Life is God

Don Cupitt did not speak from a written text. The following summary has been prepared from his notes, with a coda from his latest book.

1. Meanings of humanism — The word humanism has had several different meanings at different times. Historically, an objective vision of the world was the Gods-eye-view of it. But the Greeks began, and the Enlightenment completed, a rebuilding of the world around the human subject (or, more exactly, a consensus of human subjects).

2. Radical humanism — This rebuilt world was weoruld, the age of man. A world with nobody whose world it is is hard to imagine. A world seems to need to be known. Somehow, everything is channelled through us, comes to a focus in us. We seem to be the only language-users, and so the only beings who have a complete world. In us, the world becomes described, known, lit-up - in short, conscious of itself.

3. Religious humanism — For the atheistic humanist, we are the only world-builders in a very strong sense. We are alone and accountable to nobody other than ourselves. We make all meaning, truth and value. The religious humanist says No. We need to acknowledge:

Be-ing — the pure contingent flowing givenness that language forms into a world;

Models — There is no ready-made human nature, or world, or society. We need the religious imagination to generate myths to live by, ideal forms of world, of selfhood and of life. In fact we need myths.

Humanitarian ethics — Our age questions all the traditional binary discriminations and distinctions out of which the world used to be built, leaving us so sceptical that no other basis for ethics now remains except our barest humanity. Humanitarianism in the void - an idea already lurking in the venerable image of the dead Christ.

4. The use of the idea of God — Only a nihilist can understand the use of God correctly. He sees how, when confronted by pure chaos, God uses language to divide up the cosmos and form a world. He then invites Adam to join in, by naming the beasts. Thus we should see God as a spiritual ideal that guides life, a true myth and not an actually-existing being.

5. Meditation — Of what does the religious humanist become aware in meditation? God, Be-ing or the Void? He cant tell and it doesn't matter a bit.

6. How close are we to Christianity? Christianity is, and always was, religion that is trying to turn itself into radical humanism. Today we should be completing the process by exchanging church for kingdom ways of thinking and living. Life is God (Tolstoy). Solar personal ethics, humanitarian social ethics, the religious imagination.

From Philosophy's Own Religion, p.160 — "People think that humanism and humanitarian ethics are somehow non-religious. They should take a look at any mediaeval representation of the heavenly world, eastern or western. It consists of almost nothing but an orderly crowd of very similar and equal human beings. Religion has long seen its ideal world as a radical-humanist world."

The point may be made in even stronger terms. On the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Michelangelo has represented the whole cycle of Christian doctrine, from creation to the Last Judgment, simply in terms of the human body. That's radical humanism; think how unimaginable it is that a Muslim artist should ever do anything like it.

In summary... religious meaning and value are now scattered across the whole of the life-world and as we have appropriated and differentiated the world we have spread something of ourselves across the whole life-world. The last stage in the historical evolution of religion is therefore universal religious humanism and the last ethic is humanitarianism.

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