On God, it's OK not to know

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By John Hubbuch

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." He also wrote: "There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself. It is the mystical."

Since the mystical is inexpressible, there is nothing more to be said. I think Ludwig was on to something here. In any discussions involving religion, belief, faith, salvation and prayer, liberal use of "perhaps," "possibly," 'I hope," and "I'm not sure, but ..." would seem to be in order. Certainty is slippery in these matters.

When you consider there are a 100 billion galaxies, the observable universe has 300 sextillion suns, the universe is billions of years old and will be around for billions more years, the thoughtful person really has to be pretty humble. We humans on this little planet earth truly are cosmic dust.

We know very little, and what we think we know often turns out to be wrong. Not that long ago, we deluded humans thought we were the center of the universe. The best minds explained eclipses as dragons devouring the sun. Recorded history is 6,000 years old. Think where we might be in 6,000 more years. Or 60,000 years. There is philosophic speculation that we know less than 1 percent of what there is to know. And that includes Yahoo! and Google. The mind reels.

I speculate that this uncertainty is a contributing reason why one in five Americans now claim no religious identity. I am not "Catholic" or "Protestant." I am "None." I'm certainly not an atheist, but those who are so certain of God's existence seem as arrogant as the professional atheists. I wish I had the certainty of an evangelical or an atheist, but something tells me Professor Wiggenstein is probably right. There's nothing wrong with "I don't know."

Thomas Hobbes thought life was short, nasty and brutish. Today things are better. We have cable and fast food. But each of us knows that in less than a hundred years, we will die, and after a hundred more years, we will be forgotten forever. So we seek experience that transcends our quotidian lives. We find it in different places: nature, family, friends, art, music, reading, volunteering, drugs, alcohol, material possessions or religion. We are the equivalent of sub-atomic particles, but unlike a quark or a meson, we are possessed of reason and emotion. We yearn for significance and meaning.

Religion, with its attendant belief in an omniscient God who watches over us and promises an afterlife, is one path to peace and happiness.

There are others.


Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

1 Comment - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Jim Bowman from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2012 6:49 AM

"I believe, Lord; help thou my unbelief," the man said to Jesus. One of Scriptures' great lines, eminently applicable to this discussion.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad