Sophisticated theology: why we don’t find God

Why isn’t there more evidence for God in the world? Not to worry—sophisticated theologians have the answer.  Here’s John Haught, whom I‘ll “debate” this evening in Kentucky, explaining God’s absence in a videotaped conversation with, of all people, Robert Wright.  It all has to do with theology’s increasing recognition (based, of course, on tons of evidence) that God is humble:

A humble god would not overwhelm the world, would not stick out prominently as one object among others, which is what religion often looks for. And we’re disappointed because we don’t find that kind of God: we find a very unavailable kind of God. But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

Are objects like glaciers and sand dunes are also constantly striving to become themselves?

This is another great example of theology’s ability to convert scientific necessities into religious virtues.  To paraphrase Delos McKown: “A very unavailable God and a nonexistent God look very much alike.”

______

If you’re near Lexington, Kentucky, come out and hear the debate tonight. I believe my book will be on sale and I’ll be signing it.

155 Comments

  1. MikeW
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    When did God decide to give up humbling smiting people and being humbly wrathful?

    • Frank
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      Well, it takes a lot of humility to drown every innocent child in the world, or to kill every innocent first-born male Egyptian child because of a stubborn Pharoah. Don’t you see the humility shining through? Clearly the Judeo-Christian god is too shy to reveal himself.

      • eric
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        Not to mention the NT; he was also so humble he sent a star to guide people to give gifts to himself when he was born. Choirs of angels to sing at his own birth. He put flames on the heads of his disciples to show other people how he was fulfilling is own prophesy (pentecost)…and so on.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Oh, you atheist fundamentalists with your literal reading of obvious metaphors. Nobody who matters really believes all that stuff happened!

      • montrose77006
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        And nobody who really believes all that stuff matters.

        • MadScientist
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          Unfortunately they do – religions around the world are still the greatest purveyors of misogyny.

          • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

            …and homophobia, racism and for long enough, discrimination against disabled people. (Is there a prejudice religion has not encouraged?)

    • Tulse
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Exactly, MikeW — the god of the Old Testament had no problem at all flooding the entire world, raining fire, wiping out cities, parting seas, etc. etc. etc. It is only as humans have become increasing sophisticated about the natural world and its limits that their god has become increasingly shy.

      • MadScientist
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it’s funny how things have gone from “My God is BIGGER and BETTER than your god!” to “My god is humble and doesn’t care to show up to fight your god.”

    • Filippo
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Several years ago I saw a news article with photo about an infant, both of whose eyes were cancerous to the extent that both had to be removed. The photo reflected very obviously distressed parents holding their child.

      What Bigger Picture was accomplished by that child and parents having to bear that burden?

      • Steersman
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        Reminds me of a passage in Dawkins’ The God Delusion:

        [Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne] seeks to justify suffering in a world run by God: “My suffering provides me with the opportunity to show courage and patience. … Although a good God regrets our suffering, his greatest concern is surely that each of us shall show patience, sympathy and generosity and, thereby, form a holy character. …”

        Remarkable case of rationalization, although at times I wonder at the motivation. The most charitable construction is that they are terribly conflicted, torn between compassion for those caught in the gears of life and a desire to believe in, at any cost, a god that will guarantee them immortality.

  2. Kevin Anthoney
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    I’d have thought that the universe was already itself.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      The universe is like a caterpillar striving to become a butterfly, and everyone know that caterpillars can’t be measured scientifically. Wait.

      • Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        This is all just mothology…

        /@

  3. Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

    But, the 2nd law of thermodynamics is quite clear on this: Entropy is increasing, so the universe becomes more “smooth” (or, less complex). As billions of years pass by, as we currently understand from dark energy, the universe will expand and become more distant until there is nothing left to see. Funny, as this is actually the opposite of what John Haught said.

    I hope you have a physicist handy in case the debate turns to physics 😉

    As a biologist, you can bet it won’t turn to biology. Funny how a theologian can assume that he/she has all of the answers from one book, as opposed to science which needs many specialists in many fields to be able to actually understand the universe.

    • Dan L.
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Entropy is increasing, so the universe becomes more “smooth” (or, less complex).

      Actually, that’s backwards. Entropy is disorder. The universe gets more complex as entropy increases.

      Low entropy is like a sine wave (its behavior can be summarized with very little information) and high entropy is like white noise (a great deal of information is needed to specify the state of white noise).

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        It is better to say that entropy is connected with disorder, however you measure it. (As for complexity, there are many conflicting measures.)

        In statistical physics this connection is clearest, and here entropy is simply a measure of the available energy states (grand ensemble function). It is far more likely for a system to move towards a configuration with more states (increased entropy) than less. If you will, think of it as a combinatorial problem of how to evolve systems so discrete states fall on earlier existing energies.

        Whether disorder actually increase (most likely) or decrease is independent of entropy. Once in a blue moon a container with gas particles have them all occupy states in one corner, even though the number of possible states (entropy) in the container hasn’t changed.

        The claimed equivalence between entropy and disorder is a common mistake,* but it should be avoided because in some cases the predicted physics comes out wrong.

        ———
        * Another technicality is that when we look at the expanding universe, it is even better to say that the entropy _density_ increases.

        Vic Stenger has a nice picture in his “God – the failed hypothesis” where he points out that entropy is maxed out (on a small value) during inflation.

        It is only because the maximum possible entropy increases faster than the total entropy during post-inflationary expansion that structure formation becomes possible. (I.e. that quantum fluctuations in the inflation field “get stuck” as seeds for galaxy clusters.)

        In Haugh’ts theology, standard cosmology expansion is his “god”.

        • Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          Clearly, Jerry, you need Torbjorn available as your tame physicist! He can be your “phone a friend”. (Or am I thinking of a different format… ?)

          /@

  4. GBJames
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Oh, for Christ’s sake.(As my dad used to say.)

    • Dominic
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      Or, as my ma used to say, “Lord love a duck”!

  5. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Any sufficiently unavailable God is indistinguishable from a nonexistent God! (With apologies to Arthur C. Clarke, but all y’all knew that.)

    Deism, anyone?

    /@

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      Not deism for me, but rather agnostic atheism; like Richard Dawkins himself, I’m a 6 on the Dawkins’ Scale:

      1 = Strong (or gnostic) theist: I KNOW (with 100% certainty) that a supernatural creator God exists.

      2 = De-facto (or, agnostic) theist: I do not (indeed I cannot) know for certain that a supernatural creator God exists, but I strongly believe (on “faith”) in God and I live my life on the assumption that there does exist a supernatural creator God.

      3 = Weak theist: Although I am not certain that a supernatural creator God exists, I am inclined to believe a supernatural creator God exists.

      4 = Pure (or, fence-sitting) agnostic: a supernatural creator God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.

      5 = Weak atheist: Although I am not certain that no supernatural creator God exists, I am inclined to be skeptical.

      6 = De-facto (or, agnostic) theist: I cannot know for certain but I think the existence of any supernatural creator God is very improbable and so I withhold from believing in any God and I live my life under the assumption that there does not exist any supernatural creator God.

      7 = Strong Atheist: I KNOW (with 100% certainty) that a supernatural creator God exists.

      • Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I was only suggesting that Haught was sounding like a deist; more on that below.

        /@

      • Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Oh, and on that scale, I think I’m a bleen.

        /@

        • Steersman
          Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Not on that scale at all? An ignostic?

          • Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

            No. Nor an apnostic.

            I mean, I’m between 6 and 7.

            /@

            • Steersman
              Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

              Interesting – learn something new every day. Seems that definition 4 was the earliest coinage [1954]:

              The word bleen has a complementary definition: An object X is bleen if X is blue and was examined before time t, or green and was not examined before t.

              • Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                I learned this only Tuesday!

                /@

      • Claimthehighground
        Posted October 13, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

        You might want to revisit #7

      • Steersman
        Posted October 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        7 = Strong Atheist: I KNOW (with 100% certainty) that a supernatural creator God exists.

        I notice that Dawkins’ own list [The God Delusion; pg 73] only refers to “God” without the “supernatural creator” prefix that you seem to be using. Although I expect that that connotation was generally what he had in mind, even if some of his later musings suggest some different ones – maybe part of the reason why he classified himself in category 6 [“De facto atheist”].

        But it really seems to me that “supernatural” is an incoherent concept – sort of like “square circles” – and Wikipedia suggests others think similarly. If God – in one form or another – actually exists then one would think that that should be considered entirely “natural” – i.e. “as is normal or to be expected”, “being so through innate qualities” (of life, the universe and everything). Seems the reason that the religious want to create the “supernatural” classification is to ensure that their particular idiosyncratic conceptions of God are forever outside the realm of empirical validation. As Rudolf Carnap, in his book Philosophy and Logical Syntax, put it:

        Metaphysicians cannot avoid making their statements nonverifiable, because if they made them verifiable, the decision about the truth or falsehood of their doctrines would depend upon experience and therefore belong to the region of empirical science. This consequence they wish to avoid, because they pretend to teach knowledge which is of a higher level than that of empirical science. Thus they are compelled to cut all connection between their statements and experience; and precisely by this procedure they deprive them of any sense.

    • Tulse
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Yep. Has anyone asked Haught why he bothers to worship a god that is so unavailable? I can understand worshipping a god that answers prayers and intervenes in other ways in one’s life, but why bother praising such a watery, deist form of god?

      • Screechy Monkey
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        I expect Haught would respond to such a question with some deepities about seeking enlightenment rather than actual measurable things.

        It would be interesting to try to pin him down that those people who DO pray for detectable, measurable things (e.g. that little Timmy will survive his operation) are incorrect to seek that. “Sophisticated” theologians are happy to throw fundamentalists under the bus, but there are plenty of non-fundies who still treat prayer as a request hotline.

  6. Schmeer
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Thou shalt have no other gods but Me.

    Sounds perfectly humble. I guess he wasn’t talking about the Abrahamic god, huh?

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      “For I am a jealous God…” 

      I suppose you can be jealous and humble at the same time. Of course, with God, all things are possible…

      “Thou shalt have no other gods but Me. Er… if that is all right with thee?”

      /@

      • Schmeer
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

        You could possibly be jealous and humble, but certainly not humble while capitalizing personal pronouns which refer to you.

      • Filippo
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        How can a deity be jealous of other deities unless those other deities exist?

        So, do these other deities exist?

    • Aratina Cage
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      So humble that no one is allowed to speaketh his nameth or take his name in vain.

      • Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!

        /@

  7. Dominic
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    God sounds increasingly like Uriah Heep!
    Very ‘umble.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      Yarweh Heep!

      It takes guts to be ’umble, so it does.

      /@

      • Dominic
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

        Very good! But I am loath to go too far down this path (umble pie) for fear of setting Ben off!
        😉

        • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

          Yes, we all know what that would entrail… um, sorry, entail.

          /@

          • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:30 am | Permalink

            Are you suggesting I might be intestined in your discussion?

            b&

            • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

              Why? Don’t you have the stomach for it?

              /@

              • Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

                Oh, sure I am. It’s just that there’s so much spleen’in I’d have to do first…you sure you want to listen to me bladder on like that? I mean, I ain’t kidneyin’….

                b&

              • Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

                Oh, offally clever. I’m seeing you in a new light, Ben.

                /@

              • Dominic
                Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

                Oh deer…

              • Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

                Take hart, Dominic! This will soon be behind you…

                /@

              • Steersman
                Posted October 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

                No shit! Entirely digested ….

  8. James Walker
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    If God is so humble, why does he want to be worshipped all the time?

    • Dominic
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink

      Recall the bit from the Monty Python Meaning of Life?
      CHAPLAIN: Let us praise God. O Lord,…
      CONGREGATION: O Lord,…
      CHAPLAIN: …ooh, You are so big,…
      CONGREGATION: …ooh, You are so big,…
      CHAPLAIN: …so absolutely huge.
      CONGREGATION: …so absolutely huge.
      CHAPLAIN: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
      CONGREGATION: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
      CHAPLAIN: Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and…
      CONGREGATION: And barefaced flattery.
      CHAPLAIN: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.

      • Wowbagger
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I asked the infamous David Heddle about why God needed to be worshipped, and his answer was (roughly) that God doesn’t want or need to be worshipped, but that worshipping God is good for people, since it (apparently) makes them feel good.

        Make of that what you will…

  9. Jacob
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    “Sophisticated” theologians are great at only one thing: devising the most meaningless, obfuscating, and painfully tortured sentences that have ever been committed to English writing (or speech). That quote reads like a rejected article from The New Yorker, filled with empty pretensions and artifices. It’s an incoherent attempt to turn a simple point into something profound by using language to make it seem like it’s saying more than it really is.

    As for the content: this is easily countered by Paul’s retort in Romans that the evidence for god is really obvious (even though Paul never tells us what that evidence is). Haught is trying to have it both ways: he wants a god of absolute necessity and personal intimacy yet, when evidence is demanded, a god who remains mysteriously elusive. By making this argument, Haught manages to elude any actual demands placed upon his faith. The problem is that Christians will welcome anything they perceive as evidence but make excuses for god when the evidence is absent. Yet the Bible is filled with men who honestly asked for evidence and were rewarded for it. I don’t think that Christians should make excuses for the absence of evidence. This is the same god who parted the Red Sea and stopped the movements of the sun for a day (or the movements of the Earth, depending upon who you ask).

    • Kevin
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      Absolutely correct.

      Haught is flat-out lying (at least according to his belief system) in order to score rhetorical points.

      He doesn’t think god is absent or unavailable. Heck, he eats god every Sunday! Talks to him on a regular basis — and probably think it talks back!

      • Steersman
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        I seem to recollect reading a comment by a “forensic psychologist” – Martin Blinder – that those who talk to god are devout, but that those who think god talks to them are deluded – or psychotic, depending on the company one keeps.

  10. Pete Moulton
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Haught actually said this? Whatever are you going to do tonight, Jerry? The man’s already made a parody of himself. Not much left for you to do but point and laugh.

  11. Scryptic
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    It seems he really means “shy” rather than “humble”. I might have gone for “agoraphobic”, though I think “nonexistent” really captures the essence of this fellow.

  12. Tim
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    Maybe God is just bored or has become disinterested in a world that can produce such mindless drivel. John Haught is tedious enough to make his mother avoid his calls.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:29 am | Permalink

      *uninterested

      • Tim
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

        disinterested |disˈintəˌrestid; -tristid|
        adjective

        1 not influenced by considerations of personal advantage : a banker is under an obligation to give disinterested advice.

        2 having or feeling no interest in something : her father was so disinterested in her progress that he only visited the school once.

        I’d say the “2” fits quite well.

        • Tim
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          Oddly, the usage advice in the same dictionary does indicate that uninterested is the better choice, despite having provided an example of usage (2) that contradicts that advice.

        • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

          Hello, fellow Mac user!

          I stand corrected. I can only blame my English teachers and others for being zealous about this. Or maybe the distinction is sharper in British English that it is in American English? (Don’t get me started on “momentarily” and “table” as a verb.)

          /@

          • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

            Or — a more similar example — using “refute” for “deny”. Thank you, Richard M. Nixon.

            /@

            • Dominic
              Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

              Imply/infer. Imply meaning to suggest without being totally explicit, & infer being how a glamourous starlet from Hollywood used to dress.

    • Tim
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:30 am | Permalink

      sniff, sniff … Gawwwdd, why don’t you take me out anymore? Why don’t we go out and smite people like when we first got married? sniff, sniff, Don’t you love me anymore?

  13. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    So how does he reconcile his “humble” God with the God of the Bible?

    Oh no, wait, I forgot, it’s all metaphorical. So let me rephrase: Is “You shall have no other gods before me” now a metaphor for how humble God is?

    You know, people who claim that the Bible is all metaphorical often seem to forget that metaphors can also contradict each other and even simply be wrong.

  14. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    A rational theologian would not overwhelm his audience, would not stick out prominently as one intellect among others, which is what accommodationists often look for. And we’re disappointed because we don’t find that kind of theologian: we find a very unavailable kind of theologian. But the unavailability of rational theologians is a correlate of the fact that we find a religious intellectualism which is constantly striving to become itself.

    Fixed that for you, Mr. Haught.

    Cheers,

    b&

  15. Matt G
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    They really don’t get the difference between reasoning and rationalizing, do they? Is it that they *don’t* understand, or that they *can’t* understand?

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      Third option: don’t want to understand.

  16. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    My father left us when I was young so I’ve never seen him, but he’ll still randomly cause bad things to happen to good people. It’s just because he’s humble a jerk.

  17. Sigmund
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    If one treats each religion as a scientific hypothesis there is one simple caveat that can be applied to make each faith individually compatible with what we know from science.
    That caveat, of course, is that God purposefully made it look like He doesn’t exist.
    Naturally enough religious people are none too keen on choosing this option. Even though it will immunize them from future embarrassments caused by religious teachings being shown to be negated by scientific discoveries (consciousness, morality etc), it doesn’t quite fit that an all loving father figure could be such a sneaky so-and-so whose actions make atheists appear to be the only ones on the correct track.
    The other problem with this hypothesis is that it suggest that the best way to learn more about the world is to abandon scripture altogether (it’s full of misleading falsehoods put in by sneaky God!) and simply apply the scientific method!

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

      There are actually believers who will argue this. Unfortunately, they hardly if ever take the last step you suggest and simply stop doting on the Bible all together.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      Yeah, the usual tack is that God is revealed plenty in nature, human nature, and the Bible (or other scriptures), but unbelievers are just too blinded by sin and pigheadedness to see it.

      The presentation and analysis of this relevatory “evidence” always seems to be rather lame, though.

  18. Kevin
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Bafflegab — “a universe that is constantly striving to become itself”.

    Why does that little kid in the TV ad keep coming to mind? “What does that even mean?”

    For the record, Mr. Haught: The universe is not “striving”. The universe is almost entirely inanimate. It cannot “strive” for anything. The universe is rapidly expanding, one galaxy away from another — cooling down to an inevitable heat death in a few trillion years.

    When do you suppose in this process, the universe will have “become itself”? Isn’t the universe already pretty much “itself”?

    And isn’t it a scientific certainty that the universe — well, by definition — is the sum total and entirety of everything accessible to those of us that live within it? So, a universe “striving” to become something other than the sum total of everything is pretty much weapons-grade nonsense.

    Thank you for playing. Next contestant, please.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      The universe is a DYNAMIC system (if it weren’t dynamic, we couldn’t be having this discussion, for nothing would have even ever happened). And ANY DYNAMIC system (that is, ANY system whose subsequent states are distinguishably different from prior states) can be said (in a casually loose manner of speaking) to “strive” — but the mere fact that a given system is dynamic does not by any valid logic employing only sound premises demonstrate that that system STRIVES (in a rigorously precise manner of speaking) towards any given (pre-specifiable) goal or state.

      If a theologian cannot understand that or recognize that others (in, say, an audience) can understand that, why should anyone pay any serious attention to anything that theologian might say?

  19. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    I bought a cat, in my lap she turned into a Timex watch. When I contacted the company, they told me that the have stopped manufacturing watches since watches has started getting manufactured randomly, without any control. Do you believe this. The point is even a very tiny piece of equipment does not get manufactured/work at its own. How this complete universe is working perfectly without any outside control. The external control is God.” Be honest to yourself, Have you ever tried to find God or wanted His company; Sit in your room with bible in hand, read it and request God to come to you. Believe me, you will find him very near to you.

    • Schmeer
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      I tried. It didn’t work.

      • DV
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        You didn’t try hard enough to delude yourself.

    • Kevin
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

      Oh criminey. Argument from design? Really?

      Whoo…wheee….can’t breathe….HAHAHAHAHAHA….Oh gosh….snot bubbles…..HAHAHAHAHA….

      Go away. No kidding. First and last warning. Your feelings will be hurt if you continue with this vapid nonsense.

    • ritebrother
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Poe

      • Matt G
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        Doubt it – there are tens of millions of people in the US alone who could have written this. Clueless, and arrogant in their “humility.”

    • James C. Trager
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Planbox’s comment would seem a good example of god not overwhelming us.

    • steve oberski
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      For a purportedly muslim country, Pakistan seems to be infested with xtian churches.

      From the planbox website, here we have a perfect description of religion in operation:

      In November 1990 fanatics attacked the Sacred Heart Church. The parish priest Fr. Bruno Sequeira was brutally beaten. The mob tried to throw him in a fire made from the pews. The facade of the Church is obscured by high boundary wall constructed in front of it.

      On the plus side, the website does have some delicious sounding chicken recipes.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        And some fine tips for pest control. Borax, the “the miracle mineral”. Sacred stuff, no doubt.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Cats magically transforming into watches is the sort of thing you’d expect to see if there were gods running around performing miracles. Interesting that you ridicule a scenario that would actually support your position and throw ours into question.

      • Aratina Cage
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        I know! On first reading that, I thought it would go like this: Do cats magically turn into watches? No, of course not. Let’s put the stories of magic behind us. Big surprise there!

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Disclaimer: No cats were actually hurt in the construction of this awful metaphor.

    • YourName's notBruce?
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Why the bible? Why that book? Why not any of the many other books that humans call “holy”. Why should one need a book at all? Is not the existence of a god an observable fact about the universe? If not, why not?

      God is as close and real and intimate as any other character I come across in fiction.

    • YourName's notBruce?
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Why the bible? Why that book? Why not any of the many other books that humans call “holy”. Why should one need a book at all? Is not the existence of a god an observable fact about the universe? If not, why not?

      God is as close and real and intimate as any other character I come across in fiction.

      • YourName's notBruce?
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Posted twice for your further enjoyment of superfluous redundancy….

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

          I guess he thought so, too.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      And how — under what “outside control” — did such a[n alleged] wondrously-performing supernatural creator God “get manufactured?”

      And if [alleged] God is an EXCEPTION to the rule you propose “proves” that a supernatural creator God must exist, by what logic do you think should compel ME to REJECT a different, purely natural EXCEPTION to the rule you propose (namely, that mass-energy in one state and form or others has always existed uncaused from which the universe, Earth and life that we see today evolved in nature without intelligent guidance, just as physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and our natural history which those disciplines reveal and collectively SHOUT to be the case-in-fact)?

      Over the course of my life I have COUNTLESS times been honest with myself, wanted [alleged] God’s company, and tried to find [alleged] God by sitting in my room with bible in hand, reading it while praying my request — yea BEGGING — for [alleged] God to come to me. Yet so far in over 60 years of living and more than 40 years of earnest searching I have not found ANY (objective or personal-purely-subjective-of-my-own) SIGN of any [alleged] God near or far.

      In the last sentence of your post above you assert that I should believe you, but I have not found any reason to believe what you assert to be true, and so presently, I do NOT believe you.

      Still, because I AM honest with myself, I do acknowledge the POSSIBILITY that my agnostic atheism may be wrong. Will YOU be honest with YOURself and admit that YOUR baldly-asserted gnostic theism may be wrong?

      If so, good, then you do at least understand where I am coming from and why I am not swayed by bald assertions of [alleged] God’s existence.

      And if not, then who the heck are YOU to ask ME to be honest with MYself???

      • Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        I think you’re taking planbox far too seriously.

        /@

  20. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    I bought a cat, in my lap she turned into a Timex watch. When I contacted the company, they told me that the have stopped manufacturing watches since watches has started getting manufactured randomly, without any control. Do you believe this. The point is even a very tiny piece of equipment does not get manufactured/work at its own. How this complete universe is working perfectly without any outside control. The external control is God.” Be honest to yourself, Have you ever tried to find God or wanted His company; Sit in your room with bible in hand, read it and request God to come to you. Believe me, you will find him very near to you.

    • Jolo
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      The point is even a very tiny piece of equipment does not get manufactured/work at its own.

      Dear Planbox, who made God?

      • Posted October 13, 2011 at 3:06 am | Permalink

        You cannot pour Atlantic in a cup of tea, our vision is too restricted to comprehend the mysteries of universe. In spite of all the scientific theories, we cannot reach at the law of evolution.We have to go with God to understand the mystery of our creation. We have to first taste the food in order to make an educated comment. Over thousands of years of recorded history, no ape has reported that he has evolved from ape to human.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 13, 2011 at 4:49 am | Permalink

          Your’s, planbox, clearly is. You demonstrate this repeatedly. And yet again, here.

        • Tulse
          Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

          Over thousands of years of recorded history, no ape has reported that he has evolved from ape to human.

          Oh come now, planbox — if you are the least bit informed about evolution you know what is silly about this argument. You may not “believe in” evolution, but at least do yourself the courtesy of getting the arguments for it right. You look like an ignoramus otherwise.

        • ritebrother
          Posted October 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          Come on – really??? I say Poe.

    • Dan L.
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Hhhmmm, the most efficient solar panels are the leaves of green plants. They are many orders of magnitude more complex than any human solar energy systems. But have you ever seen anyone assembling or operating a green plant?

      How could this be? How could a power plant so much more complicated than any man-made device assemble and operate itself?

      The problem is that you seem to think conscious human-like agency is the only cause that “matters.” If someone doesn’t choose to do something it doesn’t get done. That’s not really true of the universe, though, stuff happens all the time whether there’s anyone to do it or not.

      What really gets me is that atheists get accused of being philosophically naive when there are theists making arguments like this.

      • GBJames
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Planbox is not making an argument. He/She is reciting a prayer. There is no thought involved, just repetition a string of meaningless phrases.

    • Rick
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Sit in your room with bible in hand, read it and request God to come to you

      Genesis 22:2
      Genesis 22:10
      Genesis 38:7
      Genesis 38:10
      Exodus 4:23
      Exodus 12:12
      Exodus 12:29
      Exodus 13:15
      Exodus 15:3
      …get the idea? Have you read those verses? Lets jump to the “nicer” new testament…
      Matthew 3:10-12
      Matthew 5:17
      Matthew 7:13-14
      Matthew 7:19
      Matthew 10:28
      Mark 4:11-12
      Mark 5:12-13
      Mark 9:43-49

      …and the list goes on and on. Have you read the bible? If your divine watchmaker exists, he’s one mean summbitch.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      The point is even a very tiny piece of equipment does not get manufactured/work at its own.

      so, you take an observation on a HUMAN construction, and project that onto the rest of everything?

      If you were a beaver, do you think you would conclude that all the forest was constructed so you could make dams?

      what about a bee?

      would you think that since you spend your life making honeycombs, that then all flowers must have been placed there so you could do that?

      I doubt you can actually see where I’m going with this, but trust me when I say:

      you’re no different than a bee here.

      …and no more correct.

  21. Heintje
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Only in theology: “Absence of evidence is evidence of presence”.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      +1

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Theology, and George W. Bush’s administration.

      • Aratina Cage
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Nice one! (And one of the worst things Hitchens has ever fallen for.)

  22. Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Wait, so hiding in the dark and wanting everyone to talk about you anyway is humble now? Hmmmm, interesting.

    Oh, that kind of humble… like the kind of “humble” that theists are when they ask the supreme ruler of the universe to help out with their football game. Got it.

    Humble, adj. 1.
    Having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. 2. Considering yourself to the be the most important individual in the entire universe, esp. in Christianity.

  23. steve oberski
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Hitchens on the “humility” of the religious:

    It is the, only the most extraordinarily self-centered species, could imagine that all this was going on for our sake, that’s why I don’t like people saying that their religious faith is modest or humble. It’s the reverse, it’s unbelievably soliphistic and that’s why you get people apparently abject, much too abject for my taste like Mother Teresa. Oh, I’m so humbled I can hardly bother to feed myself, but out of my way because I’m on a mission from God. No, this is arrogance, as a matter of fact, and it claims to know what it cannot know.

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      At least when their g-d puts on his humble clothes, he disappears. If only his toadies would do the same; they being made in the image, etc, etc.

  24. Tim
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    If we were charitable, we’d realize that Mr. Haught has to make a living and his job must really be tough sometimes. People (jerks like us) are always asking him the same things, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t he do miracles anymore? I mean, we could use more loaves, more fishes, and definitely more wine… Why did he let that tsunami wipe hundreds of thousands of souls off the face of the map? Why that earthquake? Why the hurricane? I mean, he coulda sent the hurricane north up the Atlantic and we never woulda been the wiser, that woulda been humble…” Blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine… What’s a theologian to do? They’ve told us, “God’s a mystery, it’s beyond your ken,…” But we just keep on whining, so he makes shit up so we’ll get off his back, fer crissake!

  25. Strider
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Anybody interested in going to Pazzo’s Pizza Pub after the “debate”? http://www.pazzospizzapub.com/
    Good pizza and good beer! Jerry?

    • Strider
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      Pazzo’s is literally just up the street (385 S. Limestone) from the UK Student Center where the “debate” is being held.

    • Strider
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Anyone? Beuller?
      I will be at Pazzo’s afterward with a friend/colleague. I’ll be the big guy drinking a Three Floyd’s Alpha King and wearing a black Richard Dawkins Foundation “We are all Africans” shirt.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      How I wish I could, but there’s an ocean in the way. I note that it’s on the corner of Euclid and S. Limestone…

      The intersection of Geometry & Geology ~ that’s gotta be a sign from the ancient gods ~ saying that a good pizza trumps loaves’n’fishes

      • Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Yep, pizza ŵ anchovies sounds pretty good right now!

        Bon chance et bon appetite!

        /@

  26. vel
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    seems like this “argument”(I hesitate to call it one) would indicate that the bible of Christianity, and the various other holy books are totally WRONG.

  27. DrDroid
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    “But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.”

    What the hell does that mean?

    • Rob
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      That he’s taken one too many tokes

      • Steersman
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Way over the line …. sweet Jesus …

  28. Rolf
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    QUOTE: “This is another great example of theology’s ability to convert scientific necessities into religious virtues.”

    Didn’t theologians do that at all times? Isn’t it one of the ways, theology works at all?

    Rolf

  29. NewEnglandBob
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    … we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

    I wonder if the universe sits around the campfire sing Kumbaya.

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      The universe is good enough, it’s smart enough, and — doggone it — people like it!

      • reboho
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        That’s just stinkin’ thinkin!
        Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt!

    • Ken Browning
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Last month I saw the universe at a Tony Robbins seminar. I asked her out to lunch but she had too much to do.

  30. Tim
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Three commandments, no less. Three commandments, the violation of which will condemn you to eternal torture. Each dedicated to ensuring that you properly take heed of, slobber before, and grant exclusivity to that humble fellow, the LORD!

    • Kevin
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Four actually.

      1. No other god but that one (a clear violation of the First Amendment, FWIW).
      2. No graven images (violated continually since year 1 — see Chapel, Sistine).
      3. Don’t take that guy’s name in vain (It’s not about curse words, however. It’s about contract law in an era where everyone was illiterate. If you swear by Yahweh to give deliver 5 goats for the wedding feast, don’t deliver 4).
      4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy — so you can spend the entire day worshiping the humbleness that is Yahweh.

      • Tim
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        Three commandments, no less.

        Good thing I said no less!

  31. Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    If you want to make a humble pie from scratch, you must first not create the universe. [/Sagan]

    • Kevin
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      …and Ray wins the thread.

  32. Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Do you know if the debate will be recorded and, if so, will it be available for either later listening or viewing? Thanks.

  33. Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    So that’s what it looks like when an adult rephrases an argument used by children to explain why nobody can see their imaginary friend. “You could see Hubert, but he doesn’t want you to!”

    Fortunately, really special people can see Hubert because they are so special (and humble, of course).

  34. Llwddythlw
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    “Die mystischen Erklärungen gelten für tief; die Wahrheit ist, dass sie noch nicht einmal oberflächlich sind.” – Nietzsche in The Gay Science.

    (Mystical explanations are considered deep. The truth is that they are not even superficial).

    h/t Bob Felton for including the English quotation on your commentary on Jerry’s article. I must read more of Nietzsche’s aphorisms.

  35. rez imotoboleht
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I hope these debates, this one in particular, are video taped and uploaded to YouTube.

  36. KP
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    The argument I hear most from believers is that God is actively at work in their lives, and that’s evidence of God’s existence. How does this work with an “unavailable” god???

    Oh, I know. God is “unavailable” when it’s convenient for theologians to defend against atheists who point out the lack of evidence for “His” existence. Otherwise, God is everywhere.

    And this: But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

    shows theology’s infinite capacity for obfuscation by bullshit.

  37. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

    So the data that is used to test that there are natural processes (“constantly striving to become itself”) and can be used to test for that there are only natural processes, is somehow indicative that there are gods. How convenient.

    Now only deists are allowed to find support in “sophisticated theology”, according to this. At the same time such “anything goes” disallows any and all support for science, since a theory that predicts everything predicts exactly nothing.

    As Haught has torn down the edifice of human accomplishment and replaced it with sop, we can only congratulate him for making such childish behavior babysit the feeble humanity that is left sitting in the ruins.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      … sitting with wet diapers in the ruins. …

    • Posted October 12, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Yes! This is just like PZ’s discussion of the oscillation between “gods as working deities (GAWD)” and “gods who avoid reality (GWAR)”.

      As I said earlier, Any sufficiently unavailable God is indistinguishable from a nonexistent God! At the very least, Haught seems to be arguing for a deistic or pan[en]theistic “God”: His “unavailable” God is definitely a GWAR, but doesn’t he talk about him elsewhere as if he’s a GAWD? He can’t have it both ways.

      This isn’t the incompatibility of science/reason and religion/theology but the incompatibility of two religions/theologies.

      If Haught really wants to argue for deism to win the debate that religion is compatible with science, fine; but he’s got to acknowledge that he’s left Christianity way behind!*

      /@

      PS. Although a friend of mine who was decades ago an atheist and is now a churchgoer (I’m not clear if he is now actually a theist; there may be family reasons for this change in behaviour), recently claimed that most Anglicans are deists at heart. But I still can’t see how you reconcile Jesus with deism.

  38. truthspeaker
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    If he’s so humble, why praise him so much? It probably embarrasses him.

  39. reboho
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

    Translation:

    Jerry: [to Haught, while high] Okay. That means that our whole solar system could be, like one tiny atom in the fingernail of some other giant being. [Haught nods] This is too much! That means one tiny atom in my fingernail could be–
    Haught: Could be one little tiny universe.
    Jerry: Could I buy some pot from you?

  40. 386sx
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    A humble god would not overwhelm the world,

    Nice job excluding the middle. This is the favorite pastime of theologians, be they sophisticated or not. They would exclude the middile even if it didn;t have a middle. they would find a way, believe me. Lol.

  41. Steersman
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    But the unavailability of God is a correlate of the fact that we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.

    Another leading contender in the “logic-chopping and wishful thinking” sweepstakes. But, unfortunately, it only manifests the same perspective as that described in P.B. Medawar’s review of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man: “Its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself”.

    But it is interesting the frequent use of that trope, that idea, which of course derives, largely it would seem, from Aristotelian-Thomist “metaphysics” [aka bafflegab]. Though some parts of it seem of some utility, for example as suggested by this from Feser:

    Finally, a complete account of the universe and of human nature in terms that make no reference whatsoever to purpose, meaning, and design is not within our grasp and never will be, for the simple reason that such an “account” is in principle impossible and the hope for it is based on nothing more than muddle-headedness mixed with wishful thinking. We can no more eliminate purpose and meaning from nature than we can square the circle. [The Last Superstition; pg 12]

    Though, regrettably, whatever value there might be in such perspectives is seriously hobbled and corrupted by its mixture with Christianity and by Feser’s apparent chumminess with fellow-traveler Dembski – who rather damningly asserted that “Christ [is] the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation”. Or, as another philosopher, Bill Vallicella – whom Feser touts or references in a number of his posts, put it:

    I find it hard to resist the suspicion that what Aquinas has done is implanted Christian elements into the foreign soil of Aristotelianism.

    That turkey, that largely sterile miscegenation, if the result is not actually a monster, of Aristotelian metaphysics (and physics) and Judaic-Christian mythology – is just not going to fly – regardless of how much of a strong wind that apologists such as Feser and Haught manage to create with their bluster.

  42. MadScientist
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    “Don’t make any graven images or you will die!” – A humble god making a humble pronouncement.

    • Kevin
      Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Don’t eat that fruit or you’ll die today! — Humble god lying his ass off.

      Go ahead and eat the fruit. You won’t die today, and you’ll understand more about yourself and the world around you — Talking snake.

      And, of course, there is the entire book of Job. Which is nothing more nor less that a braggard making a bet about how much he can push a poor schlub around before it finally starts complaining. And then getting pissed when the poor fellow reaches his limit.

      Some kinda not-humble there.

      • Steersman
        Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        Some kinda not-humble there.

        A thoroughly nasty character. No wonder there’s a Jewish aphorism – courtesy of Steven Pinker in his How the Mind Works – that has it that if Jehovah lived on Earth people would break his windows. What’s really amazing, astounding actually, is that people – some 70% of Americans according to the Pew Forum Report – actually believe in the literal truth of great swaths of the Bible and similar “holy” books. The prognosis does not look good ….

        Although, as metaphor there is, I think, still some value in that book, something that can actually bear some significant weight. For example, Eric MacDonald has an interesting and detailed exposition of that point here.

  43. Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    “Thou shalt have no other gods before me … Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”

    Yep – so humble he’ll punish your great-grandchildren if you dare defy him.

    Oh, and he invented Hell in order to daemon-rape unbelievers. Not just for hours, days or years – FOREVER.

    Kim Jong-Il is infinitely more humble than this fucking maniacal god. At least he doesn’t keep persecuting you after he’s worked, starved or tortured you to death.

  44. Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    “we find a universe which is constantly striving to become itself.”

    What a wonderfully meaningless expression! So the universe is not itself yet? Then what is it?

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      Chopped liver

  45. Ipad41001
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    100+ comments and no mention of the Babel fish? 🙂


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