Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happiness and heaven

… Is God Happy? by Leszek Kołakowski | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


  1. Hi Frank,

    Interesting take. But he is asking that his peeves be at all times influential on bliss, and I don't say that to put him down, as I enjoyed the argument. We are either in a state of pet peeves or in a state of Nirvana. Here is a typical paragraph in which he talks about God on Judeo-Christian terms:

    If, on the other hand, He is perfectly immutable, He cannot be perturbed by our misery; He must therefore be indifferent. But if He is indifferent, how can He be a loving father? And if He is not immutable, then He takes part in our suffering, and feels sorrow. In either case, God is not happy in any sense we can understand.

    He wants to say that God cannot be both immutable and loving, when what is immutable is the love. But instead of getting into the logic, which is where, and only where Kołakowski keeps this argument, let me bring in a Jimi Hendrix quote. Today is Hendrix' 70th birthday after all. He said, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

    Keeping it on the Christian sense of things, when someone is touched by God in such a way as to have a religious experience, the world goes on while a state of bliss is in effect. People can have these experiences in concentration camps as well as during tropical island vacations. A couple things can come from these, one is that love is what is immutable in the world and on the other hand, no matter what the world dishes out, your starting point is always that loving state of bliss. There is nothing in creation that does not come from the light of love.

    The last clause of what Kołakowski writes is "God is not happy in any sense we can understand." If one believes that God needs to meet us on our terms, even that our highfalutin arguments from our best philosophers need to be considered before we can move on, that the points of view of our most generous benefactors need to be heard, then God will seem like a stone mountain, aloof and immovable, and that clause will remain true. If instead we participate in the love that He has for us, then we can begin to understand.

  2. In relation to the article and what Rus said, it seems that, to some of us at least, the presence of God must meet some anthropomorphic criterion, he must feel happy like us, behave like us, suffer like us. For reasons of faith, an anthropomorphic God may be a necessity, and indeed imagining God as a human being, Christ or Krishna, is the staple of most religions. How much more difficult to discuss theology around a non-human God! God then is a mere perfect reflection of us, one made definite by immense love and understanding. While all of this is perfectly understandable, God, by definition, and for reasons of philosophy, must transcend any limits, including anthropomorphism.