Dabbling with Deism

FaithReasonby Brad Nelson   8/31/14
The question that has always plagued my mind is, Shall God be real or shall god be a source of emotional satisfaction? Both are possible at the same time, of course. But those who would say so, do they really care if God is real as long as they are emotionally satisfied with the idea?

To me it matters if the story of Noah is true. And “true,” as far as gauging the veracity of what we might generously call “old accounts,” requires assessing their plausibility and not simply their ability to satisfy or to create believers.

From what I understand, it is generally acknowledged that the New Testament, for instance, isn’t a biography of Jesus or a history book, although it may contain biographical and historical elements. The point of the New Testament is to create and bolster Christian faith.

This is not necessarily a bad or dishonest goal. But it’s not the goal of truth and evidence. And for God to be real, at least to me, he must be more than an idealization or wish. And any idea of God must account for the world as we see it.

Some would say that the various myths and Christian tenets (such as original sin) do so. But they do not do so for me, this one in particular, if only because the story of reality contains too much contingency, bad luck, and inherent suffering to be reasonably explained away as original sin.

For me, such an idea as original sin is a rationalization to further the idea of a benevolent God. Rationalizations might even be true and justified, but blind rationalizations may be no different in kind and motive from the ones typically engaged in by Darwinists who find any evidence to always be for the idea of a pointless, meaningless, radically materialist world.

Life is clearly more complicated than that, and on both sides of the aisle, neither incredulity nor a visceral distaste for a Creator are ample evidence for or against either major worldview (the Religion of Leftism/Atheism vs. the various theisms). Nor do I present myself as a Solomon-like creature who will cut this baby in half in order to find the truth.

To me there is an inherent, not secondary, barrier regarding the truly Big Questions. Short of a burst of personal revelation (which one could plausibly say happened to people such as Thomas Aquinas), we are left to posit what is reasonable and likely – unless we prefer not to do so for other reasons, emotional satisfaction being a primary one.

I do, in a sense, make a martyr out of my emotional satisfaction. I put it on the cross as I attempt to understand this world beyond mere belief. Belief and faith, of course, are unavoidable elements. Faith regarding certain things is more than justified. It would be foolish, for instance, to wait to get dressed and go to work every morning because one is watching to see if on this day the sun does indeed come up again.

And, to a large extent, religious faith can be justified in this vein. Given our inherent limited ability to know the Deep Truths, we can either wait until we figure those truths out via standards of evidence higher than the standards of religious belief or we can just go ahead and believe. In this respect, I do not see religious belief as necessarily irrational but instead as pragmatic, even commendable.

But that still doesn’t get to my main point: Is it true?

Now, as I had quipped to Glenn elsewhere, I think my God is an awesome god. The evidence of reality, life, and consciousness makes this self-evident, for whatever or Whomever created this is quite beyond genius. “Awesome” is an apt description. Still, although awesome, my God is a quite uncommunicative God. Perhaps that is fine. As the old atheist (I think it derives from atheism) chestnut goes, “If you talk to god via prayer, that is normal. If God answers back, you’re likely crazy.”

Still, consider what it is that drives the intuition that God, not Darwin, is the creator of DNA and thus of life. It’s all that fabulous and complex information in DNA (about two billion bits for humans, enough, as one author noted, to stack type-written pages in a normal-sized font as tall as the Washington monument).

And it’s information as to a personal God that I find in rather short supply. But a Deistic god — one who gets the universe rolling and, from time to time interacts with it — I find plausible (which is not the strict definition of Deism, but I’m giving it some wiggle room). No other explanation of reality, at minimum, can account for reality, especially including atheism, which I see as more of an implicit rant at God — perhaps for some of the reasons I articulate.

But hopefully I am not all rant. There is much to be thankful for, and even more to be in awe of. (And more than a little to be terrified of.) But still, the whole thing of it needs to make some sort of sense to me. As Timothy said elsewhere:

If you get too active a notion of God running the universe, then you end up like the Muslims, for whom the explanation for anything that happens is “Allah willed it.” This makes it hard to develop science, which overall (despite the flaws of so many scientists, who after all are human just like the rest of us) is a very useful field of knowledge and thought. I much prefer the Watchmaker or Programmer (particularly as a programmer myself) to Allah.

Too much God and we are left in that Muslim position of absolutely nothing happening except via the wishes of a Creator. And this is certainly a possible situation but, again, does not jibe well with the world as we see it and live it. We do make choices for ourselves. There is an abundance of randomness and indeterminacy to the universe. It seems at times that there is just enough to obscure a clear intuition of God, but not so much to not warrant the possibility. Is this another universal “constant” that is set this way for some unknown reason? Is it much like the one wherein if there was just a little more “oomph” to the Big Bang, the universe would have diluted itself in expansion long before galaxies and suns (and thus life) could have formed — and a little less “oomph” (apparently, as even Weinberg has calculated, one part in 10 to the 120th power) and the universe collapses in on itself long before much of interest could happen?

On the other hand, not enough of a notion of a Divine Creator and we are left adrift in currents of illogic. “Nothing comes from nothing” is a reasonable logical tenet, and to deny this tenet is to likely go down a dark rabbit hole of rationalizations far worse than any offered in terms of psychological comfort. And the radical materialists give every sign of a kind of cultural and psychological insanity that flows from this belief, the various 20th century atheistic regimes (which killed over 100 million people) being prime evidence of this insanity.

Whatever the case may be, I still fall back on my main point, which is not offered from a radical skepticism perspective (which we have far too much of these days) but as a logical proposition: Is it true?


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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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33 Responses to Dabbling with Deism

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    This reminds me of a college experience, when I was talking with one of the campus “Jesus freaks” (I think they accepted the term readily). He pointed out the psychological benefit of believing in God. I could see his point, but I also realized that (at least for me) it doesn’t work that way. I couldn’t decide to believe in God just to gain those benefits; I would have to be convinced of God’s existence, with any benefits coming as a result. And, aside from a deistic God, I’ve never quite been convinced (though neither have I ever seen God disproven). I doubt that we can ever prove or disprove such transcendental concepts. Something can convince us (as happened to C. S. Lewis), but no evidence is available — aside from rare examples such as Saint Thomas the Doubter refusing to believe in the Resurrection unless he could see the risen Christ with the wounds of the Crucifixion. (Paine reasonably argued that we have as much right to demand evidence as Thomas did. So far, God has provided no such evidence to me.)

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Here is a Wikipedia page which gives a pretty good explanation of “Pascal’s Wager” and some of the arguments for and against it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’d heard of Pascal’s Wager. Ultimately, the problem remains one of my inability to believe in something simply because the belief is convenient (and I wonder if God would really count someone as a believe if he only did so out of convenience). And it has a slight problem common to many Christian apologetics: a failure to consider that there are people who rely on different theologies. For a Muslim, Pascal’s Wager could lead one to Hamas or ISIS.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I tend to agree with you about the question of convenience. And saying one believes in something doesn’t necessarily so. I compare it to being in love. One can’t just be in love by saying it. One is or isn’t in love.

          As to the question of the wager leading to Hamas or ISIS, I am not sure I see that. The question of the existence of God does not necessarily lead to fanaticism in itself. It is only when one firmly believes one way or the other than fanaticism can take hold.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            But an Islamist would say that the Wager requires a Muslim to follow the Koran. The costs — becoming a fanatical murderer — would be insignificant if (as the Koran commands) one regards infidels as the Enemy.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The question of the existence of God does not necessarily lead to fanaticism in itself. It is only when one firmly believes one way or the other than fanaticism can take hold.

            That’s an important subject, Mr. Kung. Under the Hitchens/Dawkins paradigm, fanaticism is a unique product of religion. (That is, in the words of Hitchens, “Religion poisons everything.”)

            This is a remarkably blinkered view by Hitchens and that crowd, which is why I don’t hold much esteem for Hitchens. And this blinkered view is no doubt born of egotism, or an enveloping narcissism. He is saying, in effect, “If all the world thought as I did – reasonable, rational, and secular – there would be no wars and discord.”

            This is why Hitchens and crowd repeatedly tell us that the Nazis were actually a religious movement, as was Stalin. (And to disguise the atheist underpinning as well.)

            This kind of stuff isn’t even worthy of the kind of philosophy we used to exchange in the high school lunch room. And yet they sell millions of books with it.

            If Hitchens hadn’t been so egotistical and blinkered he would have said “Human nature spoils everything.”

            Religion is like a restaurant: Some serve good food and some serve rotten food. Islam serves rotten food, and always has. Christianity serves good food, and always has. Which is not to say that human nature cannot intervene and make something good out of something that is bad or something bad out of something that is good.

            These types of thoughts were apparently too complex for Christopher Hitchens. How about you and I write a book and make a million? We’ll call it “Simplistic Thinkers Poison Everything.”

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Perhaps the single most intellectually dishonest argument from atheists has been the claim that the pagan Nazis and the militantly atheistic Communists were religious. In essence, they engage in circular reasoning: Fanaticism is an aspect of religion, which they prove by defining all fanatics as religious.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I agree with your points on the wager, Timothy. In fairness to Pascal, I’m sure he offered that in the spirit of two guys sitting around shooting the bull. It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s one he was personally hanging his hat on.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Besides being a brain exercise, I suppose as with the old commercial he was trying to get people to “try it, you may like it.” Sort of a no lose situation.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I couldn’t decide to believe in God just to gain those benefits; I would have to be convinced of God’s existence, with any benefits coming as a result

      That’s sort of the boat I’m in, Timothy. Gee…I knew someone would understand. :D

      Being both Jewish and Catholic, by nature (so I’ve been told), I see the side of faith that really ought to be about more than psychological comfort. Indeed, the Saints offer a lineup of people who have suffered greatly (often great physical discomfort that they kept to themselves). Compassion = suffer with. So my spiritual DNA does not trust the feel-goodism that is so rampant today, for better or for worse. I supposed that’s why I’m attracted to St. Francis. This was not a girly-man who sat around intellectualizing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

      When Fairman goes on and on and on and on (just kidding, Glenn) about the narcissistic elements in society, I can relate to that misgiving. I’m not saying that those who find comfort in religious faith are narcissists or only concerned with psychological comfort. But I do understand the concept of having one’s cross to bear.

      Yes, yes, yes, I know. Ultimately it’s very very difficult to get past “What’s in it for me?” We may disguise this under noble-sounding words (even from ourselves), but we all have a tendency to treat the Creator like our own personal butler. It can’t be avoided. And maybe that’s how it is supposed to work to some extent. But it just seems to be setting a low target.

      Regarding evidence, one can certainly say that existence itself is evidence of a Supreme Being. I have no problem with that. It’s just that what then? It is my nature to want to fill in the details.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Ultimately it’s very very difficult to get past “What’s in it for me?”

        I have long believed that the down side of Christianity’s emphasis on Hell and Heaven is that people try to lead Christian lives to avoid punishment and gain reward, rather that because it is the right thing to do.

        Call me an idealist, but don’t throw rocks at me. I know, we are dealing with people.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I have long believed that the down side of Christianity’s accent on Hell and Heaven is that people try to lead Christian lives to avoid punishment and gain reward, rather that because it is the right thing to do.

          That’s a good point, Mr. Kung. I was thinking on the trail today about this general issue. And, yes, I’m an idealist too in regard to this. I’ve read enough about the lives of a few of the saints that one can get a flavor for the Real Deal. And the Real Deal (I’m sure Patricia would agree) isn’t about getting the Lord’s mojo to work for you so that you can buy a bigger house (aka “the prosperity church”).

          I think there are two basic elements. There is the law and then there is Good. Sometimes the two even intersect. But much of the law is indeed arbitrary. Berlinksi makes some wonderful points in his book, “The Devil’s Delusion,” in this regard. Is what is good mere societal consensus? This is problematic because, as he notes, there have been societies (such as Nazi Germany) that completely reversed many of the norms and might well have gone on being a productive, dynamic society (had they not started a war on two fronts).

          Does goodness exists as a real thing? Or is it just whatever the consensus says it is? And here I think we are right to separate the two aspects of law and Good. The law is often arbitrary because one of its main concerns is sheer order (drive on the right side rather than the left). This may be blasphemy, but surely many or most of Moses’ laws were arbitrary. They gave a sense of identity, purpose, unity, and instilled in people the necessary obedience and humility in order not to be rat bastards (which is our human propensity without the discipline of law, whether somewhat arbitrary or not). There’s nothing intrinsically good or bad about eating pig meat, for instance.

          But then, I would posit, there is the Good. And that will be more difficult to define. But we can perhaps help to define it by saying what it is not. It’s main purpose is not to fashion order. It’s main constituent is not the condensation of the consensus of a people in any given place, at any given time. It’s main purpose is not involved in the typical human pursuits, which can roughly be summarized as “health, wealth, and progeny.” And I would say it’s main purpose is not obedience for obedience’s sake or adhering to forms and liturgy as a sort of “magic” path to gaining some thing.

          It can be sacrifice, but as we see with Muslim suicide bombers, not all sacrifice is good. It can be service to other people, but not all service (as we see with welfare bureaucracies) is of benefit to people. It can be love, but we have to understand that Hitler loved his dog and that Mother Teresa’s efforts were not sustained by floating around on a bubble of feelgood-ism.

          We can get closer to what it is by saying what it is not. Perhaps like God, the Good is real but elusive and difficult to pin down. But it is.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          That thought occurred to me long ago as well. No doubt that’s one reason why I reacted as I did to the version of Pascal’s Wager that I encountered. I can see an argument that this can work as a beginning, but in the end one should Do Right because it’s right, not because you expect to benefit from it. Ideally, of course.

  2. Jerry Richardson says:

    “And it’s information as to a personal God that I find in rather short supply. But a Deistic god — one who gets the universe rolling and, from time to time interacts with it — I find plausible (which is not the strict definition of Deism, but I’m giving it some wiggle room).”

    Perhaps I am reading it differently than you intended, but I view your article as somewhat of a grapple between the notion of “personal God” and “Deistic God.” If so, I’m right there with you. But I insist that we are not alone.

    I think that there is considerable biblical precedence for this struggle. I don’t claim certainty, but I believe it is part of our Christian struggle-of-faith.

    I suggest that one of the difficulties in this grapple is the meaning of the adjective “personal.” What is “personal”? Is it face-to-face? Is it an expectation of a personal “vision”? Is it an expectation of a knock-down logical proof? What exactly is it? Could it be simply the knowledge of the other’s presence? I consider it “personal” when my wife is home, in the house, because I sense her presence even if she is in another room and we are not talking. When she is not at home, I sense her absence. Is some or all of this personal? I think so.

    In my opinion, one of the most poignant examples of a Deism/Personal God wonderment to be found in the Bible is when Jesus made his heart-breaking, to me, statement from the cross: “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” —Matthew 27:46 NASB

    I assume that God (the Father) could not be a more “personal God” to anyone than to Jesus (the Son). And yet, at that moment, Jesus did not sense God the Father’s presence. Jesus obviously sensed God’s absence. Did that mean that God was actually absent? Did that mean that Jesus thought that God was absent? We are often told that God turned his back upon his own Son because the sins of the world well place upon him, and God could not look upon sin. But was God truly absent? You tell me.

    If it seems, as I also believe it often does, that God has or does operate at least part of time operate in a “Deistic” mode, does that mean he is NOT present? What exactly does his “presence” mean? Does it mean that I must “feel” his presence? If I don’t feel his “presence” is he not present? Was God (the Father) not present because Jesus did not feel his presence?

    I think that God (the Father) absented himself from Jesus (the Son) in a very unique manner of which I claim no understanding and ardently do not wish to experience. But I do not believe that God’s Deistic-moment of absence from Jesus represents “a personal God…in short supply.”

    My other favorite illustration of where-is-personal-God comes from the story of Elijah who was running for his life from Jezebel and was seeking an audience with God (a personal God):

    “And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
    —1Kings 19:9-12 KJV

    It is instructive to me that God (the personal God) was not in the wind, He was not in the earthquake, He was not in the fire. God did not appear as The Personal God in any of those three illustrative attention-getting events; God appeared as “a still small voice.”

    Was this a message to Elijah and to us, after God’s intervention on Mt. Carmel when Elijah called down fire, from God, on the false prophets of Jezebel? I think it is.
    God is always present and will always present Himself at times, and in ways of his own choosing.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Perhaps I am reading it differently than you intended, but I view your article as somewhat of a grapple between the notion of “personal God” and “Deistic God.” If so, I’m right there with you. But I insist that we are not alone.

      Yes, I think that gets to the heart of it, Jerry. I believe in God, but in the other breath I think What good is that to me? And I don’t necessarily mean in terms of material gain. It’s like, “Okay, the astronomers have discovered that the universe is expanding. That’s pretty amazing. Wow. And then I think, Okay, what good is that to me? How does that effect me? What difference does it make?

      It’s sort of in that vein.

      • Jerry Richardson says:

        “I believe in God, but in the other breath I think What good is that to me?
        —-
        “Okay, what good is that to me? How does that effect me? What difference does it make?”

        I think you have opened a fascinating line of questioning and thought. Here’s one way I would personally paraphrase your questions.

        If God is real, and I believe that he is, then a belief that ‘God is’ is a belief in the truth. So then, paraphrasing, I would ask:

        Okay, what good is that truth to me? How does that truth effect me? What difference does that truth make?

        Jesus gave the answer to my paraphrased questions:
        “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” —John 8:32 NASB

        Now, of course, my follow-up question to this is: What does that truth free us from?

        Many of our perpetually deceived Progressive acquaintances have provided us with an excellent answer to this last question.

        The truth of the knowledge of God, his existence, his righteousness, the truth that because of who He is, He alone deserves to be worshipped. This truth can set us free from the enslavement of idolatry.

        When you study the sad ideological-mess that our nation is currently in; it can properly be characterized as the result of an increasingly-large number of people who are worshiping the wrong things: Worshiping power, worshiping the state, worshiping money, worshiping security, worshiping entertainment, worshiping sex, worshiping self—in short idolatry (worshiping anything other than God).

        Knowing the fundamental truth about God, that He exists and that He created us, and that He alone deserves to be worshiped can free us, and our society, from the lies of idolatry.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Jerry, those are some good thoughts. So let me re-write my essay on-the-fly (this is indeed a dynamic operation here), integrating a few things that have been said and doing a little self-probing (with nothing more dangerous than a Q-tip). And with a new headline, of course:

          I Want to be Frosted

          To me, there’s little use in making use of the concept or reality of God unless it becomes central. After all, it’s analogous to being told that underneath the house in which you’ve been living for the last twenty years is an active volcano. If you really believed this, it would make no sense to just go on living as usual.

          So if God is real, I want to be frosted.

          I’ve already lived much of my life as a monk anyway. Oh, not in terms of celibacy or prayer, but in terms of solitude and a love for good bread. In some sense, I have already been frosted.

          ["What the heck?" Jerry and others ask. "What do you mean by 'Frosted'? Have you finally gone off your rocker?"]

          One of my favorite scenes in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” is when Moses (with Charlton Heston playing Moses…or perhaps the other way around) comes back down the Mountain after seeing the burning bush and hearing God’s word first-hand.

          Moses comes walking stiffly and supremely down and back to his wife and tent. He has that far-way thousand-yard-stare look in his eyes – the look of a man who has not only talked to God but is so touched that he veers into over-acting.

          And most notable of all in this change that has come over Moses is his frosted hair. It used to be dark, now it is white. And who hasn’t picked up a few gray hairs dealing with a demanding parent? They can have that effect, whether a mere earthly parent or an actual Father of the Universe.

          And perhaps that describes me. Whether it’s a grandiose wish or simply indicative of having no time (to my ear) for endless rationalizations, I’d rather (to take a term from tournament poker) go “all in” rather wait to be dealt a good hand. I’d rather have concrete knowledge than forever engage in abductive reasoning. If god indeed did, for instance, create the program that resides inside DNA, then it’s not unreasonable to my mind to suppose how, why, when, and for what purpose, and for all of these to makes sense, and to have some kind of concrete information as to the creative process involved. For me, God is not real simply because I can idealize him and say all kinds of nice things about him.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          When you study the sad ideological-mess that our nation is currently in; it can properly be characterized as the result of an increasingly-large number of people who are worshiping the wrong things: Worshiping power, worshiping the state, worshiping money, worshiping security, worshiping entertainment, worshiping sex, worshiping self—in short idolatry (worshiping anything other than God).

          Jerry, you make a good practical case for having one’s eyes set beyond one’s earthly appetites. And I’m fully on board with that mindset…even if we perhaps hold different ideas about the details of the firmament. But setting one’s sites beyond the groin, so to speak (and quite literally for many people), is the only way to move from the animal to the human and (perhaps) to the divine.

          And why would we want to do that? To live forever? That holds no interest to me. To avoid hell? Again, I look at that as I do Noah and the ark: a story. To receive the accolades of our friends and family and to show that we fit into polite society? That holds the least interest to me.

          So what then? Well, I think there is an aesthetic sense to it that is central. I’d just rather be this way than that way. Didn’t we get a sense of that from that fellow (the bisexual/homosexual) who seemed to be giving off the vibe that, for him, it was just time to be this way instead of that way? It can happen to us all for one reason or another — unless we resist it by consciously trying to stay mired in the ugly, the trivial, and the obscene.

          One can call the higher pursuit being a part of “the body of Christ” or something else. But that pursuit has been a part of human history. There is a substantive difference between being the kind of person who thinks the height of creativity is some statue of a police woman squatting and taking a piss…as opposed to something like the Mona Lisa. (Yes, be sure to watch that Prager U course).

          I think for many people comes the desire to “Wipe the crud off.” And there are those people (we are indeed a social species, and it seems impossible for some to escape beyond this) who try to do so by anointing themselves in rituals because such rituals have the power of social acceptability, what Deana calls “reliance on works and ritual.” Such higher pursuits can be little more than fancy forms of superstition. “Step on a crack, break your momma’s back.” And that idea holds no interest for me. Any idea of God as a kind of Cosmic strong box that has to be manipulated in just a certain way holds no interest for me either.

          But there exists some kind of higher aesthetic and/or moral conception of something above and beyond the mere pissing police woman. It may be hard to describe at times, and it’s not something that you can set on the table in front of you and look at, for it does indeed exist in the immaterial realm of ideas, thoughts, and beliefs.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I believe I’ve mentioned before the scene in H. Beam Piper’s Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (his final work, except for a novel finally located and published a few decades after his death) in which Kalvan (who had been Calvin Morrison the Pennsylvania State Police before being dragged into an alternate timeline) is asked about the religions of his former culture. He doesn’t mention any of what we would call religions, but instead such things as Status =– the sort of things people paid most attention to, in other words. He also said that none of them were good gods and he worshipped none of them.

          • Jerry Richardson says:

            “Jerry, you make a good practical case for having one’s eyes set beyond one’s earthly appetites.—-“And why would we want to do that?—- “Well, I think there is an aesthetic sense to it that is central. I’d just rather be this way than that way.
            —-
            “But there exists some kind of higher aesthetic and/or moral conception of something above and beyond the mere pissing police woman. It may be hard to describe at times, and it’s not something that you can set on the table in front of you and look at, for it does indeed exist in the immaterial realm of ideas, thoughts, and beliefs.”
            —Brian

            I am chewing-on your rationale for having “eyes set beyond one’s earthly appetites” as being preference, “I’d just rather be this way than that way.” And then the justification for the preference seems to be “But there exist some kind of higher aesthetic…”

            C.S. Lewis’ asked the following famous question in his book “Mere Christianity”:

            “But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

            Using the same rationale as found in Lewis’ question, My question is:

            Where do you get your idea of “higher aesthetic and/or moral conception of something above and beyond…”

            And if it (“higher aesthetic…”) does exit in the “immaterial realm of ideas, thoughts, beliefs”; why does that realm exist and where does it come from?
            Is it just a brute fact?

            • Jerry Richardson says:

              Brad,
              Sorry I address you as Brian in comment above. My bad.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I go by “Bryan” as well. I’m used to it. That’s what you get when your brother’s name also starts with a “B.” How you knew that, I haven’t a clue.

              Yes, I agree with your logic (and that of C.S. Lewis) that you can know a crooked line only by having some idea of a straight one. This also goes back to Plato’s theory of forms: If you can draw a rough circle, surely such a thing exists in a perfect form somewhere or else how could you conceive of it? The same with the impulse to transcend our own world. One could say that impulse is impulsed toward an object — and that this object is the only reason the impulse exists in the first place.

              These are all wonderful philosophical arguments for God and for absolute right and wrong. And relativism (in art or in ethics), which tends to create ugliness and destruction, is good evidence for absolutes as well.

  3. Anniel says:

    Jerry, Daniel Chapter 10 has an interesting account of the prophet Daniel’s struggle before God. Daniel had a question about the end times that he took before The Lord. This man, who survived hungry lions and powerful political enemies and seemed to quickly receive answers in trying circumstances, fasted and prayed about the matter for three full weeks before a heavenly being, one can assume it was Gabriel since he seemed to be Daniel’s conduit to God, appeared before him on the banks of the river Hiddekel. Daniel said he had “mourned” before God and when the being or man appeared before him his companions fled. In v. 8 he tells us, “Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” The first words spoken were of reassurance “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved,” (v. 11) then the being tells Daniel why he was not spoken to sooner, ” . . . for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes came to help me: . . .” (v. 12-13). From this account I think there are two really important lessons in how God deals with us. The first lesson is that we are “beloved” by that god who says He is our father and that He wants us to “set” our hearts to understanding. The second thing we need to learn is that there is an – economy, if that’s the word, in heaven which may preclude an immediate answer to us.

    If even a prophet sometimes has to wait, and feels “corrupt” in the presence of an angel, maybe we lesser mortals need that ” waiting” time too. Maybe our answers only come when our hearts are “set.” And just maybe there’s a reason not many men get direct visionary experiences and so many angels begin their messages by saying, “Fear not.” In the end maybe the “still, small voice” is preferable.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Too much God and we are left in that Muslim position of absolutely nothing happening except via the wishes of a Creator

    I would exchange the word “wishes” with “caprices”.

  5. Anniel says:

    Kung Fu: I still find it mind boggling that Muslims think Allah created everything perfect, except women, who need to be maimed, deformed and covered to become acceptable to him. And to think the women largely not only believe the same thing, but would not change the tradition if they could.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Anniel,

      The Koran is a strange book. And one must never forget that Muhammad came from a very primitive group of tribes.

      It seems many Muslims men have a very odd concept of themselves and others as regards the sexes. They seem to think that a man and a woman cannot be in the same room together without succumbing to some overwhelming urge to have sex. It’s almost as if they have no free will when it comes to sex.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Islam was created as the religion of desert raiders, and evidently strict control of women was part of their culture. Unfortunately, the Koran was written for them and them alone, which makes it difficult if not impossible to adapt Islam for anyone else.

  6. Anniel says:

    Kung Fu: it does seem strange, but if a man is taught his whole life that a woman is an inferior being whose only purpose is sex and procreation, the sex idea takes over and overwhelms him. My husband and I had a conversation with a Sheik once about polygamy. He had been regaling a whole crowd of women about the different wives he had in several countries and then laughed when he offered to marry the nine year old daughter of one of the women from Mexico. He turned to Bear and said, “Look at those women, I think they believe me.” While I was thinking I believed him, too, Bear just looked at him and said, ” Personally, I think that anyone who has more than one wife deserves it.” The Sheik looked a little nonplussed while he thought that over, and then laughed so hard he cried. I think the little girl and her mom felt safer after that.

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