Metaphysical Loneliness, Atheism, and the Face of God

images-4The tragedy and irony of the digital age is that we in the western world are often lonely and isolated. Surrounded by our Facebook posts, tweets, Ipods, Ipads, Nooks, Kindle Fires, smart phones, and now, smart watches, we are ever connected, but rarely connecting. We meticulously manage our social media image, and it is easy to seem as if we have it all together. Look at all those pictures of me with my friends. Look at me at the Grand Canyons, and in Yellowstone, and in Europe. Check out this pic of me Bungee jumping in Australia. Look at my life. Isn’t it great? Aren’t I popular? Isn’t my life grand?

But, all to often, the truth is that we are lonely and disconnected from genuine relationship. We are alienated from each other, and we distract ourselves from this fact by consuming little episodes of entertainment. But none of this covers up the fact that we are lonely, restless people.

To follow this rabbit trail all the way down, this loneliness and restlessness and alienation often runs to the very core of our being. We were made to be in relationship with our creator, and in denying God, we have become a culture that is “metaphysically lonely.” According to the philosopher Roger Scruton, “the metaphysical loneliness of the subject is not a historically transient condition. It is a human universal.”[1]

To put it another way, we all long for the divine. We were made for God. Yet, for many, God remains elusive. And so we deny God and fill our lives with things to distract us from our existential condition.

Would the atheist agree? Would the atheist admit that she is metaphysically lonely? I don’t know. Some might. Others will complain: If God is out there, where is His face? Why does He remain hidden?

According to Scruton, it is those very distractions that so characterize the modern world that keep us from seeing the face of God. We are so consumed with self, and our own little lives, that we no longer realize the gift that life itself is! “Being…is a gift, not a fact. It is through understanding this that we overcome our metaphysical loneliness.”[2]

Do you want to see the face of God? Start by realizing that all of life is a gift. Discard the distractions. This will require privation and suffering and toil. It will require (as Plato would put it) a turning of soul away from self to the divine.

And it is this path of sacrifice, this call to push through the world of objects to find the every present subject that makes finding the face of God so difficult for modern man. Modern man is impatient. We want everything now, at the click of a button, at the speed of our Internet connection. This impatience, this distracting, this flurry, has clogged the many openings within our world to the transcendental; they have been blocked by waste.

As Scruton puts it, it is the “rearranging our world as an object of appetite [which] obscures its meaning as a gift . . . . It is inevitable, therefore, that moments of sacred awe should be rare among us. And it is surely this, rather than the arguments of atheists, that has led to the decline of religion.”[3]

I think Scruton is onto something here. It is not evidence that keeps people from God. There is plenty of it. Rather, it is a moral issue. In our restlessness and alienation we’ve turned away from God and then complained when we can’t see His face.

What is the solution for the modern man and modern society? Turn.

Turn away from self. Turn away from things. Turn to God.

In doing so we can begin again to see life as the gift it is, and to see God as the giver of all good things; a God who came to give rest to the weary and meaningful relationship to the lonely.
















[1] Roger Scruton, The Face of God (New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2012), 155.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 177-8.

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