Monday, April 09, 2007

I didn't plan to go off on another multi-day uppity-atheist tear, but yep, this strikes me as being very close to the truth:

MOST CHRISTIANS: There are good, rational reasons for believing in a creator God. For example, the argument from design, the argument from answered prayers, and the argument from the historicity of the Bible, among others.

DAWKINS: These are not good arguments. Here's why...

SOPHISTICATES: You're such a village atheist. Sure, God belief looks pretty silly if you try to provide actual, rational reasons for it. But you haven't even laid a glove on notions of God that don't involve Him actually doing anything, and who has precisely the properties He needs to have to be immune from all rational inquiry. You can't refute that God, can you? So on what basis do you conclude that God does not exist? Huh?


This is exactly what it's like to sit down and try to discuss the existence/nonexistence of god with an intelligent, educated, moderate believer -- the kind of person who's cool about everything else, but who gets into a thinly-veiled self-righteous snit whenever you make a move toward their religious beliefs. They portray themselves as being open to debate -- what rational, thinking person would avoid a civil conversation about a matter of universal import? -- but if anything they most often come across as more intellectually dishonest than their fundie peers. At least the fundamentalists will tell you what they believe in -- it'll be laughably ridiculous, but it will at least be concrete. A progressive, moderate Christian only ever seems to believe in something that isn't whatever you're talking about at any given moment, or else something so abstract that it's unassailable by reason or logic. It's the god-as-magic-ether ploy.

[Salon]: So when you think about the God that you believe in, how would you describe that God?

[Pagels]: Well, I've learned from the texts I work on that there really aren't words to describe God. You spoke earlier about a transcendent reality. I think it's certainly true that these are not just fictions that we arbitrarily invent.

(Elaine Pagels in Salon, via Pharyngula)

No words to describe God? How terribly convenient for him. How will we ever prove or disprove something we can't even describe in human language, let alone describe accurately? This wily trickster god is too smart for us, cunningly making himself so insubstantial that his very lack of presence makes it impossible to prove he's not there. I guess we all might as well give up and worship him, just to be on the safe side.

What I don't understand is how a vaporous god still requires anything like worship, or what possible meaning such worship could conceivably retain. Either the people doing the worshipping actually do believe in a concrete, personal god and just won't admit it (because that would open up their beliefs to the demands of reason), or else worship is just a kind of spiritual masturbation performed to make the worshipper feel good, but not much else. Or am I missing something?

PS: It's been said better by others.
11:10 AM ::
Amy :: permalink