“If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one – if he had the power – would be justified in silencing mankind”
John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806 -1873)
It seems there is no greater absurdity than the discussion of nothing. ‘Nothing’ is nothing but… nothing, and in order to define it, there is no simpler word than ‘nothing’. There is also no need to prove that the ‘nothing’ is indeed ‘nothing’, as any knowledgeable person knows what nothing is. Even the most comprehensive encyclopedia does not cover this topic with the slightest explanation. And yet, there is one nothing, worshipped by most people on earth, who claim its existence as a super power above every creature and above the whole universe. They even force their opponents (what an insult to intelligence) to prove their own claim as to its nonexistence. As if one needs to prove that nothing is no more than nothing!
While the weak and powerless follow this unique nothing, it is the strong and powerful that stand out in their belief. The God card has been cynically played as a foundation for the power of many rulers, who were ready to use any tool, including the nothing tool, in order to realize their regime and implement it “forever”. A significant amount of courage and innocence are required in order to break the illusion of the nothing – to shed light on reality in its true naked form – like that little boy in the so very realistic story of Hans Christian Andersen.
The Mantra of the Big Nothing
Along with water, protein and sugar, we also take of this special nothing, discussed here, in our mother’s milk. We also receive it as instant food, in tin cans or in plastic boxes. It is spoken to our ears in lullabies, as in “good night sleep tight, with nothing”. Our nannies and teachers, from kindergarten through high school – they all tell us again and again – between maths lessons and literature lessons, between history and biology, the mantra of the Big Nothing, captivating children with biblical stories and, later, adults through biblical study.
Once we have grown and reached that age when we feel, or perhaps we just think we feel, that we have the power to reasonably (reason! Where have you hidden since childhood?) test the thousands of details planted in our heads by our parents, nannies, teachers and educators – most of us fail with one of the most established and basic nothings in the human mind and in society in general – the nothing embedded in the term ‘God’.
It would appear that human society has never, in all of its history, dealt for so long with another non-existing topic, as with this entity named ‘God’. Devoting to it so much effort and so many resources, and still very far from the correct answer (what is “correct”?). The term ‘God’ is forced into our mind so intensively and so consistently, connected with every experience and event in our life, from our first breath, until it becomes accepted as real. We have been falsely led to believe in its existence to such extent, that even if thousands of little Hans Christian Andersen’s boys follow us all day and shout “The king is naked! The king is naked!”, we will continue to walk naked, as if we have no human reason, as if we had never tasted the fruit of knowledge, because this nothing is very difficult to get rid of.
Human society is largely conservative and does not tolerate rebellion. Sometimes it happens that a certain rebellious element succeeds, in spite of overwhelming public resistance, to put society on new track, a better one, more decent and human. However, concerning our special nothing, the road is long and rough. The rebel against the divine nothing has always been ostracized. In all societies and religions they have, at the very least, been subjected to insulting and negative names such as “agnostic”, “atheist”, or simply tagged as “anti”. The absurdity is that while the “anti” do not dare call the believers of the nothing by that name, they – the carriers of the flag of reason – are disgraced by all. They are called with every dirty word raised by the leaders of the nothing, and they suffer boycott. “Atheists” – this name was used by the ancient pagan Greeks to name those who denied idolatry. Atheists, in its relative meaning, was also used to name the first Christians, following Judaism and believing – how odd – in a single unique nothing, denying the existence of the false god idols – the many nothings.
The Establishment of the Nothing and its Fighting of Atheism
Atheism is thus a rational definition of the view that puts man in line with criticism by reality and reason. It defies the archaic emotional perception and snuffs out the signs of mysticism. Atheism calls men to look bravely at their own reflection in the mirror, clearly declaring that they – men – disconnect themselves, knowingly, from conventions accepted in the past, and that from now on the nothing will be just nothing, with no costume to turn it into a super power, neither a God nor idols.
The beginning of atheism was probably simultaneous with the beginning of faith in the divine nothing. However, it took thousands of years for men to achieve the maturity of thought to define these views of theirs and to speak their words, even to themselves, without fear. Atheism was formed as a clear and explicit view only in the 19th century in the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietsche and, as an organized social movement, with the “Freethinkers”. Ludwig Feuerbach, one of the first philosophers to deal with atheism, attacked religion from a psychological point of view, claiming that religion is derived from the dependence of man on nature and that God is nothing but the essence of man; in his book, “The Essence of Christianity”, written in 1841. Man has turned his self-essence into a special personality, having its own existence, prays and sacrifices to it.
The development of science has promoted the atheistic idea. It is quite clear why religious people worldwide, possessing various monotheistic beliefs, fight science and its conclusions furiously, up to the point of creating a “pseudo-science” in the form of what appear to be scientific theories. This includes both the innocent and malicious misquoting of scientists’ words. This misquoting typically manifests itself in the arbitrary use of fragmented parts of various scholars’ works, in a selective way, for contradicting theories such as Darwin’s, and “proving” the eternity and “truth” of the divine nothing.
Most of the world’s rulers, throughout history, with the exception of the communist regime of the Soviet Union, surrendered to the ideas of the divine nothing. Not necessarily because they believed in them, but because they recognized the immense power of the establishment of the nothing – the priests, the clergy, the dervishes – and, for the sake of keeping their position, they always preferred to form an alliance with the authority of the nothing, in an effort to ensure their survival. Even the greatest of today’s super powers, the United States of America, returns to and gathers around the divine nothing, promoting it on its currency; and, with the recent governmental changes, we witness it receding even deeper into the depths of that nothing.
No Democracy in Belief
The thoughts expressed in this paper were not meant for the discussion of the psychological human need to believe in the existence of God as a super power. This will be discussed by someone else, some other time. This paper was meant to make the reader understand that within this domain of “belief” and “disbelief” (“atheism” if you will), there is no democracy. Here, the majority does not rule. As the majority in our world decides in favor of, and immortalizes, the establishment of the nothing, and enforces (how sad) this emptiness disguised as the truth. In this realm of belief, even a single person standing out alone against six billion other people – can be right, and all six billion can be wrong. This paper is here to say that concerning nothing, especially including the divine nothing, regardless of whether such an idea is accepted by all or most since the dawn of human history; it has no correlation to the term “truth” and to the alleged truth of that divine nothing.
As modern human beings, whose thoughts should be based upon reason and science, it is not reasonable to accept an axiom of belief as a truth. It is now time for us to release ourselves from the embarrassment involved with the perception of divinity and with the rituals surrounding it (‘One must have the “Mezuzah” on the doorpost’, ‘It is not appropriate to attend a funeral without a “Kipa”’, ‘Do not say “there is no god”’, ‘You can never know that…’, and a whole host of other rituals). It must be understood that regardless of the strength that the notion of the existence of a God has on humanity, it is nothing but an essence of belief. It is not “real”, bearing a philosophical form, it is an entity that exists only in the fertile imagination of man, who created God in his own image.
The original article (in Hebrew) was published in issue 23-24 of the “Free Judaism” magazine, October 2001. A web-based version in Hebrew may be found here.