creature, will eventually betray him and go out of control. Ofcourse gods have fears too. They fear that their subjects might abandon them and once abandoned they cease to exist. It happened many centuries ago in far away Europe where Heine attested to seeing the abanboned gods Zeus, Hera, Apollo, etc including their roman relatives in exile on a distant island with a hairless goat who later turned out to be one of thier human servants. They had been driven away by a new protestant god. Under such circumstances, the old gods lived as refugees and took on such menial jobs as wood chopping, says Heine. In Africa, things were a little different. The old gods fled in tumult and instead, took possession of rivers, rocks and trees. They didn’t flee into exile because apart from Madagascar there were no islands in Africa.

Interestingly, it was not mentioned anywhere in the bible that the Jewish god ever resumed work after the seventh day. Could it be that he never resumed work and had similarly fled into exile following the divine tragedy involving Angel Lucifer and his cohorts. Or he likely may have retired to some distant island and let humanity devise ways and means of settling their own disputes? And was that not a good thing for a god to have done for himself since he was already tired while the devil was always working? Could it be that the evil demon is more hard working since he never needed rest? If Lucifer rested a day, all of the world’s problems will be solved that very day and humanity will regain consciousness.

Anyway, so much to ruminate on this sunday. I believe I have, at least, reminded you of interesting questions as regards the genesis anecdote and god’s boredom after the sixth day. “Let there be light” and yay there was light! How amazing. Why can’t this be simply followed by “Let there be peace” for the world to experience peace and….”Let there be joy” for everyone to be healed and be happy? I guess it will be too much work. Happy rest day.

All moral laws are reducible to reciprocity

It is a fact that different societies have different morals and value systems. This argument is further advanced by most amoralists and serves as a basis for a rejection of universal moral values. But even when we look at the great diversity in human nature, societies and their values and norms, it is by all means that whatever one does, one will be repaid in full. This is what justifies vengeance even if it is done in the name of one god or another god. The desire for justice is innate in every human. Morality itself is not based on reason, it has its basis in instinct. So a rational discussion on morality is futile – one would just be moving in circles. However, one thing that runs through all moral laws irrespective of geographic location, social group, race or nation is that there is reciprocity. There is something akin to a reward or payback (though sometimes difficult to perceive) based on an act that was perpetuated or neglected thereof. This reciprocity is not peculiar to only relationships within social groups, it is the fabric of all individual human interactions. Others call it karma. The problem however is that sometimes this reciprocal relationships are also subject to subjective interpretations and people with similar perspectives randomly self organize and create a morality of their own. They may even seek to punish someone who may have done something right for the majority. In a society as dysfunctional as mine, based on random self organization, criminals or the most unscrupulous are sometimes selected as the decision makers and adjudicators. When it happens that way the righteous is punished and everyone turns evil. There is reciprocity in there. Society has to be better than individuals so it is very important that people aspiring to leadership positions have high ethical principles and are people of highest moral standards. This ensures that the right values are emulated and promoted in the system. Sadly, as the reader may be aware this is often not so. We elect leaders based on their wealth and connections, then we turn around and complain when they attack us.

African Idea of the Universe

In indigenous African societies, God is thought of as a giver, a protector and a liberator. He has personal qualities such as wisdom, eternity, invisibility, omnipresence and most importantly justice. He reveals himself through earthly and heavenly things such as the sun, the moon, the stars, rocks, trees, rivers and rains. It is obviously beyond the scope of this article to delve deep into African Philosophy mainly because each African tribe has slightly different belief systems as regards nature and origin of life. I shall however try turn every stone in an attempt to find the most common element that runs through all tribes and draw conclusions.

Among most tribes, God is believed to be the father of all men. He is the almighty, the Supreme Being and though Africans appear to offer sacrifices to lesser gods, ancestors and deities, we revere him most. The Ewe tribe of south-eastern Ghana, parts of Togo and Benin call him ‘Mawuga Sogbolisa’ meaning ‘The Undefeatable’. The Akan of central Ghana and parts of Ivory Coast call him ‘Nyame’or ‘Nyankropong’ meaning the universe and the Yoruba’s of Nigeria call him Chukwu.

According to the myth of the Bantu tribe (scattered all over the West African sub-region), the universe begun precisely with the Supreme Being stepping a foot on the ground and out of his foot stump arose men, women, trees and in fact any object in the universe. The Akan has it that God lived in the Sky, so close to us that whenever an old woman pounded fufu ( boiled cassava) her pestle constantly kept hitting God. Angered and frustrated, God moved far away into the heavens hence the great distance between the sky and the earth.

Among the Ewe, God is said to have created mankind and hid him in a cave. He then sent the deities (lesser gods) to go and cleanse the earth of all evil forces or objects. While the cleansing was going, man became increasingly impatient in his cave and finally came out without the approval of God. This explains why men are always susceptible to evil spirits.

Another Ewe tribe has it that in the beginning God created mankind and presented him with three gourds from which to choose his destiny. One contained stones, the other salt and the third contained jewellery and happiness. After some time of deliberation, man went away with the second gourd but realizing that it contained salt, he brought it back and asked God to replace it with happiness. God declined and that’s how come happiness has eluded mankind. Another story which is particularly interesting is that God created and presented man with two gourds. One looked beautiful and shiny on the outside but contained only sand and stone, the other dirty and worn out but contained a lot of good things. Mankind, in a haste and without much forethought immediately chose the beautiful gourd and discovered the sand and stones – and such was his destiny.

I assume that so far so good and maybe to some extent, these stories make little sense to the reader. There are probably a dozen other such stories but lets pause and see what our ancestors are trying to tell us with these stories.  In my opinion,  they are surely telling us about a certain failing inherent in all men. Now let us turn the mental compass towards the inner world of the individual, to subject the stories to the test of truth – the absence of logic notwithstanding.

1. All over the world, life is considered a journey. This journey as we can see in the first myth started with God by his stepping on the ground and we arising out of his step. The myth simply tells mankind that we must walk in the path of righteousness laid for us by God.

2. It is interesting to note that God did not punish the old woman in the second myth but rather chose to resign into the skies. The myth tells us that God desires to be close to us if only we are ready to behave appropriately to please him.

3. Talking about humans coming out of a cave is no news. I think this myth can survive even a scientific test. For the earth is considered a mother goddess among most African tribes. She is called ‘Asaase Yaa’ by the Akans. During libation, the fetish priest addresses the Supreme God, followed by the Earth Goddess and then finally the Ancestors. All of these have specific roles and rankings which I shall expound on in my subsequent posts.

If the earth is a goddess and female at that, then it is reasonable that all humans came out of her uterus which more or less is a hole ( with all due respect to womenfolks). The primitive man’s idea of the origin of the universe stems from his own birthing process. This was the case with the aborigines of Australia and the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

I will like to now turn my attention to what is happening today under our own eyes. The other day, I read that Scientists say the universe came about as a result of a certain ‘Big Bang’ that occurred millions of years ago. A ‘Bang’, I came to know, means copulation but of course Scientists meant a completely different thing. The same of such thing applies to the primitive man. The numerous cave paintings found in Lascaux in France, parts of North Africa and even records of Greek and Roman mythologies speak  sometimes directly, of intercourse between two forces of nature ( usually male and female gods). The female god if not degraded into particles, then gives rise to mortals or in some cases immortals. It is obvious, whatever the case that there can never be a ‘Big Bang’ without two counteracting forces. The primitive man called these forces male and female.

Forgive me if I have not done enough justice to the topic. To  summarize,  mythologies reveal the deepest of truths about instinctive thought patterns and feelings of mankind but most of us dismiss them as false because our rational mind cannot handle them. The absence of reason is not the absence of truth.