Thursday, February 09, 2012

On God Concepts

The Blank Slate Atheist is a rarity, even in the secular West.

I have remarked before on the fact that many Westerners hold in their minds a conception of God regardless of whether or not they actually believe in God. This is really no surprise given that ideas about God float around in the conceptual ether of our social interactions. In spite of secularization in Western society it is all but impossible not to pick up “God concepts”. As Cornelius Hunter has very succinctly and effectively put it:

It is perhaps one of the great enigmas in religious thought that one can profess to be an agnostic, skeptic, or even atheist regarding belief in God yet still hold strong opinions about God.

This phenomenon is particularly pertinent to atheism; so often the atheist mind set clearly demonstrates that belief in God is something different from beliefs about God. Now it is possible, I suppose, to declare that God is such an incoherent concept that  the statement “God exists” is meaningless – this is what one might call “intelligibility atheism”. However, it is not often one comes across intelligibility atheists; as a rule the rank and file atheist zealout is uncomfortable with “intelligibility atheism” because it’s likely to be too philosophical a gambit for the aficionado of scientism. It is more likely that one will cross the path of the “evidential atheist”; that is, the atheist who declares “There is no evidence for God”; from which it follows that such atheists presumably hold in their minds beliefs about God with sufficient clarity for them to make a comparison between their experience and their theoretic notion of God and on that empirical basis declare God’s existence to be unlikely. Theology, then, is in principle both the domain of the atheist and the theist. In fact I have touched on this subject in the following posts:

Anyway, in this connection I was fascinated by the comment of someone signing in as “Anonymous” in the comment thread of this post of mine. I have to say that I’m not at all clear where “Anonymous” is coming from and in spite of a request to clarify his position he has not obliged me. Is he promoting pandeism, the subject of his post? Is he an anti-evolutionist? Is he an atheist? Or is he simply non-committal? I don’t know! But it doesn’t matter. What he has written is necessarily so concept laden that there is far and away enough there for me to get a secure purchase on his comment in my next post. Crypto-deism here we come. Watch this space....

Here’s the comment from Anonymous:

Tinkering, interruptions, call them what you will, but at the end of the day the question remains, has the deity of your conception sufficient power, intellect, and rationality to set forth a Universe which from its initial state unfolds in accordance with the laws of physics thus established to bring about complexity, life, ultimately intelligent life, without need for any 'interruptions' of any kind? And let me raise the stakes a bit, is able to set forth a Universe in this manner which in its unfolding ends up exactly as the Universe we perceive today, in every particular? For this is precisely the capacity asserted to be that of the Creator in Pandeism.

But I would not wish to leave an incomplete sense of what Pandeism proposes. So here it is.

Pandeism proposes that prior to the existence of our Universe (or, in some sense 'outside' the existence of our Universe, for those who would limit the existence of linear time to being within such existence) there was an entity of, as supposed above, sufficient power, intellect, and rationality to set forth a Universe of the scope and operation of our own. This entity had some rational motivation compelling it to set forth a Universe, perhaps because as a unitary being it could only learn the lessons of dichotomy by experiencing the existence of limited beings interacting with one another. And so, it set forth laws of physics designed to bring about the complexity which would ultimately create these beings, and it poured its energy into that which is now the energy of which our Universe is ultimately made. The laws of physics point to an end but are not determinative. Imagine a large funnel into which many small rubber balls are thrown against the wall; the balls may bounce randomly, unpredictably, but will ultimately end up going down then hole at the narrow end of the funnel. Just so, our laws of physics. No telling when or where exactly intelligent life will develop, or what form it will take, but the brilliantly constructed governing dynamics of our Universe make it highly likely that it will happen at some times and places.

And where is the Creator in all this? Well, it has become our Universe, so it's everywhere; it's power continually sustains all things in being, but it has not the need to 'interrupt' the obedience of every particle of energy in existence to the laws of physics which were well-enough made in the first place to bring about everything required to fulfill its initial motivation. Indeed, it would have an overriding incentive to not interrupt the natural development of things, which would be to not interrupt the natural development of things, and instead see how things unfold, how the true randoms play out, absent any intervention at all.

And what of man's millions of competing revelations and prophecies, visions, scriptures, oracles, miracles, spiritual emotions, supernatural feelings, ghosts, answered prayers, egrigores, and like beliefs? These are after all a constant across all cultures, even those whose take from them is completely opposite to their neighbors, suggesting either a deity doing a rather sloppy job of trying to communicate a single truth, or man doing a rather sloppy (and often self-serving) job of interpreting the unconscious manifestations of the mind of a deity not trying to communicate anything at all. For if, after all, our Creator became the Creation, then we are all fragments of it, and some talented few of us may in our own minds touch some small portion of the incomprehensibly vast and complex mind which underlies all things for however long our Universe is set to bounce around before it ends up down the funnel.

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