A great topic for a holiday party, huh? We’ll probably do more socializing than philosophizing New Year’s eve. (Contact Linda or me for details on the get together. We are NOT meeting at Coco’s this week.) Still, I thought I’d do a this week post in case we do want to have a more meeting-type meeting.
I thought of this topic because we’ve never tried hitting it head-on before, but also because, as a non-religious person, I’ve always been fascinated by how intense people are about arguing for and against God’s existence. I thought faith was, well, faith, and didn’t need to be justified empirically or via the scientific method. Although I’m one most days, I’ve been puzzled as to why some atheists seem so hostile to the idea of God, rather directing thier ire at the people that perpetrated all the historical outrages thart weigh so heavily on organized religion. To me, the questions behind the question for Monday could be:
- Why do so many believers feel so vulnerable that they feel they have to “prove” the existence of God which, kind of by definition, is ineffable? And,
- Who are atheists really attacking: God, or religion? And, why do they feel that faith itself must be demonstrated to be silly?
Anyway, in addition to what to eat and drink, I suppose the real first question on the menu Monday should be, “Whose God?” Regardless of whether there is a real deity, humans’ notion of God have had to be flexible enough to be useful to people in different times and places. The nature of God changes as we change. So, when we talk about our conceptions of God, aren’t we really talking about our spiritual needs (assuming we have any) that religion fills? I’d love to spend some time on that, too.
Since it’s a party, for crying out loud, I’ll skip the usual introductory remarks on Monday night, especially since I know that some of you know a lot more about this than I do. I’ll just introduce the basic topic and list a few of the commonly cited proofs of God’s existence. I hope some of us who have religious faith show up and are willing to speak up for their beliefs.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What do we mean when we say “God?” The god of the Hebrews (and, which iteration of Him)? Paul’s God? The God of the theologians? Of Mohammed? What about the God of the enlightenment philosophers and the deists? How about the Buddhist God, that immanent spark of the divine that they allege we share?
- Are any of these conceptions of God more plausible to you than others and/or easier to prove?
- What are the major arguments that both sides use to “prove” or “disprove” God’s existence? What scientific “evidence” do they use? What are the rebuttals?
- Does the believer/atheist divide really need to be this bitter? Must faith and reason really conflict?
- A lot of the stuff on the internet about this topic is, IMO, over-the-top. Advocates are just absolutely certain that science and/or reason show beyond a whisper of a shadow of a doubt that God is either (1) real and just what they want him to be,, or (2) wholly imaginary and suitable only for the dim-witted or children.
- Better, but long: Wiki’s “Evidence of God” page
- A very long but very thorough refutation of God’s existence. I haven’t even read it, and I know there are a million of these. But, but this guy is a highly respected economist I read almost daily and his prose is always very easy to read.
- [UPDATE: ] This is kind of cool. Some possible scientific/neurological explanations for out-of-body experiences and epiphanies.
A final point: I think this is an important topic for Civilized Conversation, not despite our mainly political focus bit because of it. The United States invented a unique (at the time) solution to disputes over faith. Let them play themselves out in the private arena and keep the government faith-neutral. Yet, that idea has been under assault in recent years as a faith-based politics – and a certain anti-empiricism – has taken hold of many Americans. Our growing secularism and religious diversity should be steering us farther away from this worth of thing. But it’s not. To me, that’s the real issue for us: How can fundamentalism and its frequently (but not by definition) associated intolerance be reconciled with democracy, and what can we more secular folks do to make people of faith feel more at ease, for all of our sakes?