27 January 2013

The God Pot

Hopi Bowl
I do not worship gods. I am neither theist or atheist. Theism like atheism, is philosophical quicksand.

My life is a flicker of light - too short for the ball and chain of theism or atheism.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Stephen Stills
Attributing human features and foibles to a deity is naive and absurdly human-centric. My theist friends ascribe human traits to deities. It's inexcusable, but I still love you.

leap of faith is antithetical to critical thinking. Theists, while otherwise lovable, charitable, or admirable, are disqualified as critical thinkers.

Atheists fancy themselves critical thinkers. Atheists are typically smart people trapped by the same narrow thinking as theists. Theists and atheists are the A and B sides of the same vinyl record.

Atheists often quote Epicurus as argument against the existence of god.
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
― Epicurus, 341–270 B.C
Shang Dynasty Pot
Note the personification of god. Benevolent god or malevolent god, why bother? It's drivel.

The notion of a benevolent god or a malevolent god is not a particularly illuminating tack. Existence and non-existence arguments are the pet topics of blowhards and gas-bags, neither of whom are particularly good observers or listeners.

So What Then?

If pushed to arrange my existential thoughts into a framework, it would be a framework consisting of two classes of stuff:
  1. Stuff that's well-understood like the earth-bound erosion and transport of big rocks into smaller and smaller rocks, or the laws of earth-bound thermodynamics, and 
  2. Stuff that's not well-understood like particle physics or human consciousness. 
A personal tendency, more for convenience than out of reverence, worship, or fear, is to relegate all of the not well-understood stuff into the god pot for further review and study.
Humanity's god pot holds all the stuff humans don't understand.
The god pot has indescribable volume. We cannot know its extent. That's why it exists - for further review and study. It is precisely this absurd pursuit that keeps us alive. This, it seems, is our quest. We want to feel like we're adding, however inconsequentially, to the pot of human knowledge.

One might be tempted to hypothesize that over the short blip of humanity, the pursuit of knowledge, the quest to know that which is knowable, would have rendered the contents of the god pot infinitesimally smaller. But no dice. That line of thinking is also naively human-centric.
Anasazi Bowl

So here we are.

I, for one, am unwilling to commit to a leap of faith. Nevertheless like most of my species, I have notions. Notions are like superstitions. Everyone has them.

My chief notion is that knowledge is like the conservation of energy. I suspect the sum or volume of all knowledge is constant. Also like the conservation of energy, knowledge cannot be created or destroyed, rather it changes state within the context of humanity.

Insomuch as there is an indescribable amount unknown, our god pot remains constant. When we learn something individually or collectively, we remove something from the god pot, but the void quickly fills with another unknown.
"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
― Carl Sagan
Humanity's god pot is as real as our collective ignorance. In the human mind, god exists.
"When I joined the band I didn't know any of the tunes, and when I left the band I didn't know any of the tunes!"
Keith Jarrett reflecting on playing in Miles Davis's band


  1. Atheism is a rejection of the current definition of God. When Nietzsche says "God is dead." he adds "We have killed him." Nietzsche is not denying the existence of any God, he is just saying the current definition of God has made God irrelevant. Denying that there ever was or could be God would be antitheism. I believe your ditty has confused atheism and antitheism.

    I think any acceptance of any 'soul' that does not begin and end with the conception and death of the physical person requires some theism, even if it does not fit the current definition. Like Lucretius, I believe the soul dies with our death. Calling myself an antitheist is unnecessary. I just don't care.

    I do believe organized religions are superstitious delusions and that religions are invariably cruel. And, like Lucretius, my goal is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain.

    1. Thanks dog. I hadn't heard of anti-theism so I'm throwing that in the god pot for further review.

  2. Sorry, Bob; you're a deist, although not a garden-variety kind. You make hundreds if not thousands of leaps of faith every single day. You probably would need to do this in order to get out of bed in the morning, let alone survive. The only way to avoid these leaps is to become phenomenological to the extreme: to the point at which you can take NOTHING for granted, not even your own ratiocinations. Your "god" is your relationship with the cosmos itself; an interplay of learning and testing your faith constantly. The god of Spinoza. Remember science does not say "this is true" or "this is false". It merely says "the evidence points to x". We make a leap of faith with that evidence. This isn't something new, this is straight David Hume. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem

    1. I suppose I do make leaps of faith every day. And you're right that my "god" is my relationship with the cosmos. Yikes! I AM a deist. Probably garden variety too. It's relief to have a label. I will read more philosophers like Hume. Thank you Colonel Nik.

    2. You're also right that mine is not a "garden variety" deism. I don't have an absolute belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to prove the existence of god. I suppose I am defining a personal concept of "god" that is the vast unknown. Inquiry into and discovery of phenomena in the vast unknown is grounded in reason and observation (because those are our primary tools).

    3. from varieties of religious experience...

      To this extent, to the extent of disbelieving peremptorily in certain types of deity, I frankly confess that we must be theologians. If disbeliefs can be said to constitute a theology, then the prejudices, instincts, and common sense which I chose as our guides make theological partisans of us whenever they make certain beliefs abhorrent....

      The deity to whom the prophets, seers, and devotees who founded the particular cult bore witness was worth something to them personally. They could use him. He guided their imagination, warranted their hopes and controlled their will....they chose him for the value of the fruits he seemed to them to yield. So soon as the fruits began to seem quite worthless...when we cease to admire or approve what the definition of a deity implies, we end by deeming that deity incredible.


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