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Te, Charlton

Philo 106 MWF 1:30-2:30

Primo Levi was an Italian Jewish scientist and a writer who was able to witness
and experience the horror of what it feels like to be in a death camp in Auschwitz.
For years he was surrounded by an ambience of death and torture but he had
one thing in mind that kept him going. He was an atheist who wanted to survive
and be able to tell the people of what it was like to be where he was. That was
his passion and his drive to live because of his experience he became aware of
who he was and what he wanted for himself.
When he eventually got out he was able to fulfill his mission and everybody has
heard what he had to say. However Primo after 40 years of his experience in that
hellish of a place killed himself inside the walls of his own home in Torino Italy all
because he lacked a sense of faith and meaning with which to interpret and
handle his traumatic wartime experience.
Exploring three other major families of faith will allow us to know and see their
views of evil, suffering and affliction and we will be able to get to know and
explore the different whys that help them bear with the hows life throws at them.
The concept of enlightenment was first realized when a man who was offered all
the good things in the world refused to believe that this is all there is to it. He was
in search for something. As he grew older he slowly put the puzzle pieces
together by seeing something else in all the goodness and beauty he was
surrounded with. He began his journey and centered his search to one main

thought and that is suffering. Buddha later on concluded that suffering is basic to
human life.
Many Hindus believe that in order to pursue salvation one must undergo
sacrifices. However not everybody thought the same. Majority of Buddhists reject
sacrificial tradition and pursue the goal of Nirvana. Throughout Buddhas journey
to enlightenment he has established Four Noble Truths and began preaching it
to his followers.
Today, Hinduism is a world-denying faith in a world affirming age. Hinduism
strongly believes that the world is nothing but a mere illusion. The world is only
considered real because of our ignorance. What Hindus believe is that once they
reach the peak of their existence and have finally pursued nirvana, which is when
they realize and come to fully accept that all this is maya and that their
relationship with god is the same concept as the relationship of the dreamer to
his dreams when their time is done they become one with Brahman.
As I go and study this course all the beliefs I was once so certain about are
slowly becoming unclear to me. It sounds scary to have no concrete justification
or explanation of some sort but it has taught me to remain open-minded. If I were
asked about how realistic these analysis are about suffering and affliction, I
wouldnt know where to base my judgment. For all we know, their reality could be
the truth and my reality could be the illusion. But the Four Noble Truths make so
much sense to me as I have encountered experiences of deep attachments and
have been confronted with all four concepts. It has helped me evaluate and
explore my emotions and eventually overcome what needed to be overcome.
Maybe the world is all belief system. Maybe there is no right or wrong or real or
unreal. But I am aware of where I am and where I stand and what I am
surrounded with. I am aware of how my emotions impact me, but I would rather

not have it explained because I think that the more I try to explain the more I
cause confusion.
While others have strong beliefs about a higher entity or a divine being there are
those who believe that man makes himself and that he can do all things if he wills
without the provision of a celestial existence. Humanists or naturalists as they
call themselves believe that the human knowledge worked over by human
imagination is seen as the basis to human understanding and belief and the
ultimate guide to human progress. All problems are created by man and can be
solved by man. They also highly believe since there is no God there is no
meaning revealed therefore man creates meaning.
Even if these people have no concrete basis for the basic concepts of life they
have a perspective of their own and have created notions about these things. To
them suffering and evil are part of the inhospitable universe where they are in.
Evil is normal and natural in the world. They believe in the idea of extinction.
They believe that mans achievement will one day be buried beneath the ruins of
the world he once helped build. However despite this reality they work to build
fight and to leave the world a better place regardless of the final outcome by
creating their own meaning to life and working resolutely for reform.
Secularists may have a sense of why in their lives however it may not be as deep
and meaningful as those who believe in faith. Much like Primo Levi who was
already aware and sure of who he wanted to become and what he wanted to do
because of his lack of faith he wasnt able to cope with the horrors his past
brought him. However there is a difference because he was an atheist and these
people may have put their faith on other things like passion for their jobs or
something that they genuinely love doing. This could be the whys that help them
get by.

But the world is just such a beautiful place to be in. The possibilities in it are like
a giant ball of rubber bands waiting to be unraveled. If you treat it with a little love
then it will serve you good. As long as you do what you think is right then your
skeleton could rest smiling.
The Christians rely on their faith and believe that there is a God who understands
pain suffering. These people believe that their God underwent pain and suffering
in order for all of them to be saved. They believe that Jesus is God who suffers
with us. Pain, suffering and death to them are viewed as abnormal or an alien
intrusion rather than something neutral.
To them the root of the problem can be traced back to what theyve done their
disobedience rather than who they are or their existence. God to them is not
simply personal for the people but personal for himself. Hes personal for his own
nature, not because the people need him to be personal. He is an intervening
God. His heart is to step in on behalf of his people to save them from
hopelessness. In return these people are passionate about and dependent on
their faith.
The changing world challenges these beliefs. For them those first hit by
modernity are those worst hit and those farther behind may appear to be better
off but only as long as they stay farther behind and dont engage with the
challenges of the modern world.
Bob is a resected political man and business leader in his home state. He was a
dropout from Harvard University. Bob was a friendly, handsome, articulate, a

natural leader, a born politician, keenly interested in all that was going on. He
was a strong seeker, in the forefront of any discussion, trenchant in his
questioning, quick with objections relentless in following arguments to their end
and resolute in pushing himself and others toward conclusions and action.
Bob had moved from one prep school to another until he found himself at
Harvard. His biggest inspiration was JFKs 1961 inaugural address and he had
asked what he could do for his country and the world. He wanted to change the
society. His philosophy was a conscious and articulate belief in moral rightness of
liberal democratic values.
As Bob continued on with his life with the same philosophies and principles a
series of personal incidents hammered away at his view of reality. One instance
that really moved him was when he had spoken on behalf of the rent control in
the Cambridge community. He believed that by supporting the rent control you
were on the side of peace, justice, love and human race and if you opposed rent
control you were against all that is good.
In this chapter there is a huge obsession on the matter about whether there is a
truth or there isnt one. It is in line with what they say as the third phase for the
quest of meaning which is a time for evidence. Here man is on the process of
discovering what is true, and challenge what proves to be not true. We do so by
finding concrete evidences. However these evidences do not always prove or
create faith it either confirms it of disconfirms it.

Vincent van Gogh is known for his paintings and that he died because he
committed suicide. But no one really dug through his past and deciphered the
main reason behind his death. Unless you are a devoted follower and an avid

and passionate fan then you would know. There were a lot of accusations and
false conclusions about his death. But the most reasonable answer could be
traced back to his beliefs.
Van Gogh was a religious man and it was palpable in some of his paintings.
However there was a time in his life when he rejected the church not because he
threw away his faith but because of his clergy. Van Goghs desire was to follow
his fathers footsteps as a lay-evangelist. But his efforts were miserable. He was
dismissed from his missionary position by a church not because of his lack of
faith but because of his lack of eloquence. In fact he was commended for the
admirable qualities he possesses.
Because of his choice to reject the church he was often dubbed an atheist. But
he vehemently insisted that he still believed in God. He said that to believe in
God is to feel that there is a god, not dead or stuffed, but alive, urging us toward
steadfast love with irresistible force.
Freud on the other hand believed that religion was all just illusion. He believed
that the personal god us logically nothing but an exalted father and daily
demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious beliefs as soon as
authority of the father breaks down. This belief has driven Paul Vitz of New York
University to trace the childhood of the biggest atheist known in the world and
found out that most of them has weak dead or abusive fathers. This explains the
concept of the two perceived roadblocks to faith skepticism born of old wounds,
mainly psychological in origin and skepticism born of bad experiences inflicted by
people of faith.