Tag Archives: theism

How Big is God?

galaxy

“Space is big. Really big.”

When I started blogging here, one of the first bloggers I followed was Robin, of Witless Dating After Fifty. Over the years, she’s several times mentioned a great question her dad often posed when discussing religion with someone: “How big is your god?”

Last week my buddy and I were having our weekly beer- and gab-fest and our (typically very meandering) conversation came to touch on the problems with young Earth creationism — the Christian fundamentalist idea that the universe is only thousands of years old.

In fact, there’s a pair of real whopper problems involved!

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Morals and Ethics

mug-0As one ventures ’round the ‘web, a topic that arises time and again is the endless debate — or perhaps war might be a better term — between the poles of theism and atheism. I’ve determined, at least as far as my participation elsewhere, to recuse myself from that war. I’ve served my time on both sides, and I’ve pretty much heard it all, said it all, bought many tee-shirts and a couple of souvenir coffee mugs.

So this isn’t about the war itself, but about a topic that frequently arises as part of that debate: the idea of morality and/or ethics. A sub-question is whether those are different things, but the main question is how we define morality and how we ground that definition.

Here’s my stab at defining the difference along with some ideas about morality.

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Sunday Thoughts

signpostDespite the title, this post isn’t as strongly related to the previous three as the naming convention suggests. I don’t really have much to say about religious predestination. If anything, my views on spirituality are key to a belief in free will and choice. The religion I was raised in seems (at least to my eye) quite clear that we are allowed to choose our actions.

The connection to those other posts lies in picking up the thread of physical determinism — normally a necessarily atheist point of view — and doing a riff on religion, spirituality and atheism. This is the post I started to write last Sunday when my mind took off in a completely different direction.

This time I’m going to try sticking to the subject!

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Stuff That Makes Me Wonder

coincidenceNot too long ago my buddy and I happened to talk about how film maker David Lynch turned the book, Dune, into a movie. We’ve discussed it a number of times over the years; we both give it a low score (for reasons), but we also agree the book is a really tough film assignment. What makes me wonder is how, channel surfing that very evening, I stumble on the Lynch film just starting.

More recently, a chain of thought led to thinking about overly pragmatic people (of the sort many would consider ruthless). That sparked a memory of a Justice League of America story about how Batman completely alienates his teammates on the JLA when they find out he has files analyzing their weaknesses and describing ways to take them down. But what makes me wonder is how, channel surfing that very evening, I stumble on an animated movie based on that storyline.

And the thing is: coincidences like this happen to me a lot!

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Questions

project workI’ve been playing with Python and POV-Ray, catching up on movies, enjoying the continued nice weather, and even getting in some reading.  Yet it’s still weird how little I seem to get done considering the days are all mine.  (And I still haven’t fully shaken the sense that all this free time ends at some point.)

For now I plan to focus on project work—the previously mentioned Python and POV-Ray playing—so there may be a pause in the posting while I putter (possibly a plethora of pauses). Please stay tuned!

In the meantime, I have some questions:

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Decisive Agnosticism

Last week I went a few comment rounds over on the Moment Matters blog under the Breaking Prejudice on Atheists post. The post’s lead topic—that a study showed that atheists are just as caring as theists—doesn’t surprise me at all. Atheists, after all, believe that all meaning in life comes from within and that the universe is a cold, empty, uncaring vastness dotted with little sparks of life here and there.

Now, I’ve always found fanatical atheists to be just as annoying—just as wrong (in my view, obviously)—as fanatical theists. If you are incapable of acknowledging that your worldview is not factually based and therefore could be incorrect, I basically consider you to be… well, insane. That is to say that the reality inside your head does not correlate accurately with the external reality.

But what I wanted to write about today was the idea that agnostics are indecisive. As an agnostic with spiritual leanings, I think that is bullshit.

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God: Three Questions

When it comes to a spiritual position, there are at least three major positions you can take. There are three metaphysical questions you can ask yourself. Each question, if you answer “no,” halts the process and defines your position.

The questioning continues so long as your answer is “yes.” As the questioning continues, you approach a more and more specific concept of “God(s).”

Basically, it’s a flow-chart that calculates your metaphysical point of view.

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Existence and Consciousness

My recent post about how the Big Bang and “Let there be Light” seem equally fantastic to me triggered an interesting comment from a reader. A detailed response requires more elbow room than a comment allows, so here’s a follow-up article instead.

One of the points involved that our scientific ideas, no matter how inaccurate they may turn out to be, are at least based on evidence. And to the credit of science, when we recognize errors in our interpretation of the evidence, science changes to accommodate the new interpretation. This has been, as I mentioned in that post, hugely successful. One of the failures of our spiritual metaphysics is that it clings to frameworks defined thousands of years ago and often stubbornly refuses to accommodate new information.

However the idea that there is no evidence for the existence of God(s) seems wrong to me. There is the fact that the universe exists and the fact that we recognize and are aware of its existence. Existence and consciousness are daily experiences for us all, and they beg for some explanation. Yet for all its progress, science hasn’t answered those questions. One can argue it hasn’t even made much progress towards an answer. It has some guesses, but the more you study those guesses, the more you realize they are filled with assumptions (at least in the case of the Big Bang).

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God: Universal Apprehension or Delusion?

One of the things that strikes me about the idea of God is how universal that idea is. To the best of my knowledge, every society in every age has had some sort of spiritual core belief.

I used to state this as the assertion that every society believed in some sort of god or gods, but it was pointed out to me that Buddhists don’t actually have a god. They do have some metaphysical entities, and more importantly, Buddhism is certainly a belief in a metaphysical reality that transcends this one.

So the question is: if humans universally find themselves finding God(s), what does this mean?

It would seem to mean one of two things: First, that there is some universal twitch in the human mind that invents the idea of god to account for the nature of existence. Alternately, it could mean that humans apprehend some aspect of reality (as we do justice and equality) that really does exist.

Atheists are quite clear on it being the former. Theists are equally clear on it being the latter.

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Big Bang? Let there be Light?

In an earlier post, I wrote that:

The problem for any honest theist is,
“What if it isn’t true?”
The problem for any honest atheist is,
“What if it is true?”

Ultimately both represent ways of looking at the universe. There is no factual conclusion, no proof, about either one; both are matters of faith and belief.  Science can argue all it wants that the Logic and Scientific Method is superior to believing in an ineffable reality, but given all we do know and all we don’t know, in the end it is still just a worldview.

Make no mistake. I am far more a scientist than a theist. (And to the extent I’m a theist, I’m far more a deist than theist, which means I can accept the idea of a Creator (or Creators), but I’m not too sure about the Presence of a Daily Hand. Specifically, I very much doubt that prayer is other than a form of personal meditation; I very much doubt Anyone is Listening.)

I do think Logic and the Scientific Method are far superior…

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