The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Apophatic atheology: an April apologetic

A great deal of needless offence and rancour, it seems to me, is caused by the unfortunate tendency of certain believers to take the speeches and books of atheism literally. To an unwary or hasty reader, perhaps caught up in or reacting against fundamentalist readings of the texts, it may seem that atheists are denying the existence of God. Nothing could be further from the truth! What could it possibly mean, to deny that a being, agreed by all to be inconceivable, exists? That would be to claim knowledge of the unknowable. Atheists are not, of course, such fools. They are asserting, in common with all believers who have reached the age of reason, that they have no conception of the Inconceivable.

Likewise, when a Dawkins asserts that natural selection makes a Creator unnecessary as an explanation of design in nature, or a Hawkings avers that that his current understanding of time makes an act of Creation superfluous to the temporal origin of the Universe, they must be understood as giving the Creator the highest praise of which such men are capable. This praise is exactly like declaring one's admiration of a supreme artistic or athletic accomplishment by describing it as effortless. When Hitchens (the elder) declaims that religion poisons everything, he is making the same heartfelt protest against the unworthiness of the human vessels of divine revelation as has been made by saints and reformers from the beginning.

Atheists, by speaking of the non-existence of God, proclaim the depth of their devotion to and understanding of the divine hiddenness. Let us therefore agree, this particular fine morning in April, to cultivate our own gardens.

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And, scene!

Whew, had me there for a bit. I took this at first as evangelizing on the anthropic green galaxy to come and not as contemporary sarcasm dressed in plaid.

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There's a big gap between what is a possibility a probability and a multiverse.
It's possible there's a big entity,the probability is low, but in a multiverse which is an infinitude of infinities there is probably an infinite being. But there is an infinite number of universes in which she doesn't exist also. There is also an infinite number of universes in which we are the infinite being. Hope it doesn't get too boring.

Thanks for some big, long, laughs several minutes ago, when my slow brain finally realised what was going on. This evening I shall show it to some Upsalafans, at our monthly pubmeeting.

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Sounds like the theologian Paul Tillich, who actually took this sort of line.

Yes, I had him vaguely in mind, and also some of the critics of the New Atheists. Also, I'd just read the very entertaining and thought-provoking book draft by Roy Sablosky, 'No One Believes in God', available here. I think you might like it.

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