Unequivocal evidence for God? I don’t think so.

Here we ago again: it’s my last day in Poland and I’m compelled by the Universe to take on yet another set of arguments for God—arguments set out in a piece that reader Steve sent me with the comment: “weapons grade horseshit.”

And indeed, this is equine excreta of the WMD class, set out in an article by Damon Linker in The Week magazine: “Memo to atheists: God’s not dead yet” (subtitle: “A new book exposes a major fallacy in atheist thinking.”)

We’ve met Linker before on this site, and if you look at his articles at This Week, you’ll see they include a variety of religious apologetics and conservative pieces, including this especially noxious specimen: “How growing support for gay rights restricts religious freedom.” Have a look at that bit of tone-trolling. (Linker’s website notes that his specialty is “faith and politics.”)

So why is God still alive and kicking? What is “the major fallacy in atheist thinking”? Once again, it’s the claim that we atheists have not encountered the “strongest case for God,” so we have failed miserably. Our attacks on God, we hear, are on the most puerile, straw-mannish sort of God: the Bearded Man in the Sky. Apparently everyone knows that’s wrong—except for the vast majority of religionists who still accept it!

Linker begins with the (to him) dispiriting rise in the proportion of “nones”—Americans without religious affiliation:

For those who have led the charge against the forces of faith — Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Grayling, and numerous other wannabes — this change is a welcome sign that the American people have at long last begun to dispel their atavistic ignorance and reconcile themselves to the scientific account of the universe, which is utterly incompatible with any form of theism.

One of the many virtues of theologian David Bentley Hart’s stunning new book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, is that it demolishes this facile, self-satisfied position, exposing how completely it relies on a straw man account of God for its cogency. Atheism may well be true; a society of secularists might get along just fine without any form of piety. But until those unbelievers confront the strongest cases for God, they will have failed truly and honestly to rout their infamous enemy.

Yes, it turns out that the 99% of believers who see God as an anthropomorphic being are wrong, and only the theologians—that is, some theologians—truly know what God is.  Ergo, atheists are going after the wrong brand of faith.

Some critics of atheism have drawn an analogy to particle physics, saying that only a tiny fraction of physics-friendly laypeople really understand what physicists are saying about stuff like cosmic inflation or string theory. Therefore, if only a few professional physicists know what they’re talking about, then only the Sophisticated Theologians™ know what they’re talking about.

But this analogy fails, for theologians aren’t any better armed to perceive the “truth” about God than is any reasonably intelligent layperson. There is no possible training that can give you more expertise in discerning the True Nature of the Divine. Further, even the Sophisticated Theologians™ disagree among themselves about what we know and what we don’t—disagreement you won’t find among physicists.

So what are these Best Arguments For God that, says Linker, Hart’s new book demonstrates? You’re going to laugh, but there are just two, both lame. We atheists needn’t start worrying yet.

1. Many religions share the same conceptions of God.

Without meaning to downplay the very real differences among and within the world’s religions, Hart nonetheless maintains that underlying those differences is a commonly shared cluster of claims about God that can be found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, Sikhism, and various forms of ancient paganism. (He also finds continuities with a number of Buddhist concepts, though he doesn’t press the case.)

As if this “commonly shared cluster of claims” proves that God exists! There is, first of all, the possibility of cultural inheritance among people: the idea of a supernatural agent that could have been handed down from our common ancestors.  Further, the idea of “agency,” which people like Pascal Boyer see as an evolved tendency in our species, could also have given rise to this claim, even though there was no supernatural agent.

But Linker doesn’t emphasize those very profound differences between concepts of God, or that some “religions” barely have such a concept (Buddhists, for example, vary among sects).  Hindus believe in multiple gods. The ancient Greeks did, too—and some of their gods were far from omnibenevolent, even nasty or mischievous. How much disparity between “gods” can there be before Linker and Hart would accept that those differences cannot support the “reality” of a God? As usual, theologians can rationalize anything as evidence for their god, but will not tell us what observations could falsify its existence.

2. God isn’t a person in the sky, but a Ground of Being.  But haven’t we heard that from Tillich? Here’s what Linker (via Hart) sees as the Killer Argument for God:

The first of these shared claims is that God transcends the universe. Without exception, our clamorous and combative atheists treat God as if he were the biggest, most powerful object or thing in, or perhaps alongside, the universe (a Flying Spaghetti Monster, perhaps). Then they use the findings of science to show that there is no evidence for such an immensely powerful object or thing. And ipso facto, there is no God.

But, of course, the major world religions don’t view God in this way at all. They treat God, instead, as the transcendent source, the ground, or the end of the natural world. And that is an enormous — actually, an infinite — difference.

Scientists are heroically proficient at detecting the laws that govern the natural world. They interrogate phenomena, trace effects back to their contingent causes, and then those causes back to even prior causes, developing and testing theories that seek to explain the temporal sequence. In the case of cosmology, that sequence extends all the way back to origins of the universe — to the first contingent cause of every subsequent cause over the past 13.82 billion years or so.

God concerns something else entirely. He is certainly not one of the many contingent causes within the natural world. But neither is he the first contingent cause, setting off the Big Bang from some blast-resistant fallout shelter lodged, somehow, outside of and prior to the universe as we know it.

On the contrary, according to the classical metaphysical traditions of both the East and West, God is the unconditioned cause of reality — of absolutely everything that is — from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

This can be a difficult concept to grasp, but Hart does an exceptionally good job of explaining it — as he does the way this classical idea of God makes sense of the experience and unity of consciousness, as well as the ecstatic longing for the good and the beautiful that lies at the heart of moral experience.

Where does one begin? (Perhaps one shouldn’t.) Are we to take as “religious belief” the claims of only the most sophisticated theologians (who don’t include, by the way, people like William Lane Craig), or of the majority of believers? Most “regular” believers adhere to an anthropomorphic God: one who has emotions, the ability to do things, concerns for our well being, a special love for H. sapiens and a code of ethics that we should follow. People like Hart and Linker say that we should ignore such beliefs, even though it is precisely those beliefs that produce the major harms of religion. Dispel the religiosity of normal people and replace it with that of Sopisticated Theology™, and much of religion’s malevolence will vanish. And that is precisely what many of the New Atheists are trying to do.  I wouldn’t much mind living in a world whose only believers were Kierkegaards, Shelby Spongs, or Tillichs, but that isn’t the way religion plays out on our planet.

Further, on what basis are we to trust that those who say that God is a “ground of being”, the “unconditioned cause of reality” rather than just a disembodied human-like entity? How do theologians know that? After all, they’re working not from an esoteric knowledge of stuff like particle physics, but from materials accessible to every reasonably sentient being: revelation and scripture.

I don’t see where, for instance, the Bible tells us that “God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.” That is simply fancy language for “I don’t know what God is, but I’m going to use some fancy words to impress you and to make God impervious to disproof.” That, I suppose, is why people like Tillich are so popular: they confect an idea of God (based, of course, on nothing other than what they’d like to believe) that comports with what intelligent believers realize: we have no evidence for any kind of God.  Then they refine this idea so that nothing can disprove it, but that virtually every observation confirms it. It’s God as a pseudoscience, like UFO abduction. It is a hallmark of crank science and pseudoscience that believers see “proof” everywhere, but will not consider counterevidence.

Here’s, according to Linker and Hart, is the theological vaccination that immunizes religion against disproof:

The deeper reason why theism can’t be rejected, according to Hart, is that every pursuit of truth, every attempt to be good, every longing for beauty presupposes the existence of some idea of truth, goodness, and beauty from which these particular instances are derived. And these transcendental ideas unite in the classical concept of God, who simply is truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s why, although it isn’t necessary to believe in God in some explicit way in order to be good, it certainly is the case (in Hart’s words) “that to seek the good is already to believe in God, whether one wishes to do so or not.”

Well, we already know that, throughout history, there were many religions whose idea of god was not of a loving, omnipotent being. But, more important, there are very good non-goddy reasons for people to have notions of truth, goodness, and beauty. These including both evolution and secular reason. E.O. Wilson suggests, for instance, that we find “beautiful” those places most congenial for us to inhabit; “beauty” in people can correlate with their ability to reproduce; beauty in music and art can appeal to our evolved emotions; and “goodness” can derive from both evolved feelings of morality as well as our ability to reason about what behaviors are salubrious versus harmful.

If you’re going to see confirmation of God in “truth, goodness, and beauty,” then do you see disconfirmation of god in those who don’t pursue truth, or who, like theologians, ignore truth in preference to what they want to be true? What about those who long for ugliness or misery, like the Taliban or Nazis? Those people, too, were “united in a concept of God”.  They believed in God, yet they didn’t seek the good. Did God “ground” the Holocaust?

It all comes down to this: ask theologians what evidence could you find in people’s beliefs, or in their behavior, that would make those theologians reject their notion of God, whether it be the anthropomorphic God of most believers or the “ground of being” God of Tillich and Hart?

And ask theologians to explain what they mean when they emit things like this bafflegab:

God is the unconditioned cause of reality — of absolutely everything that is — from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

If that is their conclusion about what God is, what would disprove it? If they say it can’t be disproved, then ask them how they know it’s true? What does it mean to say that God “grounds the existence of every contingent thing”, and what would the universe look like if God wasn’t there to ground it?

What we see in the indented paragraph above is simply a group of fine-sounding but meaningless words, which, after all, is what theologians are paid to produce.  I could make up an equally fine-sounding paragraph showing that God is malevolent, apathetic, or the source of evil in this world, and with just as much justification.

Regarding theology, one can’t adduce these words of Christopher Hitchens too often: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” The words of Hart, at least as interpreted by Linker, constitute a blatant and assured assertion without a shred of evidence. There is no reason for us to accept the idea of God as a “ground of being,” especially since its proponents can’t even tell us what it means.

If this is the “strongest case for God” that theologians can produce, then we need pay them no heed. In fact, this is not a new argument for God at all, for there are no new ones. All have failed, and we atheists know it. The only people who don’t are the theologians like Hart and their acolytes like Linker, who keep searching desperately for new buttresses to prop up what they want to be true.

204 Comments

  1. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    Re the origin of God, let me be the first to link to the latest Non Sequitur – http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2014/01/13#.UtPJe4LI8UM

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      I forwarded this to JAC this morning, but if he’s en route, he probably hasn’t seen it yet. L

  2. francis
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    //

  3. Faustus
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    It’s funny how empirical attempts to argue against god are brushed away with this “ground of being idea”, creating an abstract, deistic god and yet when they want to they can suddenly know so much about it being so essential to “truth, goodness, and beauty”.

    You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to define a deistic god to avoid empirical refutation, you can’t then bring up any evidence of its influence on the world.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

      Agreed. The more you claim God is ineffable, the less you can claim to know how he wants you to worships him, what (not) to each, who to sleep with, what to wear, and so on.

      What is the point of worshipping such a thing? You might as well worship M-branes!

      /@

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        Of course, the whole point of gods is to assume their authority unto one’s self by becoming their official spokesman.

        “Jesus told me that he wants you to give me lots of money to build a new home for him, and you don’t want to get him angry at you, do you? Oh — and he wants me to have a wing in his home, one with a good view of the valley and a nice jacuzzi. Snap to it, or I’ll tell Jesus you’ve been slacking!”

        Cheers,

        b&

        • darrelle
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

          Don’t forget the silk suits, tasteless bulky gold jewelry and deluxe Caddy.

          • Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

            To be fair, the Poop doesn’t drive around in an American car — but, yeah, the general principle holds up supremely. Nary an exception that I can think of.

            b&

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        YES! Such a general ‘god’ redefines ‘god’ to the point of meaninglessness. Can such a god even be ‘conscious’ as religions suppose their gods to be?

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        * what (not) to eat

        • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

          “Each” = handy elision for eating a peach.

          Ex: “Are you eaching?” “Yes, it’s delicious.”

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        If God is ineffable, then how did Mary get pregnant and Jesus get born. They didn’t have in-vitro fertilization back then, so the only way to get pregnant involved “F-ing.”

        • Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          You are clearly not giving magic enough consideration in your problem-solving attempts.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      “Ground of being” gets them pretty close to pantheism, if pressed. Of course, if not pressed, it is just absurd – conservation laws refute the idea, and have for quite a long time. IOW, even the sophisticated theists have run afoul of science. Again.

  4. Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    Mr. Coyne, you seem to have someone haggling you on Twitter, I know you don’t use Twitter other than to post your WP articles. They are claiming you are scared to tackle Jesus…. LOL
    This is the tweet directed to you:

    Dan Erwin ‏@Gersh94 15m
    @Evolutionistrue So scared of God. So sad Jerry. If ur as smart as u claim, take on Lee Strobel, and “A Case for Christ” or are u scared?

    I do believe you already addressed this with this last article, (if indeed Jesus was god in the flesh) but I thought this was amusing!
    Cheers!

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      BTW Steve Shives does a good chapter by chapter job of demolishing Strobel (and other such) on you tube.

      • Chris
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Yep, he’s definitely taken one for the team in that respect!

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      The bullying taunt, ‘or are you scared’ indicates the words themselves are forged in a cauldron of molten fear in which the bully himself is drowning.

      If Linker was a squid, I would say bravo at the ink cloud that it just made, but to this human I have to say, oh, sheesh, stop it with the lame obfuscation, the emperor indeed is naked. :-)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        “cauldron of molten fear” – OMG it’s Sauron!! :D

        • darrelle
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          Or Melkor, his master.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I was goaded into reading that particular volume of tripe written by Strobel. Only someone who was absolutely bent on believing what Strobel was selling would accept anything in the book. A exceedingly weak effort.

      Like this article by Linker: It shows in glaring technicolor that the Emperor is naked and doesn’t even know what clothes are, let alone owning any.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      “…you seem to have someone haggling you on Twitter, I know you don’t use Twitter…”

      And this is one of the best reasons not to.

  5. Trophy
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Inspired by these Sophisticated Arguments, I’m starting my own branch of theology. I would excpet a position in a fine university with salary, funding, a number of
    enthusiastic students and maybe even a Templeton award to probe the mysteries of what I call “Blurp” and “Bleep”. In this new deep theological view of the world, “Blurp”
    is the essence of everything but “Bleep” is the “anti-essence”. This is obviously true since all religions have stumbled upon this idea; Chinese have discovered “Yin” and
    “Yang” and Abrahamic religions have discovered “God” and the “Devil”, in fact such polar opposites can be found among many cultures and many different religions.
    Despite the disparity between all such beliefs, they all count as evidence for the existence of “Blurp” and a “Bleep” and those pesky atheist who claim “Blurp” and “Bleep”
    do not exist are over-stepping the boundaries of reason and logic. I must add that when talking about such deep and mysterious beings, one cannot simply use the word
    “existence” for they both transcend beyond the mundane existence. In fact, most words lose their natural meaning in this theological field. It is more accurate to say that “Blurp” is the “source of all” while “Bleep” is the “sink of all”.
    “Blurp” is the “soul of the positive” while “Bleep” is the “Elixir of the negative” and so on.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      And this sophisticated view of How Things Really Are completely demolishes those smug, self-satisfied new Atheists, along with their fancy science and narrow requirement to show evidence. Take that! And … that!

  6. Jeffrey
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    “every pursuit of truth, every attempt to be good, every longing for beauty presupposes the existence of some idea of truth, goodness, and beauty from which these particular instances are derived…”
    Sounds pretty similar to Plato’s theory of Forms, or Ideas.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Also sounds a bit like the Boy Scout Handbook.

      Or the definition of Art.

      Or the start of the old Superman show:

      :…truth, goodness, beauty… and the American Way.”

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      The big problem with this passage is that the writer doesn’t capitalize Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. If he did it would be even more obvious what he was doing — reifying abstractions, turning them into things-in-themselves or essences.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Yes indeed. This . . . habit is a very old one, and seems to be one of the major things that prevents believers from grokking atheist / rationalist view points.

        That type of thinking has been so imbued with majesty and romanticism over such a long period of time that it is very difficult to counter. It is very difficult for people who think this way to even comprehend a point of view that does not give any respect to reifying of abstractions like that. Since they can’t grasp such a point of view they have few choices but to assume something like you are ignorant, deprived or depraved.

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        “… reifying abstractions…”

        Which is exactly what they’re doing with the ground of all being… let’s call the reification “God” (with a capital “G” … that rhymes with “B” and that stands for “booze”).

        Sorry. I suddenly came over all Music Man.

        God, I need another drink.

        /@

        • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          Just wait till the trombones arrive….

          b&

    • Darth Dog
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Yup. Linker’s definitely got to get out of his cave a little more often.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      And again, this is supposed to be science-friendly how? Since Descartes and Boyle, we’ve worked away from properties in themselves … (Aristotle nods.)

    • Cliff Melick
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      I thought the same thing when reading that sentence.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    The hallmark of cognitive dissonance is to put sentences together that doesn’t go together:

    Atheism may well be true; a society of secularists might get along just fine without any form of piety. But until those unbelievers confront the strongest cases for God, they will have failed truly and honestly to rout their infamous enemy.

    What does the evidence for atheism have to do with people socializing without religion?

    And for that matter, what has the evidence for one hypothesis to do with the evidence of another? That medicine works doesn’t mean homeopathy can’t support a placebo effect.

    That aside, we do confront the strongest cases for magic head on. In fact we confront all of them. The Outsider Test shows that magical claims are a) in conflict and b) without any means of adjudicate which is true (despite millenniums of attempts[!]), so we have to reject all of them as erroneous.

    I’m noting much the same as Jerry says of course, but I think the OT is an excellent tool to use here.

    We could stop there, but this is too funny:

    Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

    Well, if there wasn’t other problems with this, the competing theory of not needing any specific condition at all, no grounding, is still simpler.

    But in fact, Sophisticated Theology™ tries to make itself untestable. Its magic claims are therefore Not Even Wrong. This is fantasy, not reality. Court dismissed.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Regarding the last point, he’s just wrong. God is not the ground of all being! The Cosmic Turtle is the ground of all being. Prove me wrong!

  8. Owen Recognizance
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Most of the trouble on this planet is caused by people who must be right.

    –William Burroughs

  9. peltonrandy
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    //

  10. Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    Wonderful! He’s proposing that they all become philosophical Daoists. If only…

  11. TJR
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    His reason 1 is a corker. All of the religions which are descended from mashups of Mesopotamian and Indo-European religions are very similar?! Amazing, this is clearly evidence for God!

  12. NewEnglandBob
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    “God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.”

    One of the apologetic toad stools fabricates complete nonsense like this and then the entire contingent of apologetic lemmings repeat it ad nauseum.

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      Yes, I picked that out, too.

      Reminds me of the Deepster. L

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      SuperGod(tm) is the condition of the possibility of LesserGods(tm) existing at all.

      See, I can fabricate inanities too – but how would Damon Linker refute it?

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Let’s call that Super Sophisticated Theology™

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Defining God as “the possibility of anything existing at all” allows them to play a dishonest game where hypothetical alternatives can’t even be entertained without a presumed “contradiction.”

      “Assume you are mistaken and the universe was not created by God…”

      “Then it wouldn’t be here.”

      “No, I mean assume you’re wrong about God.”

      “Then I wouldn’t be here.”

      “No, assume you’re here and the universe is here but God does not exist, you’re mistaken about that.”

      “That’s a logical contradiction. Atheism is illogical.”

      Defining God as “the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all” appears to be the necessary precondition for presuppositionalism.

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Better: it has a near-question begging unsupported premise: namely that there could have been nothing.

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        In a similar vein, it’s well worth noting that these are people profoundly skilled in the art of doublethink. Jesus is the ultimate love god who watches over every sparrow, but he’ll also send you to hell for loving the worng person and he has never, ever called 9-1-1.

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Michael Fugate
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        How does the “possibility of anything existing at all” become a he? Doesn’t this imply a gender for something that couldn’t possibly have a gender?

        • Sastra
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          Yes. And remember — they’re not being “anthropomorphic” or anything.

          Defining God as “the possibility of anything existing at all” also implies that “the possibility of anything existing at all” can feel love and concern, can be creative and beautiful, can be virtuous and good, and has an agenda and goals. It’s conscious, aware, intelligent, and wise, too.

          Category error as an art form = theology.

          • darrelle
            Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            “Category error as an art form = theology.

            Very nice. I’m going to try and remember that one for future use.

            Funny how that just happens to be a main tool in propaganda too. And of Carl Rove’s political strategy. And Bill O’Really. And Glenn Beck.

        • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Well, gender or not, he’s got an ass.

          At least, that’s what he showed to Moses in Exodus 33:23.

          Seems reasonable to suggest that, if he’s got an ass, and Moses saw it, it’s not unreasonable to accept such an august eyewitness authority that he’s really a “he.”

          Besides, how else was he supposed to have cuckolded Joseph?

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Michael Fugate
            Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

            So that is what Moses was referring to in verse 18 when he said,”I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.”

            I know the English have gazillions of euphemisms for genitalia, but that is one I didn’t know.

            • Kiwi Dave
              Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

              Given the topic of this thread, ‘glory’ is obviously a miraculous prophecy of Alice in Wonderland.

              “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
              Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
              “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
              “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
              “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
              “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

  13. Leigh Jackson
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    “The ecstatic longing for the good and beautiful that lies at the heart of moral experience.”

    Undiluted horse manure. Good feelings lead me to do that which produces them; bad feelings lead me to avoid doing that which produces them. A simple enough biological imperative for any independent organism to help in the struggle for survival. Similarly with the unity of conscious experience. As an individual organism I need to know where I end and the not-I begins. The I stands as proxy for my brain’s mental model of myself in so far as I am a biological entity – and nothing else. An incredibly rich and subtle model given the amazingly complex information processing power of my brain.

    Linker’s waffling is the usual wishful thinking. It makes him feel good. It makes me puke. That’s why he propounds it; that’s why I don’t. What makes me feel good is using my mind to face the facts in the face; not invent nonsense to make me feel that the world is fundamentally a good place to be. It fundamentally isn’t good or bad; it just is what it is. Good and bad indiscriminating, not caring one way or the other. Being; but not being good or bad; being both good and bad and neither one nor the other.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      One of the big problems with Linker’s wishful thinking is that theism doesn’t just make him feel good: it also allows him to feel he’s better than atheists.

  14. gbjames
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    “Ground of Being”?

    Is that in the electrical sense? Or in the beef sense?

    • Kevin
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:42 am | Permalink

      We utilize small electrical pulses to produce thoughts, theologicians are the most grounded of all of us. I think that is what they are trying to tell us: that it is a miriacle they can produce thoughts at all.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      I took a pound of Ground of Being and mixed it with minced onion and garlic and baked it at 350F for 30 minutes. It was delicious with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Let’s make beingburgers!

      /@

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

        The flavor is ineffable! It has to be imagined to be believed.

        • Richard Olson
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

          The flavor of this beingburger is transcendent. I ecstatically long for another.

          • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

            The great thing about beingburgers is that vegan friends and carnivores alike can enjoy them!

  15. Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    “Yes, it turns out that the 99% of believers who see God as an anthropomorphic being are wrong”

    I thought we were made in God’s image? So surely he looks a bit like us? (Although, I’ll be honest with you, whenever I step out of the shower and catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror I never feel like I look like a God. :-) )

  16. Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    As a past Pagan and therefore student of world religions, the similarity of notions of God is not a good one to make if you are trying to promote the Abrahamic concept of God. Being shocked at the similarity between Judeaism and Christianity is like being shocked at the similarity between Catholicism and Episcopalianism.

    Now if Columbus had gotten to the Americas and found a bunch of Christians, you might have something. Instead he found people with religious traditions that bear a lot of resemblance to both the religions of Northern European pagans and Shintoism. Which only proves that humans everywhere projected their own male-female duality and sentience onto the natural world. Like the structural similarities of the bat wing and human hand, they arose independently.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      The similarity between the ideas of god are simply similarities between one concept of the supernatural and another. All Linker is doing is pointing out that human beings tend to believe in the supernatural. Yes, we know — and we have good ideas why. Ghosts in one culture will resemble ghosts in another because they are derived from the same kind of brain. That’s not proof of ghosts.

      Using the same argument, superstitions are likely to have some underlying truth.

  17. Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    God isMidichlorians are what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      Remind me, is that Star Wars or Scientology?

      /@

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Truly, the farce is with us.

  18. questionauthorities
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I find it interesting that someone who writes an essay denying that god is anthropomorphic uses the pronoun “he” to refer to it.

  19. Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    “commonly shared cluster of claims.”

    Cluster G personality types. Emil Kraepelin warned us about this.

  20. docbill1351
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    It was a typo. The author wrote originally that “God is a Ground Bean.”

    That would make God, coffee and Coffee, God.

    I know that every morning when I have my first sip of hot coffee I mutter, “Oh, God!”

    That, my friends, is an irrefutable proof.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      Caffeinated or decaffeinated?

      I see the first schism…

      /@

      • ratabago
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Now really, he said, proving your point, what would be the use of a decaffeinated Deity?

        (I admit I might still mutter “Oh God” with the first sip of the morning. But I don’t think the tone would be very reverent.)

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        One of my life’s goals is to destroy every coffee pot with an orange handle I come across.

        Decaf? Might as well serve dehydrated water.

    • Chris
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Pffft, I’m a member of the Stewed Leaf path.

      God could never be a bean, it is foul effluent of roasted demon spawn!

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        That’s it, you’re first against the wall!

        Just give me a sec – I’m a terrible shot without my espresso.

  21. Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Half a mo… All of these religions have a remarkably consistent notion of God (#1), yet, at the same time, none of them are anything like #2!

    /@

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      They have a funny way of disagreeing with each other & constantly fragmenting & forming new religions…

      • Achrachno
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        But there is only one God, one truth. My sect happens to be the one to have it right.

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        Well, yes, but still … none of them are anything like #2.

        /@

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          This is too easy…

  22. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Sullivan linked to this and, while I was reading it, I thought, there should be a shorthand way to refer to such twaddle. NADNUTI: New Atheists Do Not Understand The Incomprehensible.

  23. Achrachno
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Reading Linker I feel strangely self-satisfied about my lack of faith.

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Apologetics like this are so lame that it seems counter productive. Why bother? People are more than willing to believe without apologetics and in the very teeth of experience. Bringing in apologetics only serves to make it all the more obvious the emperor has no clothes. I know that the final blow to my faith was delivered in an apologetics class offered by professors of various disciplines who attended my church. It was such a pathetic and dishonest exercise that I no longer had any sense of worry that I might be wrong to reject religion. If this is the best they can do, well, we can all rest easy in our choice of non-belief.

  24. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    The strongest case for God? That would be … God. Any time God wants to show up and make the case, that would help his case immensely – of course, even then, he’d have a whole lot to answer for.

  25. Achrachno
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    “one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist.”

    He’s almost there!

    • Chris
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Precisely. You need to do some pretty fancy footwork with the definition of “exists” to make any progress with the argument!

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Hmm… what other sense of “exists” is there? NOAD:

        exist |igˈzist|
        verb [ no obj. ]
        1 have objective reality or being
        • be found, esp. in a particular place or situation
        2 live, esp. under adverse conditions

        /@

        • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          There’s the meaning used for tradition’s sake by those of us whose philosophy of mathematics descends from Hilbert. Of course, “formal existence” is just “freedom from contradiction”, assuming a classical underlying logic, and thus only applies to propositions, technically. And of course the fact that it makes clear we’re dealing with a human generated *idea* is fatal to the theist.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      The word exist is given a special, magical new meaning, that means whaever I feel like it does, and simply because I say so. Nyah, nyah, nayh, you big poopy-head atheist!

  26. Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    “God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.”
    As you say, this is empty rhetoric, devoid of meaning. And what would such a god be? That is the deist’s world, one most religions would not support, as they all like their gods intervening & adjusting things in the world to order, depending on what sacrifices etc are given.

    “To become a popular religion, it is only necessary for a superstition to enslave a philosophy” WR Inge (1920)

  27. Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    There may be some basic ground of being (or substance in Spinoza’s terminology) which forms the basis of everything. But, if there is, it probably doesn’t have a son called Jesus!? Atheists are not claiming they know why there is something rather than nothing, just that the question has nothing to do with any religion based on an intelligent deity.

  28. Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    <sigh />

    Dude tries to go all sophistimasticated on us and just winds up with an obscurantist parody of an Aristotelean Prime Mover.

    …which, for the initiated, was the ancient response to the primitive fear of infinite regress, and has no more bearing on reality than the Four Elements. Plus, logically, it’s the textbook example of the special pleading fallacy.

    If they’re going to come up with radical new unequivocal proofs for their imaginary friends, can’t they at least be original about it?

    It’s like a dog who sniffs something really old that we couldn’t smell, but he thinks there’s something there, so he pees on it, gets it all wet, at which point the stink explodes to even worse than its original full glory — at which point, being a dog, he has no choice but to roll in it and eat it. And then give you a big, sloppy kiss as he climbs on your lap.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go gargle a bottle of mouthwash while taking a shower.

    b&

  29. darrelle
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Whenever a writer uses multiple colorfully negative adjectives to describe the position they are against, while using multiple colorfully positive adjectives to describe the position they support, and offers no sensible arguments to leaven the adjective salad, any properly tuned bullshit detector should sound a warning.

  30. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Positions like this are actually a sign that secularism is yet again beating back the false claims of religion. We’ve actually beaten the idea of a anthropomorphic god out of them or at least made them realize it is silly and not worth defending. Moreover, they aren’t even trying to argue that their god is the prime mover.

    While that all may inaccurately portray the beliefs of the theistic majority, it certainly shows the insecurity of the sophisticated minority as they cry “straw man” as a distraction to quietly build their own straw man around the fringes….where they moved the goal posts.

    • ichiban
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Exactly… These lame arguments prove the devastating effectiveness of the new atheists critiques despite their protestations that the new atheists were arguing straw mans. See also WLC arguing that the genocides in the Bible weren’t really bad at all and the real victims were the Hebrew soldiers who had to smash all those baby skulls. An idiotic argument brought about by Hitchens and others pointing out the immorality of the Bible God.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      “We’ve actually beaten the idea of a anthropomorphic god out of them…”

      Until the Pope announces that the muscular, mature male on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is to be painted out, this might be prematurely enumerating unborn poultry.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Well, I didn’t say “all of them”. As Jerry remarks, an anthropomorphic god is central to most followers of the Abrahamic religions.

    • irritable
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Here’s the currently popular trope for atheist bashers:

      “this facile, self-satisfied position … relies on a straw man account of God for its cogency.”

      The short answer is: you don’t need a PhD in fashion to see that the Emperor is naked.

      To avoid the absurdities of the anthropomorphic god (described in excruciating detail in the Old Testament), academic theologians posit an entirely ineffable construct to which they ascribe multiple contradictory absolute qualities … “simplicity”, “omnipotence” “omniscience” “love” etc.

      Their approach apparently is: if you feel sure there’s a Supreme Being, you might as well ascribe to it every favourable abstract quality in infinite degree.

      To further immunize their Supreme Being from inconvenient evidentiary inquiries, they assert that, in some vague and unexplainable way, their Supreme Being is even more fundamental than reality itself. No reason is given for this assertion.

      But this abstract construct goes beyond, and is incompatible with the modern teachings of the Catholic Church (at least) which formally promulgated its position on 11 October 1992 in the revised Catechism.

      http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm (well worth a look if you want to confront the logical shoddiness of the core propositions).

      The pope and his senior theologians make no bones about it: “Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him …” Those “ways” being (a) the existence of beautiful things in the world proves that a more beautiful thing must have created them and (b)man’s openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and … his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, are signs of his “spiritual soul” – which could only have been created by God.

      No matter how they duck and weave, Sophisticated Theologians can’t avoid the repeated statements in their “holy” texts that humans imperfectly share characteristics of God.

      However, the characteristics which humans share (thinking, loving, appreciating beauty etc) could not be characteristics of the Supreme Being as described by Sophisticated Theologians.

      All those characteristics require a mind. A mind is the activity of a brain. A brain is not “a ground state of being”.

  31. Stonyground
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Instead of wasting their time trying to convince atheists that this barely defined god exists, wouldn’t the time of these theologians be better spent convincing the less sophisticated believers that their anthropomorphic gods don’t

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Sides! You’ve gotta remember whose side you’re on.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      That’s not the point of theology.

      Rather, the point is to provide a Gish-gallop of plausible-seeming and sophisticated-sounding reasons to sustain belief to reassure the marks and keep them from bolting. Anybody starts asking inconvenient questions, just toss out a bit of Sophisticated Theology™ and assure the doubter that the best minds have already pondered those very questions and come up with the answers. No, you don’t need to actually understand them; all you need to know is that the questions have been Answered™. And won’t you consider making a special contribution to the divinity school’s scholarship fund?

      Cheers,

      b&

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

        “Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

        “All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.”

        ― George Orwell, 1984

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        Yep, and this retreat of sorts shows they’re nervous that their gish gallop isn’t working.

  32. Tulse
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    God is the unconditioned cause of reality — of absolutely everything that is — from the beginning to the end of time. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

    …and He really hates bacon and butt sex.

    Honestly, this is just another example of the Theology Two-Step: God is all abstract and ineffable when talking to atheists, but He’s a big bearded loving Sky Daddy when talking to the faithful.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      The fact that the believers don’t seem to be bothered by the contradiction of switching back and forth between Ineffable Grounding Mystery and Tenderly Loving Parent might be considered a miracle in itself — except that it’s just people being silly and too obviously natural.

  33. truthspeaker
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Theists: “God isn’t a bearded man in the sky! It’s an ineffable Ground of All Being!”

    Atheists: “Got any evidence this Ground of All Being exists?”

    Theists: “…”

    And there we go.

  34. Vaal
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    This disingenuous “Please ignore the man behind the curtain” version of apologetics
    seems to be a last gasp for “sophisticated” theists defending belief in God.

    We get “Oh dear boy” with a condescending pat on the head,”don’t you know you’ve been attacking a straw man, looking in the wrong place for God. God is not a hypothesis for which you seek evidence; that would be a posteriori reasoning. Rather, the God we Christians believe in is the a priori God, the one arrived at by metaphysical reasoning alone, who is a necessary ground of being.
    Please stop arguing against the wrong kind of God.”

    And you find these arguments actually coming from CHRISTIANS! Christianity being a REVEALED RELIGION. Which by it’s very nature is a posteriori, evidence-based knowledge of God! You don’t “intuit” or “deduce” the story of Jesus’ sacrifice and all the other information: God purportedly came down, demonstrated his existence, power and revealed information about his nature and his desires, which are described in Holy Texts like the Bible. Christianity – born of the claims made about Christ – sits entirely upon a posteriori knowledge, the very kind we atheists are painted as “naive and ignorant” to expect of God.

    I mean, it’s not even the gigantic fact that most religious people get their knowledge of God a posteriori (holy texts and/or passed on information culturally, and also by claiming to see evidence of God in their daily lives). It’s that the very people who MAKE these arguments about God being a priori knowledge turn around and head right into their church and join everyone else in opening their bible to glean information about the God they believe in!

    The utter dishonesty of these apologetics is mind-bogglingly obvious; we may as well be looking at someone naked, trying to convince us he is clothed.

    The “man behind the curtain” is obviously the Bible and the actual religious behavior of “sophisticated” theists who make these arguments, and Jerry is bang on in continuing the New Atheist method of always pulling back the curtain and not letting them get away with the deception.

    Vaal

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Well said.

      Everything is evidence of God. Miracles are evidence of God. God doesn’t need evidence. God can be known through pure reason. God can only be known through personal relationship.

      All of the above.

      The most important thing which atheists fail to understand isn’t what God’s supposed to be. It’s how important it is to believe. Any reason will do.

      • Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Yup. Just ask any conman. What you believe isn’t anywhere near so important as that you believe.

        b&

  35. Sameer
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    My objection to this “ground of all being” nonsense is – where is the evidence that existence requires grounding? How do you know that existence and being cannot simply “be” without anything to ground it?

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Never mind that.

      What grounds the ground? And why are we wasting our time with this middle ground player?

      b&

      • gbjames
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        10 gauge multi-strand copper?

        • NewEnglandBob
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

          Copper bus bars:

          http://www.diytrade.com/china/pd/2693061/copper_busbar_copper_stick_copper_pole_copper_ingot.html

          • gbjames
            Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

            Those should work.

            • Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

              With a minimum order of $34M, I should hope so!

              b&

        • Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          Okay.

          But what grounds the copper? His ticketbook?

          b&

          • gbjames
            Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            Copper grounds coffee house. Coffee grounds house owner. House owner composts grounds.

            The circle of life.

            • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

              That’s all well and good, but I’m having a cup of tea right now, and I’ve yet to put in the garden, so no compost, either.

              And the ossifer is still standing here wanting to know what to write in the ticketbook….

              b&

            • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

              I’ve heard of the Copper Kettle coffee house before, but not the Copper Grounds coffee house… 

              /@

              • gbjames
                Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                A self-grounding coffee house! Nice.

    • Vaal
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Sameer,

      Unfortunately, the people making these arguments would point out you’ve missed the argument.

      They are claiming to make an a priori argument for God – one derived from reason alone, noting which assumptions seem necessary to make sense of our concepts.
      They argue God is a necessary assumption to make sense concepts like purpose, beauty, being, rationality, etc.

      As soon as you demand “where’s the evidence” you are making a demand of an a posteriori (reasoning from evidence/experience) argument, and that doesn’t apply to the a priori argument.

      I see the responses to these types of a priori claim to be along these lines:

      1. Pointing out that most religious people, including the one making tha a proirir argument, don’t actually believe via a priori arguments, but by a posteriori reasoning. (Jerry does this).

      2. Attacking the a priori arguments themselves, to show how they don’t work.

      3. Attacking, to some degree, the very notion of an a priori argument for something like a God. Usually, hidden even in the purported a priori arguments, are premises that clearly derive from experience and evidence, and hence the purported a priorir argument is not immune from evidential attack.

      Vaal

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      The “ground of all being” nonsense deliberately conflates the concept of “existence” with “mentality.” When the atheist tries to separate them the theist translates this into a denial of one, or the other.

  36. Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Linker seems to think that Deism can serve as a sort of safe-room where God can temporarily hide when theistic claims like ‘God made a baby with an Earth woman’, ‘God gave a prophet a flying horse’ or ‘God nuked Sodom’ come under attack.

    And the deity Linker describes is so diffused, He might as well be called the Homeopathic God.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Ah! Very powerful then because so diffuse.

  37. Sojourner
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    After reading his arguments it sounds to me like he’s describing the Higgs Boson particle…
    “God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.”
    I guess there’s a reason scientists call it the “god particle”! ;^) Heh.

  38. Robert Seidel
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    > What about those who long for ugliness or misery, like the Taliban or Nazis? Those people, too, were “united in a concept of God”. They believed in God, yet they didn’t seek the good.

    Yes they did, in their opinion – that was the problem.

  39. Sastra
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Yes, it turns out that the 99% of believers who see God as an anthropomorphic being are wrong, and only the theologians—that is, some theologians—truly know what God is. Ergo, atheists are going after the wrong brand of faith.

    The funny thing is, if you question the fundamentalist literalists they will ALSO deny that they believe “God is an old man in the sky with a beard.” They too will insist that their version of God is not “anthropomorphic.”

    This is because they do not understand the definition of anthropomorphic. They think it means “an old man in the sky with a beard” and/or that they’re ‘forming God in man’s image.” And they’re not doing that!

    Sure they are. Even if God formed man, there are similarities and this means “anthropomorphic.”

    But another funny thing is that the sophisticated theologians who sneer that their understanding of God is not “anthropomorphic” don’t understand the term either. Anthropomorphism does NOT mean “an Old Man in the Sky with a Beard.” It means having human characteristics — which includes ‘having the characteristics of a sophisticated mind.’

    Now they’re in trouble.

    If you take all the mental aspects out of the Ground of Being — which means not just the consciousness and intentionality but the values and virtues — then all you have is a reality which is consistent with atheism. They can’t do that. If the “condition for anything existing at all” has no thoughts or desires, is not goodness or beauty or love, then how is this thing worthy of the sort of worship they give it? How can it “explain” the good, beautiful, or loving or how can these things “point” to it? How can it be called “God?”

    It can’t.

    The difference between the anthropomorphism of the unsophisticated believers and the anthropomorphism of the sophisticated believers is only a matter of degree. They’re BOTH anthropomorphising Reality, injecting mental attributes into the nature of things in general and confusing the inner world of thought and feeling with the outer world of object and event.

    So I refuse to grant the so-called sophisticated theologians their point and agree that yes indeed, they are VERY different than the run-of-the-mill believer .. and then go on to argue that they are only a small minority. No, they’re actually on the same continuum.

    If they think not, then I challenge them to go down a real, significant list of “anthropomorphisms” and deny that God has any of those attributes. Such a list will include things like “love” and “willpower” and “good” and “mind.”

    It does not need to include “has a beard.”

  40. ichiban
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    How does a “ground of being” or “the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all” knock up a virgin?

    • Richard Olson
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      The unconditioned cause of It’s reality transcends mortal comprehension of sexual potency.

  41. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    There’s an interesting book called “The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates” by Howard Bloom that I wonder what this fellow would make of it.

    These arguments for a necessary God were made best by folks like Immanuel Kant in the 19th century, but even then they were trying to salvage what was left from a sinking Christianity.

    Sean Carroll said once that the anthropic principle was the least bad of the scientific arguments for God (ie deserving of the most serious reply) but even then it was inconclusive and refutable. The Ground of Being notion strikes me similarly (in philosophy rather than science) as the least bad of the theistic arguments, but I don’t think that “Being” is necessarily a coherent concept. The more one examines it the more obscurantist it appears. Sidney Hook’s “Quest for Being” deals well with the problems from the point of view of formal philsophy. Dennett’s online lecture “The Evolution of Confusion” sums it all up well.

  42. Steve Gerrard
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    The Universe is the unconditioned cause of reality — of absolutely everything that is — from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that The Universe “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. The Universe is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. The Universe is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.

    There, fixed it. If they want to believe in the Universe, because they need to believe in something, so be it. They can even call it by a different name if they like. Doing so doesn’t change a thing, as far as I’m concerned.

  43. Myron
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    As for the assertion that (Jewish, Christian, Islamic) theism doesn’t entail the view that God is a person:

    “That God is a person, yet one without a body, seems the most elementary claim of theism. It is by being told this or something that entails this (e.g. that God always listens to and sometimes grants us our prayers, he has plans for us, he forgives our sins, but he does not have a body) that young children are introduced to the concept of God.”

    (Swinburne, Richard. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977. p. 101)

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Dave Allen would concur! “He’s a big fellah! Why can’t I see him?”

      /@

      • Richard Olson
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        He can’t be seen ’cause into the hole he went.

        I was unaware of Dave Allen, and I’m grateful for youtube repeats.

    • Tulse
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      The Christian concept of the Trinity is very much founded on the notion of its god’s “personhood”. As the hymn says:

      Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
      God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Swinburne — the theologians don’t come more SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGIAN™ than that!

  44. Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on laudi69.

  45. Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    “God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.” That is simply fancy language for “I don’t know what God is, but I’m going to use some fancy words to impress you and to make God impervious to disproof.”

    That is what hitting the nail on the head looks like.

    “Therefore, if only a few professional physicists know what they’re talking about, then only the Sophisticated Theologians™ know what they’re talking about.”

    This analogy is nowhere close to apt. Trained physicists know what they’re talking about not simply because they have training. That would be argument from authority, which is, admittedly, a favorite of theists. They know what they’re talking about because as part if their training they’ve learned what epistemic tools to use in order to separate physical fact from physical fiction. And when their work is theoretical, they admit it!

    What tools do theologians use to separate theological fact from fiction? How do they demonstrate with any degree if ibjectivd co

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I thought I caught this accidental “submit” in time. Guess not. Full comment below.

  46. Tulse
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Another problem with this view, one the Gnostics realized, is that a Ground of Being doesn’t rule out an evil creator. The Gnostics accounted for both the Ontological Argument and the Problem of Evil by claiming that the material world was produced by a lesser god, the Demiurge, whose less-than-perfection generated our less-than-perfect world. More generally, I don’t see how one can’t respond that the “existence” of the Ground of Being doesn’t mean that the Christian god is that Being — it could very well be a less-powerful godlet.

  47. Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    “God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.” That is simply fancy language for “I don’t know what God is, but I’m going to use some fancy words to impress you and to make God impervious to disproof.”

    That is what hitting the nail on the head looks like.

    “Therefore, if only a few professional physicists know what they’re talking about, then only the Sophisticated Theologians™ know what they’re talking about.”

    This analogy is nowhere close to apt. Trained physicists know what they’re talking about not simply because they have training. That would be argument from authority, which is, admittedly, a favorite of theists. They know what they’re talking about because as part of their training they’ve learned what epistemic tools to use in order to separate physical fact from physical fiction. They can demonstrate it. And when their work is theoretical, they admit it!

    What tools do theologians use to separate theological fact from fiction? How do they demonstrate with any degree of objective conclusiveness the truth of what they say?

  48. Dermot C
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    God evolves by random mutation. When Abraham met him he was a man. When Moses met him he was a sapphire stone. Daniel saw him as a bearded old man.

    If God is now a ground of being, he sounds like some sort of post-Darwino-theological earthworm.

    John’s Gospel is right, just mistranslated. In the beginning was the Worm.

    Slaínte.

    • Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      all praise to Shai-Hulud, the Great Maker

      • Posted January 14, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        Thanks for spicing things up!

        /@

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          Yes, glad it wasn’t watered down.

  49. Ben
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand what the next step is if you’ve accepted the idea that god is “the ground of being.” If god isn’t a being with intentions and goals and requirements and punishments and rewards up its sleeve, then… what are we supposed to do with it? Why are there theologians at all? (You could ask that regardless!) It seems that life is exactly the same with this no-being god or no-god. Can’t we all just say, “Fine. You win. That’s what god is, a non-agent, non-being, non-entity, non-judge, non-creator. Now we don’t need to hear from you ever again, because there’s nothing left for you to say”?

  50. Myron
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    The following made me laugh:

    “[T]he books of the ‘new atheists’…are nothing but lurchingly spasmodic assaults on whole armies of straw men[.]“

    (Hart, David Bentley. The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. p. 5)

    Yes, of course, the new atheists are too blind and stupid to discern the “real” God of “real” theism:

    “To speak of ‘God’ properly, then—to use the word in a sense consonant with the teachings of orthodox Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikkhism, Hinduism, Baha’i, a great deal of antique paganism, and so forth—is to speak of the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things. God so understood is not something posed over against the universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a ‘being,’ at least not in the way that a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are, or any sort of discrete object ar all. Rather, all things that exist receive their being continuously from him, who is the infinite wellspring of all thath is, in whom (to use the language of the Christian scriptures) all things live and move and have their being. In one sense he is ‘beyond being,’ if by ‘being’ one means the totality of discrete, finite things. In another sense he is ‘being itself,’ in that he is the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity and simplicity that underlies and sustains the diversity of finite and composite things. Infinite being, infinite consciousness, infinite bliss, from whom we are, by whom we know and are known, and in whom we find our only true consummation. All the great theistic traditions agree that God, understood in this proper sense, is essentially beyond finite comprehension; hence, much of the language used of him is negative in form and has been reached only by a logical process of abstraction from those quality of finite reality that make it insufficient to account for its own existence. All agree as well, however, that he can genuinely be known: that is, reasoned toward, intimately encountered, directly experienced with a fullness surpassing mere conceptual comprehension.”

    (Hart, David Bentley. The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. pp. 30-1)

    One short comment: Anything that is is something (i.e. has properties), and anything that is something has being; and anything that has being is a being. To say that God is but isn’t a being is plainly illogical. To say that God isn’t a being (an entity) is to say that God is a nonbeing (a nonentity)—which is to say that God is not, does not exist. And I’m certain that this is the exact opposite of what theists want to say.

    • Myron
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      “[God] is not a ‘being,’ at least not in the way that a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being[.]“ – D. B. Hart

      Hart confuses ways of being with kinds of being. All entities exist in the same way, in the sense that they exist in one and the same sense of “to exist”, which is an unequivocal verb. But, of course, entities belong to different kinds of being(s). For instance, God qua immaterial being and trees qua material beings belong to different kinds of being. But that God is (or would be, if he existed) essentially different in kind from trees and shoemakers in no way means that he isn’t (or wouldn’t be) a being/entity among beings/entities.

    • JBlilie
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      In arguments with theists, which I rarely bother with anymore, I always stipulated: No making up new definitions of words! If your god is not being, then he doesn’t exist. Thank you for acknowledging the failure of your argument. NEXT!

    • irritable
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Damn! How humiliating!

      Now that David Hart has clearly explained what God really is [if "is" is the appropriate word] Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchins, Harris, Grayling, Stenger etc are all going to have to withdraw their books from publication.

      How could they have ever missed something so obvious and compelling?

  51. eric
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    If this is the “strongest case for God” that theologians can produce, then we need pay them no heed.

    It’s the strongest case today, for this guy. But like the turtle model of the world, there’s always another “strongest case.” It is much like PZ’s “courtier’s reply” fallacy, in that the point is to put your opponent on a never-ending quest for argumentative legimitacy. Instead of engaging in point-counterpoint, you task them to do something before you’ll engage. Then no matter how well they do it, you just keep tasking them with more.

    When I hear someone claim that atheists haven’t considered the strongest case for god, I translate that to mean: “I have a pet argument for god, and am peeved that nobody acknowledges it or thinks it’s as spiffy as I do.” Its a form of argument self-promotion.

  52. Sean
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    But if there is “Unequivocal evidence” then you DON’T NEED FAITH.

    100s of years of theology can be unwound with 2 minutes of rational thought… and so many educated people still eat this dog food.

    I hope Prof Coyne keeps up the good work!

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      “…if there is “Unequivocal evidence” then you DON’T NEED FAITH.”

      Super nutshell filling!

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      if there is “Unequivocal evidence” then you DON’T NEED FAITH.

      Didn’t Douglas Adams’ babelfish dispose of god with exactly this argument?

      • Sean
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        I ham a huge fan o HG2G !! You just made my day!

  53. gbjames
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Complaint Department:

    I do not like the new WordPress “feature” which creates multiple pages with “Older Comments” links.

    A navigation crime against humanity.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Ramen.

      b&

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        I’m not seeing that.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          Forget that. Just got to the bottom of these comments and…yikes!

          • Achrachno
            Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

            I’m betting that there’s nothing that even Lord Ceiling Cat can possibly do about it.

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

              Alas, I’m sure you’re right. At least I can tell my chicken and goat they needn’t be sacrificed.

              • Posted January 14, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                So what’re we supposed to eat for dinner, then?

                b&

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:34 am | Permalink

            Horrid! Makes no logical sense – I usually like to see comments in some chronological order.

          • Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:39 am | Permalink

            WordPress is a bit of mess in some respects. Would be better if they did something a bit more like Reddit.

  54. lulu_footlose
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    If this is the kind of God that exists, why would it be bothered if I believed in it or not?

    • Gordon
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Indeed-my thought exactly. This sort of god would seem to be totally meaningless and even if you accepted it there seems something of a teeny tiny gap between that concept and the one who says you should hate gays, women etc.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Exactly seconded.

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      You’re not meant to believe it. It’s a bait and switch – immediately the apologists have quelled all objections, they are going to switch you back to the god they really do believe in.

      William Lane Craig does this kind of thing the whole time. First he flummoxes everyone with the incoherent Kalam argument, to establish his philosophical acumen, then he’s going to switch you back to the literal truth of Noah’s Ark and the resurrection of Jesus.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:05 am | Permalink

      Good old Epicurus (contentment be upon him) captured this in his philosophy. Epicurus reasoned that everything was either atoms or void. Therefore the gods were material beings, but since they were perfect they were not going to ruin their equanimity by interfering in our lives. So we shouldn’t fear them.

      Same with souls. Motivation devices made of atoms that provided humans with thoughts and emotions, but which also dispersed along with the rest of the body on death.

      So no ‘ground of being’, only atoms and void.

  55. kelskye
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    “Grounding of being” is a cop-out of language. If they’re expecting anyone to have a coherent conception of what it means (or more specifically, that it has any ontological significance) they are deluding themselves. At least with the anthropomorphic versions of God, it fits with the basic intuitions people have about agency.

    Does God have a mind? If so, how does “grounding of being” have the reality of a contingent feature such as mind? Can God create? If so, how does “grounding of being” mean God can cause an action that requires a body and a passing of time? Of course, mind and creation don’t mean the same thing as we take them naturalistically, but therein lies the problem. How can we say anything about God if what we ascribe to God is part of the natural world, but God is beyond all natural comprehension? It would only work by analogy, but if that’s the case, how can we be sure the analogy holds? i.e. how do we distinguish between God being something that can be made sense of, and God being nonsense?

  56. JBlilie
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    This is truly dire crap. You, sir, are doing yeoman’s work even reading it!

  57. Prof.Pedant
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Two points:
    1. Linker asserts “every attempt to be good, every longing for beauty presupposes the existence of some idea of truth, goodness, and beauty from which these particular instances are derived”. In my experience it would be much more accurate to write: “every attempt to be good, every longing for beauty extrapolates into some idea of truth, goodness, and beauty that is believed to be worth striving for”. Colloquially this is known as idealism, the belief that things can be more perfecter than we have yet seen.

    2. God as the ‘ground of being’. My very strong impression is that this phrasing came into existence after the discovery and technologization of electricity. I would like to see an explanation of this concept of ‘God as the ground of being’ without the analogy to the flow of electrical current. (I anticipate that it would be another flavor of vacuousness, but if we must put up with meaninglessness presented as meaning it is nice to have a variety of flavors.)

    • Sastra
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      I think Linker has it backwards. Our idealized notions of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty have their origin in diverse experiences in our lives which have a common aspect. We pick out or abstract similarities and mentally group them into a category which represents the pure concept.

      For example, you can’t pick up and hold “Softness.” But the abstraction is derived from experiences which all have a quality we call “soft” — tactile, visual, emotional, etc. It’s the same for every abstraction: they’re grounded in the concrete, not the other way around. Before you have a concept of “red” you have to see red.

      Every attempt to be good, every longing for beauty creates and adds to an idea of goodness and beauty. Cranes, not skyhooks.

      As for “ground of being,” I think the image is one of a foundation on which things are built. The tree rests on the earth which rests on the back of an elephant which rests on a turtle … then it’s turtles all the way down. I’ve never considered a modern connection to electricity, but it’s an interesting idea.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:21 am | Permalink

        ‘Idealized notions’ reminds me of Hume’s Fork. There is a world of facts and a world of ideas, but ideas cannot be factual unless they can be tested in the real world.

        Similarly Dan Sperber suggested in ‘On Anthropological Knowledge’ that representations could be propositional (broadly factual, true or false) or semi-propositional (stuff we ‘believe’ but cannot prove). Dan Sperber argues that humans (have been evolved by blind processes) to form semipropositional ideas based on partial knowledge because total knowledge about something cannot be ‘known’ in a propositional sense. So ‘my mum believes in God’, ‘my vicar believes in God’, ‘the Bible tells me so’, all become conflated into a semipropositional idea (belief) of ‘God’.

        Ground of being is just one more prop to shore up the semipropositional belief in God. A prop that is even more insubstantial that anthropomorphic arguments.

  58. eveysolara
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    This sounds a lot like what young earth creationists like Eric Hovind are now espousing. It’s called presuppositional apologetics.

  59. Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    David Bentley Hart told me in an email that he is “not religious,” so his belief in “God” is not apparently not something that he wants to make into a religion.

    And he has written elsewhere:

    “Skepticism and atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods. In the best kinds of unbelief, there is something of the moral grandeur of the prophets—a deep and admirable abhorrence of those vicious idolatries that enslave minds and justify our worst cruelties.”

    See also http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/5481-believe-it-or-not/comments?page=4#comment_462004

    • Posted January 13, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      But, nowhere in that para does he seem remotely interested in the truth, whether skepticism or atheism are justified by the evidence. Maybe he just considers that a detail that isn’t relevant to the “moral grandeur” of our position.

  60. Posted January 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    David Bentley Hart told me in an email that he is “not religious,” so his belief in “God” is apparently not something that he wants to make into a religion.

    And he has written elsewhere:

    “Skepticism and atheism are, at least in their highest manifestations, noble, precious, and even necessary traditions, and even the most fervent of believers should acknowledge that both are often inspired by a profound moral alarm at evil and suffering, at the corruption of religious institutions, at psychological terrorism, at injustices either prompted or abetted by religious doctrines, at arid dogmatisms and inane fideisms, and at worldly power wielded in the name of otherworldly goods. In the best kinds of unbelief, there is something of the moral grandeur of the prophets—a deep and admirable abhorrence of those vicious idolatries that enslave minds and justify our worst cruelties.”

  61. Posted January 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    The idea that the Christian and Moslem Gods are somehow compatible is the purest nonsense. Most Christians believe in the Trinity. However, Moslems believe that anyone who believes in the Trinity will burn in hell forever. For example, from the Quran, “We will cast a dread into hearts of the infidels because they have joined gods with God without warranty sent down; their abode shall be the Fire; and wretched shall be the mansion of the evil doers,” and “They surely are infidels who say, ‘God is the third of three:’for there is no God but one God: and if they refrain not from what they say, a grievous chastisement shall light on such of them as are infidels.” Not much room for syncretism there.

    • farmerjohn
      Posted February 17, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      He doesn’t say they’re “compatible” – he says they have “commonly shared cluster of claims about God.” Of course they do, they’re all monotheistic religions. The Trinity is a concept that may seem important to Christians but it’s a subtle difference to us nonbelievers.

      • Jeffrey
        Posted February 18, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Actually, to me, as a non-beliver it’s just all pure nonsense.

  62. Diane G.
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Just in case one has to subscribe to both comment pages now…

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Guess not.

  63. pacopicopiedra
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    The new comment system (with different pages to navigate) sucks ass. Thanks WordPress, for taking something that was not broken, and then breaking it.

  64. John K.
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist.

    Heck, we can just stop right there. God does not exist, except perhaps the same way other ideas in your head exist: completely indistinguishable from pure imagination. That, as an atheist, is all I have to say on the matter. If you want to give god a special class of “existence” the burden is on you to explain why anything that “exists” in that way is relevant to anything, or why such a thing should be saddled with the baggage of the term “god”. I always chuckle when apologists are forced to define god right of of existence(normal meaning).

    There is also that pesky book that all the religious Christians quote from that has the “ground of all being” walking around and talking to Abraham on the way to Sodom and Gomorrah, dying on a cross, getting resurrected again, and all sorts of very person-like activities. Of course, I am sure those parts are all metaphors for . . . something?

  65. Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    So God is the unconditioned cause but also the condition of possibility? Okay…….

  66. bpuharic
    Posted January 17, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    You know, there’s another feature the ‘most religions have the same idea of god’ crowd forgets.

    Islam and Christianity are offshoots of Judaism. OF COURSE they’re going to share some basic beliefs. Sikhism? Embedded in Islam…

    Rather than appealing to some intuition about the nature of god, the similarities in religion are basically explained by their origins. Sheesh!

  67. Posted January 19, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Two Proofs, an Underfable

    Once upon a time, the Ground of Being said unto Jesus-on-a-Taco, “Am I or am I not? That is the question. For if I am, then being is grounded within being, and so not grounded at all. Whereas if I am not, then again being is ungrounded. But I am the Ground of Being; therefore I neither am nor am not. That’s Logic.”
    Jesus-on-a-Taco retorted, “What does Logic matter to the People? I may not be rigorous, but at least I’m edible!”
    A Monk overheard this, and said to himself, “Good, now I have two proofs.”

    Moral: To the philosophers, God is false; to the masses, God is true; and to the magistrates, God is useful.

  68. Posted January 27, 2014 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    is that every pursuit of truth, every attempt to be good, every longing for beauty presupposes the existence of some idea of truth, goodness, and beauty from which these particular instances are derived. And these transcendental ideas unite in the classical concept of God, who simply is truth, goodness, and beauty.

    Am I reading this right? Every scientist, every good person, and every cosmetician has to believe in god?


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] of them has ever described his or her belief in God in anything like these terms. As Jerry Coyne puts it in response to Linker, “Yes, it turns out that the 99% of believers who see God as an […]

  2. […] A critique of Linker’s review; […]

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