• God: Interaction or Intervention

    God: Interaction or Intervention

  • 1

But Brothers who up Reason's Hill

Advance with hopeful cheer, ---

O! loiter not these heights are chill,

As chill as they are clear;

And still restrain your haughty gaze,

The loftier that ye go,

Remembering distance leaves a haze

On all that lies below


In this stanza from his poem "The Men of Old", Richard Monckton Milnes (aka Lord Houghton) seems to be warning his early nineteenth century contemporaries of the dangers of climbing "Reason's Hill". By doing so, he thought, they would lose sight of the more simple and important view of life, faith and duty that had served their ancestors so well. Milnes was, by all accounts, a thoroughgoing theist and devoted Churchman. Of course, as a freethinking deist I would not be expected to agree with his sentiment here, but I do think his imagery can teach us something important: that the approach to a reasoned view of reality is neither easy nor lazy.

Reasoning out your own view of God or creation requires courage and your efforts may not always be well received. Galileo, for example, found himself on trial for challenging the official Church view of the earth as the static centre of the universe, and finally recanted. Not that Galileo was by any means the first to be censured for challenging the prevailing worldview of his time. Heraclitus was characterized by Diogenes Laertius as "a complete misanthrope" [1] for challenging the more mainstream views of Pythagoras, Hesiod and Homer. Socrates apparently chose hemlock over capitulation when he was tried for allegedly corrupting the youth of the city by the impious acts of "failing to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges" and introducing "new divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead."[2] Galileo was not the last either – John Toland's first book, Christianity not Mysterious was burned by the public hangman in Dublin because it contained "heretical doctrines" that were "contrary to the Christian religion".[3] Reportedly, one cleric suggested that Toland himself should have been burned.
So is it worth the effort? Why put yourself "on the rack" when you could easily choose one of the convenient off-the-rack God-models already in existence and settle for that? Why not, as Milnes would have us believe is best, just stick to the ways and thoughts of "the men of old"?

Well, Galileo may have recanted, but as Catherine Faber notes in the lyrics of her song The Words of God, "the earth is moving still" and the view he described has successfully guided generations of astronomers and physicists that have come after him to even more astonishing discoveries. Heraclitus may have been despised and ignored – styled "the Obscure" by fellow philosophers who failed to grasp the meaning behind his words – but modern ideas of process philosophy have, at least to some degree, vindicated and illuminated his view of ever-changing reality. And how many freethinking people today would seriously question Toland's rejection of supernatural divine intervention or the absolute authority of the Church? They resolutely climbed "Reason's Hill" and each saw a view few, if any, others had seen before them. Toland wrote in his own epitaph: "He was an assertor of liberty, a lover of all sorts of learning ... but no man's follower or dependent." [4] He charted his own course of reason, becoming the first to be labeled a "freethinker" and advanced with justified "hopeful cheer" until he reached the peak of his own understanding.

The view from the top of Mount Reason is probably not as hazy as Milnes would have us believe. The air may be rarefied and chill, but it is fresh and each new breath of understanding can be a delight in itself. And even if you still don't see with perfect clarity, it is surely better to have seen the view from the top for yourself, than to have sat idly in the valley wondering what it must be like with only someone else's fashionable, but ill-fitting, hand-me-down descriptions to give you any idea. The view from the top is not the result of an unrestrained "haughty gaze", but the culmination of an honest, personal effort to appreciate and identify with the reality of our own individual experience. Mount Reason has many peaks, and it is really up to each one of us to choose our own track and follow it wherever reason leads. Every now and again, one or other of us will top out at a point few others have ever reached before and describe a view of reality that is as revitalizing and invigorating as a cool draft of clear mountain air.


[1] Diogenes Laertius, The Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, (translated by C.D.Yonge, 1853), p.376

[2] Plato, Apology, (translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1871)

[3] J. N. Duggan, John Toland: Ireland's Forgotten Philosopher, Scholar...and Heretic, 2010, p.5

[4] Quoted in J. G. Simms, "John Toland (1670-1722): A Donegal Heretic," Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 16, Issue 63, March 1969, 318 (available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/30005344) – quoted from a manuscript (apparently not in Toland's hand) in the British Museum BM Add. MS 4295 fol.76.

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.

People in this conversation

Load Previous Comments
  • Guest - Basil

    "Reasoning out your own view of God or creation requires courage and your efforts may not always be well received." Amen to that brother! I often find myself reasoning out my own views while I'm driving, at work, or smoking a cigarette on my back porch.

    Thanks for taking the time to record such thoughtful insights. While I may not agree with all of your perspectives, it's clear that we are both reasoning out our views, and one day we'll all know the truth.

    -Baz, Better Built Solutions - the #1 place to buy sheds for sale in NC

    from Charlotte, NC, USA
  • Guest - Jhon

    I have been visiting websites from morning but your website is the masterpiece from all of the sites. Keep doing best in future i will check your site for getting more valuable stuff next time.
    call texas plumber

  • Guest - William

    What an amazing topic you have chosen for your website. Keep sharing useful content in future i will share your post with my friend he will also provide valuable feedback to you.
    residential locksmith

  • Guest - Kelly

    The post is about What should we start with while planing our workout. This workout plan is very useful for those who want to start the workout. You always provide us quality information and very useful stuff.
    rubber flooring tiles

  • Guest - rolex replica

    Why can not you? He replica watches uk slightly frowned some doubts, seriously asked, the music swiss replica watches had to admit that Amy really good to see, but she still can not forget his day on the rolex replica flight of the insult, Qi Hang seniors for her Has a different meaning, as he was so good and beautiful people how can be hurt?

  • Guest - William

    I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.
    plumbers near me

  • Guest - Jack

    Wonderful post its really helped me and others as well im looking for more info thanks anyway
    lock smith near me

  • Guest - Divid

    I like your post and all you share with us is update and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. I am very happy to read the whole article.
    sticker printing

  • Guest - jack

    Wonderful post its really helped me and others as well i m looking for more info thanks anyway.

  • Guest - Taylor Shaw

    Nobody knows anything about god’s origin there are a thousand versions of his birth. What they all have in common are some guidelines that should be followed by followers if they don’t want to end up in hell. I really loved your philosophy on god. When I think about it in your perspective it really seems to make sense. www.manufacturedhouse.com


  • No comments found