The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy

Eric Steinhart here.

On my analysis of several key Wiccan texts, I’ve said that the Wiccan deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being.  This is a non-theistic and non-Christian concept of the divine.  Please try to avoid projecting theistic or Christian concepts into Wicca.  The Wiccan deity is not a thing; on the contrary, it is a power within things.

Concepts that are similar to the concept of the Wiccan deity appear in several guises in the history of philosophy.  The Wican deity is similar to conatusConatus is the tendency of a being to preserve and enhance its being.

Conatus becomes the natural striving of Leibniz.  Leibniz says that every possibility naturally strives for actual existence.  He writes that “Everything possible demands that it should exist” (in Rescher, 1991: 171).  And he writes that “from the fact that something rather than nothing exists, it follows that in possible things, or in their possibility or essence itself, there is a certain demand or (so to speak) a claim for existence; in short, that essence tends by itself towards existence” (1697: 86).  Possibilities (which are potentialities for being) naturally strive to actually be; and every thing that does exist naturally strives to further actualize its potentialities.  This striving is natural: it is an immanent creative power of being within every being.  And it is ultimate, since it accounts for why there is something rather than nothing.

After Leibniz, this natural striving gets taken up by Schopenhauer.  It becomes the will (in his The World as Will and Representation).  And then it becomes Nietzsche’s will to power.  Leibniz’s natural striving, and its later developments in Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, all serve as naturalistic alternatives to the Christian God.  Schopenhauer was an atheist and so was Nietzsche.

The Wiccan deity is also similar to natura naturans.  Natura naturans is “nature naturing”; it is the power in every natural thing to be what it is and do what it does.  Natura naturans first appears in various Medieval writers.  It is more extensively developed by Spinoza.  Spinoza uses the phrase to characterize the creative power of his deity (which is clearly not the theistic deity – Spinoza was charged with atheism).

The concept of natura naturans is central to a recent philosophical movement known as religious naturalism.  The religious naturalists include people like Ursula Goodenough and Donald Crosby.  I would strongly encourage every atheist to read Goodenough’s book The Sacred Depths of Nature (1998) and to read Crosby’s book A Religion of Nature (2002).  It must be stressed that neither of these authors is Wiccan or neo-pagan.   And while Goodenough still has theistic tendencies, Crosby is an outright atheist.   Since Crosby is explicitly atheistic, I’ll focus on his concept of natura naturans.  Here I’m mainly taking ideas from Chapters 1 and 2 of his A Religion of Nature.

Crosby denies that there are any supernatural beings like gods, goddesses, immaterial minds, or spirits.  The theistic deity (e.g. the Christian God) does not exist.  There is no world-spirit.  Crosby is not an animist or panpsychist.  Nature has no sentience; it is ultimately mindless and utterly lacking in purpose or consciousness.  There are no supernatural powers or entities that are required to explain nature.  There are no entities that transcend nature.  Any transcendence happens entirely within nature.

Crosby writes that “Nature, then, is the creative matrix from which all things arise and to which they return, the complexity of orders and powers by which these things are upheld and by which each of them, or each type of them, attains its own peculiar attributes and capabilities” (2002: 21).  Nature is “a dynamic, restless energy of growth, nurture, productivity, and change” (2002: 42).  Natura naturans is “unceasing creative energy” (2002: 114).  And natura naturans is “the creative power . . . underlying and producing all of the systems of nature that ever have been or ever will be” (2002: 154).  Much much more can be said here (and I’ll say some of it in later posts).

It must be stressed again that religious naturalists like Crosby are not Wiccans.  My only point is that the concept of the Wiccan deity, which is pretty crudely expressed in the Wiccan texts, is very similar to the concept of natura naturans that is very precisely developed in the writings of the religious naturalists.  Wiccans ought to study the religious naturalists to gain some clarity.  Atheists ought to study the religious naturalists too.  It is certainly possible to have an atheistic religion of nature.

References:

Crosby, D. (2002) A Religion of Nature.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Goodenough, U. (1998) The Sacred Depths of Nature.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Leibniz, G. W. (1697/1988) On the ultimate origination of the universe.  In P. Schrecker & A. Schrecker (1988) Monadology and Other Philosophical Essays.  New York: Macmillan Publishing, 84-94.

Rescher, N. (1991) G. W. Leibniz’s Monadology: An Edition for Students.  Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Other posts in the series so far:

Atheism and Wicca

The Wiccan Deity

The Theistic Deity and Atheism Defined

The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis

On Atheistic Religion

Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism

Atheistic Holidays

Criticizing Wicca: Energy

Atheism and Beauty

Do Atheists Worship Truth?

Some Naturalistic Ontology

Criticizing Wicca: Levels

Atheism and the Sacred: Natural Creative Power

Atheist Ceremonies: De-Baptism and the Cosmic Walk

Atheism and Possibility

The Impossible God of Paul Tillich

Atheism and the Sacred: Being-Itself

Pure Objective Reason

Criticizing Wicca: Rationality

The God and the Goddess

Wicca and the Problem of Evil

The Wiccan God and Goddess: Reality and Mythology

On Participation in Being-Itself

Criticizing Wicca: God and Goddess

The Increasing Prevalence of Woo

Wiccan Theology and Sexual Equality

Revelation versus Manifestation

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Nele

    On my analysis of several key Wiccan texts, I’ve said that the Wiccan deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being. This is a non-theistic and non-Christian concept of the divine. Please try to avoid projecting theistic or Christian concepts into Wicca. The Wiccan deity is not a thing; on the contrary, it is a power within things.

    Ok, Eric. You haven’t analyised anything, you have claimed things. The proof for these claims was rational reasoning but basically quotes of other people’s claims. Not very convincing.

    And now your text is reduced to pleading blather. You give no reason to why not identify your concept of the divine with standard christian divine. You just ask us to do so. Why should we? This just the pathetic line of argument which be found in run of the mill theological texts – “not a thing but a power within things”, come on, this is meaningsless babble.

    What place does this low standard line of reasoning have in the “FTB”?

    • Nele

      Gnarf. My text should read: “The proof for these claims was NOT rational reasoning but”…

      Curses on the non-existing editing feature!

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      Go back and look at my post where I list the texts and sources I’m analyzing. Right: I’m working with quotes of the Wiccan authors. That’s called analyzing what others say.

      The Christian God has certain features that the Wiccan deity does not have. That’s clear from what the Wiccan authors say and from what Christian theists say. My post on the standard definition of the theistic God is explicit.

      Find a single flaw in my reasoning. Did I mis-state the Wiccan authors? Did I incorrectly represent what they say? I’ve made it clear that I’m not a Wiccan (and I am, in fact, quite critical of the absurdity of most paganism). My task is to explain what the Wiccans are trying to say, before I get into the criticism.

      As for free-thought, well, yes, I suppose that means the freedom to think. About anything.

  • Nele

    The Christian God has certain features that the Wiccan deity does not have. That’s clear from what the Wiccan authors say and from what Christian theists say. My post on the standard definition of the theistic God is explicit.

    Find a single flaw in my reasoning. Did I mis-state the Wiccan authors? Did I incorrectly represent what they say? I’ve made it clear that I’m not a Wiccan (and I am, in fact, quite critical of the absurdity of most paganism). My task is to explain what the Wiccans are trying to say, before I get into the criticism.

    Your basic flaw of reasoning is that you have not understood the ‘garbage in – garbage out’ principle.

    The claims of Wiccan authors as well as of christian authors are completely irelevant because they are nothing but inventions. What else should they be, since, as you yourself say, they are statements about the ‘unknowable’? If I invent the claim that the wiccan deity usually wears a pointy red hat and publish this claim in the renowned “Wiccan Garden Gnome Journal” and you quote this claim and draw your logical conclusions from it, what relevance would this conclusion have? Certainly none at all – therefore I wouldn’t give a tinker’s cuss on whether you have mis-stated wiccan authors or christian authors or whomever. It doesn’t matter. Since all of their claims have no empirical basis at all, they are all mere inventions. And: ex nihil qoud libit.

    This leads, this time logically correct, to the conclusion that your conclusions are worthless. Non-empirical philosophy is useless for explaining reality. It doesn’t matter how much you juggle with terms.

    Sorry, but that’s my strong atheistic reaction on your wiccan mumbo-jumbo.

    • Nele

      P.S. Your wiccan mumbo-jumbo which becomes more and more a spitting image of standard theological writing.

    • John Morales

      Non-empirical philosophy is useless for explaining reality.

      The existence of Wicca and of Wiccans is part of reality, and the idea that there are reasons why people are attracted to it is hardly any less controversial.

      Therefore, there is merit in exploring what it is about those ideas that draws some people to them (the above-mentioned reasons), because it can further our understanding of people and of belief-systems — and the first step to that exploration is accurately determining what those ideas are.

      (Consequently, your objection is vacuous)

  • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

    For the love of non-God Nele, try to understand what it means to carefully and fairly analyze what other people (in this case, Wiccans) are trying to say.

    There’s a difference between honest presentation of your opponent’s views and criticism of those views. But you have already passed judgment and apparently don’t want to see any examination of the views of those you’re judging.

    No wonder people think atheists are fundamentalists!

    • John Morales

      No wonder people think atheists are fundamentalists!

      Your frustration is understandable, but you’re making a hasty and sweeping generalisation, here.

      (Had you written some atheists, I’d not have that quibble)

  • Nele

    Jesus, Eric! I was under the impression that you are an associate professor of philosophy but obviously you are completely oblivious of the trivial difference between mythological statements and a validated fact. You cannot draw conclusions from unproven statements – that’s hermeneutics 101, for non-god’s sake!

    It does not matter if you are able to create nice looking footnotes out of other people’s claims. If you accept them without a critical empirical discussion and erect a line of argument upon them, you are doing nothing but putting forward one elongated appeal to authority. This is what theologicans do but it has nothing to do with the basest standards of scholarly argumentation.

    What you could with your source material would at best be a comparison between christian theistic and the wiccan ‘non-deistic’, or whatever, understanding of creation, or cosmological power, or whatever. That would be a completely meaningful analytic enterprise. But the moment you start to sketch further implications on actual reality basing on these findings, you commit an unforgivable methodological fallacy – and your impotence to even grasp this fallacy does, honestly speaking, not shed a good light on your scholarly competence.

    Sorry, but this has nothing to do at all with any imagined “atheistic fundamentalism”. Your texts simply repeat the mistakes of common theological writing and therefore should not find their place in these blogs. They are not “Free thinking”.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      And where exactly do I say that anything I’ve been discussing is “validated fact”? Nowhere.

    • Nele

      *groan* For the umpteenth time, that’s my very point.

      You are not using validated data but unvalidated statements to draw a conclusion about reality: “It is certainly possible to have an atheistic religion of nature.” This is a theological conclusion and therefore meaningless.

      Is this trivial concept really that difficult to grasp?

    • Steve Schuler

      Hey There Nele!

      No offense intended dude, but I think that you are not critically reading what Eric has been writing. What I perceive your objection to Eric’s EXPOSITORY writing is that he is somehow proselytizing or promoting a viewpoint. He is not doing that at all. Your knee-jerk reaction to any mention of a viewpoint not consistent with your own is typical of a dogmatist, sometimes referred to as a ‘fundamentalist’ as well. My advice, not that you asked for it: take a chill pill, relax, and read carefully before responding. You might surprise yourself and actually learn something interesting about this complex and mysterious world we live in.

      Peace,

      Steve

    • sunnydale75

      Eric’s statement in another post:

      >If I’m right that the Wiccan deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being, then why would any atheist object to that?<

      This gave me the definite impression that he's here to spread the word of Wicca. No matter how it's dressed up, Wicca still involves unknowable entities that have never been proven to exist. In addition, just like other religions, Wicca speaks about energies that are also unknowable. I'm perplexed at the nature of Eric's posts. I thought we were going to get a critical analysis of Wicca, which would be an enjoyable read. He comes across as already having decided that the Wiccan "goddess" is real and is searching for evidence or logic to back up that assertion.

  • Stacy

    Basic reading comprehension fail, Nele.

    You haven’t analyised anything, you have claimed things.

    Um, no. He analyzes other people’s claims.

    The proof for these claims was rational reasoning but basically quotes of other people’s claims.

    He isn’t “proving” anyone’s claims. He’s claiming they claim things. The quotes are evidence that they claim the things he says they do.

    What you could with your source material would at best be a comparison between christian theistic and the wiccan ‘non-deistic’, or whatever, understanding of creation, or cosmological power, or whatever.

    Dreadfully written, but if I parse this correctly–it describes exactly what Eric is doing.

    But the moment you start to sketch further implications on actual reality basing on these findings,

    ffs. “Further implications on actual reality”? “Basing on these findings”?

    No wonder you can’t read. You can’t write worth a damn.

    “It is certainly possible to have an atheistic religion of nature.” This is a theological conclusion and therefore meaningless

    Really, this is the objection behind all your atrocious prose, Nele? Trivial indeed.

  • grung0r

    The Wiccan deity is not a thing; on the contrary, it is a power within things.

    Could you define “power” here? Is it an identifiable feature of the things that possess it? Is it physical? is it in all things, or just some things?

    • John Morales

      In this context, ‘power’ is that which can exert influence or effect change.

    • grung0r

      No, I don’t think so. “that which can exert influence or effect change”, as far as I am aware is entirely limited to ‘things’, and Eric was quite specific that the Wiccan deity is not a member of that particular group.

    • John Morales

      Are you suggesting that anything that’s meaningful and can be named is a ‘thing’?

    • grung0r

      Are you suggesting that anything that’s meaningful and can be named is a ‘thing’?

      Yes, I am suggesting that any thing is a thing. It would appear that you are too.

      With that sorted out, can we now agree that Eric’s statement was either grossly ill-defined or just a masturbatory theological dodge?(Or both. They aren’t contradictory by any stretch.)

    • John Morales

      Well, since he is a philosopher by trade, I suspect he may not be quite as clueless as all that; like Camels, he probably is trying to avoid jargon.

      Have you considered he may perhaps* be distinguishing between abstracta (such as desires) and concreta (such as gravitational fields), and that he refers to the latter as ‘things’?

      * Not saying he is, only that I read him that way.

    • grung0r

      Have you considered he may perhaps* be distinguishing between abstracta (such as desires) and concreta (such as gravitational fields), and that he refers to the latter as ‘things’?

      Yes, I have considered it, and it doesn’t work. Remember that Eric was drawing a distinction between The Christian deity and the Wiccan deity with his “Power within things” statement. Does anyone honestly believe that The christian deity resides entirely within the concrete realm? Never read Karen Armstrong, Terry Eagleton or C.S Lewis or Spong(Just to begin a very long list, and one that might not even be entirely populated by brits) I guess. I don’t know nearly as much about the Wiccans, but the fact that they call their gods by gendered names should tell you that they don’t believe “she” or “he” resides entirely in the abstract.

    • John Morales

      grung0r, does the Nicene Creed seem like it refers to abstract concepts? ;)

      Note that Eric already wrote in an earlier post in this series (The Wiccan Deity) that ““the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source” (Farrar & Farrar, 1981: 49)” — indeed, I think he addressed your objections before you even raised them!

      Anyway, you asked, I answered (best as I could) based on my own understanding. Enough.

    • grung0r

      Anyway, you asked, I answered (best as I could) based on my own understanding.

      Yeah, you tried. More then once, and with contradictory or nonsensical lines of reasoning(Your abandonment of the “anything is not a thing” argument when it was pointed out to you is both noted and particularly hilarious). Don’t beat yourself up. Interpreting the splatter patterns of the masturbation’s of others is quite difficult. I think we’ll have to wait for the artist himself.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      Spong is an American.

    • grung0r

      Note that Eric already wrote in an earlier post in this series that “the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source” — indeed, I think he addressed your objections before you even raised them!

      So let me get this straight. You think that: ‘a non-thing with a penis and a non-thing with a vagina are aspects of a third, larger, non-genitaled non-thing’ somehow addresses my objections? In what way? I’m truly curious what you perceive this statement to mean and how you think it relates not just to what I’ve said, but to anything at all. The ability of people to impart meaning and project their thoughts, hopes and fears onto even the most vacuous of theological statements(and this one is a real doozy) is a fascinating subject, and it would be very interesting if you could elucidate your thought process here.

    • John Morales

      What part of “enough” was unclear to you? ;)

      OK, one last response to this sub-thread:

      Here is an analogy to the relationship Eric mentioned and which you find so meaningless:
      “the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source”.

      “Entropy and mass-energy equivalence are aspects of the Laws of Nature”.

      That’s “not transcendent, but immanent and indwelling in all”.

      (I think you’re getting so hung up on semantic quibbles that you cannot grapple with the conceptual categories and relationships being discussed. Your ontology needs to be a little more complicated than just having ‘things’)

    • grung0r

      Here is an analogy to the relationship Eric mentioned and which you find so meaningless:
      “the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source”.

      “Entropy and mass-energy equivalence are aspects of the Laws of Nature”.

      That’s “not transcendent, but immanent and indwelling in all”.

      Yeah, I didn’t ask you for a silly analogy(although WOW! did you really just call entropy immanent? That may be the most superfluous use of that word in history, and since the use of “immanent” is almost always entirely superfluous, that’s saying something. Congratulations), I asked you how you thought “the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source” addressed my objections, since you just asserted that it addressed them, you didn’t actually say how(which given this latest response, seems to be a trend). I guess that isn’t going to happen now, huh? Too bad.

  • sunnydale75

    >The Wiccan deity is not a thing; on the contrary, it is a power within things. <

    -What is this power? Is it knowable? Can it be measured? Has any scientist discovered this energy? Has any other scientist corroborated that discovery?
    This "power" within things is every bit as supernatural as the Christian god. The beliefs of Wicca and Christianity are both different, to be sure. Their particular objects/idols of worship are different. They both, however, make claims about the world around them that aren't backed up by empirical evidence.

    Tony

  • sunnydale75

    Eric, I can’t speak for Nele, but I suspect we share the same problem with your analysis. In the context of this philosophical discussion, I tend to think of analysis involving more than just presenting the opponents’ views. I tend to think analysis (of Wicca) should also involve determining whether the claims made are truthful, as well as showing counter arguments. Instead, it appears that you already agree with the premise of Wicca, so you come across as a biased believer attempting to convert atheists (why else would you say that atheists should have no problem with the “ultimate immanent creative power of being”).

    Tony

    • John Morales

      Eric is doing an ongoing series of posts, of which this but one. As he wrote three posts back: “I’m going to begin my critical philosophical posts on Wicca by dealing with the Wiccan ultimate deity.”

      (Perhaps you should go back and read them from the beginning)

    • John Morales

      PS

      (why else would you say that atheists should have no problem with the “ultimate immanent creative power of being”)

      Because it doesn’t represent an interventionist personal deity, but rather an impersonal principle?

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

    Nele, Sunnydale—Eric has not at all claimed that because Wiccan authors make a claim that therefore it is true. All he has done thus far is explicate their ultimate being concept and show its parallels in non-theistic, decidedly naturalistic metaphysicians. If you object to all non-empirical considerations about metaphysics a priori then take that up with Eric. But accusing this of being theology when he is just analyzing the philosophical parallels between the philosophical statements of Wiccan authors and a rather robust strand of naturalistic, often explicitly atheological, philosophers is missing the point. It’s a crudely dogmatic empiricism that you are insisting on. “Give us nothing unless it has equations and experiments!”

    I am not entirely sure where Eric is going but I have a feeling he will be teasing out the differences between the Wiccan mythology with its obvious literal falsehoods and the philosophical ideas that Wiccans are trying to express religiously and the psychological mechanisms Wiccans are trying to exploit through their rituals and meditations, etc. I don’t see the problem in principle with expressing a true philosophical idea through symbolic forms, rituals, and meditations–i.e., I’m not opposed in principle to religions as long as they are not literally supernaturalistic, faith-based, authoritarian, or morally regressive.

    And I don’t see the harm in looking at the pros and cons within an existing attempt to accomplish those good things and provide an alternative to the oppressive monotheisms, such as Wicca. Eric is hardly a “convert” to Wicca. What he is is a very well read, very deeply probing philosopher who is interested in analyzing these issues fairly and constructively with an eye towards how religion might possibly be conceived in a way consistent with the truth and as an aid to truth and human flourishing, rather than against the truth and against human flourishing.

    Closed-minded, uncurious empiricistic dogma that is on a hair-trigger to denounce anything that does not simplistically trash all mythology for its empirical falsehood and move on as though there is nothing else to investigate philosophically, is not genuinely empirical but is counter-productively hostile to free speculation and investigation about possible sources of value.

    I know Eric pretty well, he will not be advocating you believe in anything false. I don’t know what exactly he will be arguing for but my instinct says that he will be looking for ways to find value that atheists can replicate amidst what you want to hastily dismiss altogether on the grounds that it is (no-duh) literally false.

    • John Morales

      I concur with Camels, here.

      Quoth Eric:

      My task is to explain what the Wiccans are trying to say, before I get into the criticism.

      That is the mark of intellectual honesty and of philosophical rigour.

      (And this is the stage where, if someone considers that Eric is misrepresenting or misunderstanding the position he’s yet to critique, they can address that)

  • Robert B.

    It’s just not the case that all possibilities strive or will to occur (even taking the most naturalistic possible interpretations of the terms “strive” and “will.”)

    Consider the Ringworld, a concept invented by Larry Niven for his science fiction. Basically, a Ringworld is a uniform solid circle with a star at its center. The Ringworld spins at the same speed as a hypothetical planet would have, if it were orbiting the star at the same distance. The star’s gravity, therefore, would neither rip the Ringworld apart nor pull it in and melt it nor let it fly off into the interstellar cold, but keep it moving just as it is – a situation called an equilibrium. Because of this equilibrium, a Ringworld is an entirely possible thing. It could happen.

    However, unlike the more familiar equilibrium of a spheroid planet orbiting along an elliptical path, the Ringworld equilibrium is unstable. This means that if a Ringworld is perturbed even slightly from it’s equilibrium, the forces on it will not push it back toward the equilibrium, but further away from it, until the Ringworld is destroyed. More importantly, if a Ringworld were about to form, if something was becoming more like a Ringworld, physics would work against it and push it away from a future Ringworld state. It is a property of nature to refuse this entirely possible Ringworld as it comes to be, to deny it, to stop it from happening. If things without thoughts or feelings can be said to strive, then a Ringworld is a possibility that strives not to achieve actual existence.

    The Ringworld illustrates that the creative property you describe is neither universal nor fundamental, but contingent – it applies only to those possible things that happen to be stable, rather than unstable, equilibria. The “striving to achieve actual existence” Leibniz describes is a negative feedback loop that some possible things have and other possible things lack, or possess the opposite of. This “striving” or negative feedback is an interesting phenomenon, to be sure, and plenty of mathematicians and scientists (and others, I’m sure) have given it long and worthy study. But it lacks the fundamental or ultimate stature that Wiccans would apparently like to ascribe to it.

    PS – Eric, if the purpose of all this is to lead up to a criticism of the concepts you’re describing, I’d suggest you stop ending your articles with lines like “why would any atheist object to that?” and “it is certainly possible to have an atheistic religion of nature.” It really makes you sound like an advocate for the ideas you describe, in sharp contrast to the first 95% of each article where you simply present and analyze them.

    And I don’t see how a lay audience was supposed to know that a deity is not necessarily a thing. I think rather than criticize us for not understanding how your technical terms vary from common usage, you should define these terms when you encounter the confusion, as you have previously admitted that you ought.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      In Ringworld’s Children it’s said that it took the reaction mass of roughly 20 Jupiter masses to spin up the ring. The energy required to construct it, set it rotating, and keep it stabilized is so significant (several centuries’ worth of the total energy output from the Sun) that without as-yet unimagined energy sources becoming available, it is hard to see how this construction could ever be possible in a time frame acceptable to humans.

  • John Morales

    [OT]

    Because of this equilibrium, a Ringworld is an entirely possible thing. It could happen.

    Not a great example — amongst other technomagical stuff, scrith is basically unobtainium. :)

    (You’re speaking of a material where 30 metres of thickness stops 40 percent of neutrinos, and that can stand tensile stresses on the order of 10E6 Pa)

    • Robert B.

      Yeah, but a Ringworld could theoretically work with ordinary iron and rock, as long as you built it perfectly and it was never perturbed.

      Um, well, and if it was of negligible thickness. So maybe an inhabitable Ringworld is impossible. But the point basically holds, and it was the most vivid example of unstable equilibrium I could think of. The egg balancing on its narrow end just doesn’t have the same punch.

    • Robert B.

      Also, I seem to recall that the original Ringworld was using centrifugal force to create pseudogravity on the inner surface. That means he was spinning it too fast, (faster than orbital velocity) which again requires a super-material to withstand the ridiculous stresses.

  • stephenreichman

    I would like to thank Eric for this post, as I am quite fond of finding the similarities in beliefs, thoughts, philosophies, etc.

    To those who are heavily criticizing, yes there may be some things in this post which could not be said in a debate, however I would like to point out that the tone of the overall writing is not one of debate (for this particular post, anyway). This post in my mind is more of a discussion about similarities in Wicca and should be treated more like a discussion. (The major difference between a debate and a discussion being: In a discussion it should suffice to say, “I don’t agree, for these reasons.” In a debate you are trying to prove a point).

    So, please instead of debating, try discussion: ask questions, learn about Wicca, natural philosophy, and more… If you don’t want to, then why are you here?

  • sawells

    The whole idea of things having some power or desire to exist or continue existing seems weird; it’s rooted in the idea that stuff ought not to continue existing unless something is working to keep it in existence. Where did that “ought not” come from? It’s like all those attempts at cosmological arguments for God, which wind up assuming that the universe ought not to exist unless big sky daddy is making it exist.

    So this whole conatus/natura naturans/creative ground of being thing is dismissable forthwith as it’s based on an unfounded assumption about the nature of existence.

  • sunnydale75

    > …I’d suggest you stop ending your articles with lines like “why would any atheist object to that?” and “it is certainly possible to have an atheistic religion of nature.” It really makes you sound like an advocate for the ideas you describe,… <

    -This is exactly why I felt that he was trying to sell people on Wicca. The omission of statements like that would have ended the respective posts in the analytical way Eric sought. Having those statements end those posts makes it seem like all the analysis leads to a conclusion that he's made.

    Tony
    (oh, and "immanent creative power of being" sounds like a fictitious "power" as vague as a soul)


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