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Friday, August 19, 2005

Without God

Doc Logic points out that "to exist" is to be "susceptible of observation," and that since god in most construals is unobservable by definition, then both the commonplace claims that god exists or doesn't are nonsensical.

In light of this observation I find it interesting that the term "atheist" is widely defined as precisely the claim he rightly worries is a nonsensical one -- namely, a denial of the existence of (a) god. But etymologically, of course, "atheist" is simply a- theist, "without god."

I think of myself as atheist, but I mean by the term little more than to point out that I do without god in my own life.

Of course the "nonsensical" character of these claims that have exercised Doc Logic's notice are perfectly characteristic of all manner of theological discourse -- and its adherents are as likely to say so as its detractors. To say "god exists" (or not) always seems to really mean something on the order of "god exists, but in a way of existing that isn't like the way common or garden variety things exist otherwise at all but which I'll call existing nonetheless."

See how this gesture is re-enacted among other places in the descriptive omni-predicates by means of which god is presumably articulated for fallen earthbound-types: Omniscience, or a knowing that in being all-knowing isn't like any knowing we know of -- Omnipotence, or power that in being all powerful squares with no phenomenological experience of power available to us -- Omnibenevolence, or a good that calls good things that by any standard are not at all good -- but which somehow are kinds of knowing, power, or goodness after all.

Or, heck, no need to get fancy, it's like the quintessential analogical grappling of a kid hankering after a grasp on godhood who decides god is an old man with a long grey beard in a big stone chair, only, you know, god, so I guess not so much like any old man who has ever existed after all...

Theological discourse is catachretic, there are always only disanalogies at its disposal...

I quite understand that this opens the door for some for some powerful personal practices of creativity and meaning-making.

But for me, if it's all the same to you, I do plenty fine without god: Atheist.


Eric said...

Generally, fairies (sprites, pixies, brownies, etc) are not observable by default and only appear to us lowly mortals in very special situations or only for very special know, like god.

I still maintain fairies do not exist. Is that a nonsensical position? I think not. At some point a rational actor has to draw a line somewhere. The glaring lack of evidence for the actual existence of sky wizards and housekeeping spirits outside of the minds of 'believers' is enough, I think, to declare such things functionally nonexistent and leave the theologans to discuss how many pixies can dance on their pin heads.

Dale Carrico said...

I take your point, Eric, and the way I'd put it is to say that if someone were to claim god demonstrably exists the evidenciary burden would fall rather conspicuously on them as far as I'm concerned and I'm not exactly holding my breath that they'd meet that burden any time soon. But the thought that interested me more in writing this silly little post was more just my sense that even if (a) god were demonstrated to exist any such demonstrably existent god would be a god incapable of doing some of the work that believers in god seem conspicuously to want in (a) god in the first place.

Tom FitzGerald said...

During my own atheism, my favorite definition was "the absence of a God belief." I once defended this to a theist as just the ultimate in "Via Negativa theology" but now I know the word I was looking for was catechretics.

Anyway, neat post, as always.