The Godless Places
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 4/5/03
Why is it
that fear crannies through the nooks of religiots' every fiber? After all, the
grandeur of the real world far surpasses that of any made up 1. Yet, still there
is the religiot’s need to suck on the Almighty God-tit, despite logic &
rationalism. That said, the atheist point of view is as silly as the theist’s.
A negative can never be disproved so most atheism boils down to a childish snit
against religion’s dark sway. Fortunately a better choice exists. Most call it
agnosticism- literally to deny knowledge of, but I prefer the term irreligious-
which implies that such thoughts, fears, & weaknesses have no place in my
But why religion? The most obvious answer is the search for a First Cause, a Primum Mobile, a Reason, an answer to Why? If there is a Cause there must be a Causer- so goeth the religiot’s mind. Forget that nothing in that logic suggests that a sentient Causer need be the reason- after all, does sentience cause vulcanism or tornadoes? Time to hit the dictionary:
Main Entry: tel·e·ol·o·gy
Pronunciation: "te-lE-'ä-l&-jE, "tE-
Etymology: New Latin teleologia, from Greek tele-, telos end, purpose + -logia -logy -- more at WHEEL
1 a : the study of evidences of design in nature b : a doctrine (as in vitalism) that ends are immanent in nature c : a doctrine explaining phenomena by final causes
2 : the fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose
3 : the use of design or purpose as an explanation of natural phenomena
- tel·e·ol·o·gist /-jist/ noun
close linked with Purposiveness, Determinism, Fate, Destiny, etc. If evidence of
‘design’ exists, reason the none-too-bright, then a Designer must exist. Of
course this was eons before knowledge of ‘emergent’ properties existed,
before complexity was known to often arise from simplicity in open energy
systems, etc. Still, the world could never just emerge from chaos, the human eye
is too complex to evolve (after all, the canard went, what good is a mediocre
eye? As 1 with myopia I can retort the obvious- Alot better than total
blindness!), & the granddaddy of all complexity canards- that of the
watchmaker & the beach. Nowadays no reputable scientist nor thinker pays
much heed to these disproven red herrings from the past.
In fact, much of religious thought is imploding worldwide. Despite worries to the contrary religion is doing less well these days than at any time in human history. Yes, we hear the rubrics about how devout Moslems in the Arab world are- but anyone checked out the secular youth of Iran lately? The pedophilia scandal in the Roman Catholic church has led to mass purgation in the USA, &- let’s face it- most of America’s vaunted religiosity is of the strictly Homer Simpson level of devotion. Not to mention that there is a direct correlation between intelligence level & the susceptibility to religious fears. Yes, that means THE SMARTER YOU ARE THE LESS LIKELY YOU ARE TO BELIEVE IN GODS, MONSTERS, OR BOOGEYMEN OF ANY STRIPE!
Why? Simple. Even at the most basic levels religions are fundamentally ill-equipped to deal with the simplest of conundra. Witness the age-old Christian wrestle with the notion that God cannot be both all-powerful & all-good, not at least by the evidence of this world. Nor can the Christian God exist without fundamentally decreeing the death of free will. This is because the Apostolic scam artists who dreamt up this particular sect did not have the cogitative powers to work out the logical ends to their posits. In conundrum 1 God may be all-good but cannot be all-powerful since evil manifestly exists. Also, the reverse can be true. God may be all-powerful but not all-good. Why? Because being all-powerful means God not only has mastery over all things, but all possible things, all time, all events, be everywhere at all times in all things- even at the joyous end of a rapist’s dick when he shoots his wad into a victim, in the sadistic pleasure of boss who fires an employee whose excellence was deemed a threat, & in the powerhunger of a murderer as he slits a throat. The God who must necessarily be at all those places & in all those things to fill the requisite definition of all-powerful, cannot fundamentally be all-good, if good at all- for omnipotence necessitates this God to also be in every fiber of Satan. God becomes a monomaniacal puppeteer with a joyless existence, prone to psychotic bouts of torture, genocide, & the smallest, yet most memorable, cruelties of childhood. It also means conundrum 2 is washed away- this God fundamentally cannot grant free will lest lose omnipotence- which causes a slippery slope in faithic circles. Free will, & all liberty, is an illusion.
Oh no! The Cri de Coeur rages! There must be something wrong! Perhaps, but not in my deductive powers- so, if flawed, the error must lie with the assumptions, not with how they are logically used. After all, a layman like me cannot convincingly out-argue a physicists’ claims in their area of expertise. But their conclusions are a different matter- especially when their biases are portrayed, & betrayed, in their words- ala Steven Hawking’s God fetish.
Yet, logic can go too far- the need for Keatsian Negative Capability has long separated the merely intelligent from the dynamically creative. To make seeming leaps of illogic that later serve as bridges is almost a necessity. Say you- then why rail against faith? Not faith, I counter, but blind faith. Negative Capability is not blind faith, it is faith based upon the sometimes hidden abilities of an individual to see patterns & ideas where others do not- even if not conscious of it. As bad, but in 180° the other direction, is the skeptic turned blind debunker- this is the realm where Logical Positivism found itself.
LP has also been called logical empiricism, logical neopositivism, & neopositivism. It was a philosophic branch that flowered during the Weimar Germany of the1920s. The biggest names associated with it were Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, Hans Reichenbach, & especially mathemetician Kurt Gödel. Other closely related theoreticians & thinkers who sympathized with LP were Bertrand Russell, Ernst Mach, & Ludwig Wittgenstein. The LPs fundamentally abjured the soundness of metaphysics & philosophy. LP stated that almost all philosophical problems meaningless. By the Depression 1930s LP was big in America, especially in the science-based ideals of FDR’s New Deal. LP stressed the importance of the Scientific Method over all else.
But pointless & self-defeating nihilism creeps in to such slavishness. Witness this doubly-binding paradox: I state ‘Reality is all.’ So what can be argued, even if all assent too its seeming truth? There is no way to verify such a claim, or even quantify non-reality. Its opposite is equally meaningless: ‘Reality is not all.’ Without the basis of testing, without a grounded objectivity- why bother with such a line of thought?
Succinctly, here are the 8 basic tenets of LP:
(1) A proposition, or a statement, is factually meaningful only if it is verifiable. This is understood in the sense that the proposition can be judged probable from experience, not in the sense that its truth can be conclusively established by experience.
(2) A proposition is verifiable only if it is either an experiential proposition or one from which some experiential proposition can be deduced in conjunction with other premises.
(3) A proposition is formally meaningful only if it is true by virtue of the definitions of its terms- that is, tautologous.
(4) The laws of logic and mathematics are all tautologous.
(5) A proposition is literally meaningful only if it is either verifiable or tautologous.
(6) Since metaphysical statements are neither verifiable nor tautologous, they are literally meaningless.
(7) Since ethical, aesthetical, & theological statements also fail to meet the same conditions, they too are cognitively meaningless- although they may possess ‘emotive’ meaning.
(8) Since metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of religion, & aesthetics are all eliminated, the only tasks of philosophy are clarification & analysis. Thus, the propositions of philosophy are linguistic, not factual, & philosophy is a department of logic.
The problems & dead-endedness of such thought is apparent. 1 cannot rely on tautologies to survive in the real world. Such sophistry leads to solipsism which leads to the assumption of the individual as all- or God. Before we’re even midway through the 8 tenets the whole structure of LP fails itself. Even more damning is that the Scientific Method upon which LP rested so triumphally, is based not upon verification, but falsifiability! This was Karl Popper’s objections to LP: ‘We best know what we mean when we carefully state the conditions under which we would be forced to give up what we have supposed.’ But, just because such a system, the seeming opposite of religious faith, fails does not mean its counterpart succeeds. The truth is LP is not logic itself:
Main Entry: log·ic
Etymology: Middle English logik, from Middle French logique, from Latin logica, from Greek logikE, from feminine of logikos of reason, from logos reason -- more at LEGEND
Date: 12th century
1 a (1) : a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration : the science of the formal principles of reasoning (2) : a branch or variety of logic <modal logic> <Boolean logic> (3) : a branch of semiotic; especially : SYNTACTICS (4) : the formal principles of a branch of knowledge b (1) : a particular mode of reasoning viewed as valid or faulty (2) : RELEVANCE, PROPRIETY c : interrelation or sequence of facts or events when seen as inevitable or predictable d : the arrangement of circuit elements (as in a computer) needed for computation; also : the circuits themselves
2 : something that forces a decision apart from or in opposition to reason <the logic of war>
- lo·gi·cian /lO-'ji-sh&n/ noun
Okay- see where the major difference between LP & logic occurs? Right
with this statement: ‘the principles and criteria of validity of inference
and demonstration’. Unlike logic, LP fundamentally denies the validity of
inference, even as it later claims deduction of experience. To infer means the
basic acceptance of at least 1 objective fact in the universe. LP is so
skeptical that objectivity is merely a tautology. Thus its ruin as a system of
thought, & competitor to blind faith. To the LPs objectivity is but a
LP denied religion as a valid system of belief since it is impossible to state any observable circumstances under which 1 could be sure about the truth of a religion’s claims. Logic, however would claim only that a good inference of, say, a miracle or deity, is needed. Logic is far more pragmatic than the dogmatic LP. Regardless, no religion has ever come close to meeting the threshholds of either LP nor logic.
But, is endless eggheadedness all there is to ideas of God, or its lack? Well, no- there are more light-hearted approaches. In fact, the online Slate Magazine has a column called Egghead & posted an essay (http://slate.msn.com/id/2075653/) called ‘The Atheist Christmas Challenge, Can you prove God doesn't exist?’ on 12/23/02. It was written by a Jim Holt. Let me excerpt some sections & rebut them:
A) Being an atheist is a philosophical stance. It is not enough simply to declare yourself one: That is mere dogmatism—like announcing, without further argument, that you don't believe in free will or objective values. If you wish to be an intellectually interesting atheist, you are obliged to give some evidence for your position.
B) By the
end of the 19th century, a purely material worldview—one that
excluded supernatural explanations or spiritual phenomena, let alone a
deity—seemed quite plausible.
That is pretty much the worldview staked out by today's public atheists. They haven't come to terms with 20 th-century science, which revived some of the reasons in the pro-God column. The discovery that the universe began with a creationlike Big Bang around 13 billion years ago, for example, breathed new life into the so-called cosmological argument, which posits God as the first cause of nature. The discovery that the fundamental laws of nature contained constants that appear to have been fine-tuned so that the cosmos would eventually yield intelligent life lent new credence to the design argument for God's existence. Quantum theory dematerialized reality, making the cosmos seem more like a thought than like a machine. But whose thought?
C) At least
one public atheist, the physics Nobel laureate Stephen Weinberg, has done much
to undermine the new scientific pro-God evidence. Even if our universe had a
beginning in time, Weinberg points out, current theory indicates that it may be
part of an eternal network of Big Bangs. And in this many-universe model, it is
not surprising that one of the universes should chance to be congenial to
intelligent life, or that we should find ourselves in it. No need for the God
hypothesis, Weinberg argues.
But is there any evidence against this hypothesis? Can the existence of God be disproved, or at least rendered highly improbable, as the atheist wishes to do? There are only two arguments for the nonexistence of God with any intellectual merit. The first says that the concept of God is incoherent: that, for instance, omnipotence gives rise to paradoxes (can God make a rock so big he can't lift it?), or that moral perfection is incompatible with divine freedom. This is very much a philosopher's argument, and it has been worked over to the point of inconclusiveness.
second argument, the argument from evil, has much more force. How can
there be evil in a world presided over by an all-powerful and all-good being?
Either God was willing but unable to prevent Auschwitz, or he was able but
piece contains some humor, & much attempted, the ideas put forth are
startlingly banal & trite. Point A makes the usual error of placing the
burden of proof on the atheist, not the believer. & most atheists are truly
agnostics who are too lazy to see the illogic of the unfalsifiability of a
negative. Holt never mentions the most probable reason for belief in a God- that
being the ‘Why not?’ approach- whose many sundry forms are best distilled in
the idea that if I believe & am wrong nothing is lost, but if I disbelieve
& am wrong I’m eternally screwed. Holt also argues in the piece that
morality rests upon the idea of a God- as the Great Retributor. But that’s
easily dismissed by secular ethics- which is an inside-out view to goodness,
itself, being the reward. Point B is laden with silly anthropic reasoning &
misunderstanding of current science by Holt. Point C is, again, the wrongheaded
idea that God needs to be disproved, rather than proved, while Point D is the
all-powerful/all-good conundrum discussed earlier.
The column produced many replies, most of which I just summarized, although more concisely. Here are a few others, & my comments:
‘Watch this: and falsify a
single one if you can
All religion is derived from human superstition.
All superstitions are myths.
All myths are false.
All religion is false.
All gods are make-believe and false.’
on just the 1st point. Many religions are indeed just highly codified
superstition- but others are just habits, rituals, & occasionally borne from
delusions or mental illnesses, which have spread from an individual to the
masses- witness UFO cults, the Lady of Fatima incident, visions, etc. Point 2 is
wrong just by definition. Point 3 is manifestly untrue since the patently untrue
& unbelievable rarely makes it past 1 or 2 tellings. Truth, or bits of it,
are essential to the staying power of a myth. Point 4 is, well, see the
arguments against atheism, & Point 5- redux.
Another objector posted this fine quote:
‘I contend that we are both atheists. I just
believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all
the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.’- Stephen
but as a dialectic it assumes far too much from its reader. Here’s another:
Both exercises are essentially philosophical
masturbation. But there is a tangent to this argument which seldom gets
examined. Is the universe a chaotic or orderly place? Answer this, and the
question of a deity is unimportant, for, just as no shoelace ever ties itself,
so too does no universe ever spontaneously come into order. Thus, if one can
prove that the universe is possessed of an order, "God" exists,
regardless of its form.
obviously knows nothing about emergent systems & complexity arising from
simplicity rather easily in an open system. By his reasoning the very existence
of order posits information exchange from without this universe- i.e.- another
universe(s). This posits a supercosmos, or omniverse, without beginning or end.
This renders concepts of God as utterly meaningless. Rather than arguing for
God, his is 1 of the most effective arguments against God.
Here’s another effective 1:
Still, the universe exists and the notion of an uncaused event is
paradoxical. Nevertheless, if said premises are grounds for believing that God
exists, then they also are grounds for believing that SuperGod exists. Ad
infinitum. The latter is highly paradoxical. Nothing that is known is remotely
similar to an infinite regress of Gods.
In addition, it's fairly clear that Aphrodite, Cupid, Hermes and Hera do not exist.
The Argument from Evil is not an argument against the existence of a deity. It is merely evidence of the stupidity of the writers of the Bible.
An argument against the existence of a deity, as if one were needed, goes like this: no matter how improbable the world might seem, it is infinitely less probable to have been deliberately created by deity.
It would be far easier to believe that the universe sprang into existence fully formed a second ago, with everyone's memories of a past in place, than to believe that a less-probable entity such as an omniscient being sprang into existence spontaneously or has always existed. Yet is going to take seriously the idea that the universe sprang into existence a moment ago. SO why should one entertain the notion of a deity as the cause of all things?
My favorite point is that religions are almost always based upon the Lowest Common Denominator stupidity of their creators. & below is another very devastating rebuttal to those who argue free will as the cause of evil. Note that just because something bad may be ‘natural’ to mortals does not remove its essential evilness from the POV of an omnipotent being:
The problem with god is not necessarily that he allows evil but that he allows suffering at all. Take the case where my son and wife are gunned down by a mugger or a soldier in war, or by stray bullets in a drive by shooting. Killed instantly. Now take the case where i watch them slowly die a painful death by pancreatic cancer, or tuberculosis, or yellow fever. How about drowning in a flash flood. Or starving to death in a multi-year drought. Or being attacked and eaten by wild animals. While human free will may be involved in the first cases, according to the theist, god being all powerful and all knowing, must be the architect and prime mover of the latter events.
Then there is the idea of whether a deity is even important, were 1 to prove such a thing existed.
the universe is so amazing that it couldn't exist on its own, then it needs a
creator that is more amazing and preceded it. And therefore, since that creator
is more amazing than the universe (which couldn't exist on its own) it ALSO
needs a creator to have created it. (Simply put, if the universe couldn't create
itself, how could something more amazing than the universe create itself?)
Why not just cut out the middle man? The universe is amazing and here -- with or without a god. The need for inserting a god in the equation is meaningless. This is not atheistic, but "irreli"theistic -- it just doesn't matter and you'll never know, so why waste your time?
The irrelevance argument is 1 I’ve adopted, & why I’m an agnostic. If God does exist but cannot or cares not to manifest itself, why should I care for its existence? Especially, given my brief tenure in this life? We will now look at eschatology:
Main Entry: es·cha·tol·o·gy
Inflected Form(s): plural -gies
Etymology: Greek eschatos last, farthest
1 : a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind
2 : a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of mankind; specifically : any of various Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment
It’s often pointed out that all religion is, after all is said &
done, about eschatology- or death. Here’s my eschatological take; & there
are only a few possible takes on death: 1) it’s total & utter cessation-
nada- a total conscious kneecapping. Therefore worry is ridiculous. 2) it’s a
long sleep. I enjoy snoozing. 3) there is an afterdeath (I prefer this to
afterlife because afterlife elides death, whereas afterdeath
gives death its due) & it’s heavenly. Cool. 4) there is an afterdeath
& it’s hellaceous. But if I’ve lost corporeal feeling, what’s the
worst that can happen? It’s still endless adventure. Besides, I’ve been to
Hoboken. 5) there is an afterdeath but it’s beyond anything mortally
imaginable. Supercool. The worry over death is silly.
So too is the worry over if any gods exist. The more important query is if it matters if a deity exists? But we know 1 does, in the minds of believers- after all, Man created God in his image. As for that beyond the neurons of the fearing & addled, well, I’ve shaved the Lord with Occam’s Razor & when I was done I’ve only found my own personal ethos as a companion. Those who need more will take- or more likely make- more. But that does not matter to those who truly know themselves, & have left behind the great God-tit. As for me, I’ve found a much better thing to suckle on- Knowledge (aka the Original Sin- think about that concept for awhile!)- & it’ll take Death to wean me from it!
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