Motion: The Most Manifest Proof of St. Thomas Aquinas with Preliminaries on Religious Indifference


A) The Argument of St. Thomas from Motion

St. Thomas Aquinas, studying the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, concluded from common observation that an object that is in motion (e.g. the planets, a rolling stone) is put in motion by some other object or force. From this, Aquinas believes that ultimately there must have been an Unmoved Mover (God) who first put things in motion. The argument[1] flows this way:

the first and most manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved; whereas a thing moves in as much as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced to potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects.[2] Therefore whatever is moved must be moved by another. If that by which is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is moves by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.


B) Applying the Argument from Motion

Full of conviction and assurance, the changes that happened throughout history and more so today like the rapid breakthroughs in scientific and technological world are also very much evident and clear.

But those changes[3], which are potential to be so are moved and/or initiated by something or someone. Just like in the case of Nietzsche and Marx who were primarily set the initiation of the unbecoming phenomenon in this contemporary period. Because changes, which are potential, cannot move themselves they must be moved by something or someone already in actuality. It is now not possible for a certain change to be in potentiality and at the same respect to be in actuality. It is self-destructive or repugnant.

Therefore a certain change before reaching such a state must be moved by another. If that another who moved be itself moved, then it should need another mover. But this cannot go ad infinitum because this would imply that nothing would exist at all or in this case, there would be no change at all. But it is very obvious that there are. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, and this is God.

And finally with the changes and breakthroughs should lead one into humility and reverence. The most eloquent counter-attack to atheist in our days, says Fr. Vincent Miceli, was the lunar liturgy, the prayers of the American astronauts. In awe and reverence – virtues forgotten by atheists – they sum the glory of God as they sail the cold moon. In a voyage of half a million miles through spatial silence they discover God. In that silent, awesome sanctuary they experienced the mighty, ineffable, exquisitely gentle presence of God. They saw Him everywhere – in the blinding brilliance of the sun, the colorful sparkling gem of the earth, the pre-historic ruggedness of the moon, the infernal blackness of the infinite interstellar spatial seas. Indeed, they heard Him in the very thunderous sacred silence of space and in the hushed rhythm of the circling spheres. They celebrated God’s creation of heaven, earth, light, day, night, the seas, lands and all forms of life. And with God they agreed enthusiastically that it was good.[4]



 To top it all, it is presented above the reasons and causes of religious indifference or atheism. There are religious ignorance, materialism (or positivism) and the believers themselves as the root cause of the problem.

There is one reason and cause that the author presented and it is primarily the changes and ultimately to motion in that sense that happened throughout the course of time.

And by getting through the argument of St. Thomas from motion, the author applied the latter to show the demonstrability and necessity of God in today’s spiritual climate. The argument of St. Thomas can be vested and utilized in this present problem.

It is therefore the first argument of St. Thomas Aquinas from motion the best way to explain the existence of a Supreme Being and an eloquent and persuasive counter-argument against the religious indifferent or atheists in general.


[1] The following is a selection from St Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. St. Thomas Aquinas, Five Ways to Prove that God Exists, from Anton C. Pegis, (ed..) The Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, New York, Doubleday & Co., 1955.

[2] For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved; i.e. that it should move itself.

[3] Whether  in socio-economic, political and religious sides.

[4] V. Miceli S.J., The Gods of Atheism, Arlington House, New York, 1971, p. 452-453.

Motion: The Most Manifest Proof of St. Thomas Aquinas with Preliminaries on Religious Indifference


Notion of Motion

             After considering the problem of atheism or religious indifference let us now consider the main point in question and that is motion. (See Part One)


A) The Meaning of Motion

Aristotle defined motion as “the act of a being in potency in so far as it is still in potency.”[1]

This definition speaks of the actualization of that which is in potency. On the other hand, when the potency is entirely actualized there will be no motion in that sense. Yes, motion is the very process of actualization. But Aristotle, take note, added insofar as it is still in potency.

Motion then is the actualization of a potency as long as the potency is still present and not fully actualized.


B) Motion as Change

Motion in a wide sense or motion properly so called signifies change. In fact, motion indicates all kinds of change in matter. These kinds are substantial change, change in quality and local change.

And so we cannot but consider and equate any change as movement or the reverse i.e. any movement as signifying any change whether substantial, local, quantitative or


C) The Causality of Motion in Religious Indifference

The point of departure here is the equation of motion and change or vice-versa as stated above.

By considering motion as change, which is indispensable and inseparable to the former, we can say initially that motion has something to do with the decline in belief.

Henri Daniel-Rops attests that: “simultaneously with the intellectual and political revolution there had taken place a scientific and technical revolution.”[2] The steam-engine, the rhythm of work, the birth of large scale industries and the growth of capitalism are some of the examples of change.

There would always be results and effects of a certain change. The result was a profound disequilibrium[3]. Disequilibrium in many respects has affected the culture of man including the outlook that man is an end to himself, and the sole maker, with supreme control of his own history. In short, belief has also been affected. Vatican Council II said: “The sense of power which modern technical progress begets in man may encourage this outlook.”[4]

In his book, The God of Atheism, Fr. Vincent Miceli also would testify to the above claims. He said:

“Man has come of age. The era of superstition has been superseded by the era of science. Twentieth century man is the creation of a long series of happy – and some very unhappy – happenings, nearly all of them apparently salutary revolutions.”[5]

Changes and revolutions are still at work today. People are still in an Age of Revolution and Change. If these mutations, changes and revolutions affected the belief of people to a Supreme Being, the question now is whether those mutations, changes and revolutions within the walls of history would serve as the sign or mark of the beginning of indifference or irreligion of atheism. “Would the world, by changing its foundations, get rid of God?”[6]

Contemporary man decided to make the most radical change of all. He decided to change his God. He decided to get rid of his God. He changed God, the Supreme Being, to his deity of man and science. Contemporary man’s divine adventure is no longer God. His adventure is man himself e.g. looking for his autonomy through his economic and social emancipation. And so for contemporary man to assert God as the author and end of all things would make his emancipation impossible. “Man even proceeded to change Jesus radically… God is, for the enlightened twentieth-century man, pure fiction.”[7]

And so, in an age of supreme optimism about progressive change, when man conquered gravity, broken through his own atmosphere captured the moon and is already taking up close-up photos of other planets prior to landing there also, it is hardly surprising that he has made a religious cult, an idolatry, a fanatical liturgy of evolutionary development. His new god is the future progress of man. And he has put his fervent, total, blind faith in that god. Twentieth century man is passionately in love with the god of change. He is violent against established, orderly, permanent things; his appetite for for the new is insatiable.[8]

[1] Physics. III, 1, 201a  10.

[2] H. Daniel-Rops, A Fight for God, J. Warrington (trans.), London, J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1966, p. 2.

[3] Ibid. p.2

[4] Gaudium et Spes 20 § 1.

[5] V. Miceli S.J., The Gods of Atheism, Arlington House, New York, 1971, p. 447.

[6] H. Daniel-Rops, A Fight for God, J. Warrington (trans.), London, J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1966, p. 6.

[7] Ibid. The Gods of Atheism, p. 448.

[8] Cf. The Gods of Atheism, p. 448.


Motion: The Most Manifest Proof of St. Thomas Aquinas with Preliminaries on Religious Indifference


Preliminaries on Religious Indifference

 A) The Problem of Religious Indifference

In his book Christian Philosophy, Fr. Joseph M. de Torre states that, “there is a trend for practical atheism which sometimes not only practical; i.e. living as if God did not exist, ignoring altogether but full conscious and theoretical people who are openly godless, and they say so.”[1]

This trend of religious indifference in the twentieth century and today is an undeniable fact. It is true that vast and increasing numbers of men looked upon God as dead and gone.

This trend or spiritual climate was at first largely dominated by Nietzsche and followed by Marx, whose philosophies did much to disturb settled beliefs and to create totally new ideas and attitudes.

Atheism or religious indifference has from the dawn of creation, been the great temptation for intelligent creatures. Many philosophers (intelligent creatures we might say) succumbed to this temptation. Consider Feuerbach who asserted that humanity becomes God; for Nietzsche, God becomes superman and for Marx, God is the cosmic classless society. Others consider God as mere passion of the heart; while others consider God as myth of the modern ideology; still others say that God has become a victim of man or the reverse.

The General Catechetical Directory, a post conciliar document of the II Vatican Council affirms this problem of atheism. It says that, “very many people gradually fall into religious indifference or run the risk of preserving a faith which lacks the necessary dynamism and real influence in their lives.”[2]

The problem is not only with the ordinary people. The document also stresses that the problem also affected many baptized people. In section seven of the same document, says: “many baptized people have become so distanced from religion that they profess religious indifference or, almost atheism.”[3]

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) states that: “atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time, and one that deserves more thorough treatment.”[4]

B) Kinds of Atheism

Atheism is of two kinds. Archbishop Gordoncillo wrote:

Atheists can be practical or theoretical. Practical atheists are those who, although in doctrine admit the existence of God, in real life are living or acting as though for them God does not exist; while theoretical atheists are those who in doctrine do not admit of the existence of God.[5]

C) Causes of Atheism

At this point we might as well ask what caused people to expressly deny the existence of God. What caused others to maintain that man cannot make any assertion what so ever about Him? Or what caused others to languish in their faith? Or what caused others to affirm man while denying God?

We can ask many questions about the cause of atheism, but from the above questions we single out the main question i.e. What caused the decline of man’s belief in a Supreme Being? Fr. de Torre in his book Christian Philosophy asked a quite similar question: “How did we come to this situation (religious indifference)?”[6]

According to him there are reasons why so. First, he said: “very often the so-called atheists are people who have not studied their faith seriously. Religious ignorance is rampant, and particularly damaging among educated people who are becoming the majority.”[7]

But research would tell us that the great apostles of atheism who ushered its growth were not ignorant in a sense but are considered giants having great minds i.e. wise, e.g. Comte, Sartre, Heidegger, Tillich and Robinson among others. We will be putting ourselves into jeopardy if we hold that they are religiously ignorant so much so if we hold that they have seriously studied and totally grasped their faith.

“The age of Kant, Hegel, Comte, Renan, Taine and Marx had gone much further. The various…efforts of those minds led to the rejection of any faith whatsoever in a Transcendent Being… The God of Christian revelation now found himself disputed.”[8]

The Second Vatican Council also states that: “atheism is born…from the fact that certain human ideals are wrongfully invested with such an absolute character as to be taken for God.”[9]

Those giants but religiously ignorant men clothed wrongfully those ideals. Take for example the ubermensch of Nietzsche or Marx’s cosmic classless society as having absolute character.

Secondly, the rapid growth of materialism in the way people live and think is another reason.[10] According to him there are people who are also materialist in life and practice: they take material values as the supreme values in life, such as wealth, strength, comfort and health.

There is nothing wrong with all the material comfort but what is wrong is to consider them as the highest standards and eventually be blinded by it.

Vatican II council affirms this: “… because it (modern civilization) is so engrossed in the concerns of this world, (obsession into the world) can make it harder to approach God.”[11]

With too much concern and identification of man with the world often develop into prolonged, permanent, spiritual separation of man from his Transcendent Creator.

Lost in the love of the ever-present and splendid universe, the creature comes to possess himself, his society and his world as if they were exclusively his own.[12]

Thus atheism arises from a mentality and attitude which involves a flight from the invisible to the visible, from the transcendent toward the immanent, from spiritual toward the material in such a way that not only are the invisible, transcendent, spiritual rejected as dimensions of reality but they are denied existence itself.[13]

Positivism, which is quite similar to materialism is hard to distinguish from the latter and seemed willing to share the field of thought with it, holds that “the sole reality that truly counts is that which affects the senses and is perceived by the human intellect.”[14]

Materialism therefore pushes the individual to prefer himself and the world (that which is material) over and above God, the Invisible, Transcendent and Spiritual Being.

Lastly, the believers themselves caused others to languish in their belief. The way supposed-to-be-believers live lives and witness their faith sometimes can be considered as the culprit of the decline in religious aspects.

“Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and religion.”[15]

We might as well ask what’s the difference between a consistent hardened sinner who still believes from a practical atheism?

Both i.e. the believer and the atheist, break the bond of communion with God. But the sinner’s practical atheism is not so much a denial of God’s existence. The believer still clings to the cadaver of faith as a last link with God.

The believer-sinner or the practical atheist is a scandal to his fellowmen, encouraging religious indifference, even, at times, complete unbelief in those they scandalize.

In the scriptures, the Pharisees are like pseudo-follower of God and they try to reduce Him to their image and likeness, one that suits to their worldly plans

To top it all, it is very obvious from the above reasons and observations that the first shoots of indifference arise from the infidelity of man to his God. The causes of atheism always remain within the creature himself not to any other. Fr. Vincent Miceli writes:

“What the atheist does not see is that in rejecting God he rejects himself. In refusing to give himself in spirit to God, he refuses to transcend himself… In effect he banishes from the infinite visibility of God… God no longer influences his life or his world because God…no longer lives or exists everywhere.”[16]

[1] J. de Torre. Christian Philosophy, Vera-Reyes, Inc., Philippines, 1989, p. 6.

[2] A. Flannery, ed.  Vatican Council II: More Postconciliar Documents, Vol II, Paulines Publishing House, Pasay, Philippines, 2000, p.534.

[3] Ibid. p. 534

[4] A. Flannery, ed.  Vatican Council II: The Conciliar Documents and Post Conciliar Documents, Vol I, Paulines Publishing House, Pasay, Philippines, 2000, p.918.

[5] O. Gordoncillo. Theodicy Notes.____________, Roxas City, 2006, p. 29.

[6]  Cf. Christian Philosophy p. 6

[7] Ibid. p. 6.

[8]  H. Daniel-Rops, A Fight for God, J. Warrington (trans.), London, J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1966, p. 12.

[9] Cf. Gaudium et Spes (GS) 19

[10] Cf. Christian Philosophy p. 6.

[11] Cf. GS 19

[12] V. Miceli, S.J., The Gods of Atheism, Arlington House, New York, 1971, pp. 1-2.

[13] Ibid.  p. 2.

[14] Cf. A Fight for God, p. 12.

[15] GS 19 § 3.

[16]  V. Miceli S.J., The Gods of Atheism, Arlington House, New York, 1971, pp. 11-12.