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Re: Ch. 6 - My journey
This chapter describes my journey from a theological seminary to atheism. It includes some brief biographical information and high and low points along the way. I comment on my life without religions in general and make a few observations about Christianity in particular.
"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."
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I'm not going to comment much on the first half of this chapter, except to say that I think it to be one of the most straightforward and valuable sections of the book, thus far. You've prevented the narrative of your transition in very straightforward terms, and did an excellent job of briefly couching it in the context of lived experience.
That said, it isn't entirely clear to me how the second half relates to the first. Not that it doesn't relate, and obviously the experiences that move a person from one phase of life to the next will precipitate more specific thoughts about those changes. What I mean to say is just that I didn't really get a sense of how the experiences that led you from theism to atheism really connect to, say, a consideration of the omni-predicates and their potential for contradiction. It seemed to me that the more critical second half of the novel could have been its own chapter, but if you had a more holistic view of the purpose of situating those two halves (the personal and the critical) next to one another, then I'd be interested to hear that view directly from the source. (Which is my way of asking how you see the chapter's structure functioning as a whole.)
One other point. It doesn't seem to me that there is an intrinsic contradiction among the omni-predicates traditionally associated with the Abrahamic God. I'm not sure that I hold those omni-predicates to be true, so I don't feel any particular obligation to defend them, but as a point of logical clarification, I do think it's worth noting.
You can, of course, draw them into contradiction, depending on what premises you apply to the logical structure of the argument. In the case of your discussion of the attributes, the most obvious premise in support of a contradiction is that time is an essential component of existence. I'm not even really sure how you'd substantiate that claim. Modern physics seems to support the notion that time and matter (or energy) are intimately connected, but if you're already willing to consider the possibility of existence apart from material embodiment (as most theologians are) then dissociating it from time is no major impediment. I think a really thoroughgoing Catholic theology would posit that God was the originator not only of matter but of time as well. Taken even further, that theology might posit that God not only originated time and matter, but also sustains them, and that, without that continual generation on the part of God, both time and matter would collapse back into non-being. It's a logical consequence of those premises (and the omni-predicates seem to have been determined, in some circles at least, by a rationale along these lines) that God is both omniscient and omnipotent -- which is much the same as saying that God is necessarily coextensive with the whole of perceptual reality (because anything that lay outside of God's power to sustain being would instantly cease to exist in both time and space). That still leaves the problems of free will and evil, which are, of course, the more traditional lines along which theologians struggle to reconcile doctrine to logical elaboration; it also leaves a more semantic issue, namely that of what it means to say that God "exists", but then, I think most theologians would consider that question mostly semantic -- that is, a problem that arises from our use of a particular language to describe that which we really don't have a better word for.
Of course, those are all arguable points. By raising them, I don't intend to make an argument for a logically consistent, omni-predicated God. My intention was merely to point out that there seems to be nothing intrinsically contradictory in predicating God that way. The problems only arise when you start introducing other assumptions -- for example, that God is perfectly benevolent; or that existence is necessarily existence in time; or that "God exists" is an accurate description of what theists believe about God. So long as those assumptions are not, themselves, in contradiction with other assumptions that we take to be valid (and I have to insist on the agreement implied by "we"), then logically speaking, all criticisms are likely to be a matter of personal exception.
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Mad: Actually, it's more like the last third of the chapter, but I thought, at that point in the narrative, I should indicate some of my thoughts on the god idea and Christianity. In retrospect, I might have done better to have made it a separate chapter, but I really didn't want to spend that much time on it. In a sense, it was me saying, "OK, you've heard my story, this is where it brought me in terms of the beliefs that had been so important earlier in my life."
Of course, you're absolutely correct that the incompatible elements in one definition of the god-idea can be brought into compatibility in a different version of the god-idea. Theologians have been very inventive at finding new ways, and reordering some old ones, of defining a god into existence. I'm generally underwhelmed by the efforts. To my mind, they have consisted of a lot of special pleading and question begging presented in word salads demonstrating various levels of erudition. In the words of the immortal Gertrude Stein (who said it, I think, of Oakland, California), "There's no 'there' there." Or, at least, that's my view.
But, as you say, these are all arguable points.
And, yes, I do regard temporality as a necessary feature of existence.
_________________ George Ricker
"Nothing about atheism prevents me from thinking about any idea. It is the very epitome of freethought. Atheism imposes no dogma and seeks no power over others."
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