On Religion

Atheists annoy me. I reckon they should learn to pass over in silence or embrace a logic with more than two truth values rather than run about exclaiming how “God Exists” is an obviously false proposition. The universe is a big and complicated place and just because not every sentence in the Christian bible is true, it doesn’t mean that they’re all false. It doesn’t mean that there is no God-like thing Out There, nor even that no religion gets it right or close to right. I don’t see why giving a proposition a value of “neither true or false” is any more demanding or dishonest than saying it’s false because there’s no evidence for its truth. Does God exist? Mu. I don’t know. I’m not even sure how to define the concept of God.

I dislike Russell’s teapot argument, brought up by Peter Atkins in the debate on Tuesday at Edinburgh University.

“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.”

No sensible person would believe it’s feasible that there is a teapot floating out in space between us and mars, so we jump immediately to the truth value false, not a fence sitting don’t know. To me the crucial difference between this and a proposition about the existence of a god is that we have a rather thorough notion of what kind of a thing a teapot is. Teapots are constructed by humans and the most likely way a teapot could get into orbit around mars is if a human put it there. It’s unlikely NASA ever launched a teapot orbiter probe, therefore it’s fairly safe to conjecture that there is no teapot. (Though if I worked for NASA I’d probably sneak a teapot into a probe if I got the chance.) But the existence of a something that constructed the universe, something we don’t understand, not necessarily a white-cloak semi-Santa Claus figure, is a very different “thing”. We don’t know a lot about that kind of thing, other than that (if it exists…) it/he/she/them makes universes (and recursively makes itself?).

Even if there were a God like thing Out There, what’s to stop us studying its properties? In science often an object is conjectured to exist to try to make sense of some phenomena before it’s understood. Religion isn’t inconsistent with science or modern philosophy (I think?).

Religions also have their own evolution—intriguingly enough given how they’re often associated with anti-evolutionary ideas. One needs only look at the increase in the number of female and gay ministers (from zero) in the Church of England, for instance. Views change. Interpretations of the bible evolve.

In the meantime, here’s an interpretation of the Christian Holy Trinity that came to me in a moment of… divine inspiration… in the pub. The gist:

  • Father (Parent)
  • Son (Child)
  • Holy Spirit

As a first approximation, map these to:

  • Originator and transmitter of genetic material
  • Recipient of genetic material
  • Conscious magic stuff

So, the trinity is actually a specification of all humans (animals? organisms?). God is everyone and everyone is god. This specification seems hippy-friendly, which is a good thing I reckon. One problem is that not everyone reproduces, and I don’t want such people (for the moment I am one of them) to be seen as second-class organisms, so let’s generalise the genetic material to “information”.

I tried this idea out on a few hardened atheists and they didn’t seem too impressed. They do take their belief very seriously.

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6 comments

  1. mydigest

    Your idea that there are two issues is an attractive get-out for pressured theists, but it will not do!

    No sky-guy so far postulated by Earth-dwelling mindkind is reasonable. All versions are anthropomorphic constructs, and vile at that.

    So you suggest there might be ANOTHER TYPE of sky-guy, one we have not yet thought of! Sorry, that will not wash.

    We humankind are as good a mindkind as is needed for the job. If WE cannot wrap our brain around all possible sky-skys nobody else can.

    The laws of logic here in System Sol are universal. There is nothing out there different than right here. The known 30-billion-light-year-diametre spherical distribution of galaxies is seen to be homogenous. By studying what is here, we study all things.

    Having said that, I maintain that, for all the people who NEED an afterlife to look forward to in their misery and mistreatment, Natural Afterlife (no sky-guy, just natural laws) is the least harmful way. It would be a particle physics con (all faiths are cons) but a substantially less ludicrous one.

    Non-theists do not “have a belief”. They have NO belief where theists HAVE one. We non-theists are in the DEFAULT mode. All the reasons proffered by theist (and deists) for believing in a sky-guy (or sky guys) are found wanting, both here and 15 billion light years away.

    Your hippy-friendly 3-in-1 con is cutely new-age, but still anounts to bad old stock tarted-up for SALE. Sorry, I have to put the clean truth, Andy.

    Very best wishes, Cy Quick

    By the way, I have decided it is too much hard work to dump the My Digest name and so am keeping my blog as mydigest.wordpress.com

  2. Andy

    “No sky-guy so far postulated by Earth-dwelling mindkind is reasonable. All versions are anthropomorphic constructs, and vile at that.”

    Why vile? I’m trying to argue that instead of making the judgement “false” we should make the judgement, “don’t know” or for you “look don’t waste my time with this necessarily anthropomorphic construct”. This is crucially different to saying, “Your constructions is wrong”—instead it’s saying “I can’t tell if your construction is wrong; nobody can; so I don’t want to waste any energy trying.”

    “The laws of logic here in System Sol are universal.”

    Where’s your evidence for that claim?

    Also you mention the afterlife. Is it necessarily the case that every construction of a god will involve the afterlife?

    “Non-theists do not “have a belief”. They have NO belief where theists HAVE one.”

    I disagree with this. They do have a belief, in the epistemic sense. They believe that there is no God. And they believe this because they have no evidence for a God. This is argumentum ad ignorantiam.

    Here’s an exercise for you. Assess the truth of these statements:

    1. There are no tables.
    2. There are no chairs.
    3. There are no colours.
    4. There are no tafdghkjjks.
    5. There are no ghosts.
    6. There are no gods.

    I’d be interested to know where you get into trouble there.

    “Your hippy-friendly 3-in-1 con is cutely new-age, but still anounts to bad old stock tarted-up for SALE. Sorry, I have to put the clean truth, Andy.”

    I may rephrase it without stealing biblical terms :-)

  3. mydigest

    Typo apologies: amounts not anounts; sky-guys not sky-skys.

    I apologise for not acknowledging (by responding) the value of your:

    …instead of making the judgement “false” we should make the judgement, “don’t know” or for you “look don’t waste my time with this necessarily anthropomorphic construct”. This is crucially different to saying, “Your constructions is wrong”—instead it’s saying “I can’t tell if your construction is wrong; nobody can; so I don’t want to waste any energy trying.”

    but I long ago indentified theism and deism as dangerous, divisive nonsense delusion and got past agnosticism. On the doorstop I simply say “I have my own ideas, so I won’t take your time, but thanks for calling” and close the door gently politely.

    I was foolish to begin the Philosopy bit with you. That is for the young learning to define things properly. You are a better dude than I am in your ebility in such debate. I just dislike it when people come over like a lawyer, less interested in reality than in the game of arguing.

    Colour is established as an interpretation the brain puts on aspects of light. Plenty of data suggesting that auto-suggestion and delusion are the source of people’s believing in ghosts has been found. Going over such stuff is vital for the young. I have been there, done that, to the best of my ability.

    I insist that there IS a difference twixt my understanding and that of a sky-guy fan. These are two different sorts of thing for which I expect Philosophy professors have assigned words. He asserts. I decline to accept his assertion as valid. I do NOT have to prove non-existence. Theists and deists DO have to prove existence.

    Vile, because the sky-guy pushers have invariably cited sky-guy as their authority to violently impose specific (and ludicrous) belief and behaviour systems unrelated to observed reality.

    I have never come across a theist case that did not involve a salvation package deal “…thou shalt surely die…” The spiritualist and particle-physicist, wacko Natural Afterlife deal answers this need but, I hope, leaves out the divisiveness. We will all get there, but reap what we sowed: mind over moron; the bully is weak when there is only mind, not muscle… I would love to see this better brand of bull win out over theism. Cy

    There has always been a geocentric and fatuous assumption by astronomers and priests that Earth was important and unique. It seems obvious to me that logic is a quality that cannot vary with species of mindkind. One has either acquired the ability to apply it, or not. If I were young and had an IQ of 200 rather than footling 156 I could argue the point.

  4. mydigest

    PS ability not ebility

    Trinity is non-Biblical, of course, but your genetic thingy is, nevertheless, the sort of burble (with respect) which could be built into Natural Afterlife, as long as it remained non-theist. Cy

  5. Shalla Hanson

    Hmmmm…. I like where you’re going, but I don’t know if I like the correlation. Here’s where I get hung up.

    1. I don’t know what you mean by “conscious magic stuff.” I don’t like the idea of God as a hocus-pocus trickster.

    2. Mapping God onto a “recipient of genetic material” seems to make him, well, material, which isn’t something I’d like to concede.

  6. Andy

    “I don’t know what you mean by “conscious magic stuff.” I don’t like
    the idea of God as a hocus-pocus trickster.”

    :-) I didn’t mean it in a trickster way. Think about consciousness,
    what it feels like to be a human, phenomenology, and all that good
    stuff.

    “Mapping God onto a “recipient of genetic material” seems to make him,
    well, material, which isn’t something I’d like to concede.”

    Well 2/3 material (there’s still the 1/3 conscious stuff which is
    difficult to make material… unless you broaden your notion of
    material; maybe panpsychism is a way of doing that). The main idea
    would be just that the trinity definition is one of what it means to
    be a reproducing organism with conscious experience. So there is no
    God Out There Somewhere, according to this (very hastily developed but
    only somewhat in jest!) account, but a much more exciting
    interdependent network of individuals.

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