Friday, December 11, 2009

God's name

Jacinta: Well it's a theological problem in that none of this has any grounding at all - it's a discussion about the non-existent clothes of the emperor. In order for theological argument to get started it seems that certain assumptions have to be made, for example that it's at least possible that the cosmos has a supernatural origin or that there possibly exists something other than natural, observable, measurable, phenomena. If you see no reason to accept such assumptions then theological speculation will forever be a closed book to you..
Canto: Yes this is the very heart of the matter. If you simply accept this world with all its complex phenomena you stand accused as lacking 'spirituality' or imagination whereas if you accept some kind of noumenal 'other' world which is by its nature non-observable, non-measurable, non-definable, then you allow anything in. Far more than the Judeo-Christian creator-god, which is just one of an infinity of conceptions.
Jacinta: And even 'he' can be conceived in an infinity of ways There are just no empirical guidelines, no boundaries. But let's get back to the essay we're critiquing. If we keep going along in this way, disputing it point by point, we could easily finish with something of book length. We'll have to pick and choose a bit more.
Canto: Okay, let's be choosy. First, when Williams claims, as he does often enough, that belief in God is reasonable, he's referring to a particular god, the god called God, and he's taking advantage of the generic element in the particular name.
Jacinta: Yeah that's right, the Judeo-Christian god should be called Fred, to show that if belief in Fred is reasonable, then why not belief in Thor or Ganesh or Astarte? Surely belief in any of them is just as reasonable. And if not, it needs to be shown why not.
Canto: Yes, again it's the problem that if you rule in the reasonableness of that god's existence, in any or all of its interpretations, then you'd surely be ruling in any supernatural being's existence. For how do you assess the reasonableness of one god's existence rather than another's?
Jacinta: Yes, as we've said before, calling your god God is an ingenious piece of semantic legerdemain which niftily disguises the fact that this god is just one among many, most of them extinct, having passed away with the civilizations and cultures that gave rise to them. Expose the semantic legerdemain, and Judeo-Christians are compelled to explain why the creator of the universe decided to make himself known to homo sapiens only a few thousand years ago in such and such a place, in such and such a manner. Yet many Christian theologians don't see this transformation of a local god into a BOO as a problem, let alone considering the problem of the plethora of other gods and other supernatural entities.
Canto: Yes, they overlay their anthropocentrism - naturally, we're the 'special creations' of the deity - with ethnocentrism - naturally, our god, having conquered the world [as we see it], is the only real god.
Jacinta: The only god deserving of the name.

Work being critiqued: 'Contra Grayling' by Peter S Williams

Reminder: BOO = Benevolent Omnipotent One..

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