David Bentley Hart tells us that God is bliss and consciousness, not to mention reality

A riled-up theologian, whom I shall neither name or link to, has written a diatribe about my remarks on David Bentley Hart’s book: The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss.  This theologian says that I’ve completely misunderstood the book, which was, as Hart claimed, to distill the essence of God from all faiths, and not to give evidence for that God. The captious theologian says that Hart spends only a very small portion of his book giving evidence for God.

That’s bogus. Most of the book is in fact devoted to adducing such evidence, which resides in the existence of consciousness, rationality, mathematics, our search for truth, our love of beauty, and the Fact that There is Something Instead of Nothing. And when he’s not adducing this “proof”, Hart’s making fun of those who claim that these phenomena can be based on naturalism. But none of them, argue Hart, can be explained by science, ergo God. (We never learn how Hart concludes “Ergo Jesus and my own Eastern Orthodox Faith.”)

Part of Hart’s tactic is to assert not only that consciousness, rationality, bliss, and so on are evidence for God, but are in fact God, a grifter’s trick if ever there was one.  It’s a form of pantheism, something that almost no believers accept.

Now bear with me while I quote a page from the book that shows not only Hart’s sophistry, but the relentlessly annoying and pompous style of his prose. This, my friends, is what you must deal with to get your Official Credible Atheist Card. Do note how Hart shows off as often as he can, liberally sprinkling this paragraph with signs of his erudition. And please read it, because, after all, I had to copy it out from pages 248 and 249.

Seen from the perspective of a variety of theistic traditions, this ["the indissoluble bond between the intellect and objective reality" that is a "kind of love" and "a kind of adherence of the will and mind to something inexhaustibly desirable] is nothing less than the reflection of absolutely reality within the realm of the contingent. It is bliss that draws us toward and joins us to the being of all things because that bliss is already one with being and consciousness, in the infinite simplicity of God. As the Chandogya Upanishad says, Brahman is at once both the joy residing in the depths of the heart and also the pervasive reality in which all things subsist. The restless heart that seeks its repose in God (to use the language of Augustine) expresses itself not only in the exultations and raptures of spiritual experience but also in the plain persistence of awareness. The soul’s unquenchable eros for the divine, of which Plotinus and Gregory of Nyssa and countless Christian contemplatives speak. Sufism’s ishq or passionately ardent love for God, Jewish mysticism’s devekut, Hinduism’s bhakti, Sikhism’spyaar—these are all names for the acute manifestation of a love that, in a more chronic and subtle form, underlies all knowledge, all openness of the mind to the truth of things. This is because, in God, the fulness of being is also a perfect act of infinite consciousness that, wholly possessing the truth of being in itself, forever finds its consummation in boundless delight. The Father knows his own essence perfectly in the Mirror of Logos and rejoices in the Spirit who is the “bond of love” or “bond of glory” in which divine being and divine consciousness are perfectly joined. God’s wujud is also his wijdan—his infinite being is infinite consciousness—in the unity of the wajd, the bliss of perfect enjoyment. The divine sat is always also the divine chit, and their perfect coincidence is the divine ananda. It only makes sense, then—though of course it is quite wonderful as well—that consciousness should be made open to being by an implausible desire for the absolute, and that being should disclose itself to consciousness through the power of the absolute to inspire and (ideally) satiate that desire. The ecstatic structure of finite consciousness—this inextinguishable yearning for truth that weds the mind to the being of all things—is simply a manifestation of the metaphysical structure of all reality. God is the one act of being, consciousness, and bliss in whom everything lives and moves and has its being; and so the only way to know the truth of things is, necessarily, the way of bliss.

I’ll add a bit more for you budding scientists:

In any event, I do not believe the physicalist narrative of reality can ever really account for consciousness and its intentionality (or, alternatively, eliminate the concepts of consciousness and intentionality from our thinking); still less do I believe that it can account for the conscious mind’s aptitude for grasping reality by way of abstract concepts; and I am quite certain it can have nothing solvent to say about the mind’s capacity for absolute values or transcendental aims. All of these things lie outside the circle of what contemporary physicalism, with its reflexively mechanistic metaphysics, can acknowledge as real. In one’s every encounter with the world, one is immersed in the twin mysteries of being and consciousness; and, in the very structure of that encounter, a third mystery appears: that of the absolute. . . In the very midst of our quotidian acts of awareness we are already placed before the transcendent, the infinite horizon of meaning that makes rational knowledge possible, and thereby presented with the question of God.

See what you’re missing? If you can’t give a naturalistic account of consciousness (indeed, just by thinking about that problem), you’re giving evidence of God.

If this sort of bullpucky is not not God-of-the-Gappism, I’ll eat my hat. And speaking of eating, I’m contemplating a fine dinner tonight, which, I suppose, is also evidence for Hart that there is a God. Indeed, my enjoyment of that meal will be God himself!

There will be one more quote tomorrow and then I’ll leave you in peace.

124 Comments

  1. dunnfjfrancis
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    //

  2. gbjames
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The quotidian ramblings of a very confused mind, this D. B. Hart stuff.

    Are we sure this stuff wasn’t spit out of a bullshit generator?

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      No kidding. It doesn’t seem like he’s even trying to make sense. The second quote is pretty straightforward god-of-the-gaps, but the first quote? It’s the kind of stuff the word “gibberish” was invented to describe.

  3. gravityfly
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    This does sound very much like pantheism.

  4. bjoernfb
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure that this is not another “Sokal hoax”? The sentences sure sound like that…

    • bacopa
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Sure sounds like a Sokal-style hoax. But remember, the whole point of Sokal’s hoax is that in some fields there isn’t really a good way to distinguish a hoax from a sincere effort.

      • Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        “there isn’t really a good way to distinguish a hoax from a sincere effort.”

        should read:

        there isn’t really a good way ***for some brainwashed people*** to distinguish a hoax from a sincere effort.

        • bacopa
          Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          Not true at all. I assume neither of us is brainwashed in your sense of the term. Can either of us distinguish whether Hart is a hoaxer or sincere? I sure can’t.

          I used to have a copy of the Social Text issue that had Sokal’s paper. I sold it on ebay for $200 bucks. But when I had I couldn’t really tell the difference between Sokal’s hoax and the rest of it.

      • Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        I’d say the point Sokal’s hoax made had more teeth than that.

        I’d say the point was to indict a whole style of discourse/explanation as worthless because of the impossibility of separating wheat from chaff. How and, more to the point, why would you try to make a distinction when it all looks exactly the same?

        • aspidoscelis
          Posted April 19, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

          You’re assuming that the rest of it -wasn’t- a hoax. I believe alexanderhellemans is making the opposite assumption.

          “Hoax” does get difficult to define here. Sokal’s ultimate goal wasn’t to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, but the opposite. One could argue that this makes his paper less of a hoax than the earnest obfuscation in the rest of the journal.

          • Posted April 20, 2014 at 5:22 am | Permalink

            I was replying to bacopa.

            I don’t see how what you wrote is inconsistent with what I wrote.

            Yes, Sokal was legitimately trying to show the state of affairs in pomo philosophy.

            His point was not just that it’s difficult to tell a sincere effort from a hoax; his point was the conclusion you need to make because of that.

            • Diane G.
              Posted April 23, 2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

              And one of his main aims, often overlooked, was to reclaim the leftist political ideology from the pomo-ists. Sokal of course is a passionate leftist himself.

              W/o bothering to dig out my copy of Beyond the Hoax, here’s a relevant remark of his copped from the Wikipedia page about the hoax:

              My goal isn’t to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit (we’ll survive just fine, thank you), but to defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself. . . .

        • Marella
          Posted April 19, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

          The reason you can’t separate the wheat from the chaff is that there is no wheat, it is all chaff. Incoherence is only reputable when everyone has given up all hope of progress in a field. If you really have something important to say, you want people to be able to understand it. If you have nothing worth understanding to say, you are better off not being understood.

          • Posted April 20, 2014 at 5:26 am | Permalink

            “…there is no wheat…”

            Yeah, that was my point in asking how and why one would try to identify the purported distinction when it all looks the same, even to professionals in the field. The conclusion is that there is no distinction.

  5. The Militant One
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    “In any event, I do not believe the physicalist narrative of reality can ever really account for consciousness and its intentionality…..”

    He doesn’t believe, huh?

    While it is true that science is not yet able to fully explain consciousness, there will come a point at which it can. And as Neil De Grasse Tyson says, “facts are true whether or not you choose to believe them.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps science will explain consciousness, but it is also possible that science might fail at this (maybe it’s too hard, or too self-referential, for us to ever get our mind around, say). That would still do nothing to advance Hart’s point. The mere existence of a question, or a mystery, does not imply God or much of anything else. God of the gaps arguments fail not because we are sure to fill in the gaps eventually, we may not, but because the gaps are not evidence for God. At best a gap is a place where God could hide, much as the dark side of the moon could have hidden a circus until the age of space flight. The existence of an unseen side of the moon is no evidence of a circus there, however.

      • Zetopan
        Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

        “much as the dark side of the moon could have hidden a circus”

        There is no “dark side” of the moon. There is however a “far side” and that is most likely what you might have meant.

        • BillyJoe
          Posted April 20, 2014 at 4:46 am | Permalink

          Pink Floyd would beg to differ:

          http://www.pink-floyd-lyrics.com/html/brain-damage-dark-lyrics.html

          “And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
          You shout and no one seems to hear.
          And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
          I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon”

          On the other hand, Pink seems to be in three minds about this:

          http://www.pink-floyd-lyrics.com/html/eclipse-dark-lyrics.html

          “There is no dark side of the moon really.
          Matter of fact it’s all dark”

        • gbjames
          Posted April 20, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

          Sure there is, just as there is a dark side of Earth. As I type, the people in Japan are there.

          I’ll put away my pedant’s hat now.

  6. Pliny the in Between
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Part of the problem with defining consciousness through naturalistic means, is that the term and common definitions of what we call consciousness were philosophical constructs that predate neuroscience by centuries. Consciousness is the brain equivalent of god- something that we are told obviously exists outside of the realm of science. Any science that fails to show its existence must be missing something because it doesn’t fit the philosopher’s definition. As long as we continue to allow philosophers of mind to define the argument as a top down discussion, they’ll smugly insist that the gap between neuroscience and philosophy’s definitions of consciousness is a real thing not simply a cultural artifact left over from earlier naive concepts.

    The bottom up approach is better – neuroscience will be enough to explain observed behaviors and mental processes. Beyond that is irrelevant.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Well put. They want to talk about skyhooks, and we want to bring the discussion back down to cranes.

      They move God between being prescientific, unscientific, nonscientific — and the cutting edge of what science confirms. Whatever works because all appropriate methods find God.

    • jomike
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      “Consciousness is the brain equivalent of god- something that we are told obviously exists outside of the realm of science.”

      Exactly. If hurricanes could speak they’d develop a vocabulary and a Sophisticated Metaphysics to explain their unique attributes, destructive power, unpredictable behavior, and so forth. They’d scoff at the idea that they consist of lowly water vapor and moving air, and reject outright the notion that they’re an emergent weather phenomenon, a product of earth’s atmosphere.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:29 am | Permalink

        If hurricanes could speak, philosophers would not understand them.

        Meteorologists, on the other hand…

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I can think of some New Age thinkers of mystical bent who think this sort of argument is valid but would not use it to endorse any specific religion.

      Just because something is unexplained doesn’t mean that the most appealing explanation is the true one, nor that is simply CAN not be explained.

      Finally, I can see why one would want atheists to examine philosophical religion in addition to popular religion, but to state that one particular book or writer is definitive in the first regard smacks somewhat of desperation.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Yes – the argument attempts to transfer the attributes of “god” to “consciousness” so the latter can be forever defined as unknowable and infinite. It’s a defense against the purely physical explanation that neuroscience is beginning to develop.

      The Christian’s insistence on eternal life, disguised in New Age gobbledygook.
      “Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.”

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted April 20, 2014 at 4:36 am | Permalink

        This kind of transference reminds me of the way the Soviet Lysenkoists (presumably deliberately) used many of the same phrases when referring to Darwin-Timiryazev-Michurin-Lysenko as they did for the four-personed god Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin. (At least they did in this book.)

    • Tulse
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Any science that fails to show its existence must be missing something

      Hit your hand with a hammer and then argue that consciousness doesn’t exist. Conscious experience is a fact of the world, and science should indeed be able to explain it.

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted April 20, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        It is not that humans lack an amazing awareness of their environment but rather that the philosophical concept of mind (consciousness) is a metaphysical construct similar to concepts of god. Yes, I would experience pain when struck with a hammer but I don’t think the experience has anything to do with any ghost in the machine. Science has and will continue to provide explanations for the range of human behaviors and thought processes, but as in cosmology with theologians, the philosophers of mind will simply retreat to their foundation challenged models and declare victory since their models were never based on natural explanations.

  7. MikeW
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Please, no more extended quotes! At least don’t insist that we read them. That was very painful.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      No, I like the extended quotes. They’re useful because they provide a lot of ammunition. I do think Hart is articulating what most sophisticated believers hide under waving hands and mystical bafflegabble.

      And if this is Hart’s attempt “to distill the essence of God from all faiths” then I think he’s done a pretty good job. This Pure Mentality is pure supernaturalism. It’s not so much improved as more basic. If this is what we go after we don’t have to keep playing whack-a-mole with new versions of God which don’t suffer from the flaws we accused the last ones of. Attack this and we stick a sword into the hydra’s heart.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        The problem with that analysis is that it relies on rationality. But woo scams rely on money/power, and the inexhaustible supply of takers.

        I am convinced that if we kill the hydra’s heart that is Hart, it will simply grow another Hart.*

        *As someone noted yesterday, a Hart is just a simpler version of a Deepak, sans “quantum” thrown in now and then.

        If the Deepaks go away, then I will consider that the Harts will.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think Hart and the other Sophisticated Theologians insisting that Reality = Bliss + Consciousness are involved in a money/power scam as such. They’re almost certainly very sincere and usually not into control OR money — material things which they think a love of God (properly understood) negates.

          Yes, this sounds like Chopra. It also sounds like mystics and believers from any other religion or spiritual tradition. Chopra has taken the implications of the supernatural and made specific claims about harnessing the power of this insight to cure disease or whatever. He’s gone all the way to pseudoscience and sells it: scam.

          If Hart starts selling magic prayer stones infused with the Healing Power of Intention, then I will consider lumping him in with the money-grubbing scammers. No harm in selling a book.

          The goal isn’t to make it all go away; it’s to improve the situation. Hart’s God isn’t so much a sophisticated understanding as what the sophisticates understand. They seem to be very comfortable believing that their views are both unappreciated and unassailable.

          • Kiwi Dave
            Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps part of the opening paragraph of P B Medawar’s famous book review is applicable here:

            “It is a book widely held to be of the utmost profundity and significance; it created something like a sensation upon its publication in France, and some reviewers hereabouts called it the Book of the Year — one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself. The Phenomenon of Man cannot be read without a feeling of suffocation, a gasping and flailing around for sense.”

            And if any reader of this post has not read this review (available on-line), then you should.

            • Larry Gay
              Posted April 20, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink

              Thank you. As a non-biologist I was vaguely aware of Medawar, but had never read him. Now I know why he is so admired.

  8. Sastra
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    The captious theologian says that Hart spends only a very small portion of his book giving evidence for God.
    That’s bogus. Most of the book is in fact devoted to adducing such evidence, which resides in the existence of consciousness, rationality, mathematics, our search for truth, our love of beauty, and the Fact that There is Something Instead of Nothing. And when he’s not adducing this “proof”, Hart’s making fun of those who claim that these phenomena can be based on naturalism. But none of them, argue Hart, can be explained by science, ergo God.

    I haven’t read the book, but the captious theologian’s claim that Hart is not doing apologetics sounds so bogus given what you’re quoting that I’m wondering if there’s a little game being played (deliberately or not) regarding what it means to “give evidence for God.”

    Sometimes they make a distinction between a case which is being made to a skeptic — and a case which is made only to “seekers” or people who already believe, but want to learn more. If you’re doing the second then you’re not doing the first because you’re explaining instead of convincing. In fact, you’re not building a case: you’re helping people who want to be helped. That’s totally different.

    Right.

    I see this a lot from liberal religionists and spiritual-but-not-religious who often seem to think that the worst crime in religion is trying to FORCE belief on others through rational argument. Arguing is bad: one can only come to faith willingly.

    Thus they can get away with giving the most pathetic reasons for believing in God and still manage to act hurt and shocked if these reasons are subsequently taken apart. No, this isn’t a debate. They know better than to do that — not because they’d lose but because the whole idea is rude. The Transcendent can’t and shouldn’t be up for public dispute, only inner exploration. They’re just sayin’ stuff to the people who are in their paradigm. It’s not for atheists. Shouldn’t have read it except for enlightenment on how not like an Old-Bearded-Man-In-The-Sky God really IS.

    Given that so many people are touting this book as the “answer” to new atheism, that’s ironic. Apparently it’s not meant to answer us. It’s meant to reassure an “open” audience that all the Good Things are belong to them. It’s what’s called “soft apologetics” — believer to believer — as opposed to “hard apologetics” — believer to skeptic.

    My guess is that they secretly love the “I don’t understand this” reaction from atheists. It confirms their belief that they are speaking deep truths which are over our heads. They want us puzzled and intrigued and relieved that this is sooo much better than fundamentalism.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      “My guess is that they secretly love the “I don’t understand this” reaction from atheists. It confirms their belief that they are speaking deep truths which are over our heads.”

      Bin. Go.

    • kelskye
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      “My guess is that they secretly love the “I don’t understand this” reaction from atheists.”
      I tend to find this as well. Two things stand out for me in theistic expressions of this. First is that there simply isn’t an adequate framework of language to capture the grandeur of the divine, such that any attempts to understand it are going to inevitably fall short (and thus be a crude caricature of the True Divine). Second is that it contrasts with all those science educators who try to make inaccessible subjects more explicable.

      If God is simply inexplicable, then why on earth should we waste any time on the matter? If God is explicable, then why aren’t theologians trying better to explicate in an accessible way? Honestly, if atheists have a “crude misconception” about God, then it’s hardly the atheist’s fault if God’s defenders aren’t making an explicable case. And if they are making an explicable case, then why are the inexplicable writings the ones people say we must contend with?

      • Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        It might be difficult to find language to describe a subjective experience, but I don’t think theology’s incomprehensibility is a result of language that’s not up to the task.

        The reason theobabble is so often meaningless is because theologians are trying to describe the non-existent. Clarity is not an option.

        • kelskye
          Posted April 20, 2014 at 2:40 am | Permalink

          You’ll have no arguments from me on that count. Our language is certainly not up to the task of describing the ineffable, but it certainly doesn’t stop people from trying. Though there are those moments of clarity, usually associated with a moral insight of God. that would sound suspiciously like a reflection of their own preferences, yet carries the ring of divine warrant.

          God is the puppet by which one articulates their own subjective passions, dressed up as the illusion of something profound. And, hey, if you’re ever called on it, you can just accuse your critics of being spiritually blind, or not having the right mindset to properly judge the proposition at hand.

          • Sastra
            Posted April 20, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

            God is the puppet by which one articulates their own subjective passions, dressed up as the illusion of something profound. And, hey, if you’re ever called on it, you can just accuse your critics of being spiritually blind, or not having the right mindset to properly judge the proposition at hand.

            As musical beef puts it: Bin. Go.

            When the atheist is accused of being “spiritually blind” they’re actually being accused of being emotionally bereft, since the supernatural concept of ‘spirit’ equates feelings with facts and turns mental properties into essences. Explaining God to an atheist is now like explaining love to an autistic* or values to an animal. Or, if they are trying to be charitable, like explaining sophisticated poetry to a small child: we have a lot of growing to do.

            I mean, if we can look at the beauty of a sunset and not start leaning towards the belief that bliss and consciousness have knit the fabric of reality — then we must not be capable of appreciating beauty on the right level.

            *(not all autistics, of course; there is a wise range in autism.)

            • Sastra
              Posted April 20, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

              wise = wide

  9. Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    tn;cr*

    * – total nonsense; couldn’t read

  10. Jonathan Houser
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    you are truly a saint for actually reading hundreds of pages of this stuff for our benefit.

    Is the whole book like that, or does it actually become lucid at points? I have a hard time even imagining how that kind of writing can be sustained for hundreds of pages. It is such a continuous stream of garbled nonsense that I had to stop and read each sentence multiple times to even get a feeling of what he meant.

    I get the feeling though, that just like Chopra, the faithful will just accuse us of being unable to “think abstractly” and that is why this appears as such nonsense.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted April 20, 2014 at 4:19 am | Permalink

      My brain is a bit like yours. I just can’t handle a continuous stream of willful nonsense. If you ever want to decipher one of Hart’s sentences, a useful trick is to copy it into a word processor, and then reconstruct it from the bottom up, starting with subject, verb, object. What is the sense of that, if any? Then add modifier after modifier until you finally understand the writer’s intended meaning. It’s quite like translating from a foreign language, but very laborious.

  11. Jacques Hausser
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    “The divine sat is always also the divine chit, and their perfect coincidence is the divine ananda.”
    I’m afraid it’s a spelling error here, a “c” where it should be a “s”.
    (sorry, I couldn’t refrain)

    • gbjames
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      LOL

    • Moarscienceplz
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Dang! Jacques beat me to it.

    • Posted April 20, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      “The divine shat is always also the divine shit, and their perfect coincidence is the divine dookie.”

  12. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I let out an audible snort when I got to the “God’s wujud is also his wijdan” section.

  13. Andrew D
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Whilst Our Gracious Host does not want to link to the perpetrator of this garbage, Avicenna over at Freethoughtblogs has done one of his masterly reply’s which readers may wish to peruse here

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods/2014/04/19/a-response-to-damon-linker/

    • D. Taylor
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      I have no idea who Avicenna is (totally new to me), but that blow by blow response to the “riled-up theologian” was outstanding! Well worth the read. Thanks Andrew D for the tip to check it out.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      I think that may not be about the same article. There is nothing in that article about “Hart spends only a very small portion of his book giving evidence for God.”, for example.

      • Rick Graham
        Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        Could it be this screed:

        http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=12145

        • gluonspring
          Posted April 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

          Could be. I wouldn’t call that guy a theologian, but it does sound similar, and dreadful. He quotes Hart, and it the quote isn’t doing Hart any favors:

          For existence is more definitely not a natural phenomenon; it is logically prior to any physical cause whatsoever; and anyone who imagines that it is susceptible of a natural explanation simply has no grasp of what the question of existence really is. In fact, it is impossible to say how, in the terms naturalism allows, nature could exist at all.

          That’s the argument from mere assertion. It is astounding to me that so many people find the existence of the universe itself to be a bigger mystery than the existence of a God to create the universe so that the latter would be a satisfying answer to the former. But, of course, this is the cornerstone of all religion and much woo, that Mind is self-evidently prior to existence, even though we have very good reason to think that it is actually the other way around.

          • gluonspring
            Posted April 19, 2014 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

            Hmmm… my first attempt to use html tags didn’t pan out. Oh well.

  14. Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m normally quite a fan of erudite, fancy, even pretentious writing, but . . .

    and I am quite certain it can have nothing solvent to say about the mind’s capacity for absolute values or transcendental aims

    It’s the “solvent” that gets to me. I mean, technically it’s correct, for sure, but . . .

  15. Ted Raymond
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    AUUGGHH! Those passages hurt my brain. I’ll take your word on the book as there’s no way I can read any more.

    Just more God-of-the-gaps argument using $10 words to wear down the reader.

  16. Greg Esres
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I can see Hart’s description of “God” clearly reflected in the nature of Yahweh in the Old Testament.

    • strongforce
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      +1

  17. Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Varieties of altiloquent experience.

  18. Goliath Field
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    So post-modernism has oozed out of English Lit departments to infect theology. Where is my No Mo Po Mo t-shirt?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Ha! I suddenly saw Tyson doing a No Mo Po Mo Slo Mo skit.

    • Posted April 22, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      It has been that way a long time – Heidegger is basically the root of a lot of this bafflegab, and he basically *was* a theologian. Even ignoring the “can’t be honest about himself” case, there have been theological followers of him forever.

  19. H.H.
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Sophisticated Theologian:

    In any event, I do not believe the physicalist narrative of reality can ever really account for consciousness and its intentionality (or, alternatively, eliminate the concepts of consciousness and intentionality from our thinking); still less do I believe that it can account for the conscious mind’s aptitude for grasping reality by way of abstract concepts; and I am quite certain it can have nothing solvent to say about the mind’s capacity for absolute values or transcendental aims. All of these things lie outside the circle of what contemporary physicalism, with its reflexively mechanistic metaphysics, can acknowledge as real.

    Unsophisticated fundamentalist:

    If evolution is true, you could not know that it’s true because your brain is nothing but chemicals.

    David Bentley Hart needs more words to state essentially the same idiotic argument Kent Hovind used to make. New Atheists are constantly admonished for only attacking weaker arguments, but when one actually takes the time to examine them closely, the “best” arguments for theism always turn out to be the same old magical thinking.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Yup. It’s all from the same source, the same basic confusions and folk intuitions and sloppy habits of thought coupled to everything that pushes our emotional buttons.

      It’s interesting how the forest looks from the outside, and how those inside can only see the trees. “Ha! Dawkins confuses us with fundamentalists and we are nothing like them at all! Our God is totally different!”

      But if Hart has been assiduously trying to “distill the essence of God from all faiths” then it seems to me that this particular complaint pretty much falls flat.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      …and, of course, the fact that there is not a shred of evidence that any consciousness has ever existed that wasn’t housed inside a bag of chemicals is just the kind of thing that would impress a crude, obvious, physicalist.

      P.S. Around here it’s Sophisticated Theologian™!

  20. Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Think of all the flowers you can grow on this stuff! And just in time for Spring!

  21. Craig Gallagher
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    “The Father knows his own essence perfectly in the Mirror of Logos…” WTF? Unintelligible garbage – you must have some staying power to wade through 250 pages of this BS.

    • gluonspring
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, the Mirror of Logos. I think it’s twin to the Mirror of Galadriel and it shows you “things that weren’t, and things that aren’t, and things that may never yet may be”. That is, no one who exists can look into the Mirror of Logos and see themselves.

  22. Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    “God is the one act of being, consciousness, and bliss in whom everything lives and moves and has its being”

    Great…, but do I get to go to heaven when I die & do they have pizza?

  23. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I find that Hart to read. If Hart’s magic woo has “infinite simplicity”, why is nothing of that to be seen in Hart’s maladroit text?

    On another tack, I’m glad that Sophisticated Theology™ purveyors gets all riled up by well read atheists relegating the “best argument” for their magic to the round archive. What did they expect? They didn’t even read Dawkins “The God Delusion” before they protected themselves from pertinent criticism by strawmanning it. Did they really hope we would handle Hart with the same “sophistication”?

    As for Hart’s beliefs on consciousness, I have already remarked that he is too late. (E.g. Graziano has a feasible, biologically founded, theory.)

    And this:

    The soul’s unquenchable eros for the divine

    Look how Hart is unable, from his ‘best-of-breed’ theology’, to predict science and atheism both! Not only does he lack evidence, the poor handwaver lack both eyes and wits!

    And “soul”, again!? Please!

  24. Steve Gerrard
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Still less do I believe that the physicalist narrative can account for the mind’s aptitude for generating infinite reiterations of arbitrary attributions to the divine of all manifestations of blissful consciousness and consummate delight in our quotidian transcendence, derived as it is from the ecstatic structure of boundless metaphysical reflections of the inextinguishable yearning to pontificate ad nauseum.

    • Rikki_Tikki_Taalik
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      My first thought after reading the first quote was …

      Never before have I seen a man so bent on treating his backside as though it were a clown car full of adjectives.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted April 20, 2014 at 1:09 am | Permalink

        Ha!

        Also, great ‘nym. Welcome.

  25. Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I hope Hard had a box of Kleenex and / or a fresh change of undergarments handy when he wrote that, because it’s clear he blew his wajd.

    Why he’s so proud of such a masturbatory effort, though, utterly escapes me. Most people have the decency to keep such activity to themselves.

    b&

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Gesundheit!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      I was left with the impression of a different bodily function, one associated with a high-fiber diet.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      “Hard”

      So on purpose, right? :)

      • Posted April 20, 2014 at 6:16 am | Permalink

        I’d love to take intentional credit for that particular typo….

        b&

    • Kurtis Rader
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      That comment deserves a +1000. I suspect Mr. Hart was suffering from alcohol poisoning at the time he wanked off (i.e., wrote the book).

  26. John D
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    The Experience of God has to be a Sokal style hoax. Does he really believe he’s making any sense, rather than just stringing together Goddy woo?

    • D. Taylor
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      He does believe he’s making sense because his goal is to fog the mind. blur, deny, or negate all boundaries and merge with the One, perhaps to achieve a state of divine ecstasy. It is the very opposite of the typical mindset of a scientist: a keen interest in edges, in boundary conditions, in clearly specified parameters. In dissolving all boundaries, including between concepts, the possibility of relationship is also dissolved. The fog is the goal, and he’s right: it’s not science.

  27. Nilou Ataie
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    For your mortification of flesh (abuse to brain tissue),
    I salute you.

  28. Robert Seidel
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    > still less do I believe that it can account for the conscious mind’s aptitude for grasping reality by way of abstract concepts;

    Ah, the “magical” match between math and reality. A friend of mine, who’s a mathematician, simply remarks about this: We wouldn’t be here if the universe didn’t follow rules. So if reality can be discribed as a set of such, we shouldn’t be that surprised.

    BTW, has anyone told Hart these abstract concepts are in part awfully simplistic?

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      And, on top of that, it’s absolutely trivial to create math that has no bearing whatsoever upon reality, or that only approximates it to some limited degree. Or math that’s simply incoherent; every one of us who’s ever gotten a math problem worng knows that.

      What’s impressive about math isn’t how well it comports with reality. It’s how good we (well, some of us) are at ferreting out the math that’s a good match for reality with the math that isn’t. Then again, if we didn’t find math something we could put to good use, we wouldn’t point to it as something useful.

      And, yes; many mathematicians spend their entire careers building mathematical constructs that they merely find aesthetically pleasing and which seemingly have no bearing on reality whatsoever (and which aren’t intended to have any such bearing). And in some cases, yes, it later turns out that said math actually is invaluable at understanding some aspect of the natural world. But so what? Similar parallels of insight can be found in other fields as well; do we cite Orwell as evidence for the magical predictive ability of English literature?

      Math is undoubtedly one of the greatest tools ever invented by humanity, and I won’t put up a fight if somebody wants to give it credit for being the single greatest (even if I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the assessment). But that doesn’t mean we need to reify it any more than we should reify fire or the printing press or the digital wristwatch.

      Cheers,

      b&

  29. Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I can actually follow a lot of that. I spent about 7 years once studying Anthroposophy, and I’ve been into meditation for two decades.

    And as an atheist let me put it on record that I’m neither hostile towards that kind of talk, nor intimidated by it, nor baffled. Just bored absolutely shitless by it. It’s unnecessary.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Hart would make a good read before a colonoscopy

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Being familiar or comfortable with a certain writing style, or understanding what the author is doing by adopting that style, is not the same as understanding the alleged content.

      The fact that there are people out there who write this kind of stuff doesn’t baffle me, either, but I submit that neither of us understand what Hart is saying because not even he does. It is a verbal veneer, underneath which there is no explanatory content.

      • Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:41 am | Permalink

        Yeh, I used to be quite certain understood a whole lot of spiritual terms. But I later realized that they either explain phenomena that are better explained by science, or they are concepts that disappear into thin air when you remove the jargon.

  30. Diane Langworthy
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Read the quoted paragraphs as requested and can confirm that “The quantum soup is full of vibrations.”

    (new-age b.s. generator….my new favorite thing!)

  31. Stephen Barnard
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but the first few sentences made my eyes hurt, so I quit.

    Has anyone else noticed the similarities of obscurantism between Sophisticated Theology and POMO?

    • gbjames
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I’m inclined to think it reflects poorly developed cognitive skills. The alternate explanation is willful deceit. I may be too generous, though.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I was thinking this just the other day. They are vety similar. Clarity is not the goal.

    • Posted April 22, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      See above: there’s an “intellectual” (to speak loosely) common ancestor: Heidegger.

  32. tubby
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I don’t suppose he’s at his local church spreading the Good News of the Ground of Being to the flock?

  33. Kurt Lewis Helf
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Good D-g, what a mess!

  34. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    In any event, I do not believe the physicalist narrative of reality can ever really account for…

    He doesn’t believe it. How can you argue against rock solid argumentation like that?

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      And, with credentials such as his, how can the opinions of mere researchers in the fields of neuroscience and artificial intelligence even compete?

      Checkmate, athiest!

      b&

  35. Posted April 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    This Hart guy isn’t bloviating, he’s flatulating.

    This is by far the biggest pile of mushy, stinky, bovine slop I’ve ever read. It’s actually worse than anything ever cobbled together by the Vatican jackasses.

    Honestly, I don’t how you managed to actually get through 2 pages without flushin’ it down the lube.

    You definitely deserve that OCA card.

  36. cremnomaniac
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    May I be blatantly crude?
    What a lot of fucking crap that is.

    This is because, in God, the fulness of being is also a perfect act of infinite consciousness that, wholly possessing the truth of being in itself, forever finds its consummation in boundless delight.

    This moron appears to have spent A LOT of time using the deepity generator. What the hell does any of that mean? Select any one sentence from that textual excrement and you get nonsense.

    I do not believe the physicalist narrative of reality can ever really account for consciousness…

    STOP there blockhead.

    This is one of those idiots that looks around and says, “It’s all too amazing to be an accident.” They never get that “their” explanation is far more fantastic than the laws of physics at work.

    Thanks for sharing that JC. It would likely have been the first book I had ever considered burning.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Yup, your 2nd sentence is exactly my reaction to suffering through reading Hart’s tripe

  37. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Wow. This riled-up theologian seems intent on beating the reader into submission with the blunt instrument of his leaden prose. His is the writing style of an ambitious freshman, intent on impressing professor (by pouring it all out in a single sitting) with everything he picked up in an advanced-placement course.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, that’s Hart’s prose, since that’s what Jerry quotes. Far as I know, the unnamed, riled-up theologian may be a scintillating stylist.

  38. cremnomaniac
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    My apologies for wasting good bandwidth, but I had to do it, an entire paragraph from the deepity generator. Now how is this different than the drivel that JC quoted?

    Evolution quiets essential miracles that otherwise provide us emotional intelligence which arises and subsides in infinite sexual energy. Your body is beyond universal choices and your nature reflects existential belonging.
    Love experiences reckless joy, as culture serves boundless self-knowledge, and being interdependent, it fascinates an expression of brightness. Infinity is the foundation of positive success, and the unexplainable is only possible in new timelessness in our understanding of the D*g.

    Rubbish…

  39. Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    “In any event, I do not believe the physicalist narrative of reality can ever really account for consciousness and its intentionality (or, alternatively, eliminate the concepts of consciousness and intentionality from our thinking); still less do I believe that it can account for the conscious mind’s aptitude for grasping reality by way of abstract concepts; and I am quite certain it can have nothing solvent to say about the mind’s capacity for absolute values or transcendental aims. All of these things lie outside the circle of what contemporary physicalism, with its reflexively mechanistic metaphysics, can acknowledge as real. In one’s every encounter with the world, one is immersed in the twin mysteries of being and consciousness; and, in the very structure of that encounter, a third mystery appears: that of the absolute. . . In the very midst of our quotidian acts of awareness we are already placed before the transcendent, the infinite horizon of meaning that makes rational knowledge possible, and thereby presented with the question of God.”

    Ken Ham has the shorter versions; “I have a book”. “Nothing”.

  40. kelskye
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    After reading an article in Salon today about how those pesky New Atheists are wrong on consciousness, I’m starting to come around to the idea that God is the vehicle in which one can talk about experience without having to ground it in the awkward question of physical being. That article, like Hart’s quote expresses a pessimistic induction about science’s chances of ever explaining consciousness, all the while our data is getting better and better that consciousness is something that’s part of how our brain works. The question, which is a hard question, is how we make sense of the seeming incompatibility of our inner experience with our biological being. But what it doesn’t entail is the conclusion that therefore it mustn’t be a physical phenomenon. We have absolutely no data to support that conclusion, while we have very good data to the contrary.

    Is God simply a way for us to keep the ultimate anthropocentrism of religion while discarding all the proximate anthropocentrisms of the doctrines? I wonder how Hart would go if his writings were simply about relaying inner experience without trying to tie in metaphysical points about it. I wonder that about much of the experience-based belief writings – how would we with a humanist disposition react to such explications of the human condition sans metaphysical speculations? Is the problem, then, simply that Hart’s drawing untenable conclusions, or that Hart’s addressing a neglected area in humanist writings?

  41. rose
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    He didn’t make sence i read something about the Mirrow of Logos i seen it reading Mirrow of legos and thought what,reread it and it still made no sence.

  42. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    I know that many commenters have thanked Jerry for reading through this muck – for “bearing the cross” for us, so to speak. But it is becoming clear that JAC is doing this for entirely selfish reasons – no martyr is he!

    Confess, Jerry – you’re either an incurable masochist and this is giving you the ultimate thrill, or serious insomniac and this is the only way you can get to sleep at night.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps we should start talking about Soporific Theologians™.

  43. Dale
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Unbelieveable!

  44. Kevin Alexander
    Posted April 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    My guess is–it’s cosmological envy. If the near limitless universe can arise from a single point then “..the infinite simplicity of God..” should be able to expand by verbal gasification to encompass the near limitless whatever the fuck this guy’s talking about.

  45. Zetopan
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    One remarkably consistent truism about the multitude of gods is that they always exhibit the same extreme shortcomings as their followers. Hence Hart’s god must be extremely prone to gigantic amounts of verbal diarrhea with zero explanatory power. This, no doubt, pleases Hart immensely since obscurantism is the very foundation of religious apologetics. Measured in Time Cube Units, “sophisticated theology” is greater than 1.000.

  46. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    I had to copy it out from pages 248 and 249

    There are alternatives, Jerry. Might be easier to slap it on a scanner, save as .pdf, run OCR, copy and paste. Or grab it from Google Books if the pages are accessible.

  47. Jim Sweeney
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    After wading through this dreck, it’s galling to recall that thoughtful people routinely accuse atheists of scientism. Wise heads nod at the assertion that there are things science will never know – it’s not remotely controversial – and bristle at the suggestion that consciousness or morality might have a physical explanation.

    We need to push back and accuse our critics of anti-scientism.

  48. Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    As Marx might have said, religion is the opiate of the people, the LSD of theologians…

  49. Posted April 20, 2014 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Hahahaha. He’s almost out-deeped Deepak, King of the Deepities!

  50. Steve Bowen
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve just downloaded Hart’s book on my Kindle. Even reading the introduction and two chapters in it is obvious that 1) there is nothing to see here, no arguments for God we haven’t heard before. 2) Hart doesn’t even know the definition of an atheist, let alone how to define the meaning of the concept “God”. 3) It is essentially one long courtier’s reply ( at least it’s shaping up that way). Now I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon reading the rest of it…Thanks Jerry!

  51. John Rhino
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Just one word sums it up: “wordsoup”

  52. JimV
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    My naturalistic answer (which may be wrong but is naturalistic) to the “problem of consciousness”:

    A) How does it work/why do we have it?

    Consciousness is the operating system for our brains, analogous to Windows or Linux being the operating system of a PC. The Windows program does not know how to do spreadsheet calculations, but when such calculations are needed (as signaled by external stimuli, e.g. mouse clicks or key presses) it passes on the request to an internal application (e.g., Excel), receives results from the application and presents them externally. Our brains/nervous systems evolved to use such a system for the same reason that computers did: modular systems are more efficient and easier to evolve improvements to than non-modular systems.

    B) Why does it “feel” the way it does?

    The only answer is that in order to exist, which it does, it had to feel like something, and the way it feels is the way such a thing feels in this universe. This problem, if it is one, is identical to the problem of why a rose smells like a rose instead of an orange. (Granted they use different chemicals which affect our olfactory nerves differently, but why couldn’t those olfactory sensations have been reversed?) There is no materialistic answer to this, but neither is there any supernatural or magic one. Nor is there any importance to the answer.

    Want better answers? Do some research and get some data. “God” does not answer these questions or any other questions – it is simply an excuse for not having answers. (I call it the “god ate my homework” excuse.)

  53. Vaal
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    “This is because, in God, the fulness of being is also a perfect act of infinite consciousness that, wholly possessing the truth of being in itself, forever finds its consummation in boundless delight.”

    Boundless delight?

    Does God “delight” in rabies, ebola, malaria, murder, earthquakes, famine (ad infinitum)?

    If so, He’s evil.

    If not, then his delight is hardly “boundless” as there ought to be innumerable instances in which a Good Compassionate God would not delight.

    This is the issues that arise if you try to apply the actual word salads to any real life examples. No coherence.

    Vaal

  54. Richard Thomas
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I was glad to see that Jerry’s religion lecture at UC Davis had a tribute to the ground-up being.


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